Monthly Archives: August 2008

GOP Platform Committee Refuses to Bow to Gambling Industry


The Republican Platform Committee retained a prohibition of Internet gambling in its draft platform, which will be approved at next week’s GOP convention.

The language, which had been a part of the last two platforms, includes the following: “Millions of Americans suffer from problem or pathological gambling that can destroy families. We support the law prohibiting gambling over the Internet or in student athletics by student athletes who are participating in competitive sports.”

Chad Hills, analyst for gambling research and policy at Focus on the Family Action, said: “Today, those afflicted by gambling addiction and families with children can be grateful for the great delegates who kept Internet gambling prohibition as part of the GOP platform.”

Penn National Gaming’s threats didn’t pay off in Kansas

With state owned gambling receiving the thumbs up from the Kansas Supreme Court, the KS Lottery has moved forward in selecting the companies who will run the facilities.  One of those companies is Penn National Gaming.  They were the sole company to put in a bid for the southern part of Kansas in Cherokee County.  They also put in a bid for a casino south of Wichita.  As the Kansas City Star reported, they won the contract for south Kansas and Penn then said they might pull their support for the new contract if they were not awarded the contract for a Wichita casino, citing new competition from the Okalahoma Downstream Casino as the reason.  Unfortunately for Penn, the KS Lottery didn’t respond to their threats as they selected Harrah’s to run the Wichita casino.  How Penn will handle the situation is anyone’s guess, but they are clearly disappointed:

In recent weeks, Penn has pitched its “southern strategy” to state officials, making it clear Penn wanted to operate in both the southeast and south-central Kansas gambling zones, or none.

“We’ve got to digest this decision and discuss it with our board,” Penn spokesman Eric Schippers said Friday. “We’re clearly disappointed.

“A Cherokee County casino on a stand-alone basis would be very difficult to justify, given the market conditions there … the competition across the street.”

This wasn’t the first time Penn National Gaming tried to use threats to get what they wanted.  As reported by Casino Watch, they tried to get the lottery to accept a contract with less than the $250 million dollar upfront investment required by Kansas law.  These threats seem to be simple business practices for Penn National.

How modern day slots are simply “loaded dice”

It has been long understood that the most addictive gambling game is slots.  A team of researchers in Canada used this understanding to examine the slot machines themselves, not just the gambler, to better understand such addiction and the results might be startling.  The Star Phoenix explains:

[Nevada inventor Inge Telnaes] wrote: “It is important to make a machine that is perceived to present greater chances of payoff than it actually has within the legal limitations that games of chance must operate.”

What Telnaes had invented, in other words, was a slot machine that fooled gamblers into believing their odds of winning were good when, in truth, their odds of winning were lousy. He accomplished this by divorcing the gameplay from the reels. In the Telnaes slot machine, on which almost all current models are based, a microchip determined the outcome of each spin.

The outcomes were still random, but the machine differed from mechanical models in one significant way: It was programmed to stop with blanks on the payline more often than winning symbols. What Telnaes had created, in effect, was a slot machine version of a loaded die. Though most modern slot machines have animated reels, a disconnect remains between how slot machines appear to work and how they actually work.

So the machines do not have fair odds.  Even though you might see, for example, seven items on the real, your odds of landing on one of those items is not one in seven.  But if the odds of winning are so terrible, then why do so many people keep putting money in the machines.  The researches go on to explain the “near miss:

Much of the money is coming from gambling addicts. About 60 per cent of revenues from gaming machines come from the wallets of problem gamblers, according to a 2004 University of Lethbridge study. Many slots players find it difficult to pull themselves away because of a deceptive feature of Telnaes-style slot machines: the near-miss.

As anyone who has played slots knows, you see more than the symbols on the payline after each spin; you also see the symbols just above and just below. A near-miss, sometimes called a heartbreak loss, occurs when a symbol needed to win appears adjacent to the payline.

Near-misses create an “Aww, shucks” effect that keeps slots players glued to their stools. Studies have shown that frequent near-misses lead to significantly longer playing times. As one researcher put it: “The player is not constantly losing, but constantly nearly winning.”

These machines are highly deceptive and highly addictive.  If casinos ever had to actually display the odds of winning on these machines people might never start playing in the first place.  Don’t be fooled.

Missouri youth are gambling at alarming rates

With online gambling, lotteries and casino games becoming more and more accessible to our youth, it’s no wonder why the News Tribune is reporting that by the age of 20 half of Missouri youth have gambled. Renee Cunningham-Williams, an associate professor at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University, conducted a survey of those between 14 – 25.  The most concerning question centers around the level of illegal gambling that must be taking place and when we should intervene to slow the risky behavior.  The News Tribune explained:

It wasn’t clear precisely how much illegal gambling the youths engaged in, since the survey involved both children too young to legally gamble and young adults old enough to legally make wagers. In Missouri, people must be 18 to play the lottery and 21 to get onto the gaming floor in a casino.

Cunningham-Williams said early intervention could be helpful in reducing risk-taking gambling behaviors. “If we intervene now, we may prevent problems down the road,” she said.

Ailing Gambling Industry Bets on Cruise Ships


With the gambling industry in a nationwide decline, gambling cruise ships are attempting to dock at Port Canaveral in Florida to lure gamblers.

Cruise line officials want to relocate because of mounting competition from land-based, Indian-run casinos and a shrinking consumer dollar, Florida Today reported.

Chad Hills, analyst for gambling research and policy at Focus on the Family Action, said gambling entities are desperate for business.

“As gambling invades new areas, it acts much like a black hole that drains money out of local economies, takes customers and revenue away from local businesses and causes a net economic drain on surrounding communities,” he said. “Port Canaveral likely will have a sinking boat in its harbor.”

From the Blogs: June 2009 trial set in Isle of Capri case

From Randy Turner at the Turner Report:

Justice won’t be swift for Rep. Joe Aull, D-Marshall, who won’t stand trial for his alleged role in the Isle of Capri case until June 25, 2009, according to Pettis County Circuit Court records.

Aull is accused of giving Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, his identification to enable Smith to gamble at the Isle of Capri casino in Boonville on July 31, 2007. Aull, Smith and four others were at the casino on a lobbyist-financed junket, paid for by Isle of Capri lobbyist Chris Liese, according to Missouri Ethics Commission records.

Aull is being tried in Pettis County on a change of venue from Cooper County. Smith and former Isle of Capri lobbyist Lynne Schlosser will stand trial in Cooper County. A Sept. 30 hearing is scheduled in their cases with trial tentatively set for November.

NEWS ALERT: Lawsuit filed today challenges constitutionality of casino-backed “Yes for Schools First” initiative

Press Release from Casino Watch

Lawsuit filed today challenges constitutionality of casino-backed “Yes for Schools First” initiative


JEFFERSON CITY – 8/14/08 – A lawsuit was filed today in Cole County Circuit Court challenging the constitutional validity of the casino-backed ballot initiative, which was certified last week by Secretary of State, Robin Carnahan. The initiative petition seeks to not only remove the $500 loss limit, but it also seeks to place a cap on the number of casino licenses.

Those two actions, according to the lawsuit, are not only different subjects, but they are also “competing positions with varying purposes.”

Audrey McIntosh, the filing attorney explained, “The Missouri Constitution requires that voters be given a single subject when changes to state laws are proposed by initiative petitions. This lawsuit raises the constitutionality of having numerous subjects placed before voters in the same ballot measure.”

Evelio Silvera, Executive Director of Casino Watch, a St. Louis based watchdog organization, said, “Missourians should have a fair opportunity to vote for a single subject and not be disenfranchised by being forced to chose between multiple subjects. We look forward to the opportunity to engage in the debate and inform the voters of Missouri on the nature of the issues.”

Silvera also commented on the deceptive nature of the casino coalition calling themselves “Yes for Schools First,” as they are entirely funded by the casino industry who is not looking out for schools, but rather their own bottom line.

Silvera explained, “the casino’s have long tried to tie gambling money to education in an attempt to gain support for expanded gambling, but this petition goes beyond what is constitutionally allowed.”

The loss limit does not cost jobs and removing it cannot save them

Last week the Secretary of State certified the initiative petition that seeks to remove the $500 loss limit and it will appear on the November ballot.  The Coalition behind the petition should be called the Casinos First Coalition as the funding for the initiative is coming from one source and one source only – Missouri casino companies.

The Casinos First Coalition claims that by removing the $500 loss limit voters will be protecting Missouri jobs but this claim is unfounded and Missouri voters wont be fooled.  The Casino First Coalition would like you to believe that because Kansas will be adding casinos and the Kansas City market may lose market share, the loss limit should be removed as a way to keep people gambling in Missouri thus protecting Missouri jobs.  The unfortunate truth is that the least important factor in determining where someone will gamble is loss limits.  The Missouri Gaming Commission’s Market Survey conducted by the University of Missouri St. Louis found that people choose gambling facilities based on proximity, the quality of the restaurants and facilities and the number of slot machines. It’s estimated that it will be at least 2 years until Kansas even comes online with casinos, but when it happens a lot of people will frequent those establishments over Missouri casinos and it will be because of how close they are to the casinos are not because of the loss limit.

Rick Alm of the Kansas City Star’s Lucky Numbers blog provides further proof that alternate causes are resulting in job loss not the loss limit:

Executives at Las Vegas-based Ameristar Casinos Inc. disclosed Monday that 244 employees have been terminated from the company’s eight U.S. casinos, including 31 in Kansas City.

“Regrettably, we have reduced our workforce as the economic downturn is more prolonged than many economists expected,” Ameristar chief executive vice chairman Gordon Kanofsky said in a prepared statement issued late Monday.

The job loss that could be experienced because of Kansas casinos will be the result of market forces and those forces are not being impacted by the loss limit – they are being influenced by the economy and the factors mentioned in the Market Survey.  In fact, the Survey went on to explain that 96% of those who gamble don’t plan to spend more than $500 gambling anyways.  For a complete break down of just how competitive Missouri casinos have been with a loss limit, please view our policy brief entitled “Missouri’s Competitive Outlook:  Is the loss limit hurting casinos?

Its clear that the loss limit is not hurting competition and that the loss limit has not and will not be responsible for any potential future job loss.  This argument is simply intended to scare people into believing that the very loss limit that has been around for 13 years not causing job loss will suddenly be both a reason for and a solution to future job loss.  Missouri voters will not be fooled by such red herrings.

Casino funded Loss Limit initiative may appear on November ballot

Last Tuesday, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan certified a casino industry-backed initiative petition that would eliminate the $500 loss limit and raise casino taxes by one percent. In addition, this casino initiative which has been titled the “Yes for Schools First” initiative eliminates the mandatory checking of identification.

Casino Watch Executive Director, Evelio Silvera was quoted in the Kansas City Star about the ballot intiative:

“We’re looking forward to educating people on exactly what the consequences of passing this are,” said Evelio Silvera, executive director of the St. Louis-based Casino Watch citizens group, citing problem gamblers as one group that could be victimized by looser rules.

Silvera said some law enforcement agencies also could line up against the measure, because it would make it more difficult to identify gamblers, especially those who have been banned from the casino for criminal activity or have self-banned themselves to control their gambling habit.

The Gaming Commission last year sought unsuccessfully to toughen identification rules through the use of biometrics or fingerprinting.

Silvera on Tuesday said his group is encouraged by a Missouri Gaming Commission survey earlier this year that found more than 60 percent of those surveyed favored the loss limit versus about 25 percent who were opposed to its use in the state’s casino.

“I feel very confident that the gaming commission’s survey showed some attitude advantages for us,” he said.


Related stories:

Yes for Casinos First!

The laughable idea of a casino spending $8 million in an effort to “help schools”

Back from a break

After a short hiatus, Casino Watch Focus is back in action and poised to launch some new features on this blog. You can continue to expect news and commentary on a variety of gambling issues, in addition to new audio and video features. We will be adding these new features in the days and weeks to come and encourage you to visit back often!