Category Archives: Addiction

Experts warn that Florida’s Seminole Gambling Compact Introduces Massive Gambling Expansion, but Leaves Problem Gamblers without Vital Resources

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to secure a new gambling compact between the Seminole Tribe and the Florida Government.  Recently a new compact was agreed upon and has been approved by the Florida Legislature and Governor.  If the bill makes it past federal approval, it represents a massive expansion in gambling.  Despite the normal political battles that such legislation brings, three is a serious health element that experts warn is being completely overlooked.  Aid for compulsive gamblers wasn’t addressed in the compact or the special legislative session that pushed the compact through.  This is of dire concern for problem gambling experts.  Florida Politics reports:

While the Legislature pushed through the Seminole Compact and gambling bills to support it, the matter of dealing with compulsive gambling drew alarm, debate, promises, but no action.

“If the Compact survives scrutiny at the federal level and the legal challenges, this is going to be a major expansion of gaming opportunities in the state of Florida, just in the sports betting alone,” said *Richard* *Pinsky*, a lobbyist for the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling. “Florida is not prepared right now for the impact that it will have upon families and individuals.”

Florida’s main response, through the Council, is a gambling prevention program helpline, 1-888-ADMIT-IT (236-4848). Set up initially to assist compulsive gamblers in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, it is woefully unprepared to handle statewide action; it was never fully funded even for its intended purpose. “I can show you the actual transcripts (of calls) that would wrench your heart,” Pinsky told a House committee last week. 

Pinsky warned that “thousands and thousands” of Floridians will fall into compulsive gambling problems. And he believes that will grow fastest among younger generations. “The younger demographic, that’s exactly who does sports wagering and fantasy sports,” Pinsky said. “College students and those under 30. And they’re also the most at-risk group.”

Florida’s gambling prevention program has not been updated since 2005 when it was initiated as a response to the legalization of slot machines in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

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


As UK legislators look to update the Gambling Act 2005, a new Study Shows Loot Boxes Lead to Problem Gambling and Should be Regulated Accordingly

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing awareness of just how addictive gambling-esque loot boxes are to children and adults who play video games.  This gaming mechanic has emerged as a highly addictive form of gambling that more and more jurisdictions are acknowledging.  As recently reported,  the UK is open to the possible regulation of loot boxes as its reviewing and updating their main regulatory backbone, theGambling Act 2005.  As those review efforts are coming to a close, a new report draws a clear link between loot boxes and problem gambling. The Guardian reports: 

Analysis revives calls for in-game rewards to be classed as betting products to protect children. Loot boxes, video game features used by nearly 40% of children, have clear links to problem gambling, according to a study that has reignited calls for them to be regulated as betting products.

Researchers analysed 13 studies into the behaviour of gamers who spend on loot boxes which allow players to spend money on randomised in-game rewards that can aid players’ progress or enhance the appearance of characters, without knowing what they will get. All but one of the studies showed a clear correlation between the use of loot boxes and problem gambling behaviour, under the commonly-used Problem Gambling  Severity Index (PGSI) measure.

They were “structurally and psychologically akin” to gambling, the report found, yet are used by nearly half of children who play video games. Approximately 5% of loot box users generate half of the £700m that video games companies make from them each year and about a third of that group are problem gamblers, the report says.

This group contends that this analysis should be heavily considered by lawmakers when deciding which gambling regulations can best help the public.  The Guardian continues:

GambleAware, the leading gambling charity that commissioned the report,

also backed tighter regulation. “[…] We are increasingly concerned that gambling is now part of everyday life for children and young people,” said the chief executive Zoë Osmond. “GambleAware funded this research to highlight concerns around loot boxes and problem gambling, ahead of the upcoming Gambling Act review.

Researchers from the Universities of Plymouth and Wolverhampton, who wrote the report, called for clear labelling and age-rating for loot boxes, as well as disclosure of odds, tools to limit spending voluntarily and prices in real currency.

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


Netherlands Court Rules EA’s Loot Boxes are Illegal Gambling and Upheld Earlier Fine

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the newest form of gambling in video games known as loot boxes. This particular gambling-esque mechanic was first brought forth to mainstream media because of their prevalence in EA’s Star Wars licensed BattleFront II game.  Since then, regulators all over the world have urged for studies or moved to advance legislation that regulates or bans loot boxes.  So perhaps it’s fitting that the publisher EA is again at the forefront of the battle over loot boxes in the Netherlands.  This time they have been accused of allowing illegal gambling in their world popular soccer game Fifa.  The court ruled that their loot boxes are illegal and ordered them to pay a fine. An online gaming source explains:

A Netherlands District Court this week ruled against Electronic Arts in a case over FIFA loot boxes, allowing the Netherlands Gambling Authority (Kansspelautoriteit, or Ksa) to proceed in fining the publisher €10 million for violating the country’s Betting and Gaming Act.

“The Ksa believes it is crucial to shield vulnerable groups, such as minors, from exposure to gambling,” the regulator explained. “For that reason, the Ksa supports a strict separation between gaming and gambling. Gamers are often young and therefore particularly susceptible to developing an addiction. As such, gambling elements have no place in games.”

According to the judgment, EA argued that FIFA loot boxes would not count as gambling under the Betting and Gaming Act because FIFA Ultimate Team packs (loot boxes) don’t offer items of value because they cannot be directly converted into money, that FIFA is inherently a game of skill rather than chance, and that there is no scientific evidence linking the opening of Ultimate Team packs to gambling addiction.

The court was unswayed by those arguments, noting that there are ways for people to profit from Ultimate Team cards that can be valued at nearly €2,000, and that people can ignore the proper FIFA gameplay and “play” the Ultimate Team packs as their own sort of game.

As for the lack of scientific proof, the judges ruled it not necessary that every new game of chance be proven to cause problems, because the Betting and Gaming Act is based on the assumption that games of chance carry with them a risk of gambling addiction. They also pointed to an increasing body of scientific research and experts warning about loot boxes, as well as reports made to the Ksa by individuals who had been affected by them.

Naturally, EA is expected to appeal the decision.  They asked the court to not disclose the amount of the fine, but the court’s response was “that the public interest in announcing the fines and warning the public about unlawful commercial practices outweighed EA’s interest in preserving its reputation.”

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


Apple & Google face Federal Lawsuit for Allowing Gambling-esue Apps in their Play Stores

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on the development, recognition and battles over loot boxes as a new gambling mechanism in video games, including a pair of recent California based lawsuits against Apple and Google.  Those suits centered around popular gaming apps that had loot boxes inside an otherwise normal looking game like EA’s Fifa soccer or Nintendo’s Mario Kart Tour.   A new Federal lawsuit, however, alleges that same access to loot box type gambling, but in a more obvious gambling related app.  An online Alabama new source reports:

Two federal lawsuits filed Wednesday seek refunds for Alabama residents who downloaded games from app stores that the plaintiffs say are illegal gambling under state law. The potential class action lawsuits were filed against tech giants Apple and Google by two Shelby County residents who purchased the app-based games and paid money for more playing time. The suit specifically deals with games that begin with offering the player a set number of free starting “coins” to play the slots, blackjack, roulette, poker, keno, bingo, and other card and gambling games.

A loss results in a loss of the coins, but the customer has the chance to win more coins. When a customer runs out of coins, the player is prompted to use real money to buy more coins to keep playing. Both suits list 200 games available through Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store that feature casino-type gambling.

“Apple and its chief mobile device software competitor, Google, both allow customers to purchase games that are no more or no less than casino-style slot machines, casino-style table games, and other common gambling games,” one suit alleges. The suit contends that under Alabama’s gambling statutes, paying money in a game for a chance to win more playing time constitutes illegal gambling. 

The suit brings up state law’s definition of “something of value,” which it says is not limited to games where one gambles in the hopes of winning actual cash. “Rather, ‘something of value’ specifically includes ‘extension of a service entertainment or a privilege of playing at a game or scheme without charge.’ As a matter of law, paying money to get ‘coins’ one bets hoping to win more ‘coins’ so as to gain the ‘privilege of playing at a game or scheme without charge’ is gambling a thing of value under Alabama law,” the suits contend.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The FCCG’s 24-hour confidential and multilingual HelpLine may be reached by calling 888-ADMIT-IT (888-236-4848), texting (321) 978-0555, emailing fccg@gamblinghelp.org, initiating a live chat at gamblinghelp.org, 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


Super Bowl LIV (53) expected to break all previous gambling records…but at what cost?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the significant amount of gambling on the Super Bowl each year, and Super Bowl 53 is poised to be the most impactful yet.  When the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers take the field, there will be more states with legalized sports betting than ever.  As a result, experts see record amounts of money being bet on this year’s game. Fox Business breaks down the numbers:

About 26 million Americans are expected to bet on the game through various means, including brick-and-mortar sportsbooks and online platforms, the American Gaming Association said. The record total marks a 15 percent increase compared to the estimated betting turnout from last year’s game, which drew wagers from approximately 22.7 million Americans.

The bets will be worth an estimated $6.8 billion, up from $6 billion last year. The projected total includes both legal betting venues, such as brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, and illegal methods, such as bookies and offshore mobile platforms.

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 addiction.

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


New Florida Lottery Bill Seeks to Prevent Gambling Expansion

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts by legislators to pass meaningful gambling legislation in the area of state sold lottery tickets.  Last year a bill was passed that required warning labels on Florida lottery tickets. That bill was vetoed by the Governor, citing a loss of revenue due to belief that large warning labels would cause less gambling on lottery tickets. This year, a new bill is being introduced that seeks to address the Governor’s concerns, while still preventing gambling expansion on other fronts.  Florida Politics explains:

The measures require the “play responsibly” message to be printed on the lottery ticket and take up at least 5% of the ticket’s total surface area. That’s a reduction from previous proposed warning messages, which were more detailed and took up more space on those tickets.

The legislation also mandates the message be displayed in TV, electronic or paper ads, with the same requirement that the message take up 5% of the surface area of the advertisement. For radio ads, the warning must be issued at the end of the promotion.

Both new bills include a provision barring lottery games that are tied to athletic events. “The [Department of Lottery] may not authorize the operation of a lottery game in which the winner is chosen on the basis of the activities or outcomes of one or more sporting events,” *the bill reads*.

Finally, the legislation would require $500,000 annually for an advertising program warning against gambling addiction. “The department shall, subject to competitive bidding, contract for such services, which must include an advertising program to encourage responsible gambling practices and to publicize a telephone help line,” the measure reads.

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


Veteran’s Affairs Hospital Opens Gambling Treatment Facility in Las Vegas

Casino Watch Focus has reported on various legislative attempts to regulate the gambling exposure of active duty military members.  Gambling addiction affects all, but active duty military can find themselves in a unique situation. Many find themselves overseas with few entertainment options and in some cases, the military themselves operate gambling establishments.  Such has been the focus of various Congressional legislative efforts to properly regulate and offer help to those caught in gambling’s web. The VA has decided to expand its efforts as well, as they have opened the second ever gambling treatment facility.  The Military Times reports:

The Department of Veterans Affairs has opened its second in-patient gambling addiction recovery center, right in the heart of Sin City. VA officials announced this month that the Las Vegas VA Residential Recovery and Renewal Center, or LVR3, will host 30- and 45-day programs for gambling and substance abuse treatment.

The facility is the second of its kind in nearly 50 years at VA: the department’s first gambling addiction center – a trailblazing treatment facility that was the first of its kind in the country for addressing compulsive gambling – opened at the Brecksville, Ohio, VA Medical Center in 1972.

Now part of the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, it was the sole inpatient treatment center for gambling addiction, drawing more than 100 veterans annually from around the country for care.

The Las Vegas location was of particular interest considering the access veterans have in that city.  The veteran population appears to be twice as likely to be negatively impacted by gambling addiction than the general civilian population.  The Military Times continues:

“There is definitely a great need for this here in Las Vegas,” said LVR3 Program Manager Roxanne Untal in a release. “Gambling and substance abuse already exist here … the biggest goal is to provide residential care for veterans when more intensive care is needed than what they would receive in outpatient treatment.”

A study conducted in the VA’s New England region funded by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission found that among a small group of veterans, 260, a third had gambled in the previous year and 6 percent screened positive for a gambling disorder.

According to the study, those in the gambling disorder group also had histories of anxiety, depression or PTSD and some reported having suicidal thoughts.

The National Council on Problem Gambling estimates that roughly 1 percent of the adult U.S. population meets the clinical criteria for compulsive gambling and up to 3 percent would be considered problem gamblers.

The program won’t be limited to just veterans and all those in need in the Las Vegas area are encouraged to visit the facility.   The Military Times concludes:

VA officials said veterans interested in the programs at LVR3 or Cleveland can talk to their primary care provider, either at VA or in the community care system.

“Even if you aren’t an enrolled veteran yet, if this is something you need to address, come on in. Any licensed provider can put in a consult, and we are doing quick turn-arounds for screening them for admission,” Untal said.

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


FTC and Researches Discuss how Loot Boxes can be a Life or Death Situation with Problem Gamblers

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing concerns from a form of gambling promoted in video games known as loot boxes. Recent debate has focused on whether or not this video game mechanic technically meets the definition of gambling. Some jurisdictions have out right banned them as they meet their definition of gambling completely, and others have ordered more study and review as they may not technical meet their definition of gambling, but they certainly employ the same psychological tricks to suck in young gamers to spend hundreds of dollars. Recently the FTC added state and federal legislators in their concerns over loot boxes and gambling issues, specifically how it they could be a gateway to problem gambling. Forbes reports:

Video games can be a gateway to problem gambling, the Federal Trade Commission was warned Wednesday. The danger comes from a feature that has become embedded in a majority of the most popular video games in recent years: loot boxes, according to experts who spoke in an all-day seminar held by the agency.

A loot box is a virtual box a player can buy in a game with real or pretend money with the potential for getting virtual weapons and other aids to help the chances of winning the game or the ability to customize characters. The payments are made through “microtransactions.” The name can hide the true financial hit on a child or other video game player because while a single loot box can cost 99 cents, repeated purchases or buying a bundles or bundles can go into thousands of dollars over time. For some players the lure of loot boxes is a pathway to problem gambling with young men and boys particularly at risk, cautioned National Association On Problem Gambling Executive Director Keith Whyte. 

Some, especially those video game publishers like EA, who make a significant amount of their profits from gambling-esque loot boxes, tend to trivialize any link to gambling and claim their methods are completely ethical. Most disagree and experts at the panel claim the link shouldn’t be trivialized and the issues are far more serious that people might think. A major online video gaming source, PC Gamer explains what researches claim:

Speaking at a panel during the FTC’s recent workshop on videogame loot boxes, York St. John University research Dr. David Zendle stated unequivocally that loot boxes are connected to problem gambling. As reported by GamesIndustry, Zendle acknowledged that the causal relationship between the two isn’t clear, but said that the connection “is a clear cause for concern” that should not be trivialized.

“Spending money on loot boxes is linked to problem gambling. The more money people spend on loot boxes, the more severe their problem gambling is. This isn’t just my research. This is an effect that has been replicated numerous times across the world by multiple independent labs,” Zendle said. “This is something the games industry does not engage with.”

“This is so important. It’s not something we should trivialize or laugh at or compare to baseball cards. This is life or death.”

Another common deflection is that its not loot boxes that cause problem gambling, its problem gamblers over spending on loot boxes. The researchers address this issue in a very pragmatic way, essentially concluding that it’s completely irrelevant. PC Gamer continues:

The question of whether loot boxes are a gateway into other forms of problem gambling, or if people who have gambling problems to start with are naturally drawn to loot boxes, remains unanswered, and it could work both ways. But in Zendle’s opinion, it doesn’t really matter in any practical sense.

“In either case, it’s a clear cause for concern and not something to be trivialized. In one case, you have a mechanism in games that many children play that is literally causing a state of affairs that is enormously destructive. And if loot boxes do cause problem gambling, we’re looking at an epidemic of problem gambling the scale of which the world has never seen,” he said.

“And if that’s not true—and I’m totally open to that not being true—then you’ve got a system in which game companies are differentially profiting from the most vulnerable of their consumers. Problem gamblers already have enormous issues in their lives. They don’t need to have their money taken away from them through this as well.”

Zendle has authored multiple reports on loot boxes and gambling, and is unambiguous in his findings. In [his] 2018 article “Video game loot boxes are linked to problem gambling: Results of a large-scale survey,” for instance, he concluded, “This research provides empirical evidence of a relationship between loot box use and problem gambling. The relationship seen here was neither small, nor trivial. It was stronger than previously observed relationships between problem gambling and factors like alcohol abuse, drug use, and depression.”

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


Military Personnel to be Screened for Problem Gambling under new Trump Directive

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the concerns of gambling in the military. The Department of Defense actually operates gambling facilities where service personnel gamble on slot machines. A few years ago Sen. Elizabeth Warren pushed an amendment to study the issues of problem gambling saying, “If the military is going to operate gambling facilities that bring in tens of millions of dollars in revenue, it also needs to ensure there is adequate prevention, treatment, and financial counseling available for service members struggling with gambling addictions.” She explained that over 36,000 service members fit the definition of problem gamblers. Now the Trump Administration has passed an initiative to screen for problem gambling during service member’s medical examinations. An online source explains: 

Members of America’s armed forces will now have to undergo screening for gambling addiction thanks to a new provision contained within the *National Defence Authorisation Act* that was signed into law by *President Trump* this week.

Section 733 of the House Armed Services Committee Report 115-874 requires the Department of Defence (DoD) to incorporate medical screening questions specific to gambling disorder in the next annual periodic health assessment conducted by the Department as well as in the Health Related Behaviours Surveys of Active-Duty and reserve component service members.

NCPG executive director *Keith Whyte* said: “Previous DoD surveys have found active duty personnel are two to three times more likely to have gambling problems than civilians. Better detection of gambling problems improves overall health and reduces social costs. Undetected gambling addiction exacerbates substance use disorders, depression and suicidal behaviour.”

He added: “NCPG strongly believes military personnel need and deserve effective gambling addiction prevention, education, treatment, enforcement, research, responsible gaming and recovery services. With the provision requiring members of the Armed Forces to be screened for gambling addiction, championed by Senator Elizabeth Warren, we take a vital step to improving the lives of service members and their families.

 

 

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

 


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


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