Category Archives: Children

Seminole Compact Deal Seems Unlikely Given Florida Legislators are Shifting Full Focus to the Parkland School Shooting

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to fully renew the Seminole Gambling Compact and officially lock in various gambling exclusivity agreements with the Tribe, the most prominent being designated player card games.  Recent legislation was proposed and pushed that was an attempt to allow exclusive deals for the Seminoles at their casinos, while allowing para-mutuel operators to offer designated player games and even end greyhound racing. The Sun-Sentinel reports:

The Florida Legislature is showing its hand in another attempt to bring the Seminole Tribe into a new, lucrative gambling agreement with the state.

Th new deal would potentially end greyhound racing, bring craps and roulette to Seminole casinos and allow designated-player games.

Under a draft agreement the tribe has shown several state lawmakers, it would now be willing to consider designated-player games and fantasy sports leagues such as FanDuel and DraftKing, both of which it had previously said were in violation of its agreement with the state.

Given the court appointed deadlines and Amendment 3, which seems likely to pass and would take the power away from the legislators and into the hands of the people, this was viewed as the key time to strike a deal. An online source explains:

The first deadline is a 2015 federal court order that allows the Seminoles to stop making $250 million in annual revenue-sharing payments to the state by the end of March if lawmakers don’t curtail the growth of ”designated player” games, a hybrid of poker and blackjack, in cardrooms across Florida. The next comes in November when voters are presented with a proposed “No Casinos” constitutional amendment that would require 60 percent approval of a ballot measure to expand gambling, essentially removing legislators from the decision-making process regarding casinos. Therefore, if lawmakers are to make significant changes to gambling regulations and renew the state’s gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe, the time to do so is now or, maybe, it will be never.

The Senate Finance and Tax Appropriations Subcommittee approved a 90-page gambling bill earlier this week that gives the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s seven casinos the exclusive right to offer craps and roulette while allowing pari-mutuel facilities statewide to run “designated player” card games.

As it turns out, however, the timeline has become even more doubtful given the tragic Parkland school shooting. The Florida legislature is wisely shifting focus to discuss and address potential solutions to help protect Florida families from similar future tragedies. The budget also needs to be passed, so the window for gambling appears to be rapidly closing.   An online source explains: 

The Florida high school shooting that left 17 people dead last week has another potential casualty—the state’s gambling legislation.

Florida Politics reported that Florida’s gambling bill is on life support after legislators decided to shelve all pending bills on their desks in order to prioritize a legislative response to the February 14 mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County.

With only three weeks left in the 2018 legislative session, legislators are scrambling to enact a law that will allocate $100 million funding for the state’s mental health screening, counseling and training, and the “hardening” of Florida schools.

After passing the bill, lawmakers will then need to squeeze in discussions on the state budget within a limited time. With their hands full, Florida House Speaker-designate José Oliva is much less optimistic that they will get something done on gambling in the next three weeks.

“A lot of our bandwidth is going to be taken up,” Oliva said, according to “We still have a budget to pass, and obviously we’ve got some sort of bipartisan bill that we have to pass dealing with the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas.”

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


Hawaii Proposes 4 New Anti-Gambling Bills against Video Game Loot Boxes and US Senator Pressures ESRB for Industry Ratings and Regulation

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the discovery and evolution of gambling-esque loot boxes in video games and the legislative response to such predatory practices. Loot boxes are a type of micro-transaction where a video game player spends real money to open a box or chest in a video game, and hopefully win a valuable prize. If this sounds an awful lot like slot machines, then you’re thinking the same as countless fans, journalists and now legislators that are worried about he addictive and predatory nature of such a mechanic, especially when kids freely play these games. Hawaii legislator Chris Lee has lead the charge to hold the video game accountable and many others have taken note. As promised, Hawaii has now released 4 new bills that seek to regulate these predatory micro-transactions. An online source reports: 

Four new bills have been introduced in the past month that target the sale of games that sell loot boxes for real money. Two of the bills would prohibit developers from selling games with randomized loot box reward systems to anyone under the age of 21. The other two would require developers to label games that use randomized loot box systems /and/ to disclose loot box drop rates.

Developers would be forced to label games should they include “in-game purchases and gambling-like mechanisms which may be harmful or addictive,” according to the bill. A game purchased online would have to include this information on the game’s art. 

“Whistle-blowers have revealed that psychologists are employed to create these mechanisms,” Lee told the Hawaii Tribune. “If enough of the market reacts, the industry would have to respond and change its practices.” Lee said that more than half of the states in the United States are looking intro legislation regarding the sale of loot boxes in video games. Loot box regulation has already begun overseas as well. In 2016, China passed legislation that requires all developers to publish its loot box odds. Likewise, the Belgium Gaming Commission has deemed loot boxes “dangerous.”

Lee has been pushing the industry to impose its own common sense legislation. The ESRB is the rating system used within the industry and as of now, they are unwilling to view loot boxes as gambling and thus, they haven’t been willing to take the matter seriously or regulate from within. During a normal public meeting about the bills, lobbyist from the Entertainment Software Association, the industries trade group and regulators of the ESRB rating system, flew out to participate in the Q&A. They were unable to answer, justify or address some of the most basic concerns raised by Lee. It was objectively a very terrible showing for the industry. You can find the full video and update on Lee’s direct YouTube channel HERE (Loot box update begins at 2:37 and the questioning begins at 7:00).

Moreover, in addition to large number of states that are looking into similar legislation, these predatory gambling practices have now caught the attention of the US Senate, specifically Senator Maggie Hassan. She has questioned the FTC and wrote a letter directly to the ESRB. Forbes reports: 

This week, Hassan asked four FTC nominees the question: “That children being addicted to gaming — and activities like loot boxes that might make them more susceptible to addiction — is a problem that merits attention?” To which all four responded yes, it was something they would look into. But past that, Hassan wrote a lengthy letter to Patricia Vance, president of the ESRB citing that the issue of loot boxes was brought to her attention by a constituent. 

“While there is robust debate over whether loot boxes should be considered gambling, the fact that they are both expensive habits and use similar psychological principles suggest loot boxes should be treated with extra scrutiny,” Hassan’s letter says. “At minimum, the rating system should denote when loot boxes are utilized in physical copies of electronic games.”

The fact that Hassan is a US Senator, not a state senator, is important, as this could end up leading to her proposing federal legislation about this issue, rather than individual states doing it.

The powerful letter can be read in its entirety at Forbes HERE 

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

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


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.


Mark Andrews


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