Category Archives: Elected Officials

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.

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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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Missouri Legislators to introduce Sports Betting Bills, this time with a cut for Professional Leagues

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing growth of sports betting after the Supreme Court’s ruling to allow states to legalize sports gambling.  Many states have done just that, with Florida being the most recently reported state to consider its legalization. Nothing has passed in Florida and Missouri attempted last year to introduce legislation, but it lacked any fees to pro sports organizations.  Now it would appear that with the pre filing of two new sports legalization bills, Missouri is going to reattempt legalization, but this time with the addition of integrity fees.  An online source reports:

Lawmakers in Missouri have pre-filed legislation to legalize and regulate sports betting, following the issue of a favorable special committee report. The new proposals are similar to bills introduced earlier this year, which failed to pass before the end of the 2019 legislative session.

However, sponsors of new bills have called for the inclusion of integrity fees to be paid to professional sports leagues, and as much as 0.75% of handle.

Here’s what’s included in the bills: SB 567 from Sen. Denny Hoskins calls for the Missouri Lottery Commission to oversee sports betting with 0.25% of handle paid to the leagues. SB 754 from Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer seeks 0.75% of handle to be paid to the leagues. The bill would put the Missouri Gaming Commission in charge of regulation.

The decision to include an integrity fee might not actually help the legislation get passed this year considering the issue has been vehemently opposed in other states.  The online source continues:

The issue of integrity fees is a thorny one and is bitterly opposed by operators, who argue that they would eat into their slim profits from sports wagering. Operators usually only keep around 5% of the total handle and, should this be compromised, the additional costs would then have to be passed onto players in the form of un-competitive lines and less enticing promotions.

Integrity fees have been advocated most notably by the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Major League Baseball (MLB), as a way of profiting from the proliferation of sports betting in the U.S. However, none of the states to launch legal sports betting so far have approved such a fee, with New Jersey  going so far as calling the idea “insulting”.

Whether or not such gambling efforts violate the Missouri constitution that limits gambling to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers remains to be seen.  However, the possible inclusion of mobile operators would sure seem to make that question more discernible, which could make the passage harder than typical legislation.  The new legislation is vague, but does seem to want to set up such a system. The source concludes: 

The committee report, which was presented to the state House on Dec. 5, does at least include a potential sweetener for the operators:statewide online/mobile wagering. While vague on the subject, the report stated it is interested in mobile wagering and “creating a level playing field insofar as that is possible”“.Whether that means the market will be opened up to several mobile operators or ensuring retail sportsbooks aren’t dominated by single operators is unclear.”

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