Category Archives: Gambling Venues

Despite Missouri Casinos Closing to Adhere to Coronavirus Guidelines, Illegal Gambling Machines are still Operating Statewide Creating unsafe environments

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to shut down illegal gambling machines that have popped up all over the state.  One of the biggest problems is the fact that they are completely unregulated. Up to this point, the impact has been loss of revenue for Missouri school systems and absolutely no checks and balances to safeguard those who play the machines from being cheated out of their money.  However, these rogue machines are now creating a new issue that stems from being unregulated – they are still operating and tempting the public to gather at a time when the rest of the casinos are shut down due to the covid-19 pandemic. The St Louis Post Dispatch reports:

Post-Dispatch visits to Columbia-area gas stations, where slot machine-style games have operated for months, showed many games were still plugged in on Tuesday, despite casinos receiving the order a week ago to shut down until March 30.

The inconsistency highlights the unregulated nature of roughly 14,000 gaming devices in Missouri, located in gas stations, clubs and bars.

Mike Leara, chairman of the Missouri Gaming Commission, which regulates licensed casinos, said the commission wanted to prevent large crowds from gathering at casinos during the outbreak — something that wouldn’t necessarily happen at a gas station.

A study released March 17 by the National Institutes of Health said the new coronavirus was detectable for “up to two to three days” on plastic and stainless steel surfaces.

Wildwood-based Torch Electronics is one of the biggest players in unregulated slot machine-style devices in Missouri. Torch faces felony illegal gambling charges by the Linn County prosecutor. A hearing in that case is scheduled for April 23.

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


Florida Casinos Criticized as Irresponsible during Covid-19 Pandemic by Waiting far too Long to Follow Government Orders

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many ongoing gambling issues in Florida.  Most of those issues connect to public safety by way of gambling addiction.  However, with the recent coronavirus pandemic, Florida casinos have put public safety on the line in a devastating new way.  Despite social distancing orders, many casinos stayed open. After pressure, many decided to finally shut down. However, two remained open drawing the ire of leadership.  State Rep. Jackie Toledo condemned the casinos for staying open, and singled out The Hard Rock Casino in particular for their dangerous practices.   A local NBC affiliate provided the story:

State Rep. Jackie Toledo is condemning the Seminole Hard Rock Casino for remaining open during the coronavirus and says the casino is putting profits over people.

“There are reports from inside that there have been no changes to cleaning procedures and that sick employees are not being sent home,”Toledo said.

Toledo says employees approached her office, in fear for their jobs and health claiming the casino is business as usual with not practicing social distancing, no one actively disinfecting, and no posted signs about change in procedure.

The Seminole Nation claims they are providing a safe environment for workers, but the facts seem to contradict their claims.  An online source reports:

After receiving pleas from casino employees, State Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, hosted a news conference Wednesday outside the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa in the hopes of pressuring the casinos to close during the coronavirus outbreak.

Seminole Hard Rock CEO James Allen issued a statement saying that the casinos are following all hygiene protocols, have closed its poker room, limited the number of slot machines, canceled all concerts, poker competitions and tournaments, and is limiting the number of guests at game tables and in the hotel’s restaurants.

“This is the exact opposite of what we are hearing from inside the walls,” said Toledo. “Employees are claiming if they do not have PTO, the casino makes them work while they are sick. We are told by patrons there is no hand sanitizer, and we’ve heard from dealers saying they have been out of sanitation wipes for days. This is a breeding ground for this virus.”

She said she learned Wednesday that the casino gave away free drink tickets to draw in nearly 8,000 people. “It is criminal to hold promotions to bring vulnerable guests in their doors,” she said.

And it would appear Rep. Toledo was right about the public health concerns of creating a social environment in which the virus could spread.  The casino has now closed its doors, but only after a confirmed case stemmed from their facility. It’s currently unknown just how devastating the spread of covid-19 will be as a direct result of their actions, or inaction in this case. An online source explains:

Seminole Gaming announced Friday they would be closing all of their casinos, including Hard Rock casinos, across Florida starting at 6 p.m. amid coronavirus concerns

This comes just one day after a man who died from COVID-19 was said to have visited the Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee.

Representative Heather Fitzenhagen and an employee at the casino called for the casino to close down after learning this.

“I think that this makes it even more important that they decide to do the right thing and close down the casino for the safety of everyone in Southwest Florida,” she said.

She says the 77-year old man spent hours playing the slots the weekend

before he died on March 13.

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


March Madness Gambling Takes an Unexpected Turn due to Covid-19

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the massive amount of gambling that takes place during the NCAA College Basketball Tournament.  Known as March Madness, its one of the most prominent gambling events next to the Super Bowl. Typically Casino Watch Focus reports on the varying levels of devastation that result from this gambling, however, this year there won’t be an NCAA tournament due to the covid-19 pandemic.  Forbes explains:

The cancellation of March Madness is sad on so many fronts. Beyond the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) and the health pandemic sweeping across America and the world, millions of fans are missing out on watching and wagering on the NCAA Tournament.

Asher told Stuart Varney of FOX Business Network that the “first three days of March Madness equate to Super Bowl Sunday” in terms of betting activity and volume in Nevada. How much is that? A total of $154.7 million was wagered on Super Bowl LIV in Nevada this year.

Overall, the 2019 NCAA Tournament had approximately $349 million wagered in Nevada according to Nevada Gaming Control Board research analyst Michael Lawton. Sportsbooks across the Silver State took in profits of $36.5 million, which is nearly 7% of the total handle.

The cancellation of March Madness will have a tremendous financial impact on bookmakers and sportsbook operators. You can bet on it.

Whereas it’s very true that the cancellation of the tournament will be felt hardest for those in the tourism industry near these events and certainly those collegiate seniors who will miss out on their last opportunity at an NCAA championship, its clear that there will be countless families spared the devastation that this gambling brings each year.  That’s not much of a silver lining given the overall impact of Covid-19, but it’s one of the few that has presented itself. 

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


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.

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.”

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


Illegal Slot Machine Manufacture Faces Criminal Charges In Missouri

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing saga of illegal gambling machines that have popped up all over Missouri.  Gambling is restricted to the 13 licensed casinos along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers only.  However, new slot machines have surfaced in gas stations and other establishments that have caught the ire of law enforcement.  At first only a few cases again the establishments were filed and very little attention was given to them. Then as more state wide attention emerged, several different attempts were made to eradicate them, including a civil lawsuit by legitimate manufactures against the illegal slot machines manufacturer.  That same manufacturer is now facing criminal charges. The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports:

A county prosecutor has filed illegal gambling charges against Torch Electronics, one of the largest operators of unregulated slot machines in the state. Torch, owned by Wildwood businessman Steve Miltenberger, is one of the companies whose machines have triggered a mixed response from law enforcement. 

The company is also a player in Missouri politics, contributing more than $20,000 to Gov. Mike Parson’s election effort. The filing is the first known instance of a county prosecutor in Missouri bringing charges against the company. According to a probable cause statement, two Brookfield Police Department officers on Sept. 12 removed three “slot machines” from the County Line Convenience store after speaking with store manager Tannis Williams.

Because the machines are unregulated, machine revenues don’t go to public education, there are no rules for acceptable payouts, and there are no state gambling addiction resources funded by machine revenues. Money from Torch and its owner, Steven Miltenberger, flowed to numerous politicians last year, according to Missouri Ethics Commission records.

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


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.

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