Category Archives: Elected Officials

Miami Mayor’s Veto of Edgewater Gambling Expansion Upheld in Court

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to secure a new casino in the Edgewater district near Miami, FL.  The community has opposed such a casino and other smaller gambling expansion attempts by the existing casino such as a proposed jai alai fronton and poker room in the Edgewater neighborhood. Miami Mayor vetoed the most recent proposal and naturally, his veto was challenged.  A Miami-Dade Circuit Court has upheld the veto, thus killing the gambling expansion.  The Miami-Herald reports:  

A controversial proposal to bring a jai alai fronton to Edgewater has been shot down in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. Judge Michael Hanzmann ruled on Wednesday that the push by West Flagler Associates, the owners of Magic City Casino, to bring gambling to Edgewater in downtown Miami was, at its core, a “land use issue” that overruled any other permissions the company had been granted to pursue its pari-mutuel facilities..

West Flagler had received a permit to proceed with their establishment in July 2018. When a change in law that would change zoning permits for gambling establishments was enacted in 2019, the developer sued and won approval from City of Miami commissioners in a 3-2 vote on Feb. 13, 2020, to proceed with its plan to build a fronton and card-gambling establishment as part of a larger complex at 3050 Biscayne Blvd.

On February 21, 2020, a week after the commission approved the project, Mayor Francis Suarez vetoed that lawsuit settlement, blocking Flagler Associates to proceed with the fronton.

West Flagler Associates and the City of Miami were sued in March 2000 by a group of elite civic leaders, including billionaire automobile magnate Norman Braman and Related Group CEO Jorge M. Pérez, who claimed the permission to proceed with the gambling establishment had not been properly settled by a court.

Judge Hanzmann’s ruling on Wednesday affirmed Mayor Suarez’s legal ability to veto the deal, citing the casino owners “claimed they obtained special rights to expand casino gambling through private meetings with City officials.”

This particular backroom deal appears to be completely dead as no appeal is planned.  A new attempt, one that is above board and more transparent is planned however.  The Miami-Herald concludes:  

Joseph DeMaria, a partner at Fox Rothschild who is representing West Flagler Associates, said his client has no plan to appeal the ruling. “We have already resubmitted a settlement proposal to the city attorney and asked that they schedule it for the next commission meeting,” DeMaria said. “The new proposal provides for a jai alai fronton and card room but no slot machines and waives all attorney’s fees, which could run up into the millions. If the city commission doesn’t approve it, or if the commission not override the mayor’s veto, we’re going to court.”

 “We are pleased with the Judge’s decision,” Braman said in a press release Thursday. “And with help from the City Mayor and Commission, Miami has become a world class city and is on the precipice of further transformational leaps. The last thing our city needs is the plight and desolation that come with casino gambling. I look forward to working alongside City officials to continue the advancement of Miami.”

Grace Mead, one of the attorneys at the Stearns Weaver Miller law firm representing Braman and the other opponents of the casino, said “We are pleased with the ruling and one preceding it which together likely brings an end to a back door, secret attempt to alter the zoning code to expand gambling in the City.”

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Missouri Senate Pro Tem Files Illegal Missouri Gambling Machine Bill with Severe Punishments for Violators

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on the every baffling situation involving illegal gambling machines all over Missouri.  The State’s gambling law is very clear that slot machines are only allowed inside legally licensed and regulated casinos, yet these gambling machines have popped up all over the state.  Casino Watch Focus presented a Guest Article clearly outlining the lack of proper enforcement on the issue, even after a clear court ruling confirmed such machines are illegal.  Given the enforcement has been so slow, Missouri Senate Pro Tem David Schatz has introduced legislation that would clearly outline enforcement and more significantly, severe punishment, for those who continue to run these illegal slot machines.  The Missouri Times Reports:

“I filed SB 10 because of the proliferation of illegal gambling machines throughout the state,” Schatz said before the Government Accountability & Fiscal Oversight Committee Thursday morning. “There are dozens — if not hundreds — of establishments across the state of Missouri that house these unauthorized gaming machines. There is no grey area with this; the gaming laws are black and white, and this is impacting revenues that should be going to our schools. There’s no need for us to not move this legislation forward.”

Under Missouri law, gambling machines are only allowed in casinos. Schatz’s bill would allow the Gaming Commission to partner with the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Supervisor of Liquor Control to investigate illegal gambling machines in rest stops, fraternal organizations, and other locations across the state. The bill would also add permanent revocation of a lottery gaming license to the list of sanctions for offenses and assert that devices using random number generators and awarding monetary prizes fall under the definition of illegal machines.

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


New Covid-19 Guidelines lower Las Vegas Casino Occupancy to 25%

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on the ongoing efforts to ensure covid-19 isn’t being spread through mass gambling activities.  Casinos have received tremendous criticism for not taking the popper precautions, both to protect the public, and to protect those workers at those operating casinos.  Employees have had to sue or act as whistleblowers to expose the labor issues seen in various casinos.  Most recently, there was criticism over Vegas casinos entwined in properly reporting key information to the public.  So its no surprise that this industry in particular is looked at as playing a more critical role in the spread of Covid-19.  As a result, new guidelines have been passed that limit the occupancy further in Las Vegas casinos.  The Las Vegas Review Journal reports:

In a Sunday press conference, Sisolak said effective 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, occupancy limitations at casinos and their bars and restaurants will be reduced from 50 percent to 25 percent. Sisolak said he has had conversations with “most gaming operators” in the last 24 hours, and said the full force of the Nevada Gaming Control Board will be behind the implementation and enforcement of the new requirements. He added that if casinos do not follow the new requirements, “they will suffer the consequences.”

Newly-appointed Control Board Chairman Brin Gibson said the state’s gaming regulatory body will vigorously enforce the new gaming floor occupancy restrictions among the state’s licensees. “The more successfully Nevada mitigates the current spread of COVID over the next several weeks, the more likely we are to experience a complete return to current gaming floor occupancy percentages at that point” he said. The Nevada Gaming Commission already has acted on nine complaints brought by the Control Board against licensees since late July.

A spokesperson for Caesars Entertainment Inc. said the company will comply with Sisolak’s orders. Its restaurants and bars will remain open and continue to offer to-go options, and guests at most of its Nevada resorts will have the option to order pick up or delivery to their hotel Room. Wynn Resorts Ltd. spokesman Michael Weaver said the company will also implement the directives of the pause. “We believe the Governor made a prudent decision that will protect public health,” he said.

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


Loot Box Gambling in Video Games Front and Center of new UK Legislative Efforts

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to classify loot boxes as gambling.  Most recently, the Netherlands issues huge fines against video game publisher EA over this gambling type mechanic in their game Fifa and Spain has shifted focus to regulating these loot boxes as gambling to help protect the children who play these video games.  The UK has been examining the issue for a while, and a new effort being pushed by a local legislator is placing loot boxes front and center.  An online source reports:

Midlothian MP Owen Thompson called for the updating of gambling laws to include tougher action to prevent children and young people being encouraged into gambling-like behaviours while using video games. After the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Minister Nigel Huddleston outlined plans for a forthcoming gambling review, the Midlothian MP called for it to include measures to regulate the use of “loot boxes” in video games. Academic research has linked loot box spending to problem gambling in adolescents.

Mr Thompson called for an extension of the Gambling Act 2005 to include loot boxes and action to prevent video game companies from profiteering on the back of young people who develop gambling-like addictions.

Mr Thompson said: “It is well past time the UK’s gambling laws were made fit for the digital age. Of particular concern is the rise in gambling in children under 16. One important step would be to close the loopholes that allow gambling-like tools to be excessively used in children’s video games. “Parents don’t care about the legal definitions of gambling – they want to know their children are safe when playing popular video games and that means tighter regulations to protect from online harms.

When describing the nature of loot boxes, Mr. Thompson points out that academic research has explained the link to problem gambling and that these video game companies are operating in a legal loophole that needs to be addressed.  The online source continues:

“The presence of loot boxes can encourage young people who are enjoying a video game to spend money they can’t afford in order to keep going, and academic research shows this is linked to problem gambling. It is a very short step between that and addictions to other forms of gambling games like slot machines.

“This is a loophole in the law that needs to be closed down so that tougher regulatory measures can be taken. The Vice Chair of EA Games described loot boxes as ethical and fun, but as a gamer myself I find they can be a costly distraction at best, and capable of encouraging online harm at worst. I find it highly unethical to profit from excessive spend from teenagers on games of chance.

“We cannot wait for the industry to take tougher action – the UK Government needs to tighten the laws and ensure everything possible is done to ensure children and young people are protected when online.”

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


Local Councilman Introduces Casino Smoking Ban Ordinance for Missouri Facility

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the recent decision of many casinos to, at least temporarily, support a ban on smoking in their facilities.  Covid-19 is clearly an airborne virus and not only do smokers need to remove their masks to smoke, but the act of smoking clearly demands they blow the smoke out and away from them, contaminating the air all around them.  A Kansas City area councilman has offered an ordinance to effectively ban smoking as the casino and local health officials, according to the councilman,  don’t seem to want to put public safety over monetary gain.  An online source reports:

St. Joseph City Councilman PJ Kovac is introducing an ordinance that would effectively ban smoking inside the St. Jo Frontier Casino during the coronavirus pandemic, a model hundreds of casinos have followed. Kovac also accused the city health director of turning a “blind eye” to the health of those who visit the casino. “You know, we don’t want to hurt our revenue,” Kovac said sarcastically, referring to tax dollars the city receives from the casino. “So is it about money or is it about health? To all the other businesses, it’s about health.”

Kovac said he has witnessed casino patrons removing their masks indoors while smoking in close proximity to others. “A guy rolled up right next to me smoking the entire time,” he said. “He’s blowing smoke right at me, then he gets done, cigarette in his mouth with his mask down, goes all the way up the casino floor.” Bradley told News-Press NOW that health department staff has visited the casino in regards to enforcement of the mayor’s mask order, but that no one has been fined or sanctioned.

A spokeswoman for the Missouri Gaming Commission, the state agency that generally regulates casinos, said that it’s up to individual cities to regulate smoking inside the establishments. According to CDC Gaming Reports,125 casinos across the country that previously allowed smoking have banned the practice during the coronavirus pandemic, though it’s unclear how many of those will make the ban permanent.

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


Miami Florida Area Poker Room and Jai Alai Fronton Gambling Expansion Opposition Suit Allowed to Proceed

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to secure a new casino in the Edgewater district near Miami, FL.  The community has opposed such a casino and other smaller gambling expansion attempts by the existing casino such as a proposed jai alai fronton and poker room in the Edgewater neighborhood.  Those in charge made zoning changes in the city area to ensure the Edgewater proposal couldn’t move forward.  This action was challenged in court and several subsequent political maneuverings took place to try to keep the project on course, including a questionable settlement.  The Miami-Herald explains:

Under the agreement, West Flagler could apply for a permit for a summer jai-alai facility. The casino agreed to not operate slot machines at the fronton and to not seek legal fees from the city. If West Flagler wanted to open a card room in the facility in the future, it would need approval only by three of five Miami commissioners.

That settlement was based on questionable grounds, according to the judicial order, which stated that the City of Miami settled with West Flagler because its zoning administrators gave the casino operator letters in 2012 and 2018 saying that it could operate a jai-alai and card room in Edgewater. But Hanzman said the letters may or may not have been issued legally.

“If the Settlement Agreement resulted from a lawful exercise of discretion it will remain enforceable and West Flagler will be permitted to operate in accordance with its terms and conditions. If it is an illegal contract that is void, it will be West Flagler’s prerogative to decide whether to pursue claims against the City based upon its alleged reliance on the Letters, or any other viable theory,” Hanzman said in his order.

As a result of the settlement, a local business claimed standing and pushed forth a lawsuit.  Naturally, the suit that challenged, however, a local judge is allowing the lawsuit to move forward.  The Miami-Herald explains:

A legal challenge to a jai-alai fronton and poker room planned for Edgewater remains in play.

Miami-Dade Circuit Civil Judge Michael Hanzman ruled in August that a lawsuit against the City of Miami and West Flagler Associates, owner of Magic City Casino, can proceed. The suit, filed in March by auto dealer Norman Braman and developer Jorge Pérez, seeks to block the gambling facility set for Biscayne Boulevard in the burgeoning neighborhood between the Omni and the Design District.

Braman and Pérez are able to sue, Hanzman ruled, because a February settlement agreement between the City of Miami and West Flagler was not decided by a court and can be challenged by parties that are impacted by the plans. The settlement was vetoed by Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.

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


Congress hears Testimony from NCAA on Why Collegiate Sports Betting should be Banned

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the dramatic impact and subsequent explosion of sports betting since the Supreme Court decision.  Virtually all states have looked into what legalizing sports betting would mean for its jurisdiction, but some states have still not moved forward.  For those venues where sports betting is legal, most of the focus has been on the major professional sports leagues, but collegiate sports have long been a focus of would be sports betters.  As such, Congress has agreed to hear arguments in favor and against allowing sports betting on collegiate sports.  An online source reports:  

College sports betting is slowly being legalized across the United States. The practice has sparked a debate about the morality of the practice so much that the US Senate Committee had to weigh in and hear arguments from both proponents of the measure and those who opposed it.

The meeting was entitled “Protecting the Integrity of College Athletics” and it included a number of college representatives, educators, lobbyists and industry specialists.

Heather Lyke, the athletic director at the University of Pittsburgh was present on the behalf of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and the University both.

Those in favor of a ban on collegiate sports approach the situation from a few different angles.  The online source continues:

Ms Lyke said that while the repeal of PASPA was understandable and sports betting was here to stay, the U.S. Congress was supposed to take action so as to preserve the integrity of intercollegiate athletics. She directly asked for a prohibition on any sports betting that targets collegiate contests.

Her argument ran on the lines that the practice would be detrimental to the integrity of collegiate sports: “The introduction of legal wagering on intercollegiate athletics will have a corrosive and detrimental impact on student-athletes and the general student body alike. Gambling creates pressures and temptations that should not exist.”

She explained that students may become victims of corrupt practices and fall victim to gambling firms who want to push their interests. Ms Lyke said that even if the NCAA were to enact far-reaching measures that warn students and athletes of the dangers of gambling and outright prohibit it as per current law, the “corrosive effect” would be nevertheless widespread.

She further explained that sports teams have both the finances and man power to enforce integrity whereas most colleges in the country would  struggle to do the same.

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Florida Casinos and Legislators Face Tough Decisions About how to Provide Proper Safety During the Pandemic

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic’s impact on gambling.  Many casinos are dealing with safety concerns in different ways.  It was reported that an Ariona casino closed after an employee died from Covid-19.  Las Vegas saw an immediate spike in coronavirus cases after it reopened and is facing a lawsuit by the workers over safety precautions.  In Florida, where the state saw a dramatic increase in cases as they opened, casinos are employing different levels of strategies to deal with the pandemic.  An an online source explains, one Florida casino is sticking with basic protections with some added plexiglass to help stop the spread of the deadly virus: 

The Seminole Exhausting Rock Lodge & Casino Tampa opened its doorways at7 p.m. — albeit beneath new pointers that promote social distancing and hygiene.

Masks or different face coverings are required and all people getting into the premises will get their temperature taken.

One other noticeable adaptation to the coronavirus age is using plexiglass limitations to divide gamblers and sellers at poker and desk video games.

A much harder decision was made in Miami, where record setting positive tests hit the Sunshine State hard.  Given the nature of gambling as an entertainment venue and not an essential business, it was reported that that the only proper course of action was a full shutdown: 

Casino operator Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) has been forced to close its Miami casino less than one month after it reopened the property following a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.

On Monday, CDI announced that the “temporary suspension” of operations at its Calder Casino in Miami Gardens, Florida, in keeping with the order issued by Miami-Dade Mayor *Carlos Gimenez* to shut all local entertainment venues following a surge in local COVID-19 infections.

On July 2, with Florida’s new COVID-19 infection count hitting a daily record of 10,109 – which was topped two days later with 11,458 new cases – Mayor Gimenez announced that he was “rolling back the reopening” of all four casinos in the region – Hialeah Park, Casino Miami, Magic City and Calder – until further notice. 

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


Las Vegas Mayor at Odds with Nevada Governor over Reopening Casinos Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various impacts Covid-19 is having on the gambling industry.  Non-essential businesses all over the country have closed, including casinos.  Naturally, many will be hit hard economically, and that’s especially true for those in the tourism industry, like Las Vegas.  So it’s no surprise that there are economic concerns over the mandated closures.  However, what was a surprise was the way Las Vega Mayor Carolyn Goodman treated the seriousness of the pandemic in her CNN interview with Anderson Cooper.  Forbes reports:

In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, the mayor of Sin City said she believes Las Vegas’ “nonessential” businesses like casinos should be permitted to operate again after being shut by a statewide order, so employees can get back to work—but came under fire on social media for not having a safety plan.

While Goodman told Cooper she believes social distancing should still be practiced even after businesses open, she said it isn’t her job as mayor to come up with a plan to ensure residents’ and visitors’ safety, and that the responsibility falls upon private business owners to figure out how to protect customers.

When asked by Cooper about the dangers of having large groups of people congregated together—which is against Centers for Disease Control coronavirus safety guidelines told Cooper he was being “an alarmist,” and also said he was too focused on disease while she was “talking about life and living,” to which Cooper replied, “Okay, that makes no sense.”

Unfortunately, the seemingly unbelievable responses from the Las Vegas Mayor were far from over.  In a rather bizarre attempt to find some justification for being open when the rest of the country was closed, Mayor Goodman explained how she wanted to put the city up as a test group and just let everyone in to see what happens.  Forbes continues:

During the interview, Goodman said she wanted to offer up the city “as a control group for health authorities to measure against other places still under lockdown as the city opens up to test the efficacy of social distancing, but said she was told by Las Vegas’ statistician that it wasn’t an option because people from all parts of southern Nevada come into Las Vegas for work each day, which would create too many variables.

Goodman’s comments seemed to echo previous statements she made, including telling MSNBC’s Katy Tur on Tuesday that if the casinos are allowed to open, the locations where people become infected by the virus could later be closed, a method that critics called “a /Hunger Games/” approach  to reopening the city.

Luckily for the people of Las Vegas and those addicted gamblers that might actually flock to Vegas should it open ahead of the rest of the country, Nevada state Governor Steve Sisolak is not letting Las Vegas open prematurely and under the draconian Hunger Games approach suggested my Mayor Goodman.  The St. Louis Post Dispatch explains:

In a testy interview with CNN’s Anderson CooperWednesday, Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman repeatedly called for business to return to normal. “I’d love everything open because we’ve had viruses for years that have been here,” she said at one point. 

Goodman also criticized Cooper for showing a graphic from Chinese researchers that showed how easily the coronavirus can be spread in public. “This isn’t China. This is Las Vegas, Nevada,” Goodman said, prompting a stunned Cooper to retort: “Wow. OK, that’s really ignorant.”

Goodman acknowledged she does not have the authority to reopen casinos or other businesses in the city. That call will come from Nevada governor Steve Sisolak. And Sisolak is not rushing to get back to business as usual. In an interview with Cooper after Goodman’s comments Wednesday, Sisolak said Nevada is “clearly not ready to reopen” and that he will not use Nevada as a “control group” for the rest of the country.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board issued strict guidelines earlier this week detailing the many steps that casinos will need to take before reopening. And casino employees have also balked at the idea of returning to work. “The mayor’s statements are outrageous considering essential frontline workers have been dealing with the consequences of this crisis firsthand,” said Geoconda Argüello-Kline, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Workers Union, Local 226 in a statement. “Health and safety is our priority. Workers and guests have to be safe,” she added.

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New Missouri Gambling Bill Seeks to Legalize Illegal & Unregulated Slot Machines

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the illegal gambling machines that have emerged all over Missouri.  The Missouri constitution limits gambling to river boat casinos along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers only.  Any other gambling outside of the lottery is illegal. So naturally many were confused when illegal slot machines started showing up at truck stops and other locations outside of regulated casinos.  Initially there was confusion over who had the authority to shut them down as the Missouri Gaming Commission can only regulate gambling at the casinos. However, after some time, a lot has been done to curb the illegal devices including criminal and civil lawsuits.  Missouri representatives have been looking at legislation to explicitly ban them all together and there has been some disagreement on how to handle the situation in general. However, its still rather shocking to see legislation proposed that would attempt to violate the Missouri Constitution and make such gambling devices legal.  An online source reports:

The new bill, dubbed Senate Bill 566, aims to combat the illegal gambling machine problem. It seeks to allow state-regulated video gambling machines in truck stops, fraternal and veterans’ organizations and retail locations that hold liquor licenses. It suggests that people over the age of 21 should be allowed to access these regulated machines, which will be monitored by the State Lottery Commission.

Some lawmakers are uncomfortable with the idea of these machines. For instance, Senator John Rizzo said that he doesn’t want kids to walk into gas stations, buying Gatorades and passing through these gambling machines.

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Florida Gov Looking Forward to Meeting with Seminole Tribe to Discuss Gambling Pact as Current Gambling Efforts Stall

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many attempts to establish a feasible gambling pact between the Florida government and the Seminole tribe.  Most recentlythe Tribe ended payments to Florida after the state failed to properly eliminate a form of table gambling that the Seminole’s held exclusive rights to offer.  Attempts were made to come up with a deal, but nothing materialized. As this year’s legislative session nears close, the two parties find themselves in a similar situation, though Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is hopeful that a meeting and a solution might be on the horizon.  An online source reports:

House and Senate leaders appear unable to reach agreement on a sweeping gambling deal, but Gov. Ron DeSantis hasn’t thrown in the towel.

For the second week in a row, the House Gaming Control Subcommittee canceled a scheduled Friday meeting, where any deal between the two chambers could have been revealed.

Discussions between legislative leaders have been ongoing, but the Seminole Tribe of Florida — a key player in any gambling deal — has not been part of the talks.

“I have not met with them yet. But I would like to have a resolution, and so I anticipate meeting with them in the not-too-distant future,” DeSantis told reporters Thursday. “I hope we can get something done. I think it would be good, if we can. But that is definitely on the agenda on the not-too-distant future.”

Gov. DeSantis believes this year the circumstances are different, and his administration has been given more time to properly evaluate the needs of both sides.  News 4 Continues: 

Sen. Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican who will take over as Senate president in November, reached a deal with the Seminoles in the waning days of the 2019 legislative session. But DeSantis, who took office in January 2019, said he didn’t have enough time to vet the proposal before the session ended.

He said Thursday that he focused during his first session last year on “the things that I campaigned on,” which did not include a deal with the Seminoles.

“I got something very late, and there was just no way I was going to sign the state up for a 30-year agreement, 48 hours into it. So, I’ve had a chance to really understand what the state should benefit from it.

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


Florida not Likely to Legalize Sports Betting this Legislative Session

Casino Watch Focus has reported on various efforts to legalize sports betting in Florida, including methods that would attempt to get around the Voters in Charge initiative.  That initiative saw the passage of a constitutional amendment that requires a vote of the people to expand gambling. It would appear that fears over such methods can be set aside, as it’s being reported that its unlikely sports betting will be legalized this legislative session.  An online source reports:

Sports betting isn’t likely to make much, if any, headway in Florida this year, according to state political insiders with connections in Tallahassee. The Florida Legislature is currently in session until mid-March. But with 2020 being an election year, incumbents’ priorities may boil down to passing a budget, not drawing the ire of constituents and not much else.

The Tampa Bay Times recently surveyed 150 “insiders” – defined as lobbyists, politicians, activists, party workers, campaign staff and donors – to assess the odds of various high-profile bills making their way to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). Sixty-three percent of the connected group said sports betting is a no-go in the Sunshine State this year.

“It doesn’t seem like there’s any chance it’ll be legalized in time for the 2020 football season,” said Brian Edwards, founder of Florida-based BrianEdwardsSports.com, in an interview with Casino.org. “In fact, we might be looking at three to four years before Florida gets on board.”

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Missouri Gov. Opposes Gaming Commission and Missouri Highway Patrol on Illegal Slot Machines Highlighting the need for Legislation

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the illegal gambling machines that have been popping up outside of casinos and all over Missouri.  Slot machines are only allowed in licensed Missouri casinos, yet the manufacture of the machines claim they aren’t games of chance, so they aren’t slot machines.  Many jurisdictions have dealt with pre reveal machines and they have all concluded they are slot machines. The Missouri Gaming Commission has defined them as illegal machines, but they can only enforce gambling regulations at the casinos.  The Missouri Highway Patrol has been clear they view them as gambling and they have been working with local prosecutors to try to crack down on the machines. Most recently, authorized slot machine manufacturers have taken to the courts to sue those that manufacture the illegal machines.  Various editorial boards are also standing up against this illegal expansion of gambling. The St Louis Post Dispatch had the following to say:

Reasons abound why the spread of unlicensed payout video-gaming machines in Missouri’s bars, restaurants and gas stations constitutes an intolerable situation. Legalized gambling was approved here as a tradeoff for state tax revenue, but the unlicensed machines don’t bring in any. The state regulates legal gambling operations to ensure they aren’t cheating their patrons, but there is no such protection for those who play these machines.

Another important reason regulation is necessary is that gambling is an addictive activity for some people, which is why the state requires that access to addiction services and a voluntary self-exclusion program be offered at regulated gambling sites. These unregulated sites have no such resources.

The editorial continues and its sentiment is joined by other editorial boards as well, so its odd that Missouri Gov. Mike Parsons isn’t convinced the machines are clearly illegal slot machines.  US News and World Report explains:

Gov. Mike Parson says he’s not convinced that unregulated and untaxed video gambling terminals in the state are illegal, even as investigators in his administration work to halt their spread. The governor’s stance is in contrast to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, whose leaders have made a decision. A patrol lieutenant told a state House committee in October that the machines are illegal and that its investigations resulted in dozens of criminal referrals to prosecutors.

Besides the Platte County case, several others have been filed, including one in Parson’s home county. Polk County Prosecutor Ken Ashlock said there are no payout requirements for unregulated machines, meaning the operators can keep more money than they could in one of the state’s 13 regulated casinos. “People are just getting cheated on them and they don’t know it,” he said.

The Governor’s position doesn’t instill confidence and some have argued its a symptom of a larger problem and is the real reason the Missouri legislator must address the issue this legislative session.  The Joplin Globe argues:

The biggest distributor of the machines, Torch Electronics, has aggressively marketed the games. It says the terminals are not gambling devices because a player has the option of checking the outcome of a wager by clicking an icon before continuing play, thereby removing the element of chance, though players are not required to click the icon before completing the play.

Torch employs politically connected lobbyists and high-powered consultants. The company has made campaign donations to key political players, including at least $20,000 to Gov. Mike Parson, according to a July report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The fact that criminal cases are going forward while the governor questions whether the devices are in fact illegal highlights the problem. Torch and similar companies distributing the devices are skirting the edges of the gambling laws in Missouri and appear to be trying to game the system through political influence.

The Missouri House held special hearings into the machines and unregulated gambling this past summer, and the Senate is looking at a plan to ban the terminals outright.

This is an issue of the letter of the law versus the intent of the law. The Missouri General Assembly must resolve the matter, to permit these games or to clearly ban them.

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Missouri Legislator Pushing for New Casino in Osage Beach Area

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to regulate casino gambling in Missouri.  Each state has different laws and Missouri originally only allowed for 2 hour river boat gambling excursions.  With each passing year, the expansion of gambling through the erosion of the laws has resulted in 13 full standing casinos.  Those casinos do technically float and they have to be located on either the Missouri or Mississippi rivers, but to the casual observer, it appears that Missouri has 13 large and free standing casinos operating.  So, perhaps it’s not too surprising that every few years someone new wants to see a new casino in a part of the state that’s prohibited by the constitution. Branson has been the most popular venue debated, but Osage beach has been discussed in relation to a possible tribal casino.  Now it would appear that much like the Netflix television show Ozark, there is discussion of trying to set up a casino on a new waterway.  Specifically, Rep. Rocky Miller, who was a consultant to the show, is out promoting a resolution he has filed in hopes of adding the Osage river to the accepted venue list.  The Springfield News Leader reports:

A legislator from around the Lake of the Ozarks wants to allow riverboat gambling there. No, this is not a recap of the Netflix show with Jason Bateman. Rep. Rocky Miller, R-Lake Ozark, filed a real resolution in the Missouri capitol Friday that would ask voters to add the Osage River to the list of waterways where casinos are permitted.

Miller said he consulted on the Netflix show “Ozark,”   which centers on the Byrde family’s efforts to launder money for a Mexican drug cartel in Osage Beach. Season 2 focuses on their efforts to open a riverboat casino at Lake of the Ozarks. And Miller says he told the showrunners about the law.

Miller’s approach wouldn’t necessarily establish a casino in the area right away because there is a hard cap of 13 casino licenses that can be granted.  His proposal would simply open the Osage river up to an acceptable venue, so if one of the licenses  would become available. The News Leader continues:

The resolution wouldn’t necessarily bring anything to his area immediately. It wouldn’t touch the limit voters put on the casino licenses in 2008, and all 13 of those are currently in use. But if one were to come available, he said, his area “would become a great option to revive some revenue.”

It’s not clear how much interest there is in the General Assembly this year. Miller said he thinks there’s a chance it gets through the House, though the always-mercurial Senate is a bigger question mark. He said he thought leaving the cap alone would help with the casino lobby, though. He added that requiring a public vote on the issue could be a way to pitch the bill as well.

The odds are most certainly stacked against the idea of expanded casino gambling.  The constitution would need changed to allow the law, meaning the path of least resistance might be an initiative petition, a direct vote of the people.  History would indicate a long shot though, as this exact issue was defeated overwhelmingly in Branson.  

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Puerto Rico to Approve Cockfighting in direct defiance of President Trump’s new Federal Bill

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ever cruel gambling sport known as cockfighting. This illegal gambling activity involves strapping razors to the feet of the chickens who battle, typically to the death, while people gamble on the outcome. New legislation passed by President Trump will provide additional enforcement tools to help crack down.  An online source explains: 

The enactment of federal law will now enhance the fight against animal cruelty. Last week President Donald Trump signed the federal pact preventing animals from cruelty. The law will now help the local enforcement to crackdown cockfighting, which is prevalent in Las Vegas Valley.

Despite having a variety of gaming activities in nearby Las Vegas, cockfighting is prevalent in the region. The sport is popular among Latin American migrants. It is culturally accepted in South America, but banned in the US. According to Casino.org, California and part of Texas are a hotbed of the sport; the sport is operated by rings who host betting activities among the spectators. Razors are fixed on the birds’ feathers, and they usually fight to the death.

The new federal law will enable local law enforcement to have more power in persecuting those involved in the activity. It is a felony for anyone found abusing non-human living things such as birds, mammals, reptiles, or amphibians.

Despite these efforts, Puerto Rico has not acquiesced to the federal direction on such matters.  In fact, Puerto Rico is now passing new legislation to attempt to protect their cockfighting industry, and they are aware of the federal legal battle that will ensue.  The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports:

Puerto Rico will defy the U.S. government and approve a law to keep cockfighting alive in a bid to protect a 400-year-old tradition practiced across the island despite a federal ban that goes into effect this week, officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday night.

The move brought cautious rejoicing in the cockfighting business despite concerns that the U.S. territory is trying to override a federal law that President Donald Trump signed a year ago. “We are certainly challenging a federal law. We know what that implies,” Rep. Gabriel Rodríguez Aguiló, who co-authored the bill, told the AP. He said that Gov. Wanda Vázquez was scheduled to sign the bill Wednesday morning and that he expected the fight to end up in federal court.

Those in opposition not only see cruelty to animals as terrible and preventable, but they also dispute the claims that its an economically viable means of governmental revenue.  The St. Louis Post Dispatch concludes:

Animal rights activists have long pushed to end cockfights in U.S. territories, saying they are cruel and noting they are illegal in all 50 U.S. states. Wayne Pacelle, founder of the Washington- based Animal Wellness Action, said he doesn’t believe the statistics on Puerto Rico cockfighting.

“They are widely exaggerating the economic value,” he said. “Watching animals slash each other just for human entertainment and gambling is not judged as a legitimate enterprise by mainstream people.”

The measure says it is legal for Puerto Rico to host cockfights as long as people don’t export or import cocks or any goods or services related to cockfighting. The latter actions would violate the federal law, based on how Puerto Rico officials interpret it. “It remains to be seen whether that’s how federal authorities understand it,” said Rep. Luis Vega Ramos.

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