Congress hears Testimony from NCAA on Why Collegiate Sports Betting should be Banned

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the dramatic impact and subsequent explosion of sports betting since the Supreme Court decision.  Virtually all states have looked into what legalizing sports betting would mean for its jurisdiction, but some states have still not moved forward.  For those venues where sports betting is legal, most of the focus has been on the major professional sports leagues, but collegiate sports have long been a focus of would be sports betters.  As such, Congress has agreed to hear arguments in favor and against allowing sports betting on collegiate sports.  An online source reports:  

College sports betting is slowly being legalized across the United States. The practice has sparked a debate about the morality of the practice so much that the US Senate Committee had to weigh in and hear arguments from both proponents of the measure and those who opposed it.

The meeting was entitled “Protecting the Integrity of College Athletics” and it included a number of college representatives, educators, lobbyists and industry specialists.

Heather Lyke, the athletic director at the University of Pittsburgh was present on the behalf of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and the University both.

Those in favor of a ban on collegiate sports approach the situation from a few different angles.  The online source continues:

Ms Lyke said that while the repeal of PASPA was understandable and sports betting was here to stay, the U.S. Congress was supposed to take action so as to preserve the integrity of intercollegiate athletics. She directly asked for a prohibition on any sports betting that targets collegiate contests.

Her argument ran on the lines that the practice would be detrimental to the integrity of collegiate sports: “The introduction of legal wagering on intercollegiate athletics will have a corrosive and detrimental impact on student-athletes and the general student body alike. Gambling creates pressures and temptations that should not exist.”

She explained that students may become victims of corrupt practices and fall victim to gambling firms who want to push their interests. Ms Lyke said that even if the NCAA were to enact far-reaching measures that warn students and athletes of the dangers of gambling and outright prohibit it as per current law, the “corrosive effect” would be nevertheless widespread.

She further explained that sports teams have both the finances and man power to enforce integrity whereas most colleges in the country would  struggle to do the same.

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


A Brief Look at Crime 07/13 – 07/19

Woman Left 4 Year Old Girl Alone While She was Gambling

A New Jersey  woman who pleaded guilty to leaving her 4-year-old girl alone in a hotel room while she gambled at an eastern Pennsylvania  casino last fall has been placed on five years’ probation. reports that 27-year-old Rebecca Yandoli said Tuesday she’s taken steps to make sure that such a thing wouldn’t happen again, and Northampton County prosecutors then agreed that probation was appropriate.

Police were called to the Wind Creek Casino in Bethlehem around 4 a.m.on Nov. 16 after the girl was found wandering alone in the casino’s hotel lobby. The girl told the officers she was looking for Yandoli, who was soon found gambling on the main floor of the casino. Authorities say the Whitehouse Station resident told officers she had left the girl alone in the hotel room around 1:15 a.m. and then went to gamble. She pleaded guilty in February to child endangerment. Her attorney said she had an “overwhelming compulsion” to gamble.

FBI credits counter terrorism task force with thwarting a Tampa mass-shooting potentially planned for a casino

Federal investigators allege 23-year-old Muhammed AI-Azhari, of Tampa, was in the process of secretly buying high-poweredguns and silencers and was also researching IEDs, suicide vests, and explosive poisons. The complaint says he scoped out potential targets like Honeymoon Island and the FBI’s Tampa Field Office, but also researched Clearwater Beach, Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa and the Seminole Hard Rock Casino. “It’s the casino’s size and the amount of people in there it would’ve been a pristine target for him,” said local counter terrorism expert Bill Warner.   “And once in there, if he set up a position near the front door or just inside the front door all those people couldn’t get out.”

The complaint shows the FBI had been tracking AI-Azhari for some time. In 2015, he was sentenced to three years on terrorism charges in Saudi Arabia before he was deported to the United States in December of 2018 living in both Florida and California. He returned to Tampa in 2019, and less than a year later in April of 2020, federal investigators say he began trying to purchase guns illegally on eBay. He was arrested May 1 by Tampa Police after the complaint alleges he showed up at a Tampa Home Depot, where he worked, carrying a gun.

Helena man sentenced for stealing $390K from armored truck

A former armored truck company employee convicted at trial of spending stolen money from the company he worked for on gambling, day trading and a trip to France was sentenced Monday to 30 months in prison and three years of supervised release. After a four-day trial in January, a jury found John Gregory Alexander Herrin, 30, of Helena, guilty of one count of interstate transportation of stolen property and eight counts of money laundering. 

Herrin went to Las Vegas twice in 2014, stayed in a high-end casino, gambled and went shopping with a female companion. He made large cash deposits at the casino and bought a watch for $22,600 with cash. On return from his first trip, Herrin deposited a casino cashier’s check for $123,500 and $37,350 cash, for a total of $160,870, into his checking account. Prior to the deposit, Herrin’s account had a $945.65 balance, according to prosecutors. Herrin allegedly told the bank teller he went to Las Vegas with $500 and won $160,000 gambling.

1 killed, 2 injured in Merritt Island shootout over gambling dispute

A 19-year-old man was killed and two others were injured Wednesday evening during a shootout on Merritt Island that stemmed from a gambling dispute, according to News 6 partner Florida Today reported. The triple shooting happened around 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Courtenay Palms Apartments in the 700 block of North Courtenay Parkway. Brevard County sheriff’s deputies responded to the complex and found three people suffering from gunshot wounds. Investigators were looking into whether one of the shooting victims went to the complex to confront the others when a shootout broke out. The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office did not return calls about the shooting or confirm whether there were any suspects on the loose or other public safety concerns. The shooting death becomes Brevard County’s 15th reported homicide for the year.

Treasurer steals more than £18,000 from charity pre-school to fund spiralling gambling problem

A trusted pre-school group treasurer stole more than £18,400 in a “despicable” breach of trust to help fund a spiralling gambling problem. She tried to pretend that the charitable organisation’s bank account had been repeatedly hacked in a bid to “cover her tracks” but her actions could have jeopardised the future of the group and its committee felt betrayed by her blatant lies, a court heard. Jeremy Evans, prosecuting, told Grimsby Crown Court  that the offence of “bookkeeper fraud” was a case of Dennis “robbing Peter to pay Paul” to fund a gambling addiction. “She would handle all the payments from clients, bills and staff wages that wanted payment,” said Mr Evans. The committee said that [she] “blatantly lied” to them and they felt “betrayed” by her and “foolish for believing her fabricated stories”.

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

Florida Casinos and Legislators Face Tough Decisions About how to Provide Proper Safety During the Pandemic

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic’s impact on gambling.  Many casinos are dealing with safety concerns in different ways.  It was reported that an Ariona casino closed after an employee died from Covid-19.  Las Vegas saw an immediate spike in coronavirus cases after it reopened and is facing a lawsuit by the workers over safety precautions.  In Florida, where the state saw a dramatic increase in cases as they opened, casinos are employing different levels of strategies to deal with the pandemic.  An an online source explains, one Florida casino is sticking with basic protections with some added plexiglass to help stop the spread of the deadly virus: 

The Seminole Exhausting Rock Lodge & Casino Tampa opened its doorways at7 p.m. — albeit beneath new pointers that promote social distancing and hygiene.

Masks or different face coverings are required and all people getting into the premises will get their temperature taken.

One other noticeable adaptation to the coronavirus age is using plexiglass limitations to divide gamblers and sellers at poker and desk video games.

A much harder decision was made in Miami, where record setting positive tests hit the Sunshine State hard.  Given the nature of gambling as an entertainment venue and not an essential business, it was reported that that the only proper course of action was a full shutdown: 

Casino operator Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) has been forced to close its Miami casino less than one month after it reopened the property following a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.

On Monday, CDI announced that the “temporary suspension” of operations at its Calder Casino in Miami Gardens, Florida, in keeping with the order issued by Miami-Dade Mayor *Carlos Gimenez* to shut all local entertainment venues following a surge in local COVID-19 infections.

On July 2, with Florida’s new COVID-19 infection count hitting a daily record of 10,109 – which was topped two days later with 11,458 new cases – Mayor Gimenez announced that he was “rolling back the reopening” of all four casinos in the region – Hialeah Park, Casino Miami, Magic City and Calder – until further notice. 

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

A Brief Look at Crime 07/06 – 07/12

Gambling Experts Ask People to Remain Safe From Illegal Online Casinos During Quarantine

In a global survey, it is noted that people are spending their time playing online casino games to spend their free time during the coronavirus lockdown. And many gambling experts have asked them to play online casino games by keeping safety in their minds. Due to the high demand for online gambling during the quarantine period due to coronavirus pandemic, many new online gambling platforms have lined up to attract people on their online platforms.

Many gambling experts are suspecting that it could lead to an increase in the number of online frauds and crimes. According to them, it is not easy for a common person to know whether a given platform has a license to operate or not. Especially in the states with no-legalization of online gambling, many illegal casinos are operating online to supply their services to their customers.

Due to this, many cases of the operation of illegal casinos have come into the picture and it has increased the problem of people on a large scale. Last month, PokerStars founder, Isai Scheinberg pled guilty for the charges of illegal gambling business online. And this news rocked everyone in the online casino industry and hence many gambling experts have warned people to stay safe while playing online casino games during the coronavirus lockdown period.

Drugs, Guns, and Money – 11 Arrested in Illegal-Gambling Operation Shut-Down at Apartment

For those considering gambling entertainment during a pandemic, West Covina does not allow gambling, much less organized gambling in residences. Additionally, a group of gamblers sheltering in place along with six-feet-apart social distancing seems like an Impossibility. A recent tip of an illegal gambling operation at a local apartment complex opened an investigation for West Covina Police Department Investigators. “Investigators discovered several gambling machines, bulk U.S. currency, a large quantity of methamphetamine, and four firearms,” said Alexus Napoles, Community Relations Officer. Along with additional multiple items seized in the apartment, “A total of eleven individuals from the location were arrested and booked for various crimes, including illegal narcotics violations, weapons violations, and illegal gambling,” said Napoles. The average apartment doesn’t include enough floorspace for eleven people to effectively practice safe social distancing during Covid-19. 

Northeast Texas family sentenced for their roles in massive illegal gambling, money laundering enterprise

 Northeast Texas businessman, his wife and son were sentenced Friday for their roles in a massive illegal gambling and money laundering enterprise. Larry Tillery was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison for engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity and tax evasion. He was further ordered to forfeit approximately $2 million in cash, jewelry, and sports memorabilia that were proceeds of his illegal gambling enterprise and to pay restitution in the amount of $1,000,040. A money judgment of $32,758,541 was also ordered by the court.

Judy Tillery was sentenced to two years of federal probation for structuring financial transactions to evade reporting requirements. She shares the forfeiture judgment with her husband. Brian Tillery was sentenced to two years of federal probation for engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity. He was further ordered to forfeit approximately $245,477 and a residence in Beaumont with an appraised value of approximately $600,000 that was determined to be proceeds of the illegal gambling enterprise. A money judgment of $700,000 was also ordered by the court.

Blount County Man Pleads Guilty In Murder of Terrell Guy

A 22-year-old Blount County man has pleaded guilty in the 2017 murder of former Mountain Brook basketball star Terrell Guy. Steven Michael Crawford pleaded guilty to felony murder, which carries a life sentence with the possibility of parole. The U.S. Marshals Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force took Crawford into custody Dec. 28, 2017, charging him with capital murder, along with Joseph Curtis Moore, who was arrested December 15, 2017. The incident occurred Dec. 10, 2017 at HighPointe Apartments on Valley Avenue after what authorities believe was a gambling dispute. Guy was a high school standout during his senior year, sending the Spartans to the 2015 state championship with a last second three pointer. He was also named MVP of the Class 7A, Area 6 tournament at Mountain Brook High School, as well as to the Class 7A Northeast Regional All-tournament team at Jacksonville State.

Owner of 4 convenience stores charged with running gambling operation

The owner of four Salt Lake County convenience stores and nine of his employees were charged Thursday with running a gambling Operation. “The machines were described as similar to slot machines in Las Vegas that you pay cash to play and are paid out cash from the store if you win,” according to charging documents. Undercover officers observed about 10 gambling machines in the store, “all located in a dark back room behind the register,” the charges state.

“(An undercover officer) said the average person would never know the existence of the gaming machines in the business unless they were told about them.” “The machines were described as similar to slot machines in Las Vegas that you pay cash to play and are paid out cash from the store if you win,” according to charging documents. Undercover officers observed about 10 gambling machines in the store, “all located in a dark back room behind the register,” the charges state. “(An undercover officer) said the average person would never know the existence of the gaming machines in the business unless they were told about them.”

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

Casinos Employ Bans on Smoking as a Means of Reducing Spread of Coronavirus, but How Long Will They Last?

Casino Watch Focus has reported the many ways Covid-19 is impacting the gambling industry.  As the amount of infected and subsequent death toll rises, more and more are starting to tread the virus with respect and make adjustments to help ensure safety.  One idea has been to ban smoking.  A large number of casinos have instituted such bans, though it’s unclear how long they will last.  It of course adds to a greater debate about public safety in general and the responsibility of casinos to protect non-smokers from harm.  An online source explains:

More than 125 casinos and dozens of other gaming sites across the U.S. that allowed smoking in pre-COVID days are now nonsmoking. That raises a question: Will it last?

Some casinos plan to lift their ban when face masks or other coronavirus safety measures are no longer required. Others see this as a good time to test whether one of the last bastions of legalized smoking in a public space can give up the habit. Advocates for smoke-free gaming say the industry sends a mixed message about protecting customers and employees if it establishes extensive coronavirus safeguards, then allows the hazards of secondhand smoke.

How gamblers and the industry accept smoke-free play as a public-health measure could help determine whether more casinos join the vast majority of workplaces and businesses where smoking is prohibited.

“The casino industry for years and years has worried about it,” said Conrad Granito, general manager of Muckleshoot Casino in Auburn, Washington. “You’re definitely seeing changes, but there’s still a core group (of gamblers who smoke).”

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

A Brief Look at Crime 06/29 – 07/05

Now betting giant WILL have to pay £3.5million fine over death of addict 

The gambling giant accused of using a ‘blatant’ legal loophole to dodge a £3.5million fine for their role in a young man’s suicide performed a dramatic U-turn this morning. Chris Bruney, from Sheffield, took his own life hours after being plied with £400 of bonuses by staff at online casino, which is owned by Playtech. The 25-year-old lost £119,000 in the five days before his death but was still allowed to gamble. This morning, in a victory for the Mail, Playtech bowed to pressure and said it would pay the fine in full and offer a personal apology to the family of Mr Bruney. It followed howls of outrage from Mail readers, MPs, charities and even a Church of England Bishop after the details were published in this newspaper.

After an 18-month investigation the regulator found there were ‘serious systemic failings’ in the way the firm, called PT Entertainment Services (PTES), managed social responsibility and anti-money laundering processes. Winner failed to ask whether Mr Bruney was happy with his gambling or could afford his losses, as required by industry rules, it was ruled. The Commission said: ‘If the licence had not been surrendered the Commission would have imposed a financial penalty of £3.5million,’ adding that the breaches constituted a ‘criminal offence’.

Woman Gets 17 Years for 5-Year-Old Grandson’s Hot-Car Death

An Oklahoma  woman was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison after she pleaded guilty to a murder charge for leaving her 5-year-old grandson to die inside a hot car while she gambled at a casino. Alanna Jean Orr, 50, was sentenced Thursday to 210 months in federal prison, U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Downing said. According to court records, Orr was caring for her grandson on June 21, 2018, when she went to a casino in Harrah, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of Oklahoma City. Authorities said Orr left the boy inside her car for six hours as temperatures reached 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius.) Orr pleaded guilty last year to second-degree murder by child neglect in Indian Country. She had faced up to life in prison.

Second person charged with murder in pregnant woman’s death 

Winston-Salem police, with the help of the U.S. Marshals Service, arrested and charged a second person with murder in the shooting death of a pregnant woman. Marshals arrested 29-year-old Quintin Martin Searcy Thursday in Florence, South Carolina. Searcy is charged with murder. On May 30, local authorities arrested 27-year-old Lashanda Tolliver in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on a murder charge as well.

An autopsy showed McGee was pregnant at the time of her death. As protests against racial injustice enveloped Winston-Salem since George Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, demonstrators have also protested the prevalence of crime in Winston-Salem. Some protest organizers have publicly said McGee was killed after winning thousands of dollars gambling. When asked to verify that information, Winston-Salem police officer Lt. Gregory Dorn said he could not, and that the gambling motive is hearsay.

Grand Rapids bookkeeper accused of stealing $200,000 from family business 

A Grand Rapids woman is accused of embezzling more than $200,000 from her family’s store in order to gamble and pay off credit card debts. The Grand Rapids Police Department was notified in November 2018 that Gillson was suspected of stealing “a large amount of money over the past few years.” Gillson, the sister of Rusty Eichorn, had been asked to leave employment as the store’s sole bookkeeper because it was believed she was taking merchandise without paying for it. But the cash theft was not discovered until a new accountant took over. Police discovered Gillson had at least 12 active credit cards from 2016 to 2018, making significant payments during that time that “nearly equal or surpass Gillson’s legitimate income during these years.” She also “spent heavily” at area casinos and, at one point, on a trip to Las Vegas. At White Oak Casino in Deer River, her player’s club card indicated she wagered $136,556 in 2017 alone, losing more than $10,500 by year’s end.

Customer says he was harmed by Argosy worker

A 65-year-old man is suing Argosy Casino Hotel and Spa, alleging he was hospitalized by a casino employee, who allegedly had a prior history of threatening and engaging in harmful contact with others while on the job. According to the six-page civil suit filed with the Platte County Circuit Court, Joel Hale of Kansas City was approached and questioned by Leonard Reed, an employee of Argosy, on May 27, 2018. While visiting the gambling facility, Hale was specifically asked if he had his wallet. He told Reed that he did not. According to the allegations, Reed allegedly tried to “pat-down” Hale and instructed him to put his hands behind his back. When Hale rebuffed, Reed slammed Hale to the floor and proceeded to handcuff him, the suit says. Reed led Hale to a private office, which lacked video surveillance. 

According to the lawsuit, as a result of his injuries Hale struggled to even walk. Eventually, emergency medical personnel were called to the scene, rendered assistance and loaded Hale into an ambulance. He was taken to an area hospital. As the suit tells it, Reed “employed force that was more than reasonably necessary.” The suit accuses the Missouri Gaming Company, who is doing business as Argosy Casino Hotel and Spa, of negligent hiring and employing a man who has a “propensity to harm” customers. “Despite Argosy’s capacity to know of Reed’s dangerous proclivities, it employed Reed, anyway, and further, continued to employ him,” the suit says. Argosy Casino had a duty of care and bears responsibility to protect its customers from harm, according to allegations in the lawsuit.

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

Las Vegas Employees Suing over Unsafe Work Conditions during the Covid-19 Pandemic

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing developments surrounding the gambling industry during the coronavirus pandemic.  Most recently, after shutting down due to the virus, Las Vegas opened back up and a record number of Covid-19 cases were reported.  Casino employees have been exposed to a rash of gamblers flooding back to casinos and in Arizona, a casino re-closed after an employee caught the virus and died.   The lack of PPE requirements were at the center of the situation and employees have taken note.  Citing similar types of work place issues, Las Vegas workers are trying to protect themselves anyway they can, including using the courts.  As Fox Business reports, a new lawsuit has been filed:

Las Vegas Strip hospitality workers filed a lawsuit against casino operators on Monday accusing the companies of failing to protect employees from Covid-19, one of the first efforts to hold employers legally responsible for infections as cases in the U.S. surge.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas against the owners of Harrah’s, MGM Grand and Bellagio casinos, says the company didn’t immediately shut down food-and-beverage outlets and other areas after learning of positive cases, didn’t immediately inform employees when co-workers tested positive, and didn’t adequately contact-trace before allowing colleagues of infected employees to return to the job.

Culinary Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165, through their joint bargaining agency, filed the lawsuit against Harrah’s Las Vegas LLC, a subsidiary of Caesars Entertainment Corp., and The Signature Condominiums LLC at the MGM Grand and Bellagio LLC, subsidiaries of MGM Resorts International.

The lawsuit said unsafe working conditions violate the unions’ contract. The unions represent 60,000 hospitality workers. “We’re not just numbers,” Mr. Zermeno said at a news conference Monday. “We’re families also. We’re human. I just want them to care, honestly.”

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

A Brief Look at Crime 06/22 – 06/28

Gambling dispute may have sparked Monday night shooting in SE Cedar Rapids

According to the Cedar Rapids Police Department, three men — ages 21, 32, and 38, — were shot at about 11 p.m. Monday night in the 700 block of 16th Street SE. Police said the men were at a party at a residence in the area the included gambling. At some point, police said an argument occurred. A short time later, shots were fired from a vehicle into the residence, striking the three men. When officers arrived at the scene, they found two of the injured men inside the home. The third, police said arrived at Mercy Medical Center in a private vehicle. None of the injuries were life-threatening, police said. Public safety spokesperson Greg Buelow said the investigation is ongoing. No arrests have been made.

15 people detained in illegal gambling bust after SW Side immigrant rescue call

San Antonio police detained 15 people in an illegal gambling bust on the city’s Southwest Side after someone reported seeing immigrants in the back of an 18-wheeler and called authorities. When police arrived, they did not find an 18-wheeler with immigrants, but they said they approached a person who admitted they were at the location to play on a gambling machine. Officers said they went into the location and found about 50 eight-liners. They said they detained 15 people who were playing with the gambling machines. Officials said everyone who was detained cooperated with authorities. They said no one among the group was sick, but only about one or two people were wearing masks. Police said many people in the group were senior citizens. They will face gambling charges, and some are facing warrants, according to authorities.

Cock-Fighting Event Included Small Child In Presence Of Cocaine And Firearms (FL)

Fourteen suspects were arrested by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, at a gambling and rooster/cock-fighting event in Mulberry, Florida. Deputies responded and observed the male suspects gambling, rolling dice, and exchanging cash around a wooden table. A 10-year-old child was also present. On the ground around the table, deputies observed bags of a white powdery substance that tested positive for cocaine. Nearby they saw evidence of a recent cock-fight, and they requested that detectives from the PCSO Agriculture Crimes Unit respond to the scene.

Ag Crimes detectives obtained a search warrant for the property, and located seven dead roosters laying on the ground approximately 25 feet from where the gambling was occurring. Nearby, detectives found a disassembled fighting ring, a scale for weighing roosters before fighting, and chairs for people to sit and watch the fighting. Where the ring was set up, there were fresh feathers on the ground and stuck to the sides of the ring. Inside a shed on the property, detectives found rubber boxing gloves used to train roosters to fight, knives that are strapped to roosters’ legs for fighting to the death, and performance-enhancing drugs for roosters. A 55-gallon metal trash barrel contained burned bodies of dead roosters. There were over 100 live roosters individually housed, and a total of 481 roosters and chickens were removed from the property during the investigation.

Police cracking down social media gamblers

Illegal gambling now has more eyes on it than ever, especially from law enforcement. With more people forced to stay home there has been a boom in people gambling on social media. Now, Starr County officials said that it is cracking down not just on the organizers but the players as well. “If you take a game of chance and keep money from it, you’re gambling and it’s illegal in the state of Texas,” said Starr County Attorney Victor Canales. Organizers are making up to $10,000 a day creating fake loterias, raffles, and pyramid schemes. Police are now investigating online games after a person stole thousands from players who signed up.

Adelson’s Singapore Casino Probed Over Laundering Controls

The Singapore casino of billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. is being probed by the U.S. Department of Justice over whether anti-money laundering regulations were breached in the way it handled the accounts of top gamblers. The Justice Department in January issued a grand jury subpoena to a former compliance chief of Marina Bay Sands Pte, seeking an interview or documents on “money laundering facilitation” and any abuse of internal financial controls, according to a copy of the subpoena seen by Bloomberg News.

Prosecutors asked the former compliance head, as a person with knowledge of the casino’s operations, to produce records related to any such violations including through gambling junkets and third-party lending using casino credit, the document shows. The U.S. inquiry, which people familiar with the matter said is likely in its early stages, is also seeking to establish if there was any retaliation against whistleblowers, according to the subpoena.

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

Florida Gambling Hotline Reveals Crisis Experienced by those During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing complexities of Covid-19’s impact to the gambling industry.  Beyond the obvious loss of revenue revenue and shut downs, coronavirus’ impact reaches problem gamblers as well. The current climate has created a perfect storm of issues that can drive people to gamble and with the accessibility of online gambling to many, the threat of devastation is very real.  A Florida gambling hotline is helping to make the general public aware of such issues.  An online source explains:

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reshape life as we had once known it, closures of traditional brick-and-mortar gambling facilities coupled with social distancing restrictions and requirements have resulted in dramatic shifts in gambling behaviors along with serious negative consequences as reported by contacts to Florida’s 888-ADMIT-IT Problem Gambling HelpLine in March and April.

According to Jennifer Kruse, Executive Director of the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG), “Of particular concern with recent COVID-19 closures and quarantines, is the associated increase inproblem-gambling-related risk factors that occur as a result, such as loneliness, stress, anxiety, depression, and increased use or abuse of substances. The severity of problems reported by individuals contacting the FCCG’s 888-ADMIT-IT HelpLine in March and April illustrate the increased occurrence of these associated risk factors and resulting, exacerbated problem-gambling-related impacts experienced during this time.”

During the pandemic, the economic consequences have hit the country hard, and as result of the government mandated business closures, economic stimulus checks have been sent out to help keep people on their feet.  This situation can be viewed as a windfall of money to some, which has prompted calls for gambling to be shut down during this time.  Many will view the stimulus check as a way to gamble and increase their financial situation.  This big win mentality can trigger many stressors that exacerbate the problems leading to troubling and fatal consequences .  The source continues:

Receiving a stimulus check may also be viewed as an unexpected “big win” for at-risk and problem or recovering gamblers. Money lost gambling can lead to financial difficulties, which can trigger associated stressors that interfere with relationships, mental, and even physical health. These experiences can leave problem gamblers and their loved ones feeling discouraged and hopeless about the future.

“When a problem gambler feels they have lost everything and sees no possibility to gain or recover, suicidal ideation and/or attempts are very real possibilities. This is unfortunately what we have seen with contacts to the 888-ADMIT-IT HelpLine in April, with more than one in five (21%), revealing current or recent suicidal feelings or thoughts due to their gambling problem,” explained Kruse. 

“The share of callers referred to Crisis Lines in April (23%), also rose significantly by more than double, with increased levels of hopelessness and desperation reported, due to gambling-related financial and mental health repercussions brought about by the COVID-19 crisis,” Kruse noted, as cause for additional concern.

Unfortunately, these are not isolated pockets of impact, but rather spread all over the state.  Access to online gambling and the lottery means that closed brick and mortar casinos don’t shield those around the state from gambling’s destructive impact.  Help is available and should be sought out.  The source concludes:

The data reported during the month of April by 888-ADMIT-IT HelpLine contacts, reveals that help seekers this month were from areas all over the state and were primarily from those engaged in the forms of gambling activities still available during quarantine and social distancing restrictions, Online Gambling and the Lottery. This illustrates the effects that gambling addiction can have on any community in the state, and further highlights that those associated impacts will correlate with what gambling options are accessible or available in a particular area.

At a time of uncertainty while the whole world anxiously awaits the return to “normal life,” whatever that may be, reassurance for anyone negatively impacted by a gambling problem that resources are available and accessible through Florida’s 888-ADMIT-IT Problem Gambling HelpLine has never been more important. “Gambling addiction is treatable, and population-specific programs and services for gamblers and their loved ones are accessible any time of the day or night, any day of the year.

The FCCG’s 24-hour confidential and multilingual HelpLine may be reached by calling 888-ADMIT-IT (888-236-4848), texting (321) 978-0555, emailing, initiating a live chat at, or by reaching out to us on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter,” concluded Kruse.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 06/15 – 06/21

Two NFL Stars Could Be Arrested for Armed Robbery Linked to A $70k Gambling Loss 

Deandre Baker plays for New York Giants while Quinton Dunbar is signed to the Seattle Seahawks. The two were accused of an armed robbery in Miramar, Florida. Two days before the incident, the two players were involved in a gambling session where they lost $70,000 while playing cards. They were reportedly gambling on the night of the robbery as well. Baker got into an argument with another man at a party during the night. The card table was flipped and Baker allegedly took out a gun and pointed it at another player. He asked two other men to “take money and valuables” from the attendees. 

Now an arrest warrant has been released against him, which records that he and two men stole $4,000 in cash along with another player’s Audemars Piguet watch worth $17,500. They also stole a Hublot watch costing $25,000 and $7,000 in cash from another player. Baker allegedly possessed a gun while he used to steal others’ belongings. Dunbar didn’t have a gun but he was allegedly involved in helping to steal the valuables. Baker even told a man in a red mask to shoot a person who had walked into a room. The witness, in this case, is Dominick Johnson who said that he has known the two players since they were kids. He was also present at the party and said that Baker carried arm. He was not robbed on night. Other witnesses suggest that they had not seen a gun in Baker’s hand.

Former county employee gets nearly five years for stealing from vulnerable

A former Presque Isle County employee who admitted to stealing over $200,000 from vulnerable adults to feed a gambling habit was sentenced to four years and nine months behind bars today. Shilo Furgeson, former Presque Isle County public guardian, was fired in May 2019 and arrested several months later, accused of stealing money from the accounts of elderly or disabled people who depend on the county to coordinate their financial and legal services. Furgeson, who was arrested three times last fall and arraigned on multiple charges of embezzlement, admitted taking a total of more than $207,000 from at least 15 people in her care over a four-year period in her role as public guardian. Checks written by the defendant and payable to Furgeson or her boyfriend, removing over $10,000 from the bank accounts of several people — including one who is deceased — were “the tip of the iceberg,” according to police reports, when those checks surfaced in April 2019 and were reported to the probate court where Furgeson was employed. In a videoconferenced hearing today, Furgeson told the court she used the money to feed a gambling habit, spending an average of $3,200 per week at casinos.

Wednesday night in small-town Florida: deputies found cockfighting, cocaine and a kid

Cockfighting doesn’t stop for anything — not even a global pandemic. Fourteen people were arrested at a gambling and cockfighting function in Central Florida, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. They were all charged with attending the fighting of animals, illegal gambling and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Deputies responded to a mobile home late Wednesday evening and discovered men gambling at a table. They also noticed a 10-year-old boy, bags of cocaine on the table and what appeared to be evidence of Cockfighting, a PCSO media release says. “We received a call for service regarding a cockfighting event, and found so much more, including a small child in the presence of cocaine and firearms,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. “This is egregious on several levels. I’m glad we were able to shut this down.”

Detectives acquired a search warrant for the property where they later found seven dead roosters about 25 yards away from the gambling table, a scale for roosters to weigh in and chairs for spectators, according to PSCO. A dismantled fighting ring was discovered, the inside and sides of which were covered with fresh feathers. Investigators also stumbled upon a shed containing rubber boxing gloves, knives and performance-enhancing drugs — all used in various aspects of cockfighting. A nearby metal trash bin held the charred remains of numerous roosters, deputies say. A total of 481 roosters and chickens were removed from the property. Detectives also confiscated a loaded AK-47, 12-gauge shotgun and a trafficking amount of cocaine.

Redskins’ Cody Latimer facing gun charges after alleged poker game incident

Washington Redskins wide receiver Cody Latimer was arrested over the weekend after allegedly pulling out a gun at a poker game, according to reports. Latimer, 27, appeared in a Douglas County, Colo., court on Monday to face several charges including felony illegal discharge of a firearm and second-degree assault related to an incident that took place at a friend’s apartment early Saturday morning. 

Deputies with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to an apartment complex on Zenith Meridian Drive shortly after midnight over reports of multiple shots fired. Once on the scene, law enforcement spoke to Roderick English, who described himself as Latimer’s best friend, ESPN reported, citing KUSA. English told authorities that several people, including Latimer, showed up to his apartment at around 8 p.m. to play poker. Members of the group were reportedly drinking and gambling when a dispute purportedly broke out between Latimer and another person. The police report did not include details about the initial altercation, but Latimer’s attorney revealed during court on Monday that there was an investigation into an allegation of sexual assault committed by an individual at the gathering against Latimer’s 4-year-old son.

15 people detained in illegal gambling bust after SW Side immigrant rescue call, San Antonio police say

San Antonio police detained 15 people in an illegal gambling bust on the city’s Southwest Side after someone reported seeing immigrants in the back of an 18-wheeler and called authorities. When police arrived, they did not find an 18-wheeler with immigrants, but they said they approached a person who admitted they were at the location to play on a gambling machine. Officers said they went into the location and found about 50 eight-liners. They said they detained 15 people who were playing with the gambling machines. Officials said everyone who was detained cooperated with authorities. They said no one among the group was sick, but only about one or two people were wearing masks. Police said many people in the group were senior citizens. They will face gambling charges, and some are facing warrants, according to authorities. The Vice Unit will further investigate this case and interview the people detained, officers said.

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Arizona Casino Operator Closes Three Properties after Covid-19 Death of Employee – Lack of mandated PPE requirements for gamblers cited

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many ongoing impacts seen by Covid-19.  Las Vegas, a city built around casinos and gambling, set records for coronavirus cases when they partially opened, prompting the Governor to claim the city wasn’t ready to move to additional phases and safety had to be paramount.  They had very strict rules for personal protective equipment (PPE) and sterilization techniques for dice, chips and money handling in general.  Even still, they saw record case increases.  Now imagine if such stringent rules weren’t in place.  Unfortunately for one family, they didn’t have to imagine, as they lived through it when Arizona casinos opened with few safety measures in place, and and employee died from Covid-19 complications. A local Arizona source reports:

As of 2 a.m. Thursday, Gila River Hotels & Casinos shuttered all three of its properties for two weeks amid a recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Arizona. Leaders at Gila River Hotels & Casinos declined The Arizona Republic’s repeated requests to confirm the number of employees who have tested positive for COVID-19, saying that they will not disclose the information to “protect the privacy” of their workers. The announcement comes a week after a security guard at Lone Butte Casino died of complications related to COVID-19, according to his family.

Washington, who lived in Chandler, had returned to work in mid-May. His daughter, Lina Washington of Sacramento, said he was immediately concerned about safety measures at the casino. “The day after reopening, he was like, ‘Lina, it was awful, it was horrible. The line was around the corner. … Eighty percent of the people weren’t wearing masks,’” Lina Washington said.

Unlike some other casinos in the Phoenix area, Gila River Hotels & Casinos were only requiring employees to wear personal protective equipment. Customers were encouraged, but not mandated, to wear masks. Lina Washington said this left her father, who was diabetic and had recently beaten prostate cancer, exposed.

During the two week closure, casino officials will “reassess its current safety standards” after evaluating its safety plan with the Gila River Indian Community Council and receiving “feedback from its community and team members.”

This situation highlights the severity of the pandemic.  Too many people are dismissive of sound medical recommendations to do something as simple as wear a mask because they don’t view this as anything but a type of flu or a disease that won’t impact them.  A mask isn’t 100% effective of course, but it significantly reduces the spread of the virus and it’s one of the simplest recommendations that the casinos and other businesses can require for the proper protection of their employees and the community at large.  The worker’s daughter spoke to a local television program and helped cast the appropriate light on this pandemic’s severity:

In her grief and rage, Washington is calling out Gov. Doug Ducey and holding leadership accountable for what she views as a failure to protect Arizona’s most vulnerable residents from the pandemic. People like her 68-year-old father, who was diabetic and a cancer survivor. “This is very real,” she said. “This is not something where the elderly and vulnerable are disposable. This is not natural selection. These are people, these are parents, these are grandparents.”

Coronavirus cases are surging in Arizona; the rate of positive cases is one of the highest in the world right now. Gov. Ducey is coming under fire for not taking more aggressive steps to stem the infection’s spread, such as requiring the use of masks. “I don’t want anyone to have to experience (this) because of the ignorance and negligence and hubris of people who don’t believe this is real.” 

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

A Brief Look at Crime 06/08 – 06/14

Rowan Sheriff brings charges against Granite Quarry arcade operator

According to the report, approximately 10 customers were actively gambling at the time of the execution of the warrant. The sheriff’s office seized $4,413 in cash, 43 computer towers related to the operation of the gaming equipment, and other computer equipment connected to the point of sale window and the surveillance system at the location. According to investigators, the manager working the location admitted that they were being paid in cash, did not know the identity of the person that owned the business, and that it was a gambling establishment. The manager acknowledged that winnings were being paid out to customers in cash, as much as $2,000 at one time. Sboto was charged with operating a video gaming machine, operate/possession of a slot machine, possessing gaming machines that allowed the machines to exceed the limits of eight accumulated credits or replays, and operation of more than five video gaming machines, a Class G felony.

South Dakota contractor sentenced for embezzling $400,000 in tribal funds

A former Sisseton contractor will spend two years in federal prison for embezzling nearly $400,000 in Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate tribal funds. In the embezzling scheme, he stole money, goods and other property belonging to the Dakota Nation Development Corp. and the Sisseton-Wahpeton Housing Authority, both entities of the tribe. Kirk started his company on April 29, 2016. He used the company and its bank account for personal expenses and to withdraw money, including for gambling. He also took housing assistance funds provided through the federal government. Kirk pleaded guilty to the embezzlement charge in September and appeared in federal court before U.S. District Court Judge Charles Kornmann in Aberdeen.

Police shut down 2 unlicensed gambling dens in Santa Ana 

Police responding to complaints from the community shut down two unlicensed gambling dens in Santa Ana in one week, officials said Thursday, May 14. Authorities had received numerous complaints from members of the community regarding two suspected “slap” houses, Santa Ana Police Department Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said. “They had complained about people 24/7, coming and going and possible criminal activity,” Bertagna said. The places are called slap houses because of the sound of people banging on the video gambling machines.

When police searched the residence on 6th Street on Wednesday, they recovered 11 illegal gambling machines and arrested 4 people for outstanding warrants, SAPD officials said in a news release. The unlicensed casino was “packed” with 30 people, Bertagna said. Authorities searched a back room of a cyber cafe on 1st Street the following day, and found 11 more illegal gambling machines and about $7,000 in cash, police said. Both the residence and the cyber cafe were red-tagged and deemed uninhabitable, Bertagna said. He described unlicensed gambling as an ongoing problem in Santa Ana that police are actively monitoring and responding to.

Dallas vice seizes 20 gambling machines, 2 guns, more than $7,000 cash in raids

he vice unit for the Dallas Police Department recently seized 20 gambling machines, two guns and more than $7,000 in cash in raids, the department said Thursday. Both raids happened Wednesday after extensive investigations into multiple complaints about illegal gambling, police said. Both raids stemmed from probable cause search warrants. In the first raid, at 6875 Shady Brook Lane, the Vice Unit seized 15 gambling machines and $2,341 in cash. In the second raid, at 5535 South Central Expressway, the vice unit seized five gambling machines, two firearms and $5,104 in cash. If you know of a location in which illegal gambling is occurring, you can report it to police here <;. You can report anonymously.

Florida Trainer Alfredo Lichoa Among Five Charged By Feds In Money-Laundering Scheme

A money-laundering investigation conducted by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York – the same agency that charged trainers Jason Servis, Jorge Navarro and 27 others in an illegal racehorse doping scheme   last week – has led to the arrest of five men, including Venezuela native Alfredo Lichoa, a longtime Central Florida farm manager and veterinarian who began training Thoroughbreds. The investigation began after a confidential source informed law enforcement that Chocron and others allegedly were engaged in laundering money believed to come from illegal narcotics sales and gambling operations run by Chocron. Schachtel, believed to be a high-stakes tournament poker player, owned horses for a few years in his own name and more recently as Destreza Stables, which utilizes fellow Venezuelan Antonio Sano as trainer. Lichoa is credited by Equibase with 24 wins in 410 career starts, mostly at Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs. In 2020, he has just one win from 51 starts.

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

Las Vegas Sees Record Covid-19 Cases after Reopening City & Casinos

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the impact the coronavirus shut-downs on the gambling industry.  The entire country has experienced vast closure in most areas of business, but it clear that tourism and gambling feeds certain cities like Las Vegas.  It was reported that the City Mayor and State Governor were at odds over when and how Vegas should reopen. But most of the country has been worked on reopening plans and Vegas was no different. Unfortunately, even with various safety measures in place to help gamblers prevent the spread of Covid-19, it would appear those efforts haven’t been enough to hold back an explosion of new cases.  Forbes reports:

Two weeks after the state’s casinos, restaurants and gyms reopened at a limited capacity, Nevada and Las Vegas reported their largest single-day increases in coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, joining at least five cities and states that have paused reopening plans amid record new infections.

National and local health authorities have warned that social distancing complacency during the reopening will lead to a further influx of new cases and that increased testing isn’t solely responsible for these higher numbers.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said the state is “not ready” to advance to Phase 3 of reopening as coronavirus infections and hospitalizations continue to spike. “We’re not in a post-COVID time,” Gov. Sisolak said while addressing Nevada residents on Monday evening. “Now is not the time to abandon these protective measures. It is the time to double down on them. We can only stay open if we stay safe.”

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

A Brief Look at Crime 06/01 – 06/07

Former Omnis Health president admits to $760K embezzlement scheme with ‘bootleg’ tests

A former healthcare president pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to embezzling $763,887 from Omnis Health and tax evasion. Robert Burton, 50, of Madisonville, Louisiana, was charged in February with wire fraud and tax evasion linked to the embezzlement scheme. Burton was the president of Nashville-based Omnis between July 2013 and May 2017. The company is known for selling diabetic testing kits. As part of his plea deal, Burton admitted to embezzling the money over the course of more than three years by submitting fake reimbursement requests to the controller of Omnis, claiming that he bought supplies and had travel expenses that didn’t exist. According to court documents, he fabricated receipts to include with his reimbursement requests.

The Department of Justice says to get away with the scheme, Burton claimed he was using personal funds to buy “grey marker” and lower-priced “bootleg” diabetic testing supplies on the open market for research. Instead, authorities say he visited websites like Amazon, placed the products in in his cart, and printed it as a “receipt.” Investigators report that Burton was reimbursed at least $484,328 for supplies he never actually bought. He also received $203,747 for fraudulent flight reimbursements, along with credit card transaction receipts of at least $102,056. Rather than depositing the reimbursement checks, the Department of Justice says Burton cashed them and spent the money or loaded it onto prepaid debit cards. It’s believed that he often used the funds for gambling.

Gambling addict killed herself after spending year’s wages on online casinos

A university worker took her own life after spending almost her entire salary on online gambling sites. Natasha White, 34, became addicted to games like online roulette through apps she played at home, putting down bets of between £30 and £40 despite having no interest in visiting  casinos in person. Her grieving parents told the Daily Mail she was failed by her bank and betting firms after they discovered through statements that she would sometimes spend more than £1,000 of her £1,900-a-month wage in a little over 24 hours. 

Natasha spent £20,000 in a year on her addiction – which was more than her yearly salary – her parents found. Malta-based companies Casumo and MT SecureTrade were fined almost £6 million and almost £600,000 respectively to go towards projects promoting responsible gambling after licence breaches, the Mail reports. In 2017, Broadway Gaming Ireland was fined £100,000 by the Gambling Commission for ‘misleading’ promotions. Jan, of Telford, Shropshire, said: ‘If it hadn’t been for these websites I don’t believe she would have been drawn into gambling. ‘A few simple clicks of a button and you’ve lost your whole salary. Surely banks are able to monitor what customers are doing.’

Four Convicted In Federal Dogfighting Case (FL)

A federal jury has convicted Shane Patrick Sprague, 35, of Pensacola of felony conspiracy to violate the dogfighting prohibitions of the federal Animal Welfare Act. Co-defendants James “Tommy” Peek, 67, and Haley Cook Murph, 24, both of Milton, and David Lee Moser, 36, of Waynesboro, Tennessee, had previously pleaded guilty to seven federal felonies for their involvement with Sprague and others in a dogfighting operation centered in Pensacola. The jury acquitted co-defendant Derek Jedidiah Golson, 38, also of Pensacola.

Evidence at trial, along with admissions made by the pleading defendants in conjunction with their plea agreements, established that Sprague operated C Wood Kennels, a dogfighting operation that arranged dogfights and trafficked in fighting dogs with Moser and others outside of Florida. Moser admitted that he and Sprague agreed to fight their dogs against one another and to prepare a dog for a dogfight, and that they had discussed concealing evidence that one of Moser’s dogs had killed another dog. “These barbaric acts of animal cruelty have no place in a civilized society, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will pursue and prosecute these criminals to the fullest extent of the law,” said U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe of the Northern District of Florida. “Societies are measured in part by how well they treat their domestic animals, and these defendants failed that test miserably – and now will pay the consequences.”

Attorney alleged to have stolen $2 million from estate

An attorney indicted on 55 charges is alleged to have stolen more than $2 million from a Greene County Probate Court estate and trust. Brian Wiggins, 36, of Mason, was arrested March 4 and is in the Greene County Jail on a $1 million bond, no 10 percent. According to the Feb. 27 indictment, Wiggins is charged with one count of identity fraud, a second-degree felony; two counts of aggravated theft of $1.5 million or more, a first-degree felony; 41 counts of money laundering, a third-degree felony; four counts of theft, a fifth-degree felony; four counts of grand theft, a fourth-degree felony; one count of tampering with records, a third-degree felony; two counts of possession of cocaine, a fifth-degree felony. The crimes allegedly happened between December 2015 and February 2020. Wiggins allegedly spent the money on houses, a car, a boat, jewelry, cosmetic surgery, gambling in casinos, and payment of personal child support, Hayes said.

Landis business owner charged with operating illegal gambling establishment

A Landis business owner was charged Tuesday with offenses related to operating a gambling establishment after a month long investigation by the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office. Jack Lewis Faggart Jr., 59, of China Grove, was charged with two counts of operating/possessing a slot machine, permitting the use of a slot machine at a location under his management or control, possessing gaming machines that allowed the machines to exceed the limits of eight accumulated credits or replays and operating more than five video gaming Machines. Faggart, the owner of Snack Shack, was operating under the guise of being a convenience store/landscaping supply business in Landis, the sheriff’s office said.

The search warrant was based on an undercover operation and citizen complaints that the business was a gambling establishment and also violating the governor’s stay-at-home order, according to the sheriff’s Office. During the search of the business, detectives seized six central processing units connected to gaming terminals, three motherboards, one server, documents and $11,343 in cash. Records showed that the gaming machines were taking in more than $10,000 per week and profiting multiple thousands of dollars per week, a news release said.

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

New Class Action Lawsuits filed against Apple and Google Allege Gambling-esque loot box mechanics in Apps they sell violate California Gambling Law

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing saga of gambling-eque loot boxes that have been for sale in video games.  These game mechanics are said to prey upon people’s addictive personalities the same way a common slot machine would and they have come under intense scrutiny across the world.  Some legislation has been enacted to force regulation on these gambling like micro transactions, and California is one such jurisdiction.  A class action lawsuit has been filed alleging that companies like Apple and Google, through their game app stores, are violating the law and fostering predatory behavior.  An online tech source explains:

A new $5 Million Class Action was filed against Apple on Friday in the U.S. District Court in San Jose in a very important case relating to the promotion of video games that have in-app purchase mechanisms that are primarily aimed at children and addicted gamblers. Apple’s iPhone and iPad are considered illegal “slot machines or devices” in California. In-app purchases in this case are deemed to be “Loot Boxes” or “Loot Crates.”

The issue is quickly becoming an issue in Europe with both Belgium and the U.K. now demanding that the government modernize its gambling laws to include “Loot Boxes” especially targeting children. While Apple legally tried to protect themselves by creating mild restrictions on its developers, the bottom line is that they allow this practice considered gambling, and more importantly, profit handsomely from “Loot Box” purchases, according to the pending Class Action. This type of Class Action is long overdue in the U.S. and will be an important one for the gaming industry as a whole.

A similar class action was also filed against Google alleging the same illegal behavior.  An online legal source breaks down some of the specific tactics that are used to hook young children who play these games:

The complaint accused Google of allowing children to gamble through games available in the Google Play store, allegedly in violation of California legislation. The plaintiffs equated Google’s tactics to “Big Tobacco’s ‘Joe Camel’ advertising campaign.” They claimed that “Google relies on creating addictive behaviors in kids to generate huge profits for the Company.”

For example, plaintiff S.M has been “induced to spend his parents’ money to purchase ‘Loot Boxes’ in-game” while playing a game on a smartphone.  Mei-Ling Montanez “estimates S.M. has spent more than $100 on in-game purchases including Loot Boxes. The money spent on Loot Boxes was done in exchange for the random-chance possibility of winning valuable items in-game.” S.M. was able to purchase these items with his parents’ credit card that was on file with the Google Play App store. 

Moreover, no parental consent is required to purchase these items. Montanez claimed that her son fell victim to this “scheme,” which is allegedly “designed to hook children into spending money on the game.” Furthermore, while these games are “free,” they may be free to download, but not fully free to play because of these induced allegedly purchases.

According to the complaint, various games, including Mario Kart Tour, FIFA Soccer, Roblox, Brawl Stars, Final Fantasy Brave Exvius, and others use loot boxes. The Loot Boxes rely on a “variable rate enforcement” reward structure, which “results in people quickly acquiring behaviors and repeating these behaviors frequently in hopes of receiving a reward.” For example, “purchasing and opening a Loot Box – by design – is visually, physically, and aurally stimulating. Opening a Loot Box gives the player a rush; the moment of anticipation followed by release. 

The Loot Box mechanism has been proven to be effective on adults, and its effects are only intensified when used on minors who are more prone to engage in risk-taking behaviors, more prone to gambling addiction, and “are less equipped to critically appraise the value proposition of these schemes.”

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