Monthly Archives: June 2008

Kansas Supreme Court provides ruling in Gambling case

The Kansas City Star reported the ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court on the issue of state owned casinos in Kansas:

The case focused on one central point: Did the new law meet the Kansas Constitution’s definition of a “state owned and operated lottery” when casino developers would run the business and own the facilities? In a unanimous ruling released Friday morning, the court said it did.

The Supreme Court rejected the argument that KS does not really own anything but the profits because they won’t purchase the equipment, market their product or absorb any expenses related to doing business. The Kansas City Star article explained:

“While the state is not the exclusive owner and operator of all aspects of the lottery enterprise under (the law), the state owns and operates the enterprise itself and owns and operates key elements of the lottery,” the ruling states.

The Court’s view of ownership seems to differ from that of every other state who’s model and system is the same as KS. Deference without distinction? Yes. A surprising ruling from a state facing serous economic shortfalls looking for to be bailed out by gambling revenues? No

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Related Stories:

Kansas Supreme Court upholds stupid gambling law by Yael T. Abouhalkah, Kansas City Star Editorial Page columnist

Kansas court upholds law to expand gambling by CARL MANNING, Associated Press


Why some “burdens” help protect our children

In 2006 Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.  UIGEA made it illegal for online gambling companies to accept money for unlawful Internet gambling transactions and it called for regulations on the banking and payment processing industry. The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve System board of governors released proposed regulations for UIGEA on October 1, 2007.  Unfortunately the Federal Reserve and Treasury have used the excuse that they can’t finalize the rules because they are unclear on what is illegal online gambling and what is legal online gambling.

The AP is reporting the latest move on Capitol Hill:

The House Financial Services Committee voted Wednesday on legislation to require federal regulators to write a uniform definition of which types of gambling should and should not be allowed on the Internet, followed by new rules implementing the ban. The tie vote, 32-32, meant the legislation failed under committee rules.

Financial institutions have been upset with UIGEA from the beginning because they feel it’s a burden to monitor gambling transactions, but one Representative spelled out why such “burdens” are so necessary:

The committee’s top Republican, Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama, argued that gambling is the fastest-growing addiction in the United States and having it online makes it accessible to children.  “The banks have decided that this is a financial burden,” Bachus said. “We have decided, on the other hand, that our children are worth protecting.”


MO Ethics Commission makes clarification on Lobbyist Gifts to Elected Officials

In an effort to expose the influx of gifts and political contributions from gambling special interest, we have posted documented stories of elected officials accepting concert tickets, cruises, meals and other monetary gifts. With that aim below is an interesting story from The Turner Report.

From Randy Turner at The Turner Report:

Though the names are carefully blacked out on the opinion, it appears an elected official who has been accepting tickets to entertainment events from lobbyists tried to get a ruling which would allow him or her to accept the tickets, keep one, report that one, and then spread the tickets around to others without having to count them as gifts.

That effort failed.

The opinion, issued June 5, indicates the person requesting the opinion asked the following question:

“If an elected official accepts more than one ticket to a sporting event or an entertainment performance, uses one ticket for his or her use and then give the remainder to another person, not related to him or her and not employed by him or her in an official capacity, does the lobbyist disclose only the value of the ticket used by the elected official or the total of all tickets received and accepted on behalf of the elected official?”

The opinion said that the lobbyist must report the value of all tickets.

Of course, the value of all the tickets must be reported. The whole idea of reporting gifts is so the public can know which lobbyists are lavishing gifts on which elected officials. If the lobbyists are giving the gifts to the elected officials and then those officials turn right around and provide them to others, it is still something that ultimately leaves the elected official feeling kindly toward the lobbyist and whatever special interests he or she represent.

When we see our elected officials trying to get around those reporting requirements, it becomes obvious why the requirements are necessary. Of course, banning all gifts from lobbyists would be the best solution. That would not keep them from exercising their constitutional right to petition the government, it would just allow the public’s business to be conducted in a more businesslike fashion.


How Norway got it right – The principles of the loss limit at play

The Herald Times is reporting some drastic, yet effective measures that Norway has implemented to safeguard its citizens from gambling addictions:

The government has been concerned about the increasing number of Norwegians reported to be addicted to gambling machines, and in July 2007 it banned all privately owned machines while it looked for a way of regulating them effectively.

Following the ban, the number of people who called a national gambling help line plunged, from 2,276 in 2004 to 330 so far this year.

Now that the Norwegian government has regulatory control over gambling they are perusing measures to help prevent addiction and the principles behind a unique Missouri law are paving the way. Missouri’s $500 loss limit benefits us in many ways including its ability to help protect those with compulsive gambling problems by slowing down the process and breaking up the controlling rhythms experienced by compulsive and problem gamblers. The Herald Times explains just how Norway adopted these principles:

“There will be limits on how much an individual can lose, they will be closed at night and there will be a cooling-off period after one hour of continuous play,” the minister, Trond Giske, said.

The machines will not take cash or credit cards, and can only be used with a prepaid card sold by Norsk Tipping to registered players over the age of 18.

The system will limit the amount that can be bet per game to 50 kroner (US$10), and set a loss limit of 400 kroner (US$80) per day and 2,200 kroner (US$440) per month per player, even if they have more than one card.

Aggressive measures like this in place that truly safeguard those who gamble begs the question; Why are we dealing with measures that seek to remove the loss limit instead of looking to ways to better protect our families?


Today’s Missouri Gaming Commission Meeting Report

The Missouri Gaming Commission (MGC) held its monthly meeting today in Jefferson City.  There were several disciplinary actions taken including a $5,000 fine against Ameristar Casino Kansas City for failing to report a criminal theft from a patron and a $10,000 fine against Argosy Casino in Riverside for using old software in slot machines that had been revoked.

The MGC also negotiated down a prior fine, which they do each meeting by an average amount of 10 percent, this time against Harrah’s North Kansas City in which the casino used a deck of cards in a poker tournament that did not contain all the playing cards.

Before moving into a closed meeting, the commission approved a motion to transfer the control of the Horse Racing Rules from the Missouri Horse Racing Commission to the Missouri Gaming Commission; which was originally a motion made during the prior Missouri Horse Racing Commission meeting.


Voters Say It’s Time to End Smoking in Kansas City

Guest Article by Laurel Spencer

In a metro-wide attempt to curb public smoking, Kansas City voters and the North Kansas City Council approved smoking bans that would prohibit smokers from lighting up in restaurants, bars, and other businesses. Aimed to take place in August, the ban is complete with strict restrictions and heavy fines for violators, but what would appear to be a simple measure of public regulation may not be as cut and dry as it seems.

One item of particular interest is the effect that this ban would have on the casinos in the Kansas City area. Currently, the smoking restrictions would not extend to casinos, unless all of the surrounding gaming facilities enact similar laws. So far, downtown Kansas City, KS and Riverside are the only areas not conforming to the voice of the people, and it doesn’t appear that they are likely to change.

Billy Friend, second chief of the tribe that controls the 7th street casino located in downtown Kansas City, said that smoking is a big part of the establishment and the tribe plans to resist any attempts to implement such restrictions on grounds of tribal sovereignty.  However, there is some debate as to whether the 7th street casino would affect the surrounding area as defined by the current smoking bans.  The language of the bans seem to suggest that it does but there are a myriad of reasons why its should not factor into the decision including the fact the 7th street “casino” is actually defined as a bingo parlor.

Although there are potential legal issues concerning the tribal gaming facility, Riverside definitely is fair game in regards to the ban. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like they are eager to implement it any time soon either.

The Kansas City Star reports that “Riverside officials also show no sign of a considering a ban anytime soon that might affect the Argosy Casino Hotel and Spa within its borders.”

Efforts should be made to contact downtown Kansas City and Riverside officials and remind them that the voice of the people has already spoken in favor of the ban. It is fitting that those representing the county should respect the wishes of the Kansas City, Kansas voters and the 7-1 majority ruling of approval from the North Kansas City Council by enacting the smoking ban.


gambling instead of eating

Guest Commentary by David Randolph:

‘Put your money where your mouth is.’ This is an adage that many Australians have apparently decided to ignore.  According to the Australian newspaper the Herald Sun, “In 2006-07, …(Australians) spent almost $91.5 million, or $4350 each, on food, Bureau of Statistics figures say.”

But gaming industry figures show that in 2005-06 (Australian) adults spent $148 million — an average of $9491 each — on gambling, though the figures do also include tourists

Statistics like these force us to question how far gambling addiction can take each one of us. Your money goes to what matters to you, and when gambling becomes more important than our basic neccesities it has come time to take a step back and have an honest discussion on the destructive effects of gambling. I hope that Australians will take a long hard look at these compelling figures and decide what must be done to eradicate gambling addiction in their country.


Senate GOP Leaders looking to “cash in” at the casino

It looks like the usual suspects are at it again.  The St Louis Post Dispatch’s “Political Fix” reports:

Senate Republicans will raise campaign funds tonight at what they’re billing as “a tropical cocktail hour underneath the cabanas on the pool deck of Ameristar Casino” in St. Charles. The description comes from an invitation signed by Senate Majority Leader Charlies Shields, R-St. Joseph, and Sen. Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville. The event, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., will raise money for the Majority Fund Inc., the committee that works to keep the Senate in Republican hands.

Contribution limits don’t apply since the money goes to a continuing committee instead of a candidate committee. Sponsors are urged to donate $2,500; hosts, $1,000; and guests, $500. The letter goes on to invite donors to stay the night at Ameristar Hotel and Spa, where a block of rooms is reserved just for them.

It’s of course no surprise that Senate Majority Leader Shields and Sen. Scott Rupp are hosting an event at the casino.  Those two Senators have received countless dollars and donations from the casino industry to promote their anti-family, pro-gambling agenda. As you may remember they have each been the sponsors of legislation to expand gambling and remove the $500 loss limit.  This type of behavior is to be expected from those in the pockets of the casino industry, its just sad that it comes from those who are in leadership in the State Senate.


The ugly side of the “fastest growing mental health problem in the western world.”

Another unfortunate story about a parent choosing gambling over their child has surfaced.  However, this example proves just how dangerous gambling addictions can be for children and just how tough they are to overcome.  The Sowetan out of Africa explains:

The errant Ekurhuleni woman who not so long ago hit the headlines after dumping her then seven-month-old baby with her helper and went gambling, has done it again.

This time Nomvuyo Williams, 35, a self-confessed gambling addict, has abandoned the baby with her friend Zoleka Nyengane.

Williams was last seen in April. Her disappearance happened barely three months after Sowetan exposed her for neglecting her baby.

This placed her friend in dire straits as she was left without any money or means to take care of the child.  The article continues:

“We have been good friends for a long time and I cannot believe she is doing this to me. She did not even leave a cent for the baby,” said Nyengane.

“I love this baby and I love Nomvuyo too, but I cannot look after her and my three children because I am unemployed and my husband is very sick.

“The baby is still young and needs napkins, milk and other baby food, and I cannot afford all that. She was very sick a few weeks ago when she was teething and needed her mother,” Nyengane said.

The New England Journal of Medicine states that “pathological gambling is the fastest growing mental heath problem in the western world.” It would seem that those who claim people should simply take responsibility for their actions and regulations on gambling are unnecessary, clearly don’t understand the power of addiction.


A Cautious Victory…Loss Limit Beware!

On Monday the Missouri Gaming Commission (MGC) passed what looks like a well- intentioned moratorium on new casinos in Missouri. Virginia Young of the St Louis Post-Dispatch explained the move:

The freeze halts, for now, a pending application to add a casino in the Kansas City suburb of Sugar Creek. It also douses hopes of casino supporters in Cape Girardeau, Mo., and discourages talk of a casino at the Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis. Regulators said a freeze was needed because it appears likely that a measure capping the number of casinos will be on the general election ballot Nov. 4.

While it’s a positive move to see the MGC halt the unnecessary expansion of gambling, it’s important to understand the implications of such a situation. As explained in a prior report, the ballot measure in question does seek to cap the number of casinos, which would certainly be a benefit to those in Missouri, but it also seeks to remove the $500 loss limit. The casino industry and regulators alike have long tried to trade the number of casinos in the state for the removal of the loss limit. Because the November vote has a cap on casinos, the MGC will leverage the results to their advantage. For instance if the initiative passes then the loss limit has been removed and there would be a cap (a cap that could easily be lifted by the MGC with a few simple changes to the definition of licenses – which is being done now). If, however, the initiative fails, the MGC will say it proves citizens don’t want to restrict the number of casinos because they voted against the cap.

Motivation behind this strategy can be gained by looking at recent comments made by Gene McNary, the Executive Director of the MGC. Rick Alm of the Kansas City Star reported:

Gaming Commission director Gene McNary, who has pushed Wild Rose project, endorsed the moratorium. “It’s contrary to what we would like to see go forward,” he said of the ban. “But the fact is we’re regulators and we’re not operating in a vaccum.”

Casinos are coming in Kansas, and “the casino industry is going through a downturn,” he said. The moratorium language said the “Gaming Commission desires to be responsive to the wishes of the citizens…and will be guided by their vote in November.”

The Executive Director clearly indicated a moratorium is not what is wanted, but given they don’t operate in a vacuum, (i.e. outside of external political influence), they need to be guided by this vote. Past comments and actions by Mr. McNary also clearly indicate that a free market approach is what the MGC believes in regardless of expert testimony and analysis which demonstrates that the operative model in Missouri is not a free market.

Even though the MGC and the current casino industry wants you to believe that the initiative petition is the best option, there are better alternatives. We need to vote against the initiative petition to save the loss limit and then send a message to the MGC that gambling expansion through more casinos is not in the best interest of both the industry and most importantly the people and families of Missouri.

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For more information on the state of gambling in Missouri and the effect of the loss limit, please read our Casino Watch Policy Briefs:


Big losses and Big lessons

Listening to former addicted gamblers can teach you a lot and that is exactly what Congress recently did through a recent hearing.  They heard testimony from many witness but the most shocking had to be Mr. Leonard Tose. The Rightside Advisors reported why:

At a hearing by the United States Congress into gambling, the most compelling witness by far was Leonard Tose. He reckoned that he had lost about $40 million through gambling, or it might have been as much as $50 million. He couldn’t be sure. The money had seeped away gradually though consistently, sometimes no more than $10,000 during a frugal night at a casino, sometimes as much as $1million… In one bleak run of ill-fortune he lost 72 nights in a row.

Gamblers like this are clearly not as common as the average addict who loses everything gambling; they just have more to lose.  But they do provide key insight into how quickly you can lose and what policies could best protect the public.  The article explained:

The politicians who listened in fascination to Mr. Tose’s account of how to lose money quickly were trying to understand the nature of gambling, and whether it should, or could, be controlled.

Mr. Tose was asked if he had any advice for Congress. “Don’t drink when you gamble,” he said. It sounded obvious, but it drew attention to the practice of some casinos that provide big-spenders with an unlimited supply of drink.

The problem of drinking while gambling goes well beyond the high-rollers as just offering alcohol to gamblers represents a tremendous risk for the patron and a promise for the casino.  Instead of regulations that expand drinking in casinos, we need to examine ways to decrease its dangerous effects, just take the $40 million dollar loser’s word for it.


No betting line on the NBA finals…if only for the right reason

It appears that as most sports books are welcoming and receiving bets on this year’s NBA finals, Harrah’s Entertainment properties are turning sports bettors away.  That’s a pretty commendable position to be in if it were only for the right reason.  The Las Vegas Review Journal is reporting why the company is sitting out this round:

Harrah’s Chairman and CEO Gary Loveman owns a piece of the Celtics. Late last year, Loveman acquired a 2.4 percent stake in the storied franchise, prompting the National Basketball Association to require Harrah’s to not accept bets on any Celtics game. Other games involving other teams are still allowed.

The restriction means bets will not be accepted at sports books at Caesars Palace, Paris Las Vegas, Bally’s, Imperial Palace, Flamingo, Bill’s, Harrah’s and the Rio in Las Vegas, about a third of all of the sports books on the Strip.  The company dropped betting lines at Harrah’s-branded casinos in Reno, Lake Tahoe and Laughlin and at Harveys Lake Tahoe.

The article went on to explain that the NBA still doesn’t come close to generating the amount of betting as does the Super Bowl and March Madness.  Here’s to hopping the finals stays about the game and not about betting.


questioning the integrity of the olympics

There have been several prior reports about a number of professional sports organizations investigating illegal gambling activates ranging from tennis to cricket with the most notable being Tim Donaghy, the former NBA official who bet on games he officiated. The Kansas City Star is reporting just how much these allegations are affecting the sports community:

In an unprecedented move to keep illegal gambling and match-fixing out of the Olympics, the IOC is setting up a special unit to check for suspicious betting patterns during the Beijing Games.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said Friday that agreements have been signed with major betting companies for the first time to monitor any irregular gambling during the Aug. 8-24 games.  “We rely on them to advise us if there is an abnormal pattern in betting and then they will advise us if something is suspicious,” he said. “It is (in) their interest to work with us. It is (in) our interest to work with them because these betting companies definitely also want a clean sport.”

It really is a sad time when things have gotten so out of hand that the most prestigious of sporting events will be, for the first time in history, monitored for illegal sports betting and game fixing.  


How easy is it to cheat when all the cards are virtual?

Many people are trusting and assume that online casinos and card rooms are just as safe as live gambling venues.  Unfortunately, there is little to no regulation on the Internet for casinos and even countries with regulations in place know it’s impossible to protect their people from sites that operate outside of their jurisdiction.  A prime example of why you can’t trust online sites to be fair when dealing with virtual dice and cards comes from The Casino Times:

UltimateBet’s owners, Tokwiro Enterprises ENRG, admitted Thursday that UltimateBet security had been breached by former employees and accounts with access to opponent’s hole cards were used to cheat in high-stakes games.

“Certain player accounts did in fact have an unfair advantage, and that these accounts targeted the highest limit games on the site,” said the company in a statement. “The individuals responsible were found to have worked for the previous ownership of UltimateBet prior to the sale of the business to Tokwiro in October 2006. Tokwiro is taking full responsibility for this situation and will immediately begin refunding UltimateBet customers for any losses that were incurred as a result of unfair play.”

But this must be an isolated event right?  The article goes on to give us the unfortunate answer:

This is the second time in less than a year that a Tokwiro property has admitted that cheating has gone on in their poker room. In January, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission fined Tokwiro’s Absolute Poker $500,000 after it was revealed players with “superuser” accounts that could see hole cards of opponents had cheated at the tables.

This is just one of many ways people get cheated out of their money by engaging in online betting.  No matter what the regulation, online gambling will always be at risk for internal cheating, hackers and companies who just don’t operate within the jurisdictions of such laws.  Keep that in mind as you hear people argue that we should simply regulate online gambling.


How the concepts behind the loss limit may help an entire country

Sometimes we take for granted the great protections we have here for Missouri Families and residents. We have shown in the past how the $500 loss limit can curb crime in our state by preventing money laundering and organized crime which helps drive drug dealers, criminals and even terrorist out of the state. And we have also shown how the loss limit provides the necessary check for enforcing the Disassociated Persons List and thus protects problem gamblers. Now it looks like the idea of tracking wins and losses through loyalty reward cards is catching on in Canada. The Victorian Times is reporting that they have a severe problem with both problem gamblers and money laundering and may have a solution

Both the money-laundering issue and the ongoing problem-gambling issue could be addressed by implementing a mandatory access card system in casinos (or, in more positive terms, customer loyalty cards with preferential odds).

Such a system would link deposits and winnings to individuals, allowing an independent monitoring body to identify persons who might be potential problem gamblers or money launderers. With such a system in place, the casinos and government would have to take more responsibility for helping problem gamblers (through counseling resources and access restriction programs).

The problem is that both the casinos and governments, working together to take peoples money, make such change difficult and the people of Canada are worried such problems will never be addressed. The article continues

Allowing a close examination of casino revenue is a problem for casinos and governments, because a significant portion of revenue from electronic gambling machines comes from heavy gamblers and any actions to address problem gambling and money laundering might reduce revenue.

We cannot simply pretend that casino revenue is just an entertainment tax or a tax on the innumerate. We have a problem with our casinos that is begging to be addressed and a relatively straightforward solution.

This scenario is all too common both here at home and abroad. However, we should hold our head high, as we have been willing to stand up to government here in Missouri and protect our families through our $500 loss limit. If we can stay strong and keep supporting loss limits here, who knows what kind of impact such resolve could have for an entire country!!!