Category Archives: Addiction

Super Bowl 52 – More Gambling than all Seven World Series Games Combined: Harmless Fun?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the significant amount of gambling on the Super Bowl each year, and each year the impact seems to grow. This year the amount of total gambling on the Super Bowl 52 s estimated to be around $4.5 million. This year sees the New England Patriots face off against the Philadelphia Eagles, and When the Eagles play, the amount of gambling spikes significantly. An online source explains:

Each and every year, sportsbooks drool over the prospects of profits stemming from Super Bowl gambling. There will be more money bet on Super Bowl 52 than any of the seven games of the World Series, and all of the combined games in the Stanley Cup Finals.

It’s the most lucrative day of the season for most sportsbooks, and every year, the total amount wagered on the big game increases. How much will be bet on the 2018 Super Bowl?

Each year, the American Gaming Association releases its prediction of how much money will be wagered on the Super Bowl. Super Bowl 51 generated an estimated $4.7 billion in wagers, though the mass majority of that was done illegally through offshore websites and local bookies. BetDSI Sportsbook has lined the AGA’s estimate at $4.5 billion bet on the 2018 Super Bowl.

The last time the Eagles were in the Super Bowl, there was a 10.5 percent jump in the amount wagered in Las Vegas from 2004 ($81.2 million) to 2005 ($90.8 million). If we see a 10 percent jump again this year, Las Vegas could be looking at a handle as high as $152 million alongside a total number gambled hovering around $4.6 billion.

Many think gambling on the Super Bowl is harmless fun, and for some, who do it legally, it could be that simple. However, the consequences for others can be extreme. A Fox News affiliate has reported that Super Bowl night is not only the biggest night for gamblers, but it also sees the most suicides as well. For those that don’t suffer the ultimate fate, they can still lose enough to cause irreparable harm to their finances and family. Fox Now online explains:

“Super Bowl is probably one of the biggest gambling days of the year,” said Gambling Addiction Counselor, Jim Harrison [a gambling counselor in Milwaukee.] He says the wagers placed on the Super Bowl are often not taken as seriously and can be seen as harmless and fun. “In reality it is betting, it is gambling,” said Harrison. Those compulsive gamblers see it as a day to make up for other sports losses this season.

Harrison says it’s not harmless at all for those with an addiction — betting is done with bookies and online and it could bring losses. “If it causes family problems, certainly financial problems,” said Harrison. “I’ve had clients who have literally lost over $300,000 gambling,” said Harrison. The Super Bowl can bring losses to those betting on it all, and it can be tempting to those dealing with gambling addition.

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

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UPDATE: Gambling-esque Loot Boxes in Video Games Face Regulatory Measures & Studies from Governments like Hawaii and Private Companies like Apple, but are they Actually Harmful?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the newly covered, gambling type video game items known as loot boxes. The boxes are purchasable in a video game and they provide random loot, or in game merchandise, much like a slot machine. This system of microtransactions came to light because EA pushed the envelope so far in their new Disney licensed Star Wars video game, that the only way to truly progress in the game or have the tools to win was to buy these loot boxes and gamble on the items you would get. The system is designed for the player to buy boxes, open them and chase after the best loot. Players pushed back, mainstream media picked up the issue, Disney had to get involve and make EA pull the gambling system from the game and legislators started looking into the issue. Hawaii legislators came out very strongly against the idea of exposing children to such psychologically manipulative, gambling type systems and called the game a Star Wars themed online casino. Its no surprise that a few weeks later and Hawaii legislators are now drafting legislation and working with other states and the industry itself to regulate the issue.   Gaming publication Kotaku reports:

A Hawaii in which games with microtransactions are illegal for minors to purchase is one that state legislator Chris Lee is now hoping to realize. He says that prohibiting the sale of games with loot boxes is a “no-brainer,” and along with a dozen other politicians, he says, he’s thinking of how to put legal controls around video game microtransactions. 

Over the course of a few months, Lee had been hearing from local teachers about kids who struggled with the temptation to spend beyond their means in game microtransactions. Lee cited one conversation about a kid who, he heard, had stolen their parents’ credit card to pay for their gaming habit. He says several families reached out about spending thousands of dollars on microtransactions.

“Gambling has been illegal especially for minors and young adults because they are psychologically vulnerable,” he told me, adding that kids “often don’t have the cognitive maturity to make appropriate decisions when exposed to these kinds of exploitative mechanisms.” 

“There’s no transparency at the outset of what they’re getting into,” he said. “That’s something I think is a real concern.” Now, Lee is working to prevent the sale of games containing loot boxes to gamers under 21 in Hawaii. He also wants games to disclose up-front whether they have “gambling-based mechanics” and to publicize the odds of winning various items in loot boxes.

Apple Inc. certainly agrees with Lee that the odds of winning various items need to be disclosed to gamers. Falling in line with what other foreign governments like China Korea, Apple is now requiring game companies to publicize the odds. Venture Beats explains:

Apple quietly updated its rules for developers yesterday with a new version of its App Store Review Guidelines, and it now requires that developers disclose the odds of getting cool loot in the loot boxes for free-to-play games.

Loot boxes have become a big monetization opportunity in free-to-play games, but they’re also controversial, as Electronic Arts’ discovered with tying loot crate purchases to unlocking desirable characters like Darth Vader in Star Wars: Battlefront II. Gamers revolted, and EA backed off. Government officials also started to step in to say that loot crates should be regulated, as they can be perceived as ripping off consumers or even as gambling.

Apple is clearly trying to get ahead of any regulatory problem by requiring that developers now disclose proper information.

But those in the gaming industry don’t believe loot boxes are gambling. Not only have individual companies gone on record to say they are perfectly fine, the ESRB, the self-regulated industry body who labels games by age range, came out and said they didn’t believe they were gambling and they certainly haven’t proposed any regulatory measures to help protect consumers against the predatory nature of microtransactions. Those fighting against loot boxes aren’t simply looking at antidotal evidence either. The UK’s Gambling Commission just released a report with rather shocking evidence of children as young as 11 being preyed upon and possibly lead into gambling addiction. Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioral Addiction at Nottingham Trent University explains:

Last week, the Gambling Commission’s annual report found that children as young as 11 years of age are “skin gambling” online – paying money for the chance to win in-game virtual items. But this, while alarming, is just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s the terrifying phenomenon of “loot boxes” that are the most worrying and potentially dangerous aspect of e-gaming for children right now. “Loot boxes” are everywhere – they are otherwise known as crates, chests, cases, bundles, and card packs.

In FIFA Ultimate Team, for example, players can purchase gold, silver or bronze card packs, either using in-game currency or real money, in the hope of getting their hands on top talent to improve their teams. But there’s no guarantee of landing A-listers like Ronaldo or Messi – the cards won’t all be star players and will more likely be less valuable collectables.

The issue is that the buying of crates or loot boxes is a form of gambling because players, often children, are being asked to buy something of financial value that could end up being of lower financial value than the amount they paid. 

The good thing is parents are now hearing about things like “skin gambling” and “loot boxes” but children also need to be educated about these activities as much as drinking, drugs or the risks of underage sex. Parents need to get to grips with what is going on in their children’s worlds.

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


A New form of Gambling in Video Games? What are Loot Boxes and Why is the Gaming Community asking the ESRB to Call this Gambling Practice Out?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the highly addictive principle of near misses and how this form of gambling forms strong addiction. Typically viewed in the context of regulated slot machines, the player pulls the lever and tries to line enough symbols up in a row to get a prize. Studies have indicated that when someone gets close but doesn’t win, what they call a near miss in the industry, the player will chase the win. A very similar phenomenon is now taking place in video games. The concept in the gaming world is known as a loot box. You pay a price to manufacture to by a box. Random items that a player would want to have in the game, say, a high powered weapon in a shooting game or a piece of defensive armor that models a coveted look and offers superior protection from other players, are generated when the loot box is opened. The key is that the items are random. Most players are looking for top end, often times called legendary gear. The odds of getting them aren’t too high and so a player tends to keep paying more and more money to open more and more loot boxes chasing after the win, or the best items in the game. This practice was identified very early as a form of gambling and a gaming mechanic that uses the same psychological techniques to addict players. The worst part, they are in games marketed toward children and no regulation exists. The highest level, state or federal laws, are completely none existent, so many in the community turned to the ESRB rating system to get these games classified as mature, so that young kids and teens aren’t the target of such gambling practices. As reported by Forbes, ESRB has erred in declining to view loot boxes as gambling, and social awareness is very much need to properly protect players:

Today, the Entertainment Software Rating Board, or ESRB, stated publicly that the hot new monetization trend in video games, loot boxes, don’t qualify as gambling. This is wrong on many levels. While it’s true that, unlike a slot machine, a loot box will always result in some form of a prize, that doesn’t change the fact that the simple act of opening loot boxes is incredibly similar to gambling, and taps into all the same parts of the brain.

“The player is basically working for reward by making a series of responses, but the rewards are delivered unpredictably,” Dr. Luke Clark, director at the Center for Gambling Research at the University of British Columbia, told PC Gamer recently “We know that the dopamine system, which is targeted by drugs of abuse, is also very interested in unpredictable rewards. Dopamine cells are most active when there is maximum uncertainty, and the dopamine system responds more to an uncertain reward than the same reward delivered on a predictable basis.”

Psychologists call this “variable rate reinforcement.” Essentially, the brain kicks into high gear when you’re opening a loot box or pulling the lever on a slot machine or opening a Christmas present because the outcome is uncertain. This is exciting and, for many people, addictive. When it comes to video games, the biggest concern is that children and adolescents will end up forming addictive behaviors early on.

At this point there are two issues/lines of thought at play. One is that the act of buying a loot box and opening it might not be technically gambling because you always get a prize. To this point, its pointed out above that the act of chasing loot boxes is exactly the same as gambling. More importantly though, some games do allow the players to sell or auction off the items received in exchange for real world money, items or game subscription, things with real world value. Eurogamer very specifically outlines the many ways in their recent article when they discuss both the US ESRB and European’s PEGI stance on loot boxes. So in that sense the player is putting real money into the game, opening the box and getting a price based on random chance not skill, and then cashing out the winnings, which is text book gambling. The Second line of thought is that regardless of whether or not this reaches the threashold for actual gambling that requires governmental oversight, it absolutely should get the ESRB’s attention and it should be disclosed to players and parents accordingly. Forbs continues:

“Look if you include these kind of mechanics in these games and you actually allow people to buy these packs for real money, these random blind packs and engage in what is essentially a form of gambling, then you should be jacking the rating of your game up to Mature.

“The fact that [Star Wars] /Battlefront II/ is going to be Teen rated and yet has an in-game real money gambling system blows my mind. How are they possibly getting away with that? Well, the answer is that the US government and legislation hasn’t caught up with it yet.”

OpenCritic co-founder and CEO Matthew Enthoven says that the ESRB’s response “kind of ducked the issue” calling it a semantic argument. “You can call it gambling, you can call it gaming addiction, you can call it whatever you want. The problem is still the same,” he tells me. 

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


No Casinos to release anti-gambling documentary, “Pushing Luck”

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing gambling expansion debate in Florida.  With a new legislative session underway and gambling a clear hot button issue, the pro-family group, No Casinos, is set to release a documentary to aid legislators, and potential voters alike, in their gambling decisions.  The Saint Peters Blog reports:

The anti-gambling group NoCasinos.org is promoting a film to be released January 15 that takes a “clear-eyed look” at the evils of gaming.

In a statement released Friday, No Casinos presented a 90-second trailer for Pushing Luck, a short documentary that shines a critical light on plans to expand gambling casinos throughout the state. The trailer can also be found on YouTube.

In Miami, Atlantic City, Chicago and beyond, filmmakers interviewed recovering addicts, former industry insiders, political leaders and noted academics to examine the economic and social perils of expanded gambling.

According to No Casinos, Pushing Luck “exposes the roots of gambling in Florida, the nature of the industry that pushes it and its consequences for American social, political, and economic life.”

The video is about a half hour and viewings will be set up at various locations around the state beginning in Tallahassee.  Miami Today provides some key information about the history and expertise that will be presented:

“This documentary travels through Florida’s complex history with gambling, from railroad tycoon Henry Flagler to the Great Depression to the present,” said Ryan Houck of Consensus Communications, the film’s producers.

“Our crew traveled to Atlantic City, Chicago, Miami and Massachusetts to interview some of the nation’s leading experts on gambling policy, history, social side-effects and economic consequences,” Mr. Houck told Miami Today.

“We spoke with recovering gambling addicts and former casino employees, whose experiences offer a sobering glimpse into the nature of the casino industry. We also talked with folks who’ve had a front-row seat to the broken promises in Atlantic City – and who have watched firsthand as casino bosses rehashed the very same promises in their attempts to hoodwink the people of Florida.”

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


Missouri Looking to Extend Credit to Gamblers

###FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Gambling on Credit:  A Bad Idea

In a letter to the Missouri Senate Casino Watch urges Senators to vote no on HB747.  Chairman, Mark Andrews, hopes the senate will look at research on the question and vote in favor of the people of Missouri, not cave in to just another casino expansion idea:

Dear Senators:

It was my pleasure to address your fine institution many times in the past 20 years on the gambling issue prior to my retirement and move.  But I return via this letter regarding HB747 urging you to vote no.

Much has been written on this subject that would suggest a “no” vote.  For example, “Gambling On Credit:  Exploring the Link Between Compulsive Gambling and Access to Credit”, 2006, FL Council on Compulsive Gambling, Inc.  This was a think tank of representatives from medical, legal, government, education, credit counseling and addiction treatment perspectives.  Please consider a few quotes from this study.

“Access to credit allows an individual to continue gambling whether or not he or she has actual cash in hand. The very nature of compulsive gambling makes this transition from gambling with cash to gambling on credit a significant step with repercussions for the gambler and his or her family and friends, employers, creditors and other contacts”.

“Participants expressed the belief that easy access to credit accelerates the problem and process of a gambling addiction….”.

“Personal consequences may include new addictions, depression or suicide, while financial consequences may include higher levels of debt, ruined credit, and loss of a home, car or other property – all of which create a devastating situation for the compulsive gambler and his or her family”.

The carving in marble high on the wall of your chamber will always be remembered for its clarity and profoundness:  “Nothing is politically right that is morally wrong”.  Don’t get me wrong here—I’m not speaking of the morality of gambling–rather the passing of a bill that will surely bring harm to many people who struggle with some level of addiction to gambling.  It is not worthy of Missouri to attempt to address its public financial strains by enticing its citizens to increase their personal financial risks.

Thank you for your consideration on this important issue.

Respectfully,

Mark Andrews

Chairman

Casino Watch

Andrews references the State motto “The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law” in making the point that it is time once again for the General Assembly to hold the line on casino expansion and keep the current regulation in place.

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


Study Confirming Near-Misses Fuel Gambling Addiction Highlights Need to Stay Focused on Slot Machines

Casino Watch Focus has reported many times on the dangers of slot machines.  The psychology behind why slot machines are so effective at addicting players has been the subject of many researchers.  A recent study has examined the idea of a “near-miss,” or coming one icon away from a win.  The conclusion of the researchers is that these near-misses fuel gambling addiction.  An online source explains:

Canadian researchers have provided new evidence that gamblers interpret near-misses as frustrating losses rather than near-wins. This frustration stimulates the reward systems in the brain to promote continued gambling that, in turn, may contribute to addictive gambling behavior.

Studies to date have shown that near-misses support persistent gambling and activate brain areas that reinforce certain behaviors. If near-misses are seen as near-wins, then they should be pleasurable. If, however, near-misses are highly frustrating losses, then they should be unpleasant.

The analyses showed that progressively larger wins led to longer pauses between spins and increased arousal levels. Near-misses with jackpot symbols landing on the first two reels led to significantly larger skin responses than regular losses and other types of near-misses. In addition, the gamblers were compelled to repeat the spin as quickly as possible after this type of near miss.

“By activating what we call the appetitive component of the mesolimbic rewards system, these near-misses may help a player develop a hopeful, subjective impression that the next win is imminent,” Dr Dixon said. “This might ultimately contribute to the sensitization of the appetitive system, which plays a key role in addictive behavior.”

This type of research helps to illustrate how people can become addicted to slots.  As elections near, its research like this that demands close attention to the types of gambling that could be exposed to communities.  Natasha Shull, a cultural anthropologist and associate professor in MIT’s Program on Science, Technology and Society, has spent the last 15 years researching and studding the slot machines.  In an MIT article, she explains how slot machines are designed to addict gamblers and create tremendous profits for casinos:

Schull herself is not a gambler, but says she can relate to gamblers when they talk about the repetitive, absorbed relationship they enter into with the technology. “I think many of us understand what it’s like to zone out on machines.

As Schull explains, today’s machines are much different from ones of the past. Visual graphics are now calibrated so the gamblers’ eyes won’t get tired so quickly. Sound is manipulated as well, to reduce the stress of cacophony in cavernous spaces. To facilitate faster play, today’s machines have buttons and touch-screens instead of handles and mechanical reels.

Instead of coins, they accept player credit cards. Instead of a few games per minute, it is now possible to play hundreds. Inside the machines, complicated algorithms control the odds. “Every feature of the machines is geared to keep people playing until they’re broke.”

Natasha Shull had published a new book Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas. Her book and research will be the feature of many articles on Casino Watch Focus and more information on her book can be found here.  As elections near in your communities, please remember that there’s a reason gambling companies spend so much money to influence elections and to expand gambling.  Its not because they plan to make winners of everyone in the neighborhoods, its because they have designed a method of revenue collection for high profits that are fueled by addiction.

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


Hungary Views Slot Machines as a Threat to National Security

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing gambling expansion efforts in Florida.  As the election draws near, many local communities will be voting on a myriad of gambling initiatives, most of which involve slots.  The dangers of slot machines can be devastating to a community and one nation has more than recognized their danger.  Hungary is viewing slots as a threat to their national security.  The Wall Street Journal explains:

Hungary’s government decided Monday urgent action is needed to crack down on gambling because it eats into people’s incomes and poses a threat to national security.

State secretary Janos Lazar said that slot machines present a serious hazard, especially for the rural poor who spend sizable chunks of their small salaries and welfare benefits on one-armed bandits.

“Gambling is explicitly dangerous and harmful for society,” Mr. Lazar said. Games of chance in general go against the credo of his conservative political family, he said, which is why the government considers the matter a key priority.

The country is so adamant about the dangers of slot machines, that they are taking swift measures to outlaw them. The Wall Street Journal continues:

Mr. Lazar said the ruling majority will rush the necessary legal changes. A group of representatives from the governing Fidesz party will submit legislation Monday with a final vote coming as soon as Tuesday. The urgency is warranted by new information on a national security risk from groups in the gambling industry, Mr. Lazar said while declining to divulge any details regarding the nature of the risks.

Under the legal revision, slot machines will no longer be put into operation and those currently in use would be recalled, the only exceptions being casinos that have concessions from the state. If adopted, the measure will have widespread effects on many low-range bars and pubs, which operate slot machines that generate a considerable part of their revenue.

Mr. Lazar said that the revenue shortfall to the budget resulting from the slot machine ban will be made up through new regulations and taxes on online gambling.

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