Category Archives: Elected Officials

Missouri Legislators Finally Discussing Ways to Enforce and Eliminate Illegal Gambling Machines Across the State

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the worrisome issue in Missouri of illegal slot machines popping up across the state in non-licensed locations such as gas stations and the even worse possibility of legislators contemplation making slot machines legal outside of casinos. However, the concern rose over such a massive expansion of gambling has now shifted to enforcement methods to eliminate illegal slot machines. So far it seems to be the responsibility of local prosecutors as the Gaming Commission can only enforce regulated, legal gambling. An online source explains: 

After years of inaction by Missouri lawmakers, the push may be on to take aim at the tens of thousands of illegal slot machines spreading across the state. In the first meeting of a special House committee formed to address gambling laws in the state, the chairman of the panel said he believes Missourians want to unplug the illegal terminals, which have popped up in gas stations, taverns and convenience stores. 

The Missouri Gaming Commission has deemed the terminals as “gambling devices,” which are prohibited outside of Missouri’s 13 licensed casinos. But, there is little agreement on how to control their spread. The Missouri Gaming Commission says it can only police establishments that have bingo licenses. And the Missouri Department of Public Safety, which oversees liquor licenses, says it cannot crack down on the machines because of a court ruling in 2000 that found the agency has no authority to seize gambling devices. For now, it appears most of the work to crack down on the machines is on the backs of the state’s 115 county prosecutors, a process which Rep. Dirk Deaton, R-Noel, called “cumbersome.”

However, it seems that many Missouri legislators believe its time to find a statewide solution to the problem, although many interests are in play. An online source explains: 

David Grothaus, executive director of the gaming commission, urged lawmakers to find a statewide solution. “What the state needs is a very focused effort on these illegal machines,” Grothaus told the panel. Rep. LaKeySha Bosley, D-St. Louis, said she knows of at least five locations within her district where illegal terminals are located. “It blows my mind that they are that blatant,” said Rep. Wes Rogers, D-Kansas City. “These illegal machines are everywhere. I have several of them in my district,” Shaul added. Shaul said some of the blame for the situation lies with the Legislature.

Finding a solution could be a tough sell when lawmakers gather for their annual session in January because of the varied interests involved in the debate.

Casino operators are opposed to legalizing the machines because they could cut into their profits. Casinos also want to begin taking wagers on sporting events, but the terminal operators don’t want to allow that without getting the ability to operate legally.

Among the companies linked to the spread of illegal gambling is Torch Electronics, which is managed by Steve Miltenberger of Wildwood. The company has hired a team of well-connected lobbyists and has pumped at least $20,000 in contributions to a campaign committee raising money for Gov. Mike Parson. Miltenberger, who previously worked for video gambling companies in Illinois, where they have been taxed and regulated since 2012, has placed video terminals in businesses across Missouri over the past year. 

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

Advertisements

Bipartisan Legislation filed to Address Military Gambling Issues

Casino Watch Focus has reported on past efforts to pass provide support to those in the military who experience gambling addiction, sometimes at military ran gambling facilities. Most recently, the Trump Administration pushed a directive to add gambling addiction screenings for military personnel in hopes of identifying and treating those in need. The new provision added to the National Defense Authorization Act carried out the screenings during the medical evaluation phase, but some believe even more can be done. Bipartisan legislation is being introduced by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D) and Steve Daines (R) that seeks to address the issue further and it has the support of the National Council on Problem Gambling. An online source reports:

The *National Council on Problem Gambling*(NCPG), the national organization for people and their families who are affected by problem gambling and gambling addiction, has welcomed the reintroduction of the bipartisan Gambling Addiction Prevention (GAP) Act of 2019 by *Senators Elizabeth Warren*and *Steve Daines*. The GAP Act, drawn up to protect members of the military, is complemented by companion legislation introduced in the House by Representative *Susie Lee*.

*Keith Whyte*, Executive Director of NCPG, commented: “I applaud Senators Daines and Warren and Representative Lee for taking the lead on the GAP Act to address problem gambling in the military. NCPG believes there exists an ethical and economic obligation to protect our troops by preventing gambling addiction.

“Problem gambling is a critical issue that is far too often overlooked. Research reveals that problem gambling uniquely impacts the military. For example, an estimated 56,000 service members meet the criteria for problem gambling, while military members lost $100m on 3,000 slot machines at overseas bases in 2018 alone. Clearly, the Department of Defense holds an even higher obligation to address problem gambling because of the windfall profits they make from gambling.”

Gambling addiction and gambling related problems can pose unique risks to those who serve in the military to go beyond the typical gambling related problems civilians’ experience. Military Times explains:

Warren said the move is designed “to honor the sacrifices service members and veterans make for our country” by helping individuals “get the treatment they need.”

Troops and veterans with significant gambling debts could face difficulties gaining or maintaining security clearances, due to fears that their financial situation leaves them more susceptible to blackmail.

Studies have found gambling addition is connected to a higher risk of suicide attempts, behavioral disorders, and other health concerns.

Complicating the issue are nearly 3,000 slot machines still in operation at overseas military bases, which bring in millions in revenue each year for military morale and recreation programs.

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


Florida Gov Encouraged to Pass Lottery Ticket Warnings

Casino Watch Focus has reported on a Florida Bill that would call for warning labels to be placed on the front of physical state lottery tickets sold, as well as prevent online sales in the future. The warning labels would be visible and warn that playing lottery games constitutes gambling and may lead to gambling addiction. Those in support of using gambling as the means to fund education took issue with the bill and drafted a letter. No-Casino’s John Sowindki addressed the problems with the letter and encouraged passage. Florida Politics reports: 

“The lottery industry would rather pretend that there are no adverse consequences to their regressive and addictive enterprise,” said No Casinos President *John Sowinski*. “Clearly there are.” Sowinski goes after specific points raised in a letter from World Lottery Association President *Rebecca Paul Hargrove* to Gov. *Ron DeSantis.*

Hargrove argues requiring warning labels on the front of lottery tickets threatens education revenues in Florida and sets bad precedent nationwide. “The instant scratch-off games have been around for over 45 years, and sales of these games continue to grow every year,” Hargrove wrote, “but more importantly the sales of these games continue to grow funding for good causes every year.”

Sowinski suggests Hargrove gives up the game in her search for further lottery sales.“Rebecca Paul Hargrove’s letter is basically an admission that if Floridians are properly warned about the addictive nature of scratch-off games and other lottery products, that some will choose to not spend money on them,” Sowinski said, “which is the entire purpose of this good legislation.”

Moreover, Sowinski then brings into question the very nature of raising funds off those that are addicts in the first place. Florida Politics continues:

The legislation requires ticket labels read either “WARNING: LOTTERY GAMES MAY BE ADDICTIVE” or simply “PLAY RESPONSIBLY.”

Sowinski scoffed at the reluctance to warn against dangerous behavior or to demonstrate responsibility.

“The World Lottery Association’s letter never disputes the addictive nature of these games,” he said. “The fact is that gambling enterprises, including lotteries, rely on addicts who spend a high volume of money for a large portion of their profits. That they would object to a simple, truthful warning label is obnoxious.”

The bill has been sent to the Governor’s desk and awaits his action.

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


Sports Betting and Other Major Provisions in the Florida Gambling Compact with the Seminole Tribe Could Prevent Deal

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to renegotiated the expired portion of the Seminole Gambling Compact. Several attempts have been made over the past few legislative sessions, but nothing has been established and they have been acting in good faith since.  As this year’s session approaches its end, the efforts to finalize a new compact have strengthened. As previously explainedit was suggested that sports gambling could be legalized in Florida without needing to involve a vote of the people. Tribal gambling is not regulated in the same way, so if they were to offer it, its believed that it could be a way to work around the need for voter approval. Florida Politics online explains:

Simpson acknowledged last week that the concept of allowing the tribe to run sports books at the state’s dog and horse tracks and jai alai frontons was intended to sidestep a constitutional amendment that passed in November requiring statewide votes on citizens’ initiatives that would expand casino-type gambling.

But [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis, a graduate of Harvard Law School, indicated the constitutional amendment adds another layer of analysis to an already-complicated legal deal that also encompasses serious policy-making decisions.

“Obviously, me and my staff we’re going through it, looking substantively (at) what it means, but also legally. As you know, there’s a lot of legalities that are involved in this. There is just a (constitutional) amendment that passed. You know, the question, does it apply to the tribe? Does it apply to this or that? So there’s a whole host of things I think that need to be vetted through, but prior to yesterday I had not seen the outline. We have it now and are going through it,” DeSantis said.

This sports betting provision in general, however, is being set up in a way that Florida Gov Ron DeSantis believes could cause problems. Florida Politics continues:

With time already an enemy, Gov. Ron DeSantis injected more uncertainty Tuesday into a gambling deal reached by a Senate Republican leader and a representative of the Seminole Tribe, suggesting its passage would be too heavy a “legislative lift.”

The governor said he and his staff have begun scrutinizing “a draft outline” of the agreement, which would open the door for sports betting in Florida, with the tribe acting as a “hub” for sports betting at the state’s pari-mutuels.

But the Republican governor appeared skeptical of some sports-betting provisions in the deal, which reportedly also would permit in-play betting at professional sports arenas.

The manner in which sports betting is set up “could really affect the integrity of the games,” said DeSantis, who, as an undergraduate played baseball for Yale University.

“If I can place a wager on whether the first pitch of a game is going to be a strike or not, well, hell, that’s a big moral hazard, because that’s not necessarily something that would affect the total outcome,” he added.

Clearly sports betting has its own set of issues, but that’s not the only sticking point for a successful compact. Designated player games also need addressed given the temporary agreement expires after May of this year. The Tampa Bay Times explains: 

But some issues opposed by pari-mutuels could imperil the deal’s success in the House, several lobbyists said.

Controversial “designated player” games offered at many of the state’s pari-mutuel cardrooms are a key element of the deal. The Seminoles — and a federal judge — have maintained that the card games violate a 2010 gambling agreement with the state that gave the tribe “exclusivity” over offering banked card games, such as blackjack.

Amid the dispute about designated player games, former Gov. Rick Scott entered an agreement with the tribe in which the Seminoles have continued to pay about $350 million a year to the state, which pledged to “aggressively enforce” how the games are played. But that agreement expires on May 31, and the House and Senate have not included the revenue in next year’s budget.

The deal under discussion would severely alter the way the card games are being played, making them virtually unprofitable for pari-mutuel cardrooms, sources said.

House Speaker José Oliva told The News Service of Florida on Tuesday afternoon that he had seen a “brief outline” of the gambling proposal.

The issues don’t stop there either. There are discussions to decouple horse racing in the same way dog racing was decoupled by the voters last election as well as other intertwined gambling issues. At the end of the day, Gov. DeSantis thinks it could simply be too many issues with too many parties to come to an agreement in time. The Tamp Bay Times continues:

To appease the pari-mutuels about the changes to the designed player games, the proposed agreement would also allow horse tracks to do away with horse races, while keeping lucrative activities like cardrooms and slot machines, which are legal at tracks in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. It is unclear whether such “decoupling” would also apply to jai alai frontons. Dog tracks are already allowed to drop greyhound races, thanks to a voter-approved constitutional amendment passed in November.

The pari-mutuels would also be able to operate sports books, with a cut going to the tribe, but the profits from sports betting wouldn’t offset the losses from the changes in the designated player games, according to industry experts.

Under the agreement, the Seminoles would be able to add craps and roulette to other gambling activities currently underway at the tribe’s casinos. The tribe would agree to pay about $400 million a year to the state, an amount that could gradually increase to about $500 million a year. That’s a boost from the current revenue-sharing agreement with the tribe, but far less than what legislative leaders had originally envisioned.

The decisions by the House and Senate to not include the tribe’s annual payments in their budget proposals takes some pressure off negotiators as lawmakers work to hammer out a final budget in the coming days.

Senate President Bill Galvano on Tuesday afternoon told the News Service that Simpson was continuing to work on the gambling deal, which the president said was still in play.

But with just a week-and-a-half left before the legislative session is slated to end, DeSantis hinted that passage of a compact would be extremely difficult. 

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


Florida Bill Banning Online Lottery sales Advances with Additional Warnings for Gamblers

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing developments of the Department of Justice’s decision to restore the wire act to its long standing position that makes online gambling illegal. Many states have an eye on the developments as legal action was threatened by New Jersey and New Hampshire. The topic is also of interest in Florida where many are curious how gambling legislation will move forward in the wake of the Voters in Charge gambling bill being passed that requires statewide voter approval for gambling expansion. The most well know issue centers around sports betting, but online gambling is also of interest. To that extent, a bill is moving forward in the Florida legislature to end the practice of online lottery sales before it gets off the ground. An online source reports:

Florida does not sell lottery tickets over the internet — and if a bill passed Wednesday by the House Gaming Control Subcommittee becomes law, it never will.

While New Hampshire has sued the Department of Justice in a bid to protect the revenues it derives from its online lottery operations, State Rep. Will Robinson (R-Bradenton) wants to the option taken off the table entirely.

The main aim of Robinson’s bill — which was advanced by the committee in a 10-1 vote — is to shut out third-party websites that claim affiliation with the state lottery but actually just buy tickets and mark up prices.

The bill would ban the use of personal electronic devices for the sale and purchase of tickets, ensuring that every ticket sale involves a transaction between a store and an in-person buyer.

“These fraudulent websites are, in my view, illegally advertising when they are not related to the lottery system at all,” he told /Florida Politics/ earlier this week. “The lottery is significantly regulated and that’s for a purpose … The state of Florida wants to make sure the right thing is being sold.”

The bill’s intent goes beyond just selling tickets online however. The Rep. Will Robinson Jr believes people should truly understand how very unlikely the changes of winning the lottery are for would be gamblers. He has proposed additional warnings placed on physical tickets. The Tampa Bay Times explains:

Debate about a bill that would require warnings on lottery tickets quickly turned into a debate on Wednesday about whether anyone in Florida is actually addicted to lottery games, with one lawmaker blasting it as “deceptive.” The bill (HB 629) by state Rep. Will Robinson, Jr., R-Bradenton, would add two warnings to the front of every lottery ticket:

“WARNING: PLAYING A LOTTERY GAME CONSTITUTES GAMBLING AND MAY LEAD TO
ADDICTION AND/OR COMPULSIVE BEHAVIOR.”

And, “THE CHANCES OF WINNING A BIG PRIZE ARE VERY LOW.”

Under the bill, those two warnings would take up 10 percent of the face of every lottery card, and they would be required in every Florida Lottery advertisement, including those on television.

But state Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, grilled Robinson during a House Gaming Control Subcommittee meeting about whether he knows of anyone addicted to lottery games. Robinson he didn’t know of any personal examples, but he pointed to news articles out of state. That led Slosberg to come out strongly against the bill.

How many people might be addicted to the games is unclear. But the numbers show that some Floridians spend a staggering amount each year on lottery tickets. Last year, the Florida Lottery sold $6.7 billion in tickets — nearly $400 in tickets for every adult in the state. (The figure doesn’t include tourists, some of whom also play.) And while the Florida Lottery does post the number to a gambling addiction hotline on its website, it doesn’t say anything on its tickets. State Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, who used to run a casino consulting company in Las Vegas, disagreed with Slosberg. “The research proves that there are people that become addicted to gambling, and whether it’s 1 percent or 5 percent, people do at times become susceptible to this,” he said. “I know this from my prior life.”

The bill passed the House Gaming Control Subcommittee with only Slosberg voting against it. 

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

 


With Sports Betting Now Legal, Super Bowl Betting Brings Even More Risk and the NFL Attempts to See Prop Bets Banned

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the numerous gambling impacts expected around the Super Bowl. Each year the amount of gambling seem to increase and the expectations for Super Bowl LIII (53) between the Las Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots is no different. However, the recent Supreme Court decision that has legalized sports betting will seemingly exacerbate addiction problems and open the door for people who may have otherwise avoided the pitfalls. The executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling explains through an online source in New Jersey, the state that is effectively responsible for fighting for expanded sports betting :

“This year we’re particularly concerned as sports betting is now legal, and we know that more people, even those who didn’t traditionally gamble may gamble on the big game,” Neva Pryor, executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, said.

She said an estimated $4.7 billion was bet illegally last year on the game, but with sports betting now permitted “we don’t really have any forecast — but I would imagine that’s going to be even more.”

She said for some, betting adds to the fun and excitement of the game. But for others it’s a destructive seduction that can ruin lives and families. “We’re concerned that people will overextend themselves or might possibly create a problem,” Pryor said.

Ease of access and the variety of gambling types around the Super Bowl are the primary drivers of this year’s concern. Executive Director Neva Pryor continues:

Pryor said added element of concern is all of the side bets that can be placed on a football game — including who scores first, who will make the first interception, the first fumble. People may bet “on the coin toss, on what they think the color of somebody’s hair will be, or whatever.”

She said people can easily bet online “so they can be sitting at home and placing a bet, they can be at the office and placing a bet, so there’s more opportunity and more ease of play.”

She said the ease of online gambling has definitely created new concerns.

“That’s why we have such a high rate of problem gamblers in the state, we have over a 6 percent ratio of people who possibly have a gambling problem in the state of New Jersey,” Pryor said. 

The NFL sees issues with Super Bowl betting and prop bets beyond the addiction concerns of Council on Compulsive Gambling. Their primary worry is that bets that focus on individual performances can leave the game open to game fixing scandals. As reported by one Fox News source, the NFL spoke to Congress in hopes of getting such bets banned: 

But if the National Football League had its way, bets on things like passing touchdowns for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady or rushing yards for Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley would be restricted — or even outlawed as too risky and vulnerable to manipulation or cheating.

Proposition bets — also known as prop bets — are less popular during the regular season but gain steam during the Super Bowl each year as a way to bet on the outcome of more than one thing at a moment the sports world is intensely focused on a single game.

In testimony before a U.S. House of Representatives committee on Sept. 27, NFL Executive Vice President Jocelyn Moore asked Congress to let professional sports leagues and gambling regulators ban prop bets that involve the performance of individual athletes over the course of a game.

“Examples might range from the number of passing yards by a quarterback in a football game or the number of points or rebounds by a team during a quarter of a basketball game, to the number of ‘throw-ins’ in a soccer match, or even how many flags a referee might throw in a contest,” she testified. “These types of bets are significantly more susceptible to match-fixing efforts, and are therefore a source of concern to sports leagues, individual teams, and the athletes who compete.

“To address concerns regarding risky betting fixtures, we encourage Congress to allow professional and amateur sports organizations to identify which types of bets simply pose too significant a risk to the integrity of sports and to work with regulators not to authorize them,” she said.

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

 


YouTube Creators Under Fire for Underage Gambling Promotion by Sponsoring Loot Boxes

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing developments over a video game type mechanic known as loot boxes. Player, often children, spend money to gamble at receiving a mystery item from a box. This loot can sometimes be traded or sold for cash. Over 16 countries have either regulated it or called for studies. Most recently the FTC. In England, the House of Commons called loot boxes massive and addictive technology. The use has been primarily seen in video games but the idea has spread to YouTube. Both American and UK YouTubers are under fire for offering the ability for their viewers, mostly. The UK’s Telegraph explains: 

Popular YouTubers have come under fire for promoting controversial games linked to gambling to young viewers. Jake Paul and Brian “RiceGum” Lee, who have 28.5 million subscribers between them, were among those criticised for posting sponsored videos showing them spending money on “loot boxes”.

Loot boxes, which appear in video games, prompt players to spend money in exchange for random in-game purchases. In new promotional videos, both Jake Paul and Brian “RiceGum” Lee clicked on online mystery treasure chests and revealed they had won real life objects including Apple AirPods and trainers worth $1,000.

MysteryBrand, the company behind the promotional videos, offers a real-life version of these boxes that can cost between $3.99 (£3.16) and $1,300 (£1,028) apiece. Each box contains a range of possible pre-selected items but a user has no idea what they will get until they have paid.

MysteryBrand is understood to have paid $100,000 for the videos, which were lambasted by the duo’s viewers as well as YouTubers Ethan Klein, Kavos and PewDiePie.

Given the size of some to these content creators YouTube channels, its somewhat surprising that they wouldn’t vet the loot box concept. Unfortunately, they didn’t with one even saying he didn’t think it’s a big deal at all. YouTube released a statement and pulled at least one of the videos and regulators have called this out as gambling. An online source reports:

YouTube has already pulled Hudson’s promotion from view, with a spokesperson saying: “YouTube believes that creators should be transparent with their audiences if their content includes paid promotion of any kind. Our policies make it clear that YouTube creators are responsible for ensuring their content complies with local laws, regulations and YouTube community guidelines. If content is found to violate these policies, we take action to ensure the integrity of our platform, which can include removing content.”

The activities of MysteryBrand are still being assessed by the Gambling Commission but the children’s commissioner for England has already come out against the service, telling the paper that this amounted to ‘gambling, plain and simple’.

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