Category Archives: Gambling Venues

How is the Deadly Mass Shooting in Las Vegas Impacting the Gambling Industry?

Casino Watch Focus has reported all too often on the many crimes that take place at casinos, but none have had the impact of the most recent mass shooting by Steven Paddock from the Mandalay Bay Casino hotel that was the most deadly shooting in modern U.S. history. Nearly 60 people were killed and hundreds injured by a man who was known to the gambling community in Las Vegas and who stayed at the hotel for many days prior to acting out his horrible crime. As one online source outlined, many are questioning if gambling debt lead him to this act, or if his gambling connection should be a focus at all in this mass shooting:

The subject of Paddock’s gambling life is an understandable preoccupation in Las Vegas, in part because, four days after Sunday night’s massacre at an open-air country music festival, authorities have provided no tangible motive for an attack that clearly took a great deal of plotting. That he was staying for free on a comp in the 32nd floor corner suite at Mandalay Bay — the Associated Press first reported that and /New York/ has since confirmed it — only adds to the sense that Paddock used the enormous amount of time he spent in the casino in part to devise his murderous plans. 

The focus on Paddock’s gambling has many in Vegas nervous. The destination has spent the last three decades pushing past its stigmatized image as an underworld haven. Still, even without any evidence to support the notion that Paddock dug himself into any sort of financial distress with his play, there is speculation. CBS News offered this headline on Thursday: “Motive of Las Vegas gunman may lie in his gambling habits.”

Anti-gambling activists, too, embraced this notion. “Whether Paddock’s out-of-control addiction to electronic gambling machines was a central factor in what happened last Sunday will be determined by the FBI investigation,” wrote Les Bernal of Stop Predatory Gambling in a Thursday e-mail blast. “But news coverage and public discussion should not normalize Paddock’s single-minded obsession with gambling machines and the exploitive business practices used by the casinos to keep Paddock gambling continuously.”

Still yet, the entire situation is making everyone look at how much culpability, if any, should exist with the casinos where he gambled, and if anything can or should be done to prevent this in the future. An area of debate has been the fact that Paddock smuggled a small arsenal into the hotel to carry out his murderous plan. So its no surprise that executives were immediately engaged into talks about safety and security policies moving forward. An online publication reports:

The increased security measure has been a topic for discussion among casino operators since Paddock shot concertgoers from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, a hotel complex owned by MGM Resorts International. Last year, casino magnate Steve Wynn warned that Las Vegas was a ‘target city’ and disclosed a raft of new security measures, including invisible metal detectors and specially trained guards, designed to prevent a large-scale attack.

Whether those measures would have prevented Sunday’s rampage on the strip in which 58 people were killed is unknown. But the shooting could spur casino operators to think more like Wynn, who had been dismissed as ‘obsessed’ about security before Sunday’s massacre, a rival casino executive said. ‘This could be a turning point,’ the executive said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because security measures are private. ‘Every management team is going to move this up to the top of the list.’

Some are concluding that culpability absolutely exists and the very nature of gambling addicts like Paddock leads to suicidal and other disturbing thoughts. They also suggest that the issue wont truly be examined like is should. An online source explains:

Mandalay Bay’s practices — and indeed the practices of virtually all casinos in an increasingly wealthy and powerful gambling industry — won’t get the scrutiny they deserve.

“No credible, independent person who deals with gambling in the United States and is not being paid by the gambling industry would say Stephen Paddock was a responsible gambler,” Les Bernal told me. He heads a group known as Stop Predatory Gambling.

Last December, the Atlantic did a lengthy story on the industry. Headlined, “How casinos enable gambling addicts,” it told in detail how everything from the way machines are programmed to the perks and the hostesses in casinos are designed to keep people gambling, either with their own money or with a loan from the house. Tarbert told me how this always ends with a period of self-loathing, during which the gambler often feels suicidal. 

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

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A New form of Gambling in Video Games? What are Loot Boxes and Why is the Gaming Community asking the ESRB to Call this Gambling Practice Out?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the highly addictive principle of near misses and how this form of gambling forms strong addiction. Typically viewed in the context of regulated slot machines, the player pulls the lever and tries to line enough symbols up in a row to get a prize. Studies have indicated that when someone gets close but doesn’t win, what they call a near miss in the industry, the player will chase the win. A very similar phenomenon is now taking place in video games. The concept in the gaming world is known as a loot box. You pay a price to manufacture to by a box. Random items that a player would want to have in the game, say, a high powered weapon in a shooting game or a piece of defensive armor that models a coveted look and offers superior protection from other players, are generated when the loot box is opened. The key is that the items are random. Most players are looking for top end, often times called legendary gear. The odds of getting them aren’t too high and so a player tends to keep paying more and more money to open more and more loot boxes chasing after the win, or the best items in the game. This practice was identified very early as a form of gambling and a gaming mechanic that uses the same psychological techniques to addict players. The worst part, they are in games marketed toward children and no regulation exists. The highest level, state or federal laws, are completely none existent, so many in the community turned to the ESRB rating system to get these games classified as mature, so that young kids and teens aren’t the target of such gambling practices. As reported by Forbes, ESRB has erred in declining to view loot boxes as gambling, and social awareness is very much need to properly protect players:

Today, the Entertainment Software Rating Board, or ESRB, stated publicly that the hot new monetization trend in video games, loot boxes, don’t qualify as gambling. This is wrong on many levels. While it’s true that, unlike a slot machine, a loot box will always result in some form of a prize, that doesn’t change the fact that the simple act of opening loot boxes is incredibly similar to gambling, and taps into all the same parts of the brain.

“The player is basically working for reward by making a series of responses, but the rewards are delivered unpredictably,” Dr. Luke Clark, director at the Center for Gambling Research at the University of British Columbia, told PC Gamer recently “We know that the dopamine system, which is targeted by drugs of abuse, is also very interested in unpredictable rewards. Dopamine cells are most active when there is maximum uncertainty, and the dopamine system responds more to an uncertain reward than the same reward delivered on a predictable basis.”

Psychologists call this “variable rate reinforcement.” Essentially, the brain kicks into high gear when you’re opening a loot box or pulling the lever on a slot machine or opening a Christmas present because the outcome is uncertain. This is exciting and, for many people, addictive. When it comes to video games, the biggest concern is that children and adolescents will end up forming addictive behaviors early on.

At this point there are two issues/lines of thought at play. One is that the act of buying a loot box and opening it might not be technically gambling because you always get a prize. To this point, its pointed out above that the act of chasing loot boxes is exactly the same as gambling. More importantly though, some games do allow the players to sell or auction off the items received in exchange for real world money, items or game subscription, things with real world value. Eurogamer very specifically outlines the many ways in their recent article when they discuss both the US ESRB and European’s PEGI stance on loot boxes. So in that sense the player is putting real money into the game, opening the box and getting a price based on random chance not skill, and then cashing out the winnings, which is text book gambling. The Second line of thought is that regardless of whether or not this reaches the threashold for actual gambling that requires governmental oversight, it absolutely should get the ESRB’s attention and it should be disclosed to players and parents accordingly. Forbs continues:

“Look if you include these kind of mechanics in these games and you actually allow people to buy these packs for real money, these random blind packs and engage in what is essentially a form of gambling, then you should be jacking the rating of your game up to Mature.

“The fact that [Star Wars] /Battlefront II/ is going to be Teen rated and yet has an in-game real money gambling system blows my mind. How are they possibly getting away with that? Well, the answer is that the US government and legislation hasn’t caught up with it yet.”

OpenCritic co-founder and CEO Matthew Enthoven says that the ESRB’s response “kind of ducked the issue” calling it a semantic argument. “You can call it gambling, you can call it gaming addiction, you can call it whatever you want. The problem is still the same,” he tells me. 

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


Hurricane Irma Brings out the Worst in Feuding Florida Casinos

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the desire for the gambling industry to push new casinos into Florida and to the benefit of Florida families, most of the efforts to expand gambling, especially through full-scale Vegas-Style casinos, has failed. More recently, reports have surfaced that the industry really views gamblers as prey and they seek out specifically target the must vulnerable. So to some degree, its shouldn’t seem shocking to learn that at a time when communities should come together, like after a major hurricane that rocks an entire state, casinos are instead fighting over who has the right to prey on whom. This unbelievable story centers around one casino actively trying to attract the gamblers from anther casino whose property was damaged as a result of Hurricane Irma, and the classless media fighting and jabs they took at each other. Mardi Gras Casino is closed due to damage and nearby Gulfstream Park Racing is doing everything it can to lay claim to their gamblers. An online source reports:

The two casinos have long been sworn rivals, and are regularly in hot competition for sixth place (out of eight) in Florida’s pari-mutuel market. And while there may be little wrong with healthy competition, Mardi Gras contends its old foe is being exploitive, and has taken things too far.

According to the /Miami Herald/, since the hurricane hit the state on Sep. 10, Gulfstream has been advertising that it will honor loyalty coupons Mardi Gras gives to top players offering free slots play.

“It is sad and pathetic, but not surprising,” Mardi Gras PresidentDan Adkins told the /Herald/. “It’s so sad when you have a community hat’s battered and someone feels like now’s the time to be an opportunist. It’s indicative of their nature and that’s OK with me.”

But Gulfstream Park’s assistant GM Ernie Dellaverson says Adkins is being a bit disingenuous.

“We’re just doing something that’s been done since the beginning of casino marketing,” he says. “If the roles were reversed, I’d expect them to do [the same]. It’s about helping the players, and I haven’t heard a complaint so far.”

As if those actions and comments weren’t shocking and damaging enough, the fighting for Florida families in the wake of a natural disaster got even uglier when the focus was centered on the competition that would follow after the Mardi Gras casino reopened. The sad display continued through the previous source: 

Adkins contends Gulfstream is still sore about being beaten to the sixth spot in casino earnings this year, albeit by a photo finish. Mardi Gras posted $51 million in gross gaming revenue for the first half of 2017, compared to Gulfstream Park’s $50 million.

But ultimately, Adkins says he believes his casino will win in the long run because it has a certain Buddhist spiritual principle of cause and effect on its side. “Here at Mardi Gras we have a little friend named Karma,” he said.“When we rise from the ashes, the grandeur of Mardi Gras, along withKarma, will more than overcome these senseless, childish opportunists.” Although, for such a believer in Karma, he must be asking what he did in a previous life for his casino to get trashed by a hurricane while the other one a mile up the road is doing just fine. “When we reopen,” he said, “we’re going to go back to kicking their ass.” 

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


Unsurprisingly, Casino Lobby Joins New Jersey in Attempt to Sway Supreme Court in favor of Legalized Sports Betting

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many attempts by New Jersey to legally allow sports betting in their state, despite federal law that makes it illegal. Every attempt made has resulted in the courts shutting down the illegal sports gambling. The case will finally be resolved one way or another later this year when the Supreme Court will examine the issue. The list of opponents of this expanded sports betting is long and includes all the major sports and collegiate organizations such as the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and the NCAA. Not surprisingly, the casino lobby is coming to the side of New Jersey and they have submitted a brief to the Supreme Court. The Washington Examiner reports: 

The American Gaming Association filed a brief on Tuesday supporting Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in his upcoming Supreme Court fight with top U.S. athletic leagues over sports betting. Christie’s team argues that federal law banning sports betting violates states protections under the 10th Amendment. More than two decades ago, New Jersey failed to take advantage of a window in federal law to run sports gambling, but then decided to do so on its own in 2011.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association challenged the New Jersey law, along with the NBA, NFL, NHL, and Major League Baseball. The Supreme Court has yet to set a date for oral arguments this term in the sports gambling case, which will be closely watched as its outcome could change sports gambling rules throughout the country.

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


Florida goes after Pari-Mutuels as it Seeks to Enforce Designated-Player Card Games Ruling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing and developing situation regarding designated player banked card games. This form of card game was offered for four years before its legality was challenged. Last year, however, the court determined the games to be illegal and a violation of the Seminole Compact which outlined exclusive card games at Seminole casinos. As recently reported by Casino Watch Focus that ruling is being challenged in appeals court and is set to be heard next month. In the mean time, swift enforcement has begun to stop these illegal card games. An online source explains:

Florida gambling chiefs have launched legal action against two pari-mutuel venues, the Sarasota Kennel Club and Pensacola Greyhound Racing, for their alleged failure to remove so-called “designated player games” from their premises.

Meanwhile, many of Florida’s other cardrooms and racetracks are bracing themselves for similar action, as the state moves to crack down on the controversial games.

This action is especially important given litigation was dropped by the Seminole’s in exchange for the state agreeing truly enforce the courts ruling. The online source continues:

The case had initially been brought by the State against the Seminoles for their refusal to stop offering banked games once their initial five-year compact expired in 2015. But the tribe countersued over the exclusivity violation, forcing the state into a humiliating retreat. In July, both parties agreed to an end to litigation and the state vowed it would take “aggressive enforcement action” against pari-mutuels that violated the ban on the games it had previously permitted.

Nick Iarossi, a lobbyist for Jacksonville Greyhound Racing, told Sunshine State News that the state’s actions this week show it intends to live up to its word. “They’re going to come in. They’re going to check tape. They’re going to watch games being played live. And if they see anything out of compliance being done, they’re going to issue administrative complaints and fines,” he said. “So everybody is double- and triple-checking to make sure they’re in compliance.” 

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


UPDATE: Florida Decoupling Decision Draws Challenge

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to decouple dog racing from gambling venues, thus allowing them to operate stand alone slot machine gambling parlors. True decoupling efforts have been prevented, but the first approved case of de facto decoupling just happened in Florida. An old 1980 law was instrumental in the Magic City case and lead to the recent decoupling that will allow the facility to supplement actual races with jai alai matches. That ruling, however, is now being challenged, but its unclear if the challenge will be heard. The Miami CBS affiliate reports: 

Hartman and Tyner, Inc., and H&T Gaming, Inc., which run the Broward pari-mutuel, have filed a motion requesting that the Department of Businessand Professional Regulation vacate or reconsider the decision last month related to Magic City Casino in Miami.

The decision by the department’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering would allow Magic City, operated by WestFlagler Associates, to replace dog races with jai alai matches and continue offering lucrative slots. The approval dealt with a long-controversial issue known as a “summer jai alai” permit.

In their motion, attorneys for the Broward pari-mutuel’s operators said, in part, that their effort to intervene in the issue was improperly dismissed by the department. Also, they pointed to a 2004 constitutional amendment that allowed slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward counties and contend that Magic City is only allowed to offer slots in conjunction with a greyhound-racing permit — not a summer jai alai permit.

“As an existing greyhound permit holder and slot machine gaming operator, intervenors (Hartman and Tyner and H&T Gaming) have a right to be heard as to how the constitutional and statutory provisions are being interpreted as it relates to allowing new permits to be used for expanding slot machine operations,” the motion said. “Intervenors assert that slot machine gaming at West Flagler’s facility pursuant to its summer jai alai permit should not be authorized and would be illegal.”

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Florida Casino Expansion denied in Gambling Permit Case

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the efforts to expand gambling in Florida. The state has an agreement with the Seminole’s to allow tribal casinos in state, but other gambling efforts are more small scale and limited to horse and dog racing as well as various pari-mutual gambling locations. Efforts also took place to bring full-scale, Vegas style casino’s to the area and those too were shut down. That hasn’t stopped outside companies from trying to find new ways into the Florida market. The most recent example involves the sale of a license with the intent to move a facility and expand gambling greatly. The Saint Peters Blog has explained those efforts and how they have been shut down:

State gambling regulators this week shot down a request by a South Florida gambling permit holder who wanted sell the permit and allow the next operator to build on a new location in Broward County.

The *Department of Business and Professional Regulation on Monday said both sales of permits and any relocation of gambling—both time-consuming processes—have to be OK’d by the department’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, which regulates gambling in the state. The decision further cements the state’s control over where and how gambling is offered, particularly after a permit is granted.

The department’s “final order” also is a win for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which asked to intervene in the case. The Seminoles, who operate the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, had said allowing gambling licenses to be moved within a county “would provide out-of-state companies (with) an incentive to (buy) a license, possibly resulting in increased business competition for the Tribe.”

The company has a deal with an unnamed buy who was hoping to build a casino in a new location. The buyer knows it needs to relocate and build a new casino to be profitable, so this likely means the deal is off and there wont be significant new casino gambling expansion facing Florida families. 

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