Category Archives: Children

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

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Hurricane Irma Brings out the Worst in Feuding Florida Casinos

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the desire for the gambling industry to push new casinos into Florida and to the benefit of Florida families, most of the efforts to expand gambling, especially through full-scale Vegas-Style casinos, has failed. More recently, reports have surfaced that the industry really views gamblers as prey and they seek out specifically target the must vulnerable. So to some degree, its shouldn’t seem shocking to learn that at a time when communities should come together, like after a major hurricane that rocks an entire state, casinos are instead fighting over who has the right to prey on whom. This unbelievable story centers around one casino actively trying to attract the gamblers from anther casino whose property was damaged as a result of Hurricane Irma, and the classless media fighting and jabs they took at each other. Mardi Gras Casino is closed due to damage and nearby Gulfstream Park Racing is doing everything it can to lay claim to their gamblers. An online source reports:

The two casinos have long been sworn rivals, and are regularly in hot competition for sixth place (out of eight) in Florida’s pari-mutuel market. And while there may be little wrong with healthy competition, Mardi Gras contends its old foe is being exploitive, and has taken things too far.

According to the /Miami Herald/, since the hurricane hit the state on Sep. 10, Gulfstream has been advertising that it will honor loyalty coupons Mardi Gras gives to top players offering free slots play.

“It is sad and pathetic, but not surprising,” Mardi Gras PresidentDan Adkins told the /Herald/. “It’s so sad when you have a community hat’s battered and someone feels like now’s the time to be an opportunist. It’s indicative of their nature and that’s OK with me.”

But Gulfstream Park’s assistant GM Ernie Dellaverson says Adkins is being a bit disingenuous.

“We’re just doing something that’s been done since the beginning of casino marketing,” he says. “If the roles were reversed, I’d expect them to do [the same]. It’s about helping the players, and I haven’t heard a complaint so far.”

As if those actions and comments weren’t shocking and damaging enough, the fighting for Florida families in the wake of a natural disaster got even uglier when the focus was centered on the competition that would follow after the Mardi Gras casino reopened. The sad display continued through the previous source: 

Adkins contends Gulfstream is still sore about being beaten to the sixth spot in casino earnings this year, albeit by a photo finish. Mardi Gras posted $51 million in gross gaming revenue for the first half of 2017, compared to Gulfstream Park’s $50 million.

But ultimately, Adkins says he believes his casino will win in the long run because it has a certain Buddhist spiritual principle of cause and effect on its side. “Here at Mardi Gras we have a little friend named Karma,” he said.“When we rise from the ashes, the grandeur of Mardi Gras, along withKarma, will more than overcome these senseless, childish opportunists.” Although, for such a believer in Karma, he must be asking what he did in a previous life for his casino to get trashed by a hurricane while the other one a mile up the road is doing just fine. “When we reopen,” he said, “we’re going to go back to kicking their ass.” 

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


Zynga to Expand Real Gambling Options in the UK along side Facebook: Sights set on the US

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing partnership of Facebook and Zynga to introduce real money gambling into the social media arena.   Facebook has already started allowing real money gambling and will soon introduce sports betting.  The Daily Mail reports:

Facebook will offer real money betting on horse racing and football matches in a major expansion of its gambling operations. The social networking site was criticised last year for launching a range of Las Vegas-style casino games with the promise of jackpots worth tens of thousands of pounds.

It already offers virtual slot machines for children as young as 13 – with real money games advertised as soon as users hit their 18th birthday.

Now it will begin offering sports betting under a lucrative deal with online bookmaker Paddy Power, which was announced last night. The game, called Paddy Power In-Play!, will be rolled out in the coming days. It will only be available in the UK, where gaming laws are more relaxed than in the US.

 Zanga is also a part of Facebook’s gambling strategy, but Facebook appears to be far more important to Zynga’s success. As explained by The Week, Zanga has started offering real money gambling games and their operation will soon be available on Facebook:

At a World Gaming Executive Summit in Barcelona, Facebook’s Sean Ryan is showcasing two new Zynga games, ZyngaPlusPoker and ZyngaPlusCasino, according to VentureBeat‘s Dean Takahashi. Zynga “says that social gaming remains its heart and soul,” Takahashi says, “but the gambling games are a logical extension for fans who want to bet real money and win it in social games.”

The first step is conquering Britain, where online gambling is legal and regulated. In April, Zynga released online and downloadable versions of its two real-money games in the U.K., in partnership with established British poker company Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment. Facebook and mobile versions are coming soon.

The Facebook component is key to Zynga’s strategy. Zynga and its investors believe, with some justification, that “the real-money Facebook games could be a game changer, luring in the general U.K. population that has known Zynga for years as a social gaming pioneer,” says Jennifer Booton at Fox Business

 So how will this affect the American Market?  Right now Britain is viewed as a test market to work out any issues and with the current US legislation landscape shifting to States allowing online gambling, Facebook and Zynga could be worth billions in the future.  The Week continues:

Britain is “the ideal test-case for Zynga, with it’s concentration of seasoned online gamblers contributing to a £2.3 billion ($3.4 billion) industry for the country,” says Lauren Hockenson at GigaOm. But the company’s “sights are no doubt set on the United States, which, despite its currently restrictive gambling laws, could be worth $9.3 billion by 2020.”

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) is pushing for legislation to drop all federal regulation of online gambling, leaving it up to individual states to decide what to allow. Nevada and New Jersey — home to Las Vegas and Atlantic City, respectively — have recently legalized the practice. (Nevadans can already play online real-money poker against other Nevadans, and New Jersey and Delaware are setting up their online gambling systems.)

It won’t be a slam dunk getting a chunk of the Jersey or Nevada markets — Zynga needs to partner with a casino in Atlantic City, and only two of the 10 are still up for grabs, says VentureBeat‘s Jeffrey Grubb. But as signs point toward more online gambling in the U.S., Zynga has put itself in a prime position to profit. It has an established brand plus loads of customer data to work with, and Facebook is a great platform for minting new online gamblers.

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


Facebook to Test Real-Money Online Gambling in UK; the Lure of Children Amongst Real-Fears

Casino Watch Focus originally reported that Facebook banned online advertisements in the United States and other jurisdictions where online gambling is illegal.  Where as it might appear Facebook was taking a hard line stance against gambling, new reports may prove otherwise.  Currently, Facebook uses a virtual money system for several of their games/apps.  A user can purchase credits that can then be used in the virtual setting for the purchase of games or items from various developers.  The online Tech Site ZDNet, reported that Facebook is now considering replacing their virtual money system with real money. The move is designed to open the doors to full scale online gambling on Facebook.  ZDNet explains:

Facebook already offers a virtual currency option known as Facebook Credits, which is used extensively in Facebook apps like social games, but the social networking giant is also reportedly interested in supporting the exchange of real money in the online gambling market. The company wants to open up the Facebook Platform to online gambling, possibly as soon as in Q1 2012. This past summer, Palo Alto held exploratory talks with approximately 20 online gaming experts, consultants, and social gaming entrepreneurs, and now it’s moving forward.

More specifically, Facebook is looking at handing out eight licenses, two per vertical, to the online gambling operators in regulated markets such as the UK, according to EGR. The company has drawn up initial licenses for different gambling operators: Gamesys, which has some 1.7 million monthly Facebook users and 888 are reportedly first in line. You read that right: gambling apps could soon start appearing on the Facebook Platform.

Its worth noting that Facebook is only looking to begin testing in the UK and if they find success, then they would  likely branch out to other countries where its legal to gamble online (which would currently exclude the United States).  As one could imagine, Facebook’s actions are drawing the ire of those in the UK concerned with the most vulnerable – their children.  The UK Daily Mail explains:

Facebook is being accused of luring children into gambling through plans to introduce real cash games. The world’s biggest social network site wants to use Britain as a testing ground for games that would let users gamble on virtual fruit machines, bingo, poker and roulette. Last night  critics expressed fears that the proposals will create a generation who believe that gambling is safe and fun.

More than 3million Facebook users in the UK are aged between 13 and 17. A further million are estimated to be under 13 but pretending to be older.  Dr Robert Lefever, founding director of the Promis Recovery Centre which treats addicts, said: ‘Introducing gambling to Facebook is a cynical way for the gambling industry to find new markets, making gambling look acceptable. ‘There will be young people who think these games have Facebook approval, that you can gamble and it’s fun. It’s not – gambling destroys families.’

Lauri Moyle, of Christian Action Research Education (CARE), said: ‘Because there is a link between the age when people start gambling and the likelihood of developing a difficulty controlling their gambling, protecting children from the normalisation of gambling is vital.’

Professor Mark Griffiths, of Nottingham Trent University, added: ‘Even when no money changes hands, young children are learning the mechanics of gambling. These games can be a gateway to more serious gambling.’

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


ESPN exposes terrible Florida Youth Football Gambling Ring

Casino Watch Focus has reported numerous times on the NFL’s anti-gambling position.  The organization doesn’t like gambling on its sport because they know from other sports the propensity for corruption, game fixing and the devastating trail that can be left behind in gambling’s wake.  So imagine how shocking it was when ESPN’s Outside the Lines recently broke a story about the real life consequences of a football gambling ring.  Unfortunately, as the Baltimore Sports Report explains, this story has nothing to do with the NFL:

A recent story was featured on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” involving the problem of gambling in the South Florida Youth Football League.  That’s right, I said the YOUTH football league.  Apparently, people have been gambling on games in this particular league for several years now, but it has never been addressed publicly until OTL decided to conduct an investigation into the situation.

During the investigation, OTL found that on several occasions men were openly betting and exchanging large wads of cash during football games.  But after further scrutiny, OTL found that the money being exchanged in the stands was minimal compared to the tens of thousands of dollars changing hands behind closed doors. They even found out that kids were being paid large amounts of money for making big plays.  But it didn’t stop there.  These men, most of which are drug dealers, found out which kids were the best and recruit them to play for a certain team before the season began by paying off their parents before the start of the season.  They would then bet on the team they essentially built and profit off it.  

There is so much wrong with the previous couple paragraphs that I almost don’t even know where to start.  First of all, the men gambling on these games are the absolute scum of the earth.  There’s no other way to put it.  They have no consideration for anyone but themselves and are ruining people’s lives in the process.  They are taking advantage of parents who don’t make a lot of money and bribing them with cash in order to profit from it.  They are tainting a game that kids love to play.  They are putting innocent people’s lives at risk due to their ignorant and insensitive way of life, and something needs to be done about it.

There are so many victims that it’s hard to even find a starting point.  From the parents & children to the newly financed drug dealers who manage to build their destructive empires on the profits of gambling.  There is no way to adequately summarize what has been exposed. To truly understand the extent of this devastation, PLEASE visit ESPN’s original story by Outsides the Lines HERE.

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


Casinos expect revenue increases as Obama extends Unemployment Benefits

Casino Watch Focus just recently reported that California welfare recipients withdrew $1.8 million from public aid debit cards in casinos across the state.  It’s all too common for casino’s to take advantage of the poor.  Too many people accepting public assistance attempt to gamble away the money for a chance to win big, only to hand the money over to the casinos in the process.  Given the current economic climate, families are at even more risk as casinos continue to prey on the desperate.  An online gambling source is reporting that casinos are expecting to make money off needy families as Obama has just extended unemployment benefits:

It is an unfortunate situation that occurs when the economy tanks in a country. In the US, thousands of citizens have turned to gambling as a way to make a quick buck and help themselves through the difficult economic times.

On Thursday, President Obama signed the Unemployment Extension Bill that is expected to bring relief to tens of thousands of Americans. It is inevitable that some of the unemployment benefits will end up in the hands of gamblers who will try to parlay their good luck into future security. With more gaming options than ever in the US, problem gambling, especially in light of the rough economy, may soon be picking up.

The casino industry will take their revenue any way they can get it these days.

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