Category Archives: Elected Officials

Bipartisan Federal Sports Betting Regulations Introduced

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing battles to legalize sports betting outside of Las Vegas. Since the recent Supreme Court decision effectively allows individual states to pass sports betting legislation, many have called for a federal response to provide uniform and consistent guidelines. Now, a new bill has been brought forth and it’s a bipartisan effort. Forbes explains: 

Days before he is scheduled to retire, Orrin Hatch has a parting gift for the Senate. Hatch and Sen. Chuck Schumer introduced bipartisan legislation on Wednesday that would create uniform federal standards for the legalized sports betting market. The bill, the Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act of 2018, is being introduced less than eight months after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in May that struck down a 26-year federal ban on sports gambling.

“This bill is the first step toward ensuring that sports betting is done right in the states that choose to legalize it. Just as importantly, it provides protections for states that choose not to go down that path,” Hatch said in a statement.

The proposed legislation includes a mandate that would require sports wagering operators to use data provided or licensed by sports organizations to determine the outcome of sports wagers through 2024. Upon the completion of the transition period, the proposed bill allows operators to use alternative forms of data if they can prove that it is sufficiently similar to the data provided by the leagues.

Each state has 18 months to come into compliance with the legislation before the bill takes effect. Hatch, a Utah Republican, was an original author of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a 1992 federal law that prohibited sports betting.

This bill has garnered the support of the NFL and others as its viewed as having the necessary regulatory guidelines and enforcement tools to help regulate the industry as best as it can. Forbes continues: 

“The bipartisan legislation that Senator Hatch and I have introduced, follows the principles laid out in the federal framework that I released in August and will serve as solid foundation upon which we build the appropriate guardrails around the burgeoning sports betting industry,” Schumer said in a statement.

In the months since the Court rendered its decision, the NFL has advocated for the imposition of robust federal guidelines that could mitigate some of the societal risks posed by sports gambling. On Wednesday, NFL Executive Vice President Jocelyn Moore applauded the senators for establishing positions in the bill that “closely aligned,” with the core standards she articulated in testimony before Congress. Specifically, Moore appeared pleased with guidelines that could provide law enforcement with tools to penalize unscrupulous actors closely tied to the dark underbelly of gambling.

Not everyone supports the bill and others see it as a vehicle for expanding the Wire Act to involve all interstate betting, not just sports betting. The changing political landscape will also complicate the issue. Forbes wraps up by reporting: 

There were also reports on Wednesday that the Department of Justice is prepared to reverse a 2011 opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel on the Federal Wire Act. When the department issues the opinion, the government could find that the act pertains to all forms of online gambling, not just sports betting, according to Online Poker Report. In an opinion seven years ago, the office wrote that the act only applied to the latter.

The bipartisan bill from Hatch and Schumer, a New York Democrat, seeks to update the Wire Act to allow certain interstate wagers. The draft also proposes the creation of a new mechanism that could allow the Justice Department to target unlicensed, illegal offshore sports betting websites.

The timing of a vote still remains in question. Besides Hatch’s retirement, a leadership change in the House of Representatives could complicate matters.

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FTC and Others Investigating the Dangers of Loot Boxes in Video Games and their Gambling Impact

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing happenings of loot boxes, a video game mechanic that most view as a form of gambling that prays on children. Various local and international agencies have taken the threat seriously and have started seriously looking into the dangers of loot boxes and their link to gambling. Most recently, 16 countries signed an agreement to study loot boxes as more and more evidence draws links between loot boxes and problem gambling. As an online source reports, the FTC is joining in those that have expressed serious concern with their own investigations:

Federal Trade Commission chairman Joe Simons announced Tuesday that the agency would be investigating the use of micro-transactions, commonly referred to as loot boxes, in video games. According to NBC, there has been growing concern around the use of these loot boxes, which some view as a form of gambling designed to be addictive that is marketed to children.

Earlier this year, Senator Maggie Hassan of New Jersey sent a letter to the Entertainment and Software Ratings Board (ESRB) president to request that she re-evaluate how the board rates games with loot boxes, according to the popular gaming news platform Polygon.

“The prevalence of in-game micro-transactions, often referred to as ‘loot boxes,’ raises several concerns surrounding the use of psychological principles and enticing mechanics that closely mirror those often found in casinos and games of chance,” Hassan wrote in her letter.

Researchers looking into the issue have found signs of addictive behavior and problem gambling among gamers who spend money on loot boxes. One study published in the /Public Library of Science/ which surveyed 7,000 gamers found that “the gambling-like features of loot boxes are specifically responsible for the observed relationship between problem gambling and spending on loot boxes.” They therefore concluded that “there may be good reason to regulate loot boxes in games.”

Across the pond, similar investigations are happening in the UK as the criticisms of look boxes grow, particularly as some of the most popular video games in the industry are adopting these predatory gaming mechanics. The Guardian reports: 

A House of Commons committee has announced plans to investigate the growth of “immersive and addictive technologies”, to advise the government on how to create policy and regulation that can protect the public from the negative effects of digitisation and “gamification”.

It follows a growing campaign against deliberately addictive mechanics in technology and video games, particularly the crossover with gambling represented by “loot boxes” – randomised rewards sold in games for real money.

The links between gaming and gambling is one of the key points to be investigated by the committee, which will ask: “What are the effects of in-game spending, especially on children, and does it need stronger monitoring or regulation?”

Games such as Fifa, Overwatch and Call of Duty have been criticised for the practice, which has led to reports of primary school-age children spending almost £500 on Fifa players and getting into the habit of spending £15 a week on pseudo-gambling. 

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Vatican Says Using Gambling for Tax Revenue is Unethical

Casino Watch Focus has reported many times on various states expanding gambling as a means to collect tax revenue, often times at the expense of its own citizens. 100 years ago virtually all forms of gambling were illegal, but slowly, one state at a time, gambling has been made legal by states looking to take their cut of the action. Some gambling expansion takes the form of lotteries, other expansion measures are full-scale casinos. The sales pitch is typically the same, why not allow some harmless fun that will allow the state to bring in some much needed tax revenue, often times promised to local educational causes. Unfortunately, gambling is rarely simple fun and leads to out breaks of crime and addiction. As such, the Catholic Church has come out in opposition to generating tax revenue from gambling, calling it unethical. The Catholic Spirit reports:

Legalizing gambling fuels addictions, creating more and more compulsive gamblers, and using the industry as a source of tax revenue is unethical, said a major Vatican office.

“The legalization of gambling, even when it is supported by the intention of unmasking its criminal management, exponentially increases the number of pathological players,” said an introductory note to an international conference on drugs and addictions, organized by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

“Moreover, taxation by the state is to be considered incompatible from an ethical standpoint and contradictory in terms of prevention,” it said in the conference program, released Nov. 26.

“As the landscape of addictions diversifies, indifference and at times indirect complicity in this phenomenon contributes to diverting the attention of public opinion and governments, often focused on other emergencies,” it said. 

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Former Florida House of Representatives Will Weatherford provides a politicians perspective for giving the power to the people with a Yes on Amendment 3 vote

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing progression of Florida Amendment 3.  As the election approaches, its important to understand they wide array of support for Amendment 3.  Former Florida House of Representative Will Weatherford provided a much needed perspective in a guest article published by Florida Politics:

I am writing today to deal with unfinished business.

After spending eight years in the Florida Legislature, the last two serving as speaker of the House, I came to a conclusion about the future of casino gambling in Florida.

Some decisions are better put into the hands of the people.

So, in 2014, I proposed a constitutional amendment giving voters control over gambling. The idea never made it through the Legislature and on to the ballot, but the need for it has not diminished. So, Florida voters took matters into their own hands.

More than 1 million Floridians signed petitions to put Amendment 3 on the ballot. It puts the voters in charge of gambling decisions.

I would like to claim I was ahead of the curve in promoting this idea four years ago.

But back in 1968, my predecessors in the Florida Legislature had the same idea. They recognized that gambling wasn’t just another issue. The impact casinos could have on communities and the state warranted a higher authority than the Legislature to sign off on gambling expansion decisions.

And so they deferred to the people, putting a provision in the Florida Constitution that prohibited most forms of gambling, unless voters passed an amendment to allow them.

Five times, from 1978 to 2004, voters weighed in on gambling initiatives. They rejected three proposals to build Las Vegas-style casinos, but they also approved the Florida Lottery as well as slot machines in Broward and Miami-Dade pari-mutuels.

The conclusion might be voters were open-minded, yet understandably cautious.

If only Florida lawmakers left well enough alone. But instead, in more recent years, state legislators went in the opposite direction of their predecessors from 1968. Faced with conflicting legal opinions, the Legislature considered dozens of proposals that would greatly expand casino gambling in Florida without voter signoff.

From my personal experience, I can tell you this was a mistake. Casino interests have become one of the most powerful special interest groups in Tallahassee. The pressure they apply to the political process is nonstop. It is why, almost every legislative session, we see casino expansion on the agenda.

The Legislature only meets for 60 days every year, so there is much to do and little time to do it. The time, energy and resources spent on gambling bills have made them an ongoing diversion. It is frustrating to see the priorities of Floridians — such as jobs, education, health care and the environment — take a back seat to the priorities of casinos.

I have heard many times the call for Tallahassee to come up with a “comprehensive solution’’ to gambling — that we can allow a resort casino here or there, open the door to more slot machines outside South Florida and then call it a day. It is a mythical concept. No matter how many casinos are approved, no matter how many forms of gambling are allowed, the demand for more will come as quickly as the next legislative session. It is what I once called the drip, drip, drip of gambling expansion.

In watching this process play out, I began to appreciate the wisdom of our predecessors in 1968. Tallahassee is not the place for gambling decisions.

If nothing more, taking gambling off the political agenda will allow lawmakers to focus on the issues that matter most to their constituents.

Florida certainly wouldn’t be alone in allowing voter control over gambling. About half of the states have a similar requirement.

In the past few years, voters in states such as New York, New Jersey, Maine, Ohio and Maryland have weighed in on gambling expansion. If there is a trend in how they decide, it is that they weigh each proposal on its individual merits, approving some and rejecting others.

Consider New Jersey. In 1978, voters there became the first in the country to approve a major expansion of gambling, allowing casinos in Atlantic City. After multiple casinos there went bankrupt in 2014, gambling interests and their political supporters pushed for more casinos in northern New Jersey.

Almost 80 percent of voters rejected the idea, the most lopsided referendum result in the state’s history.

Voters know when to say when. They serve as a check and balance on the political process.

Voter control works. That is why I proposed restoring it in 2014 and why I support Amendment 3 now.

___

*Will Weatherford* served in the Florida House of Representatives from
2006-2014 and was House speaker from 2012-14.

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Yes on Amendment 3 – Voter Control of Gambling in Florida

Casino Watch Focus has reported the ongoing progression of Florida Amendment 3.  The Amendment found itself on the Nov ballot with easy and the polls have shown overwhelming support.  That said, it’s still important to clearly understand the three reasons why you should vote Yes on Amendment 3.  The Voters in Charge website provides great resources for those looking to dive deeper into the issue.  Luckily, it’s an extremely straight forward amendment that requires any gambling expansion decisions by the Florida legislator to be approved by voters before it can become law.  Voters in Charge provided three clear reasons why this is a very easy Yes vote:

  1. Amendment 3 empowers voters—not politicians and lobbyists.For decades, Florida voters decided casino gambling issues in the Sunshine State.  Then, politicians took that power for themselves.  Amendment 3 simply returns control of casino gambling issues to the voters.  That’s how it used to work in Florida—and how it still works in states across the country.  Most Americans already have the power to vote on casino gambling issues—you should, too!

  2. Amendment 3 reduces casino corruption.In the last decade, powerful casino gambling interests gave over $50 million to Florida politicians.  Today, they control many politicians—but they can’t control   Amendment 3 ends casino corruption by putting voters—not politicians and lobbyists—in charge of gambling decisions in Florida.

  3. Amendment 3 allows our elected officials to focus on more important issues.Unfortunately, casino interests have so much money and influence that they often “set the agenda” in Tallahassee.  Amendment 3 takes the power away from Tallahassee, so our elected officials can stop focusing on gambling and start working on issues that affect all of us, like: education, traffic, healthcare, jobs and the environment—just to name a few!

 

For more information, please watch the following brief video and visit the Voters in Charge website

 

 

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


NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Asks Federal Government for Sports Betting Oversight while States Fight for Their Right to Regulate

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to legalize sport betting. The Supreme Court ruled that the federal law that prevented nationwide sports betting was unconstitutional. As a result, states are now able to legalize this form of gambling. Naturally, the sports leagues are very concerned given their position has always been to oppose legalized sports betting due to worry of the integrity of the game. Now that federal law has been overturned however, the leagues are getting involved in a variety of ways. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is asking Congress to establish uniform policies based on four core principles. Yahoo sports provides Goodell’s statement:

As it was for my predecessors, there is no greater priority for me as the Commissioner of the National Football League than protecting the integrity of our sport. Our fans, our players and our coaches deserve to know that we are doing everything possible to ensure no improper influences affect how the game is played on the field. This week’s ruling by the Supreme Court has no effect on that unwavering commitment.

We have spent considerable time planning for the potential of broadly legalized sports gambling and are prepared to address these changes in a thoughtful and comprehensive way, including substantial education and compliance trainings for our clubs, players, employees and partners. These efforts include supporting commonsense legislation that protects our players, coaches and fans and maintains public confidence in our games. We are asking Congress to enact uniform standards for states that choose to legalize sports betting that include, at a minimum, four core principles:

1. There must be substantial consumer protections;
2. Sports leagues can protect our content and intellectual property from those who attempt to steal or misuse it;
3. Fans will have access to official, reliable league data; and
4. Law enforcement will have the resources, monitoring and enforcement tools necessary to protect our fans and penalize bad actors here at home and abroad.

At the same time Goodell and the leagues are looking after their interests, the states are also positioning themselves to get a cut of this new wave of gambling. Unfortunately for the states, it appears federal legislation is already in the works. An online source explains: 

State gambling regulators are fighting back against the major sports leagues’ assertion that US sports betting would be better regulated by the federal government than by individual states. A statement on Tuesday issued on behalf of four state regulators in Nevada, Michigan, Massachusetts and Louisiana by the International Center for Gaming Regulation at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, concludes that “coordinated action among jurisdictions” — rather than federal regulation — will be the key to protecting sports integrity and battling the black market. Goodell called on Congress to “enact uniform standards” for states that opt to regulate. It doesn’t take a genius to work out the subtext: why lobby for your interests in dozens of states when you can save a lot of money by just lobbying Congress? US Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is known to have had talks with the NFL and is planning to introduce federal sports betting legislation which, when it surfaces, is likely to include the league’s “core principles.”

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


UPDATE: Greyhound Industry Sues to Remove Dog Racing ‘Decoupling’ Ban from Florida Ballot

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to ban greyhound racing, but typically leave the gambling behind. This practice essentially creates mini-casinos and has been referred to as decoupling. Many are excited for the dog racing to come to an end, but most of those same proponents would like to see the gambling at those establishments end as well. An Amendment was proposed to do just that, but Florida State Sen. Tom Lee said he couldn’t get the amendment passed unless he allowed for the other forms of gambling to stay. Some who are opposed, such as former Florida Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, believe this is a legislative issue and shouldn’t be passed as a constitutional amendment. It’s a complicated issue that isn’t very clear to would be voters who might believe the ban will eliminate the dog racing and all other gambling at the tracks. This is part of the basis for a new lawsuit filed to stop the constitutional amendment form going to the ballot in Nov. The Ledger explains: 

The proposal, placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission, would outlaw greyhound racing at dog tracks by 2020, a process known as “decoupling.” Tracks would still be allowed to operate other, more lucrative gambling activities, such as slot machines and poker rooms.

But the Florida Greyhound Association and its president, breeder James Blanchard, maintain that the proposed ballot title and summary don’t fully inform voters about the impact of the amendment if approved. In a complaint filed Thursday in Leon County circuit court, lawyers for the plaintiffs raised what they deem numerous flaws in the amendment, which was backed by Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Massachusetts-based advocacy group GREY2K USA Worldwide.

Among the shortcomings alleged by the plaintiffs: The proposal does not advise voters that dog tracks still would be allowed to broadcast live greyhound races from other states. And the measure would only ban “commercial” dog racing, which means that kennel clubs would be allowed to continue dog competitions, the complaint says.

There is also concern that the law is entirely too broad as to how it attempts to regulate the dog racing industry. There is worry that it could impact animals in ways clearly not intended by the amendments authors. The Ledger continues: 

The lawsuit also alleges that the text of the proposal — which voters won’t see on the ballot — could have implications far beyond the greyhound-racing industry

The proposed amendment says the “humane treatment of animals is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida.” That language “might ultimately apply to animals other than dogs,” plaintiffs’ lawyers Jeff Kottkamp, a former lieuten.ant governor, and Paul Hawkes, a former appellate judge, wrote in the 17-page complaint.

“For example, would this statement, once adopted by voters who were not informed that it was contained in the amendment, be utilized in the future to limit horse racing? To limit the use of hunting dogs? A voter who favors ending dog racing might very well decline to pass an amendment with such a broadly-stated provision for fear that once adopted as status quo in connection to dog racing, such statement might be expanded to limit or prohibit other activities or livelihoods that involve other animals,” the lawyers wrote.

Most viewed the filing of the lawsuit as a natural progression of an industry attempting to save the racing. Others believe it’s the wrong approach to actually ending the greyhound racing industry and more definitive steps should be taken. Beyond the specifics, there are those that believe the lawsuit wont succeed and the issue will end up on the Nov Ballot as Amendment 13. 

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