UPDATE: Florida State Challenges Court Ruling on Banked Card Rooms

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing saga of player-banked card games and how the court has now ruled they violate the exclusive agreement Florida has with Seminole Tribe and constitute nothing more than traditional card games. These forms of games were originally allowed several years back and were allowed because they were to be played against players themselves and not the house. However, once it was discovered just how card rooms were actually running these games, the court ruled they were illegal. Now, it appears the State is not happy with the ruling and is looking to appeal. The Sun Sentinel online reported the story: 

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation on Thursday took the first step in appealing a judge’s ruling about lucrative “designated player” card games at pari-mutuel facilities across the state.

The department, which regulates gambling facilities, filed a notice in the 1st District Court of Appeal indicating it will challenge an Aug. 26 ruling by Administrative Law Judge E. Gary Early.

In the ruling, Early said the state was wrong to do away with a rule governing the “designated player” games without replacing the regulations. The industry maintains that eliminating the rule, adopted in 2014, would put an end to the games. Regulators proposed doing away with the rule late last year, insisting that the way the games are being conducted — and not the games themselves — violates a state gambling law.

Given the case has such large implication with the Seminole Compact, and it’s a form of gambling so many pari-mutuel facilities have been offering, this will continue to garner attention in the Florida gambling and legislative community.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION

A Brief Look at Crime 9/12-9/18

Eight Killed And 44 Injured In South Texas Casino Bus Accident

In May, a charter bus accident in South Texas killed eight people and injured another 44, according to a police report filed by the Texas Department of Public Safety.The bus, owned by OGA Charters, was on its way to a casino in the Rio Grande Valley from Eagle Pass when it veered off the road about 42 miles north of Laredo. The bus then overturned, before coming to a complete stop. Seven passengers were pronounced dead at the accident site, and an eighth passenger was transported to a local hospital for treatment, before eventually succumbing to his injuries. Law enforcement authorities did not disclose the names of the deceased passengers, the bus driver – who survived the crash – or those who suffered injuries. What makes this bus accident troubling beyond the tragic loss of lives is the fact that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) fined OGA Charters $1,990 in 2011 for violating pre-employment drug testing regulations, and for improper maintenance and repair of its vehicles. Sadly, this South Texas bus accident is one of several recent bus crashes that have resulted in fatalities and injuries across the state.

Ex-lawyer gets 4 years for stealing $1.6 M

Despite his plea for leniency, a former Louisville lawyer who said he stole $1.6 million from clients to feed a casino gambling addiction was sentenced Tuesday to four years in prison. David Cary Ford, 53, had pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering for taking money from 10 estates that would have gone to charitable organizations, including Little Sisters of the Poor and WHAS Crusade for Children. As the executor of the estates, Ford was allowed to pay their expenses, a power that he abused by personally withdrawing and spending that money. In addition, restitution was ordered for seven individuals, named only by their initials in court documents, who would have received bequests from the estates if not for Ford’s fraud. Renn acknowledged in court that it’s unlikely Ford will be able to pay back all he owes. Ford gambled at the casino now known as Horseshoe Southern Indiana.

US Open tennis match investigated over irregular betting patterns

The New York Times reported that a Russian bookmaker informed the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) of suspicious wagers on the Aug. 30 match between Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky, the tournament’s no. 15 seed, and Russia’s Vitalia Diatchenko. Details of the suspect wagers, such as amounts and outcomes gambled on, were not immediately clear. Bacsinszky, the heavy favorite in the match, defeated Diatchenko in straight sets, 6-1 6-1. TIU spokesman Mark Harrison confirmed to the Times that the match was the subject of a “betting alert”. United States Tennis Association spokesman Chris Widmaier noted that a betting alert does not amount to confirmation of match-fixing. Earlier this year, the BBC and Buzzfeed jointly reported that tennis authorities had ignored repeated warnings about possible match-fixing by 16 top pro tennis players. The report rocked the sport on the eve of the Australian Open, the first of its four major events.

132 suspects linked to illegal gambling and welfare card fraud scheme


Four people linked to several Tallahassee businesses have been arrested in connection with an illegal gambling, racketeering, money laundering and welfare card fraud operation involving hundreds of thousands of dollars. The two men and two women are among 132 suspects linked to a scheme involving the use of illegal gambling machines and EBT cards, according to the Leon County Sheriff’s Office. The arrests are the culmination of an investigation launched in January when LCSO detectives began looking into illegal gambling at the Wondu Marathon Convenience Store on West Orange Avenue. Investigators say Gator Tail Amusement, LLC, supplied the illegal gambling machines. Authorities confiscated 61 machines from the company’s warehouse. During a raid in July, investigators seized six illegal gambling machines from the Wondu Marathon, 10 machines from Euro Fashions Boutique and six from One Stop College Market. A machine technician for Gator Tail interviewed during the investigation said Gator Tail would take a 40 percent “cut” of money from the machines, giving Wondu and others businesses the remaining 60 percent. Gator Tail, whose owner is listed as Dan Foshee, deposited nearly $630,000 in a Centennial Bank business checking account between February and December of 2015 and withdrew just above $480,000 during the same time period. As part of the investigation, agents and detectives also examined bank records connected to Gizaw-Tessema showing deposits of $1,421,293 and withdrawals totaling $1,408,744 from four separate accounts

Broward betting consultant pleads guilty in bizarre $45M extortion and fraud case

Nationally known South Florida betting expert Adam Meyer — who billed himself as a “sports consultant to the stars” —pleaded guilty Thursday in a bizarre $45 million extortion and fraud case. Meyer, 44, of Southwest Ranches, admitted he used alter egos, faked a Chinese accent and fabricated a story that his life was being threatened, to rip off a former client to the tune of more than $45 million in just four years. The victim started buying betting “picks” from Meyer in 2007 but was victimized after he reduced his gambling activity in 2009, authorities said. Prosecutors have tried to shield the identity of the victim but he was widely identified in media reports as Gary Sadoff, of Fond du Lac, Wis., a wealthy businessman who owns a liquor distribution business. Meyer admitted Thursday in federal court in Wisconsin**that he made up an elaborate collection of lies and told the victim that Meyer’s life was being threatened by a bookie who was holding himself and the victim equally responsible for a large gambling debt. Starting in 2009, the victim wired millions of dollars into bank accounts controlled by Meyer who used the money “for a variety of other purposes, including betting on more sporting events,” investigators said. After the victim told Meyer, in early 2012, that he would not be sending any more money, Meyer pretended he wanted to meet to repay some of the money. But Meyer was just upping the ante on his extortion, investigators said.

‘It was a definite statement … that gambling can kill’

The gruesome suicide of Peter Williams was a shocking reminder ofthe human cost of gambling – but experts say casinos do little tohelp the addicts who fill their coffers When Peter Williams burnt himself to death at Montecasino on July 24, he wasn’t just giving up. He wanted to dramatise his surrender – to burn his despair into public consciousness. By torching his body in the glow of the slot machines, Williams also set fire to the idea, propagated by the casinos, that gambling is an escape from pain. Williams’s cousin, Richard Byrne, is sure his suicide was an attack on that myth. “I believe it was a definite statement … that gambling can kill. We of course believe that he was more important as a person to us than such a statement,” he said. “According to witnesses, relying on what the police told us, he poured petrol over himself, then lit himself and ran through security, who weren’t going to stop a burning person, ran downstairs, then upstairs, then towards the gambling hall, and collapsed just before he reached the machines. And that’s where he died.” Tsogo Sun, which owns Montecasino, expressed sadness and offered condolences to Williams’s family this week. But the company also denied a link between his death and his losses. “We have not been advised this gentleman’s tragic suicide was in any way related to gaming,” it said. Byrne rejects this with contempt. “That’s a very self-serving and ridiculous statement. It’s got everything to do with gambling. The amount of money e spent on his overdraft would take an ordinary person years to pay back.”

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION

Fantasy Football Costs Employers a Shocking $17 Billion and Puts Companies at Legal Risk

As America enters into another year of the National Football League, gambling is set to take center stage yet again. Casino Watch Focus has reported on the emergency of daily fantasy sports as the newest form of sports gambling. Some jurisdictions have appropriately labeled it gambling and either outlawed its practice or regulated it accordingly. Other states have yet to make a formal proclamation about this form of gambling. But as with other forms of sports gambling, like NCAA March Madness  or the Super Bowl, the impact from such gambling will be felt in the workplace at home. Fortune Magazine has reported on the staggering amount of money fantasy football will cost employers, the results are nothing short of shocking:

According to Chicago-based employment research firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the sheer number of fully-employed fantasy football freaks could cost U.S. employers close to a whopping $17 billion (with a “b”) in lost productivity. That total eclipses the amount of total revenue the NFL took in last year, which was a mere $13 billion or so.

These numbers are hard to crunch, acknowledges Challenger, which came to this sum using the estimated 57.4 million people in the U.S. and Canada (ground zero for the NFL fandom) who play fantasy football, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. The FTSA also estimates that 67% of those players (38.5 million people), work full time. And using U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the company estimated those players earn roughly $25.69 per hour, on average.

If you assume that to be the case, each hour spent poring over matchups and obsessing over results costs employers in aggregate $898.1 million in lost or unproductive wages. And assuming each player spends an hour of work time each week fiddling with lineups every week of the regular season, the total would come to $16.8 billion. 

Not all of this lost productivity is without employee consent as some workplaces even allow office pools and fantasy football leagues in which even senior members of leadership participate. However, just because some companies are aware of such activities, it doesn’t lessen the legal consequences when the gambling is deemed illegal. The Miami Herald explains:

Office pools and fantasy leagues remain a great way to bring positivity and fun to the workplace. Used properly, fantasy leagues can be a valuable team-building exercise, similar to an office March Madness pool during the NCAA tournament. Employers must be cognizant of issues related to gambling and increased work distractions, however. By creating an office pool or fantasy league, employers must be aware that creating such a pool or league may inadvertently encourage employees to spend part of their work day focused on their fantasy teams rather than work-related activities.

Employers must always be mindful of the potential impact on productivity in the workplace and ensure that any office pools or fantasy leagues are not out of bounds of the law. In order to ensure that employers are operating within legal boundaries, they should consult with an employment attorney.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION

A Brief Look at Crime 9/05-9/11

Man shot during card game in Phoenix

Phoenix police are looking for two men after gunshots erupted during a card game Thursday night, sending one man to a hospital with life-threatening injuries. The card game, which police say may be connected to an illegal gambling ring, took place in an abandoned building that was once a hookah lounge near 32nd Street and Cactus Road. Sgt. Vince Lewis, a Phoenix police spokesman, said a friend of the gunshot victim called 911 at 8 p.m. to report an armed robbery. The caller said his friend was shot about 10 minutes earlier. “Violence is not part of our neighborhood,” she said. “We have neighbors that always watch everything and we have good, good people around us. This is very unusual for our side of town.”

Court: Prosecutors had right to seize $800K NFL pool money

An appeals court has upheld a ruling that a New Jersey county had the right to seize more than $800,000 from the operator of an NFL survivor pool. NJ.com reports the court ruled that Monmouth County prosecutors were acting within their authority when they seized cash found in the Parlin home of John Bovery and money from his three bank accounts in 2010. The three-judge panel disagreed with Bovery, who contended that the pools weren’t illegal because he wasn’t taking bets on individual games. A judge wrote that the pools are illegal because they’re a form of gambling that isn’t sanctioned by the New Jersey constitution. Bovery settled his criminal case this spring. His attorney says Bovery plans to petition to the state Supreme Court.

Normandie Casino owners hit with more than million dollar fine for protecting higher roller customers

Former operators of the Normandie Casino in Gardena, California have been hit with more than a million dollar penalty after the casino admitted to violating the Bank Secrecy Act in an attempt to protect its high roller customers from reporting their winnings as per federal law. The casino will now have to turn over $1.4 million which it did not report in high-value transactions to the government and also pay a fine of $1 million for its violations. The casino was sold in July after pleading guilty to the charges in January. The Normandie Casino was one of the oldest casinos in California and opened in the 1940s. The casino admitted that it did not record a number of high-value transactions in 2013 and also was guilty of not adopting and following an effective program to counter money laundering activities in the casino. During a six-week period in 2013, one of the casino’s VIP patrons is reported to have won $1 million from another customer and the casino management did not report these transactions and shielded the identity of the high-roller. The acting special agent responsible for the IRS criminal investigations, Anthony J. Orlando stated that the fines imposed on the Normandie Casino are proof of the government’s seriousness to enforce anti-money laundering laws and ensure that VIP gamblers will not be encouraged to hide their winnings. 

Dad who left kids in car while gambling charged with child abuse

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s Office charged a Ypsilanti father, whom police say left two young children in his car while he gambled, with child abuse Tuesday. Montez D’Angelo Sistrunk, 25, was arraigned Tuesday on two counts of second-degree child abuse after leaving two young children in a vehicle while he gambled at Motor City Casino on Grand River in Detroit for nearly an hour, according to a statement issued by Worthy’s office. “An employee of the casino observed the children and alerted a security guard who removed the children from the car,” the statement said. Detroit police said the children were 5 months old and 2 years old. Sistrunk was issued a $75,000, 10 percent bond.

Gambling with the gov’t’s dime: Pentagon employees used work credit cards at casinos, strip clubs

It’s no surprise that government workers like to party – just look at the myriad Secret Service and Drug Enforcement Agency scandals. Even the Pentagon has gotten in on the action, with employees using government travel cards at strip clubs and casinos. Not only did Defense Department employees improperly use their work credit cards, but their supervisors failed to take appropriate action after discovering the malfeasance, a report by the Pentagon’s inspector general found. The investigation was a follow-up audit of a previous report, which discovered that the military racked up 5,000 charges at casinos and strip clubs totaling more than $1 million over the course of a year. 

Normandie Casino Owners Ordered to Pay $2.4 Million for Violating Bank Secrecy Act

The Normandie Casino in Gardena, California is no more, but its former owners are still on the hook for a $2.4 million penalty. In January, the owners of California’s oldest card club pled guilty to violating the Bank Secrecy Act and admitted to hiring independent gaming promoters to attract high-rollers. The casino also confessed to deliberately failing to file the proper transaction reports. Owned by the Miller family since 1947, the Normandie casino owners found out their sentencing fate last week. United States District Judge James Otero ordered the Millers to pay $500,000 for each of the two counts of failing to report large cash transactions and maintain an effective anti-money laundering program. Otero also ordered the Normandie casino to forfeit $1,383,530, which represents numerous unreported transactions in 2013. The Bank Secrecy Act requires casinos to report details of individual transactions over $10,000. “Our money laundering laws were enacted to prevent criminals from concealing the source of large sums of cash generated by illegal activity,” United States Attorney Eileen Decker said in a statement. “Casinos and card rooms such as Normandie are cash-intensive businesses that are particularly attractive for use by criminals seeking to launder their ill-gotten gains, so they must be vigilant in meeting their obligations under those laws,” Decker explained.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION

Daily Fantasy Sports Face Security Issues from Hackers and Insider Trading Scandals

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing saga of America’s newest form of gambling, Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS). Many people participate when they see advertisements for DraftKings or FanDuel without realizing it could be an illegal form of gambling. Others may know, but assume the risk is low and play because it seems so prevalent. Few, however, consider the risks beyond its legality and assume it’s a safe environment to pay and collect money. Unfortunately, that is hardly the case. Casino Watch Focus has already reported on one insider type trading incident as a DraftKings employee wont $350K at its rival FanDuel’s site. As on employee of one site, they have access to betting trends and outcomes and can use the information unfairly when “competing” against others. Now, its appears another type case has manifested itself. Deadspin explains the details:

Stefon Diggs had a fantastic game last night , torching the Green Bay Packers and helping his team win in the first game at their new stadium. His nine catches and 182 yards with a touchdown also played a key role in securing Al Zeidenfeld first place in DraftKings’ biggest contest of the weekend, the NFL $5M Fantasy Football Millionaire. That’s a $1 million prize, even before his other Week 2 entries.

Zeidenfeld is also a regular DFS contributor to ESPN and, in his words, a “sponsored professional Daily Fantasy Sports player at DraftKings.com. On air personality and content provider for DraftKingsTV and Brand Ambassador/endorser.” It’s at least curious that the winner of DraftKings’ flagship contest is someone paid to give advice to his ostensible competitors, but a Draftkings contractor raking in a big prize is an unwelcome callback to last year’s controversies.

But even if such cases don’t seem like the norm and something players consider when playing these games, then surely the protection of their personal and financial information should be? Cybersecurity experts are warning of the large target such DFS communities pose. And the threat isn’t limited to hackers stealing financial information outright either, there are legitimate concerns or them manipulating the data used to determine winners as well. An online tech source explains:

A growing chorus of cybersecurity experts is warning that fantasy sports websites represent a prime target for hackers. The volume and sensitivity of data on these sites is significant. And many have failed to put expansive data protection measures into place.

The daily fantasy industry netted $290.7 million in revenue just in the US in 2015. DraftKings accounted for $174 million of that revenue and FanDuel for $106 million. It is predicted that growing competition in the market will push the total revenue for daily fantasy sports into the billions in the near future.

In addition to the money itself, these sites store the personal and financial data of million of users. These sites may not rank in the Top 10 of consumer-facing websites, but their appeal as targets for hackers is significant.

Theft is not the only concern. Experts have also warned that hackers could manipulate the data used to determine winners and losers to award legitimate prizes to fraudulent users. The explosion in traffic these sites face on the Sunday morning before most football games also puts them at risk of denial-of-service and zero day attacks.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION

A Brief Look at Crime 8/29-9/04

Bucks woman charged with drugging horses to rig races at Parx

A Bucks County woman has been arrested after she allegedly administered performance-enhancing drugs to racehorses, the Attorney General’s office announced Thursday. Marian Vega, 25, a groom at the Parx Casino and Racing facility in Bensalem, has been charged with one count of rigging a publicly exhibited contest. She was released on $20,000 unsecured bail to await a preliminary hearing. According to the Attorney General’s office, Vega administered doses of the drug Clenbuterol to a number of horses that was beyond “accepted guidelines.” Vega was found with a bottle of the drug during the investigations by the state’s Horse Racing Commission and the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Section and Gaming Unit. The horses were trained by Ramon Preciado, according to the Daily Racing Form. The drug is used to treat horses with respiratory disease but when used outside prescribed guidelines has the effect of a performance-enhancing drug.

Police identify woman killed in illegal gambling room

Police have identified a woman who was killed earlier this month in a suspected illegal gambling room, which authorities say is part of a growing problem in Austin. Police said Ga Young Chon, 58, operated an illegal gambling business in the 900 block of Wagon Trail. She was shot and killed Aug. 8 in what appears to have been an attempted robbery, police said. Two other men who were also shot have been treated and released, homicide Sgt. Jerry Bauzon said Thursday. One suspect in Chon’s killing was injured in the shooting and remains in critical condition at University Medical Center Brackenridge. Police said an unknown man involved in her death is at large. He is described as 6 feet 1 inch tall, weighing between 180 and 190 pounds in his mid- to late 20s. Police say the large amount of cash on hand makes illegal gambling rooms attractive targets for robbers. And since the victims are breaking the law themselves, they might choose to not cooperate with investigators.

Woman stole $1.7M from Minn. employer, lost most at casino

Three-plus years in prison is the sentence for a woman who over many years stole $1.7 million from her employer in southern Minnesota and blew most of the money on gambling. Diane M. Eiler, 48, of Bird Island, Minn., was sentenced last week in federal court in Minneapolis to 3½ years in prison and ordered to make full restitution to AgQuest Financial Services, of Morgan, her employer for more than 15 years until her stealing was revealed. “Eiler systematically abused the trust of her employer to steal more than $1.7 million,” said Assistant United States Attorney Joseph H. Thompson. Eiler, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud, was the director of accounting at AgQuest, which offers loans and insurance to farmers and other agricultural producers.

DPS principal used stolen money on casino

Claims by a Detroit Public School principal that money she stole from the district in a $2.7 million scheme was spent on students are false and also irrelevant, federal prosecutors said in court filings on Monday. On Monday, prosecutors filed a sentencing memo in Smith’s case saying financial records obtained by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit prove that Smith used illegal money to make purchases at Art Van Furniture, El-Mar Furs, Delta Air Lines, Royal Caribbean Cruises, several restaurants, Caesar’s Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and other personal expenditures.

Hidden bingo hall bunker housed enough weapons to ‘start a war’

A raid at a Houston bingo hall last week turned up a little more than just illegal gambling. Authorities discovered a hidden, underground bunker containing 100 firearms, ammunition, body armor and “military-style provisions,” according to Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson. “Enough, what I would consider, to start a small war,” said Lt. Ruben Diaz with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. “This is one of largest seizures of guns I’ve seen in one particular spot.” Twelve people, including the owners of Paradise Bingo Hall, were arrested and now face charges for organized crime. Investigators claim the suspects gathered cash earned from illegal gambling machines and laundered it through a number of ATM machines also owned by the bingo hall’s owners. Police believe some $15 million in illegal funds was laundered over the last four years, some of which was used to purchase the cache of guns, ammunition and equipment found in what Anderson described as a “doomsdayish” bunker.

Man charged in slaying of woman at Austin gambling room

Austin police have arrested a man in the slaying of a woman at an illegal gambling room during what investigators call a botched robbery attempt. Travis County jail records show 25-year-old David Bruce McKinley was being held without bondThursday on a capital murder charge. Online jail records don’t list an attorney to speak for McKinley, who was arrestedTuesday in connection with the Aug. 8 gunfire. Austin police say 58-year-old Ga Young Chon was killed and several other people wounded. A police affidavit says investigators believe McKinley and two women planned rob the gambling room, which featured slot-type machines, around closing time. A woman who allegedly agreed to be part of the robbery attempt, then backed out, later helped police identify McKinley.

Former CEO Gets Six Months for $1.4M Embezzlement

A New Orleans U.S. District Court Judge sentenced a 30-year president/CEO of a failed Louisiana credit union to six months in prison Wednesday for stealing more than $1.4 million Judge Susie Morgan also ordered Jacqueline Ray, 61, of Biloxi, Miss., to serve six months in home confinement and to pay $1 million in restitution to CUMIS and $452,752 to the NCUA. Ray also must serve two and half years of supervised release. “The guilt that I have been carrying with me has been a heavy weight on my shoulders not just for damaging the credit union that I loved but also for the irreparable damage and hurt that I have caused my loved ones and for sinning against my Savior,” Ray wrote in a letter to Judge Morgan. Ray also indicated in her letter that she stole the funds because of her depression and had a gambling addiction. Instead of leaning on others for support when she was depressed, she gambled, she wrote.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION

Guest Article: Tampa Bay Times Editorial: Florida Lottery Targets Poor Residents

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the recent bill introduced to allow Florida Lottery tickets to be sold on line in the wake of the Lottery Secretary resignation scandal. The downfall of lottery winners and the disadvantages of this form of gambling have also been heavily reported on. Now, the Tampa Bay Times has released an editorial outlining the disproportionate effects the lottery has on the poor:

The Florida Lottery recently introduced five new scratch-off games, a move that likely will boost the lottery’s bottom line at the expense of its most vulnerable ticket buyers. Scratch-offs, which range from $1 to $25 a ticket, are most heavily played by the poor. No one is forcing them to fork over their money, of course. But as the lottery tailors its offerings to maximize scratch-off sales and markets games in low-income neighborhoods, Floridians would be right to question whose interest that really serves.

The names of the games are straightforward and promote a potential windfall: Maximum Money, Bonus Crossword, Double Deuces, Lucky Seven and Fast $100. All cost between $1 and $5, with a top prize of $250,000 for the $5 game. The new options mean the lottery now offers 83 scratch-off games, which account for 65 percent of ticket sales. Why do the poor play them more? For the instant gratification, experts say. People in poverty see the lottery as a chance to improve their lives. It rarely works out that way, but ticket sales soar nonetheless.

The South Florida /Sun /Sentinel recently analyzed lottery sales figures, marketing data and geographical information to discover who buys scratch-offs and what it costs them. The findings are disturbing. From 2010 to 2015, sales of scratch-offs rose three times faster in poor neighborhoods than in other areas, and it happened as the lottery directed more advertising to poor and minority areas, the /Sun /Sentinel found. Those parallel increases point to a win for the lottery’s marketing department but no one else.

Gambling critics refer to lotteries as a tax on the poor. But unlike taxes, lottery purchases aren’t compulsory. However, like taxes, they affect populations differently. The /Sun Sentinel/ found that people in high-poverty areas spent an average of $385 in 2015 on scratch-off tickets. In better-off areas, the average was $245. Those figures validate the argument that lotteries are regressive and even harmful.

Where that harm might be mitigated — in increased money for education — inequality persists. Florida’s Bright Futures scholarships, funded with lottery money, are awarded to students who score in the top tier on the SAT or ACT. The high standards mean mostly middle- and upper-class students earn the scholarships, not poor and minority kids. That gap grew wider last year when the state raised the bar even more on Bright Futures in order to rein in costs.

These are salad days for the Florida Lottery, which is enjoying its highest sales ever — $532 million in July alone. Profits were up 17 percent compared with July 2015. But too much of the windfall is coming out of the pockets of low-income Floridians who are being lured to spend money they can’t afford to lose on a long-shot bet.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION