Category Archives: Gambling Venues

Missouri Prosecutors Advance Lawsuit to Shutdown Illegal Gambling Machines Popping Up Across the State

Casino Watch Focus has reported on a recent gambling expansion proposal in Missouri that would legalize slot machines outside of casinos. Currently, legalized gambling in Missouri is limited to a set number of licensed and regulated casinos that exist along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. The proposal would be an unprecedented expansion in gambling, as it would allow slot machines virtually anywhere in the state. However, the state is currently seeing similar expansion due to illegal gambling machines that operate exactly as these proposed slot machines would. These machines are popping up all over Missouri and the manufacture claims they are not slot machines because the reveal the result of the next spin to the player. These machines act exactly like the pre-reveal machines Florida had to deal with recently and the courts quickly called them out as illegal slot machines. It’s very clear that even though the initial spin shown is your outcome, it’s the spin after that the gambler is paying to see. Players are simply paying in advance and the subsequent outcomes are all a matter of chance. It is a slot machine through and through and a Platte County prosecutor is cracking down on these machines through a new lawsuit that seeks to get clarification by the court. An online source explains:

They look like slot machines, but they aren’t inside a casino.

Video gambling machines have been popping up across Missouri, including in St. Joseph, which has led one prosecutor to file criminal charges to stop their spread. Integrity Vending LLC, based in Kansas, currently faces one felony county of promoting gambling in Platte County.

“In Missouri, games of chance are illegal,” Eric Zahnd, the Platte County Prosecuting Attorney said. “These machines, according to the manufacturer, reveal whether or not you’ll win the next round of the game so they allege that it’s not a game of chance.”

“However to continue to play you have to play through those losing rounds,” Zahnd said.

The legal question that a judge must resolve is whether or not the machines constitute a game of chance, like a slot machine or video poker game. According to Zahnd, the company who distributed the machines, Integrity Vending LLC, has agreed to remove the machines if they’re determined to be illegal. 

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UPDATE: Court Strikes Down DOJ’s Wire Act Ruling – Appeal Likely to Follow

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the Department of Justice’s Wire Act interpretation as it relates to online gambling. Prior to the Obama Administration, the Wire Act was always interpreted to apply to all online gambling. During the Obama Administration, the DOJ decided the wire act only applied to sports betting, thereby legalizing all other forms of online gambling. Its been argued that their decision wasn’t grounded in the plain language and clear intent of Congress when the act was passed in the 1960’s. Never the less, it opened the floodgates to online gambling. Recently, the DOJ produced a memorandum that said they planned to reinterpret the wire act to apply to all gambling as it was for so many years prior. Naturally many groups opposed the ruling and the DOJ delayed its enforcement to allow time for the court process to take place. Now, the first ruling has been made and unsurprisingly, it upholds the Obama Administrations ruling. An online source reports:

In a memo dated June 12, 2019, US Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen instructed all US attorneys to hold off on implementing the Wire Act opinion until the end of the calendar year. The last date given had been June 14, 2019, but the decision by the US District Court last week makes any enforcement of that Wire Act opinion illegal as it pertains to any forms of gambling other than sports betting.

[E]veryone will wait to see if the DOJ decides to appeal that decision or let it stand. It is unlikely that the DOJ will not appeal, as even Judge Barbadoro fully expected the case to head to the US Supreme Court, as noted during the oral arguments phase.

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Greyhound Industry Seeks to Overturn Florida’s Amendment 13 that Bans Live Races

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the recent attempts to ban dog racing in Florida. Voters passed Amendment 13, which banned live greyhound races. The issue was anything but straight forward, as many voters wanted to eliminate the gambling that goes along with dog racing as well. However, the bill simply decoupled the live racing requirement from the gambling that took place at the tracks. The bill allows gambling on races that are simulcast and leaves open the possibility for existing slot machine gambling to be allowed even though the track doesn’t support live racing. However, Florida voters also passed Amendment 3, which requires voter approval for any expansion of gambling. This would seemingly mean new “tracks” couldn’t go up that are essentially just mini slot machine casinos that offer simulcast dog races. The true decoupling implications and the actual landscape of how slot machine gambling will expand as a result is uncertain until such mini casinos attempt to be built or expanded and all the legal posturing takes place. However, the seemingly clear issue of live dog races being banned in Florida may not be as certain either. It has been announced that a new group has been formed with the goal of legally challenging Amendment 13. Orlando Weekly reports:

Amendment 13, which passed with a 69 percent “yes” vote last year, banned betting on greyhound races in Florida. Now, the head of a pro-greyhound racing group says they’re fighting to bring the so-called sport back.

In a public Facebook post last week, Jennifer Newcome, chairman of the Committee to Support Greyhounds, announced the group’s intention to move forward with challenging the amendment in court.

Newcome said the group plans to file the case in July. The group adds on their website: “Greyhound Nation did not back down before, and we refuse to stop until the last judge says ‘NO.'”

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Florida Gov Encouraged to Pass Lottery Ticket Warnings

Casino Watch Focus has reported on a Florida Bill that would call for warning labels to be placed on the front of physical state lottery tickets sold, as well as prevent online sales in the future. The warning labels would be visible and warn that playing lottery games constitutes gambling and may lead to gambling addiction. Those in support of using gambling as the means to fund education took issue with the bill and drafted a letter. No-Casino’s John Sowindki addressed the problems with the letter and encouraged passage. Florida Politics reports: 

“The lottery industry would rather pretend that there are no adverse consequences to their regressive and addictive enterprise,” said No Casinos President *John Sowinski*. “Clearly there are.” Sowinski goes after specific points raised in a letter from World Lottery Association President *Rebecca Paul Hargrove* to Gov. *Ron DeSantis.*

Hargrove argues requiring warning labels on the front of lottery tickets threatens education revenues in Florida and sets bad precedent nationwide. “The instant scratch-off games have been around for over 45 years, and sales of these games continue to grow every year,” Hargrove wrote, “but more importantly the sales of these games continue to grow funding for good causes every year.”

Sowinski suggests Hargrove gives up the game in her search for further lottery sales.“Rebecca Paul Hargrove’s letter is basically an admission that if Floridians are properly warned about the addictive nature of scratch-off games and other lottery products, that some will choose to not spend money on them,” Sowinski said, “which is the entire purpose of this good legislation.”

Moreover, Sowinski then brings into question the very nature of raising funds off those that are addicts in the first place. Florida Politics continues:

The legislation requires ticket labels read either “WARNING: LOTTERY GAMES MAY BE ADDICTIVE” or simply “PLAY RESPONSIBLY.”

Sowinski scoffed at the reluctance to warn against dangerous behavior or to demonstrate responsibility.

“The World Lottery Association’s letter never disputes the addictive nature of these games,” he said. “The fact is that gambling enterprises, including lotteries, rely on addicts who spend a high volume of money for a large portion of their profits. That they would object to a simple, truthful warning label is obnoxious.”

The bill has been sent to the Governor’s desk and awaits his action.

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Sports Betting and Other Major Provisions in the Florida Gambling Compact with the Seminole Tribe Could Prevent Deal

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to renegotiated the expired portion of the Seminole Gambling Compact. Several attempts have been made over the past few legislative sessions, but nothing has been established and they have been acting in good faith since.  As this year’s session approaches its end, the efforts to finalize a new compact have strengthened. As previously explainedit was suggested that sports gambling could be legalized in Florida without needing to involve a vote of the people. Tribal gambling is not regulated in the same way, so if they were to offer it, its believed that it could be a way to work around the need for voter approval. Florida Politics online explains:

Simpson acknowledged last week that the concept of allowing the tribe to run sports books at the state’s dog and horse tracks and jai alai frontons was intended to sidestep a constitutional amendment that passed in November requiring statewide votes on citizens’ initiatives that would expand casino-type gambling.

But [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis, a graduate of Harvard Law School, indicated the constitutional amendment adds another layer of analysis to an already-complicated legal deal that also encompasses serious policy-making decisions.

“Obviously, me and my staff we’re going through it, looking substantively (at) what it means, but also legally. As you know, there’s a lot of legalities that are involved in this. There is just a (constitutional) amendment that passed. You know, the question, does it apply to the tribe? Does it apply to this or that? So there’s a whole host of things I think that need to be vetted through, but prior to yesterday I had not seen the outline. We have it now and are going through it,” DeSantis said.

This sports betting provision in general, however, is being set up in a way that Florida Gov Ron DeSantis believes could cause problems. Florida Politics continues:

With time already an enemy, Gov. Ron DeSantis injected more uncertainty Tuesday into a gambling deal reached by a Senate Republican leader and a representative of the Seminole Tribe, suggesting its passage would be too heavy a “legislative lift.”

The governor said he and his staff have begun scrutinizing “a draft outline” of the agreement, which would open the door for sports betting in Florida, with the tribe acting as a “hub” for sports betting at the state’s pari-mutuels.

But the Republican governor appeared skeptical of some sports-betting provisions in the deal, which reportedly also would permit in-play betting at professional sports arenas.

The manner in which sports betting is set up “could really affect the integrity of the games,” said DeSantis, who, as an undergraduate played baseball for Yale University.

“If I can place a wager on whether the first pitch of a game is going to be a strike or not, well, hell, that’s a big moral hazard, because that’s not necessarily something that would affect the total outcome,” he added.

Clearly sports betting has its own set of issues, but that’s not the only sticking point for a successful compact. Designated player games also need addressed given the temporary agreement expires after May of this year. The Tampa Bay Times explains: 

But some issues opposed by pari-mutuels could imperil the deal’s success in the House, several lobbyists said.

Controversial “designated player” games offered at many of the state’s pari-mutuel cardrooms are a key element of the deal. The Seminoles — and a federal judge — have maintained that the card games violate a 2010 gambling agreement with the state that gave the tribe “exclusivity” over offering banked card games, such as blackjack.

Amid the dispute about designated player games, former Gov. Rick Scott entered an agreement with the tribe in which the Seminoles have continued to pay about $350 million a year to the state, which pledged to “aggressively enforce” how the games are played. But that agreement expires on May 31, and the House and Senate have not included the revenue in next year’s budget.

The deal under discussion would severely alter the way the card games are being played, making them virtually unprofitable for pari-mutuel cardrooms, sources said.

House Speaker José Oliva told The News Service of Florida on Tuesday afternoon that he had seen a “brief outline” of the gambling proposal.

The issues don’t stop there either. There are discussions to decouple horse racing in the same way dog racing was decoupled by the voters last election as well as other intertwined gambling issues. At the end of the day, Gov. DeSantis thinks it could simply be too many issues with too many parties to come to an agreement in time. The Tamp Bay Times continues:

To appease the pari-mutuels about the changes to the designed player games, the proposed agreement would also allow horse tracks to do away with horse races, while keeping lucrative activities like cardrooms and slot machines, which are legal at tracks in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. It is unclear whether such “decoupling” would also apply to jai alai frontons. Dog tracks are already allowed to drop greyhound races, thanks to a voter-approved constitutional amendment passed in November.

The pari-mutuels would also be able to operate sports books, with a cut going to the tribe, but the profits from sports betting wouldn’t offset the losses from the changes in the designated player games, according to industry experts.

Under the agreement, the Seminoles would be able to add craps and roulette to other gambling activities currently underway at the tribe’s casinos. The tribe would agree to pay about $400 million a year to the state, an amount that could gradually increase to about $500 million a year. That’s a boost from the current revenue-sharing agreement with the tribe, but far less than what legislative leaders had originally envisioned.

The decisions by the House and Senate to not include the tribe’s annual payments in their budget proposals takes some pressure off negotiators as lawmakers work to hammer out a final budget in the coming days.

Senate President Bill Galvano on Tuesday afternoon told the News Service that Simpson was continuing to work on the gambling deal, which the president said was still in play.

But with just a week-and-a-half left before the legislative session is slated to end, DeSantis hinted that passage of a compact would be extremely difficult. 

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Missouri’s Largest Gambling Expansion Proposal Since Casino Legalization Emerges in the House

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various gambling proposals and changes in the Missouri gambling landscape, but this proposal might be the most shocking. The Missouri constitution was amended to allow gambling on riverboats by the voters back in 1994 and since that time, the qualifications for river boat gambling has drastically expanded. Its started as actual river boats that traveled up and down the rivers for a two hour period, but now no time or monetary limits exist and gamblers walk into full scale buildings up to 25 feet off the river bank (albeit with a tiny amount of river water with a tiny amount of river water pumped underneath them as to technically make them water craft). Even still, gambling has always been limited to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Now a bill has been proposed in the Missouri house that is so radical, it’s not an exaggeration to call it the largest and most problematic expansion of gambling the state has ever seen. An online source explains:

“This irresponsible bill would permit slot machines on every street corner where a restaurant, bar, convenience store or truck stop is located,” said Mike Winter, executive director of the Missouri Gaming Association. “These machines look and play just like slot machines. If this bill passes, we can expect to see them in every city, town or community across the state. Missouri could very quickly have more slot machines outside of casinos than inside them.”

“This is not what Missouri voters envisioned when they voted to approve casino wagering in Missouri,” Winter said. “Voters were very careful to restrict casinos to certain locations and to limit the number of casinos.”

The bill would bypass a vote by Missouri residents, who first authorized casinos by ballot initiative in 1994 and also voted to limit the number of casinos to 13 in 2008.

Not only does the bill drastically expand gambling, it seemingly bypassing regulation by the Missouri gambling commission and it leaves vulnerable those people and families who could be most impact by gambling addiction. The source continues:

If passed, the proposed gambling expansion is expected to heavily impact rural areas throughout the state. The same towns and cities that opposed casinos in their communities could suddenly see hundreds of slot machines in family restaurants, convenience stores and other retail establishments.

HB 423 would prohibit anyone under the age of 21 from playing lottery slot machines but oversight would be minimal as compared to the strict rules that regulate casinos. Busy retailers with machines on their premises would be solely responsible for monitoring their use.

“The proposed regulations, security and oversight are simply inadequate,” Winter said. “This gambling expansion would bypass not only our state’s voters but also our strong gaming commission, which establishes and enforces strict gambling regulations in our casinos.”

Missouri casinos and the Missouri Gaming Association provide a full range of programs to promote responsible gaming and to help those who have a gambling problem. Retailers hosting lottery slot machines would not be required to provide similar responsible gaming education.

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Despite Recent Supreme Court Ruling, most NCAA March Madness Gambling will be Illegal and Cost Employers Millions in Lost Productivity

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing problems that come with the NCAA March Madness tournament each year. Millions is lost to employers through a decline in work place productivity and people continue to gamble away money at unprecedented rates. Most of this gambling is illegal and despite the recent legalization of sports betting by the Supreme Court, that trend will continue. An online source explains:

America has seen a boom in legalized sports betting over the past year, and March Madness betting will highlight that. Nevada certainly remains the top dog, but New Jersey has come on strong. Yet illegal offshore sportsbooks continue to thrive. The American Gaming Association (AGA) set out to determine how much legal versus illegal wagering will take place with *March Madness *betting.

Over the first week of March, the AGA utilized Morning Consult to conduct an online survey among more than 11,000 adults. The study found that some 47 million people will wager on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which began Tuesday with the First Four. The AGA found that $8.5 billion will be bet during the tourney, shared by legal and illegal sportsbooks. Legal sports betting continues to expand, but this report found that offshore operations and local bookies will still attract more action than regulated sportsbooks. 

The general legality of such gambling continues to be a prominent issue this time of year as many people view office pools as harmless fun. Unfortunately, it’s anything but and its almost always illegal gambling. ESPN explains:

“Generally, if the office pool charges a fee for entering the pool and awards prizes to the winner(s), then there is a serious question as to its legality. Some states exempt small pools from their gambling laws and regulations,” said Washington, D.C.-based attorney Steven Eichorn of Ifrah Law.

Sports betting is currently legal in only a handful of states, with Nevada the only state permitted to offer single-game wagering, the most popular form. The Nevada Gaming Control Board does not track the amount bet on the NCAA tournament separately, and combines the NBA and college basketball into one “basketball” category on its monthly revenue reports. The spike in action from March Madness is easy to see, though.

In terms of cost to employers, the Charlotte Observer points to a Chicago-based study which says as much as $1.7 billion will be lost by employers in productivity, which breaks down to $109 million lost for every 10 minutes spent following the tournament. They believe there will be over 37 million workers participating in pools with 1.5 million watching games and results online from their desks. ESPN recently quantify the financial impact of just the gambling:

 On the low end, the FBI estimated in 2013 that $2.6 billion was bet illegally on the tournament. On the high end, veteran bookmakers estimate the number to be anywhere from $12 billion to $26 billion. Friendly bracket pools are everywhere, with most everyone betting on the NCAA tournament in some form. But there are bets, and then there are bets. You don’t get to $26 billion with $20-per-sheet office pools.

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