Category Archives: Elected Officials

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

 

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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


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.

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

 


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. 

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

 


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. 

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


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.

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