Monthly Archives: June 2020

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.

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

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.”

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

A Brief Look at Crime 05/25 – 5/31

Hundreds Of Birds Seized From Illegal Cockfighting Ring Operating In Dublin

Hundreds of animals were seized from an illegal cockfighting ring in the East Bay. At least 600 birds were found at a rural property in Dublin. Investigators said this was a large scale operation. Some of the participants were cited and released but now detectives are searching for the organizers of the cockfighting ring. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department acted on a tip and ended up seizing 600 birds, including 200 incubating eggs. Many of the birds kept in small pens. 

On top of animal cruelty, Sgt. Ray Kelly with Alameda County Sherriff’s Dept. says there will be other charges. “We are looking at illegal gambling, money laundering and it could go in a whole variety of directions these days,” said Sgt. Kelly. More than 50 people were gathered inside an outbuilding on the rural property along Dublin Canyon Road. When officers arrived dozens ran off into the wooded area. “We are very upset about it,” said Kelly. “We did find some deceased birds at the location and we saw birds there that already been involved in some of the fights that had significant injuries. They end up putting these medical blades like talons on the feet of the birds and then they go and inject them with hormones and other drugs, and then they have these fights.’

Gambling addicted lawyer who ripped off 96-year-old woman to feed habit gets no mercy from U.S. court

A lawyer and former federal agent convicted of draining a disabled 96-year-old woman’s life savings to finance his gambling addiction deserves no break on his prison term just because he paid some of that money back, a U.S. appeals court has ruled. The failure of disgraced attorney John K. Conner’s appeal means he’s stuck with a 46-month federal prison term and remains on the hook for more than $80,000 in restitution. Conner, a former agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who practiced law in Philadelphia, ripped off the victim after being given power of attorney to manage her finances in 2016, Judge Joseph A. Greenaway noted in the opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. Investigators used that access to withdraw money from the woman’s accounts at casinos. The fraud was so expansive that checks to the woman’s health care providers bounced, her electricity was shut off for nonpayment and she almost lost her public water service, Greenaway wrote.

Police enforcing social distancing bust illegal social club operating

An illegal social club offering gambling and drugs, operating out of a closed deli in Brooklyn, was busted by police officers enforcing social distancing. Police discovered the club on Classon Avenue while investigating a possible burglary in the area on Wednesday morning. Four people were arrested and charged with criminal possession of a loaded firearm, criminal possession of marijuana above 16 ounces, criminal possession of controlled substance (cocaine,) promoting gambling, criminal nuisance, and local law violations. Officers seized $57,000 in cash, narcotics, and three illegal guns that were on ice.

North East woman charged with stealing and gambling away nearly $300,000 

Pennsylvania State Police have charged a North East woman with stealing nearly $300,000 from another woman and gambling most of the money away. State Police first took notice of the spending in February of last year but police allege the incidents dated back to between October 2017 and June 2018. Much of the money was lost at Presque Isle Downs and Casino. 45-year old Crystal Dorman is charged with getting control of two bank accounts owned by another woman living with Dorman and her boyfriend. The money was removed through checks written by Dorman and her boyfriend.

40 people cited for illegal gambling and social distancing violation after 8-liner bust

Forty people are detained after an 8-liner bust on the South Side, according to San Antonio police. Authorities were initially called around 9 p.m. to a residence in the 700 block of Grosvenor Street Saturday night with a report of a man that was shot by his uncle. However, after arriving on scene, officers determined no shooting had occurred and no one was injured. After going inside the residence, authorities found 40 people using 40 8-liners. Officials issued citations to all 40 people for violating the city’s ordinance for social distancing and for illegal gambling. Details are limited and the investigation is still ongoing.

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