Category Archives: Gambling Venues

Hawaii Proposes 4 New Anti-Gambling Bills against Video Game Loot Boxes and US Senator Pressures ESRB for Industry Ratings and Regulation

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the discovery and evolution of gambling-esque loot boxes in video games and the legislative response to such predatory practices. Loot boxes are a type of micro-transaction where a video game player spends real money to open a box or chest in a video game, and hopefully win a valuable prize. If this sounds an awful lot like slot machines, then you’re thinking the same as countless fans, journalists and now legislators that are worried about he addictive and predatory nature of such a mechanic, especially when kids freely play these games. Hawaii legislator Chris Lee has lead the charge to hold the video game accountable and many others have taken note. As promised, Hawaii has now released 4 new bills that seek to regulate these predatory micro-transactions. An online source reports: 

Four new bills have been introduced in the past month that target the sale of games that sell loot boxes for real money. Two of the bills would prohibit developers from selling games with randomized loot box reward systems to anyone under the age of 21. The other two would require developers to label games that use randomized loot box systems /and/ to disclose loot box drop rates.

Developers would be forced to label games should they include “in-game purchases and gambling-like mechanisms which may be harmful or addictive,” according to the bill. A game purchased online would have to include this information on the game’s art. 

“Whistle-blowers have revealed that psychologists are employed to create these mechanisms,” Lee told the Hawaii Tribune. “If enough of the market reacts, the industry would have to respond and change its practices.” Lee said that more than half of the states in the United States are looking intro legislation regarding the sale of loot boxes in video games. Loot box regulation has already begun overseas as well. In 2016, China passed legislation that requires all developers to publish its loot box odds. Likewise, the Belgium Gaming Commission has deemed loot boxes “dangerous.”

Lee has been pushing the industry to impose its own common sense legislation. The ESRB is the rating system used within the industry and as of now, they are unwilling to view loot boxes as gambling and thus, they haven’t been willing to take the matter seriously or regulate from within. During a normal public meeting about the bills, lobbyist from the Entertainment Software Association, the industries trade group and regulators of the ESRB rating system, flew out to participate in the Q&A. They were unable to answer, justify or address some of the most basic concerns raised by Lee. It was objectively a very terrible showing for the industry. You can find the full video and update on Lee’s direct YouTube channel HERE (Loot box update begins at 2:37 and the questioning begins at 7:00).

Moreover, in addition to large number of states that are looking into similar legislation, these predatory gambling practices have now caught the attention of the US Senate, specifically Senator Maggie Hassan. She has questioned the FTC and wrote a letter directly to the ESRB. Forbes reports: 

This week, Hassan asked four FTC nominees the question: “That children being addicted to gaming — and activities like loot boxes that might make them more susceptible to addiction — is a problem that merits attention?” To which all four responded yes, it was something they would look into. But past that, Hassan wrote a lengthy letter to Patricia Vance, president of the ESRB citing that the issue of loot boxes was brought to her attention by a constituent. 

“While there is robust debate over whether loot boxes should be considered gambling, the fact that they are both expensive habits and use similar psychological principles suggest loot boxes should be treated with extra scrutiny,” Hassan’s letter says. “At minimum, the rating system should denote when loot boxes are utilized in physical copies of electronic games.”

The fact that Hassan is a US Senator, not a state senator, is important, as this could end up leading to her proposing federal legislation about this issue, rather than individual states doing it.

The powerful letter can be read in its entirety at Forbes HERE 

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


New Missouri Gambling Bill Represents the Largest Gambling Expansion to the State since Casinos

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the newest attempts to expand gambling in Missouri, that being Tribal Casinos. The opposition was immediate and not much else has come out publicly about that expansion idea. A new discussion for expansion has emerged however, and if allowed, it could easily be the largest expansion of gambling since voters agreed to riverboat casinos. The bill proposed would legalize slot machines in bars, convenient stores and places like the VFW. The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports: 

Under legislation endorsed by a Senate committee Tuesday on a 4-2 vote, the state would allow as many as five video gambling machines in taverns, convenience stores, restaurants and truck stops and as many as 10 machines in benevolent organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars or the Elks Club. 

An analysis of the proposal shows nearly 20,000 slot machines could become as close to home as the local convenience store after a four-year ramp up period. 

Mike Winter of the Missouri Gaming Association said legalizing slot machines would be the largest expansion of gambling since voters approved the casinos. “This is a very substantial change in policy,” Winter said. “We do have considerable concerns with the legislation.”

 The casino industry would obviously see a hit to their bottom line and given they have substantial lobbying influence, legislators decided to add a way to help the casino industry off set some of their losses. The bill paves the way to allow even more expanded gambling by allowing casinos to offer sports gambling. KMOV reported the details:

There is a renewed effort in Missouri to legalize slot machines at bars and convenience stores despite concerns from the casino industry. The Missouri Video Lottery Control Act made it’s way out of committee on Tuesday.

To help out casinos, the bill does allow for sports betting. Taxes from wagering on sporting events could bring in an additional $65 million. But for now, sports betting is illegal under federal law. Hoskins said if that changes, the casinos could participate. 

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

Super Bowl 52 – More Gambling than all Seven World Series Games Combined: Harmless Fun?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the significant amount of gambling on the Super Bowl each year, and each year the impact seems to grow. This year the amount of total gambling on the Super Bowl 52 s estimated to be around $4.5 million. This year sees the New England Patriots face off against the Philadelphia Eagles, and When the Eagles play, the amount of gambling spikes significantly. An online source explains:

Each and every year, sportsbooks drool over the prospects of profits stemming from Super Bowl gambling. There will be more money bet on Super Bowl 52 than any of the seven games of the World Series, and all of the combined games in the Stanley Cup Finals.

It’s the most lucrative day of the season for most sportsbooks, and every year, the total amount wagered on the big game increases. How much will be bet on the 2018 Super Bowl?

Each year, the American Gaming Association releases its prediction of how much money will be wagered on the Super Bowl. Super Bowl 51 generated an estimated $4.7 billion in wagers, though the mass majority of that was done illegally through offshore websites and local bookies. BetDSI Sportsbook has lined the AGA’s estimate at $4.5 billion bet on the 2018 Super Bowl.

The last time the Eagles were in the Super Bowl, there was a 10.5 percent jump in the amount wagered in Las Vegas from 2004 ($81.2 million) to 2005 ($90.8 million). If we see a 10 percent jump again this year, Las Vegas could be looking at a handle as high as $152 million alongside a total number gambled hovering around $4.6 billion.

Many think gambling on the Super Bowl is harmless fun, and for some, who do it legally, it could be that simple. However, the consequences for others can be extreme. A Fox News affiliate has reported that Super Bowl night is not only the biggest night for gamblers, but it also sees the most suicides as well. For those that don’t suffer the ultimate fate, they can still lose enough to cause irreparable harm to their finances and family. Fox Now online explains:

“Super Bowl is probably one of the biggest gambling days of the year,” said Gambling Addiction Counselor, Jim Harrison [a gambling counselor in Milwaukee.] He says the wagers placed on the Super Bowl are often not taken as seriously and can be seen as harmless and fun. “In reality it is betting, it is gambling,” said Harrison. Those compulsive gamblers see it as a day to make up for other sports losses this season.

Harrison says it’s not harmless at all for those with an addiction — betting is done with bookies and online and it could bring losses. “If it causes family problems, certainly financial problems,” said Harrison. “I’ve had clients who have literally lost over $300,000 gambling,” said Harrison. The Super Bowl can bring losses to those betting on it all, and it can be tempting to those dealing with gambling addition.

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

UPDATE: Florida Voters in Charge Amendment Officially Reaches Ballot: Florida Voters have a chance to vote on the final say

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to pass the Voters in Charge Ballot Initiative. This ballot measure seeks to amend the constitution and require a final vote by the people before any gambling expansion can take place. This clearly provides a last line of defense for those Florida families must vulnerable to the socioeconomically damaging effects of gambling. The Sun Sentinel breaks down the particulars:

Voters in November might get the chance to make all future decisions about expanding gambling in Florida.

A proposed constitutional amendment says voters would need to approve any expansion of casino gambling with a 60 percent majority vote.

Voters in Charge, the group behind what’s called Amendment 3, announced Wednesday it had gained enough petition signatures to qualify for the November ballot — more than 800,000 in all. To pass, 60 percent of voters must approve the amendment.

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

UPDATE: Despite Florida Supreme Court Ruling, Gadsden Looking to Authorize Slots in North Florida Again

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing saga of a north Florida county attempting to legalize slot machines. Florida law very clearly outlines the jurisdictions of where slot machines and other gambling are legal, and Gadsden county is not one. The issue of voter approved slot machines in not designated areas reached the Florida Supreme Court and they unanimously agreed Florida law prohibited such gambling venues. However, it appears a new bill has been filed to again allow Gadsden County to hold a referendum on authorizing slot machine gambling at the local race track. Florida Politics breaks down the attempted angle they are taking:

A unanimous Florida Supreme Court last year ruled against the track and facilities in seven other counties that previously passed local referendums allowing slots, saying “nothing in (state gambling law) grants any authority to regulate slot machine gaming to any county.”

The holding was limited to non-charter counties, however. Gadsden does not have a charter but did pass a slots referendum in 2012. Tuesday’s bill responds to the court’s ruling that “the Legislature did not specifically authorize” that referendum.

It would OK the following ballot question: “Shall slot machine gaming be authorized at the pari-mutuel quarter horse racing facility in the City of Gretna?”

The issue was quickly addressed by Executive Direct of Florida group No Casinos, and Paul Seago was very to the point in his opposition:

“First, we think it violates the Florida Constitution, which prohibits expansion of casino gambling without a statewide vote,” he said. “Second, it sets up a violation of the compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe, jeopardizing millions of dollars in revenue.”

The Seminole Tribe of Florida enjoys exclusive rights to offers slots outside of South Florida; breaking that exclusivity entitles the Tribe to reduce or stop paying a cut of its gambling revenue to the state.

“Third, any municipality that thinks casino gambling is a key to economic development need look no further than Atlantic City to see the associated crime and social ills that come with it,” Seago added. “For these reasons we will vigorously oppose HB 1111.”

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

UPDATE: The Supreme Court Heard Oral Arguments in the New Jersey Sports Betting Case and Experts think the Court Might Side with Gambling Expansion

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing events surrounding legalized state sports gambling as it pertains to New Jersey. For years they have tried and failed to legalize sports betting in their state. The issue has finally made it to the Supreme Court and the sides have been fairly well documented, with New Jersey and gambling operators seeking legalized sports betting and the major sports organizations such as the NCAA, NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL and the Trump Administration’s Department of Justice backing existing Federal law which prohibits sports betting outside of Las Vegas. Oral arguments have now been heard and early statements by a majority of the justices seem to indicate they might side with New Jersey. Forbes reports:

Proponents of legalized sports betting had to be feeling confident after last Monday’s oral argument in/NCAA v. Christie/ — the so-called New Jersey sports betting case, in which leagues including the NFL, the NBA and Major League Baseball are seeking to prevent the state from permitting such gambling. The general consensus among those in attendance was that the Supreme Court appears poised to invalidate the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), the 1992 federal law that bans states from authorizing or licensing sports betting.

By my count, at least five justices — John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito and, surprisingly, Stephen Breyer (one of the court’s more liberal members) — indicated that they believed PASPA violates the 10th Amendment’s anti-commandeering principle, which forbids the federal government from commanding the states to implement federal laws or policies that would interfere with state sovereignty.

From the tenor of the oral argument, with only Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg appearing to credit the leagues’ argument that PASPA is a straightforward preemption law, one could easily envision a decisive victory for New Jersey. A 6-3 margin sounds about right — at least that’s my prediction.

Additional factors seem to indicate a shocking reversal from where the issue was just months ago, following 6 failed attempts by New Jersey. ROI provides the additional analysis:

“When you look at recent history on U.S. Supreme Court rulings, 83 percent show a reversal of the lower court opinion; and in the past five years, that figure is still over 70 percent,” Wallach said.

“So, all of the metrics show a change is afoot. What that change looks like, we’ll have to wait and see. It might not be whether New Jersey prevails on its partial repeal, but how sweeping of a decision in New Jersey’s favor it turns out to be.”

Court followers suggest the decision would come in spring or later. Just months ago, New Jersey and the gaming industry believed it had exhausted all efforts to win this case. But, to the surprise of many, on June 27 the Supreme Court decided it would take the case. “Look at where this case was just five months ago,” Wallach said. “It wasn’t even being mentioned. Now it’s going to the Supreme Court. New Jersey has lost six battles on this case in the lower courts. But this is the one that counts.

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Florida Sen. Tom Lee Proposes Unique way to Ban Greyhound Racing, but is it Meaningful and Helpful Change or a Decoupling Effort Aimed at Gambling Expansion?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing struggles of Florida’s greyhound industry and efforts to remove the races, but keep the slot machine gambling, an act known as decoupling. As it stands, to offer slot machines, the tracks must maintain a certain level of dog racing. Many see the terrible conditions for the animals as reason enough to shut down the industry and others want to not only protect the dogs, but Florida’s families by removing the full scope of gambling happening at the 12 tracks across Florida. Florida state Sen. Tom Lee, and former Senate President Don Gaetz are approaching the issue in unique way. As an online source explainsthe current methods to ban greyhound racing have failed due to the ability for those in opposition to add gambling expansion and other amendments to the bill that would make it undesirable. They now think the have a way around this issue:

Gaetz and state Sen. Tom Lee, both members of the Constitutional Revision Committee convened early this year, are listed as co-introducers of a measure “to prohibit wagering on greyhound or other dog races.”

Gaetz called the gaming event known as the Sport of Kings “a cruel, abusive practice” and noted that twice when he served as Senate President he had proposed legislation to ban greyhound racing. Both times the measure had passed the Senate and failed in the House.

Then-House Speaker Will Weatherspoon had been hesitant to have a companion bill to his legislation brought up for consideration, Gaetz said, because doing so would allow for amendment proposals that could serve to expand all sorts of gambling opportunities in the state.

“He was afraid we could move from a very humane bill about greyhounds to amended legislation creating a dramatic expansion of casino gambling,” Gaetz said. “It was a real tragedy we couldn’t get a clean bill banning greyhound racing passed.” As Constitution Revision Commission members, though, Gaetz and Lee can control the wording of the amendment they propose without fear of amendments being added. The proposed amendment would then be voted upon by state residents. “This seems like a better environment for this proposal,” Gaetz said.

If the proposed amendment is an outright ban of greyhound racing and doesn’t allow the site operators to stay open and operate mini-casinos by way of legally allowed slot parlors, the measure can be viewed as a win for the animals and Florida families. If, however, the measure simply prevents additional gambling amendments, but still leaves mini-casinos behind via decoupling, then it’s not nearly as beneficial as it appears on face. Some are skeptical. Former Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottkamp has been outspoken against decoupling and his article in Florida Politics outlines the decoupling potential:

State Sen. *Tom Lee* has proposed a constitutional amendment, as a member of the state’s Constitutional Revision Commission, that would end live greyhound racing and allow all 12 of Florida’s greyhound tracks to essentially continue operating as mini casinos.

It has been suggested that the proposal is an animal welfare proposal. There have been numerous attempts to end live racing in the Legislature over the years. All of those efforts have failed, in large part, because most members of the Legislature oppose the dramatic expansion of gambling that would result from such efforts.

It must also be noted however; his end goal is not to solely or altruistically oppose the act because gambling would left in the wake, as so many others do. He openly represents Florida Greyhound Association, so to that end, their goal is to keep greyhound racing alive. The rational and motivation behind each particular path can become muddled, but the reality of how this issue will be resolved is in the air until final language is seen. The intent of this measure is certainly being outlined from an animal welfare standpoint though, so time will tell what the final wording will be or even if it will make it to voters. The Bradenton Herald explains:

Dog racing is banned in 40 states and controversy surrounds the industry. Opponents say dogs are mistreated and have tested positive for cocaine, according to reports. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, at least 22 greyhounds have tested positive for cocaine this year and state figures show nearly 400 dogs have died at Florida tracks since 2013.

“There is growing recognition that many of these animals live in inhumane conditions, a reality that is out of line with the moral standard of Floridians,” Lee said in a statement. “For over a decade, the Legislature has fought to end greyhound racing, but special interests derail the issue every year. Now is our opportunity to finally end the mistreatment of greyhounds, reduce the amount of gambling in our state, and restore community values.”

Lee is on the Constitution Revision Commission, which has the power to place amendments on the ballot and meets every 20 years. Lee would need to convince the majority of the commission members to allow the proposal on the 2018 ballot before the decision would be passed to voters, according to the Democrat.

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