Category Archives: Gambling Venues

Possible New Miami Gambling Expansion Plan Faces Regulatory Roadblock

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many efforts to expand gambling in Florida. There have been several attempts at passing Vegas-style resort casinos, but those failed. Other gambling expansion attempts include slots, card games and jai alai. Now most recently, gambling expansion efforts are being made in Miami. Magic City Casino is seeking to open a jai alai fronton and poker room in the Edgewater neighborhood. The proposal was seen as controversial by many citing concerns that it would lead to even more gambling expansion. Now in response, city planners are using zoning regulations to halt the immediate expansion so the process can be open to feedback from the community. An online source explains: 

City commissioners voted 4-0 on Thursday to authorize Miami City Manager Emilio Gonzalez and the planning department to begin working on amendments to the Miami 21 zoning code that would define what gambling facilities are and where such facilities can be located in the city. It would also require four out of five commissioners to vote in favor of any future pari-mutuels, casinos, or card rooms.

Commissioner Ken Russell proposed the legislation after learning that the state’s division of pari-mutuel wagering recently awarded a permit to West Flagler Associates, the entity that owns Magic City Casino. West Flagler would lease the property from Crescent Heights and would also include a restaurant and poker room.

Several prominent businessmen and developers, including Jorge Perez, Craig Robins and Norman Braman, have come out against the new gambling facility.

Russell said the city does not have a mechanism in place that requires gambling facilities to go through a public process that would vet any proposed development or give the city the ability to reject the location of a new casino, pari-mutuel or card room. He said adding the regulations ensures residents have a role in deciding whether they want gambling facilities in their neighborhood.

 

 

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UPDATE: Supreme Court Strikes down Federal Sports Betting Ban, Creates ‘Wild West’ for Sports Gambling and Potential Devastation for Problem Gamblers

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts lead by New Jersey to reverse federal bans of sports betting. After many failed attempts, New Jersey has finally succeeded in opening the door for them to regulate sports gambling. This obviously opens the door for every state as well, and the ramifications will be serious. In an op-ed piece published by the Hill, John W. Kindt, a professor of business and legal policy in the Department of Business Administration at the University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business, who for 20 years has focused his specialty research on the societal, business and economic impacts of decriminalizing gambling activities, outlines how such a reversal of policy creates a Wild West: 

On Monday, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Murphy v. NCAA, a case brought by the State of New Jersey to overturn the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which was sponsored, ironically enough, by former Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), a professional basketball legend, to protect the integrity of U.S. sports. Trying to legalize sports gambling, New Jersey lost twice in U.S. district court and twice in the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals between 2012-2014. In a perplexing move, however, the Supreme Court accepted New Jersey’s appeal and heard the case on Dec. 4, despite the recommendation of the Office of the Solicitor General advising the court to reject New Jersey’s appeal.

Generally ignoring the practical economic and social effects of enabling unregulated “real time” sports gambling, for example by kids on cell phones, a divided court decided “to destroy PASPA rather than salvage the statute” complained Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her dissent.

The majority decision focused almost exclusively on New Jersey’s myopic arguments invoking the “anti-commandeering” principle of a 1992 case New York v. United States, while ignoring the obvious interstate impacts and the well-established Commerce Clause empowering congressional action on interstate sports.

While appearing innocuous to the uninitiated, the Murphy case will quickly generate ubiquitous and unregulated “Wild West” sports gambling. It is academically well-documented that this type of gambling is poised to explode with local and strategic economic impacts negatively affecting the U.S. economy.

While unlikely, immediate congressional actions regulating the practical impacts of the Murphy case are necessary.

While the Supreme Court cited the U.S. Gambling Commission’s 1999 Final Report, the court missed the Final Report’s numerous recommendations against gambling in cyberspace — particularly sports gambling.

Sports gambling in real time on cell phones and computers was highlighted as an example of the “crack cocaine” for hooking college students, teens and kids into addicted gambling. The Supreme Court also missed a wide spectrum of negative economic and financial issues associated with widespread sports gambling.

The complete editorial can be read HEREAdditionally, its important to understand this move might be the single greatest expansion of gambling seen by a single court case. The ramification of such explosive legalized gambling cant be overstated. A Press Release by the National Council on Problem Gambling explains their position: 

“Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court is the largest potential expansion of gambling in our nation’s history now that an additional 49 states have the opportunity to legalize sports betting. NCPG believes the expansion of legalized sports gambling in the United States will likely increase gambling participation and gambling problems unless steps are taken to minimize harm,” says Marlene Warner, President of the NCPG Board of Directors.

NCPG’s wide-ranging and deep experience in these fields since 1972 allows the organization to provide a clear-eyed perspective on both the benefits and pitfalls of legalized gambling, and to find a middle way that addresses concerns on all sides. Revenues from legalized sports betting must be viewed in the context of social costs. Research has shown that current gambling activity generates over $115 billion in overall revenue to local, state and federal government, but also results in $6.5 billion in associated costs, including criminal justice and healthcare costs. These costs are often hidden and difficult to see. Approximately 2% of adults experience gambling problems, or approximately 5 million people. These social and economic impacts must not be ignored.

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The 4 Major Players Sports Association and the PGA join the MLB and NBA Regarding Having Their Cut of the Potential Sports Betting Action

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing Supreme Court case and the history leading up to the potential legalization of sports betting. New Jersey has taken years of attempts to legalize sports betting in their state to the Highest Court and a ruling is expected soon. With the prevailing thought being the Supreme Court will legalize sports betting outside of Las Vegas, many are looking forward to the landscape, and positioning themselves to benefit from the gambling expansion that would follow. Recently, Major League Baseball and the National Baseball Association started suggesting legislation to various states that would provide them with a cut of the gambling action, or in their words, and integrity fee. Now it would appear the PGA has decided to make their position known, and they are supporting an integrity fee as well. An online source explains:

With Illinois the latest state to consider legalizing sports betting, the PGA Tour took the opportunity to voice its support for initiatives backed by the NBA and Major League Baseball.

The revelation of professional golf’s stance on the issue of gambling was disclosed at a hearing of the Illinois Senate Gaming Committee on Tuesday. It was the first time that the tour voiced a definitive opinion on the subject.

So chalk up another professional ruling body’s support for the controversial integrity fee. The NBA and MLB have spent considerable sums trying to persuade several state’s legislators in attempting to get what amounts to a royalty from any potential sports betting a state may implement. The two leagues have a reported 30-registered lobbyists working the halls of 16 state congresses.

It wasn’t just the PGA that voiced their support for a seat at this potential gambling table. In a joint statement released by the MLB Players associationit would appear all four major players groups wants to be a part of ensuring this so called “integrity”:

“Given the pending Supreme Court decision regarding the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA), representatives of the MLBPA, NBPA, NFLPA and NHLPA have been working together on the legal, commercial, practical, and human consequences of allowing sports betting to become mainstream. The time has come to address not just who profits from sports gambling, but also the costs. Our unions have been discussing the potential impact of legalized gambling on players’ privacy and publicity rights, the integrity of our games and the volatility on our businesses. Betting on sports may become widely legal, but we cannot allow those who have lobbied the hardest for sports gambling to be the only ones controlling how it would be ushered into our businesses. The athletes must also have a seat at the table to ensure that players’ rights and the integrity of our games are protected.”

As far as the likelihood of the Supreme Court legalizing sports betting by declaring the PAPSA unconstitutional, the mood has slightly shifted. Initially the prevailing thought was that the Court took up the case and then asked the questions they did during oral arguments because they planned to reverse the lower court. This could still be the case, but given the delay in the actual ruling, some are now worried the Court may now uphold the constitutionality of the PAPSA. An online source reports:

It’s been four months since the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard arguments regarding the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992, the current federal law that prohibits sports betting in all but four American states.

During the December 4 hearing, many in the courtroom felt a majority of the justices were on New Jersey’s side in the state arguing that PASPA violates the Constitution and anti-commandeering interpretations of the Tenth Amendment. But with an opinion still not issued, there’s a growing concern among repeal proponents that the court might not produce a favorable decision.

Many believed March 5 would be the day SCOTUS unveiled its PASPA opinion. In February, online sportsbook BetDSI was taking wagers on the release date and had March 5 the favorite at even money. It was followed by April 2 (+150), April 30 (+300), May 14 (+750), May 21 (+1000), and May 29 (+2500). The sportsbook has since removed the market, as handicapping the line is nearly impossible as SCOTUS provides no information as to when opinions will be released.* The next most probable release date is April 30, as the Supreme Court tends to publish opinions on Mondays when the court is in session, but not hearing arguments.

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Supreme Court Could Rule in Favor of Sports Betting Expansion Soon, MLB & NBA Seek to Impose a Controversial Integrity Fee

Casino Watch Focus has reported over the years on the numerous efforts by New Jersey to legalize sports betting in their State. As is stands. Las Vegas is the only place where sports betting in allowed and the Supreme Court has heard arguments about the appropriateness of the PASPA, the law which makes it illegal outside of that specific jurisdiction. Experts believe the ruling could come as early as Monday, April 2nd, so states are getting ready. The Washington Post reports:

Some time before July — perhaps as early as Tuesday — the Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling that could drastically alter sports gambling in the United States, possibly striking down the 25-year-old federal law that largely prohibits sports bets outside of Nevada or maybe allowing individual states to decide for themselves whether fans should be permitted to wager on games.

While the Supreme Court could opt to maintain the status quo, many sports gambling analysts and court-watchers anticipate a ruling that lays out some sort of path to legal sports wagering. At oral arguments in December, a majority of justices seemed receptive to New Jersey’s argument. At least 18 state legislatures have some form of legislation in the works in anticipation of the Supreme Court giving them a path to legalized sports betting.

The States aren’t the only ones preparing for such a Supreme Court decision. Whereas the NHL and NFL are continuing their position of opposing sports gambling, the NBA and MLB are actively lobbying state legislatures to craft gambling legislation that they believe will be integral to the leagues. Bloomberg explains:

Now, on the eve of a Supreme Court decision that could reshape gambling in America the leagues have come around. Professional baseball and basketball have gone further: They also want a cut of the profits, drawing a new battle line with the casinos and sparking a state-by-state lobbying war. The National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball are asking legislators to require casinos to pay the leagues 1 percent of all wagers placed on their sports. Casinos and sports book operators, unsurprisingly, are vehemently opposed.

The fee is by far the most controversial entry on the leagues’ wish list, though there are others: The leagues want states to require bookmakers to use official data streams, share consumer information and allow the leagues final approval of what types of wagers are allowed on their games.

The leagues justify the fee as part royalty, owed to the league for rights to profit off its games; and part insurance policy, to offset the risk to the league that its games will be corrupted and the money it will spend to make sure they aren’t.

“Sports betting is built on our games,” NBA General Counsel Dan Spillane told a hearing of Connecticut legislators on March 1. “If something goes wrong, if there’s a scandal, something that tarnishes the image of the game, that’s going to be a cost borne by the sports leagues, and less of a cost borne by the operators that offer sports bets.”

A representative from William Hill Plc, one of the world’s biggest gambling companies, made the bookmaker’s case. Las Vegas casinos typically keep about 5 percent of the bets they take, he said, which means the NBA’s proposed 1 percent cut is really a 20 percent cut of revenue.

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Florida Ends Session with No Gambling Bills Passed – Seminole Tribe Provided Assurances to Continue the Revenue Sharing Compact in the Interim

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing gambling expansion issues in Florida. Many issues were on the table this legislative session including a new gambling compact between the State and the Seminole Tribe, a greyhound racing ban, specific regulations on types of card games to be allowed, and the location and expiation of new slot machines in the states. The hope was to address these issues this legislative session, as it seems clear that a new amendment will pass a vote of the people to require all future gambling legislation to be approved by the voters. Most recently though, Casino Watch Focus reported that those goals were unlikely to be achieved as the focus of the Florida legislators would be shifting to focus on gun control legislation that was prompted after the Parkland school shooting. After those efforts were complete, gambling discussions were given some very last minute life, but as reported by The Palm Beach Post, those efforts have come to a close with no new gambling bills being passed:

Republican legislative leaders had resurrected the issue in the waning days of the session as they tried to strike a deal between the gambling-leery House and the Senate, which was willing to expand slot machines to counties where voters have approved the lucrative machines.

But after a day of horse-trading, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron declared the issue off the table. “Despite the good faith efforts of both the House and Senate, a gaming bill will not pass the Legislature this session,” the leaders said in a statement Friday evening. “Gaming remains one of the most difficult issues we face as a Legislature. We are pleased with the progress made over the last week and know that our colleagues will continue to work on this important issue.”

Lawmakers were anxious to address the perennially elusive issue due to a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would give voters control of future gambling decisions, something now largely left up to the Legislature.

“We spent so much time, and rightfully so, on the school-safety legislation, and we found ourselves on a Friday, with a Sunday deadline if we had extended, and the tribe’s not up here,” Galvano said, referring to school-safety legislation stemming from the Feb. 14 mass shooting at a Broward County high school.

One of the more pressing issues at hand, was the formation of a new gambling compact between the Florida and the Seminole Tribe. The legal issues at hand have stemmed from the exclusivity aspects of certain card games in exchange for income to the State. The Palm Beach Post continues:

Also, legislators wanted to ensure a steady stream of income from the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The money could be in peril after a federal court ruling about controversial “designated player” games at pari-mutuel cardrooms throughout the state. Striking a new deal, called a compact, with the Seminoles, which would be part of any gambling legislation, has proved elusive for legislators.

One of the critical provisions of a 2010 deal between the state and tribe, giving the tribe “exclusivity” over banked card games, such as blackjack, expired in 2015. That spawned a protracted legal battle and previously futile attempts by lawmakers to seal a new agreement. The tribe pays more than $300 million a year under the banked-card games portion of the 2010 agreement.

But the legal battle focused heavily on what are known as “designated player games,” which are played at pari-mutuel facilities. After a federal judge sided with the tribe in a dispute over whether the lucrative designated-player games breached the Seminoles’ exclusivity over offering banked card games, the tribe agreed to continue making payments to the state, and gambling regulators promised to “aggressively enforce” the manner in which cardrooms conduct the designated player games.

While the tribe agreed to temporarily continue paying the state, some lawmakers are eager for the financial certainty a new compact would provide. But Galvano said he has spoken with a representative of the tribe, who assured him that the Seminoles intend to maintain the revenue-sharing agreement with the state. 

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ESRB Responds to Sen. Hassan’s Letter to Regulate Gambling-esque Loot Boxes Offering a Completely Meaningless Solution

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing issue of loot boxes in video games. Many seek to label them as gambling and want to see the appropriate regulations in place. The game that brought the issue to light was a Disney owned property, Star Wars and the game EA produced, Battlefront II. Hawaii legislator Chris Lee candidly referred to the game as an online, Star Wars themed casino, designed to take kids money. Since the issue has become more clearly understood, more legislators have pressured the industry for the appropriate protections moving forward. Most recentlyUS Senator Maggie Hassan wrote an open letter to the ESRB, the video game self-regulator body, asking them to address the issue before bodies like Congress had to step in to offer protection. The ESRB finally released a statement outlining a new policy, and it should come as no surprise that their recommended actions do absolutely nothing to protect consumers or adequately inform parents as to the dangers of loot boxes, or even to their inclusion in games for that matter. Forbes very precisely breaks down the situation and comments from Sen Hass demonstrates why the ESRB’s suggested policy action wont advance protections in any meaningful way:

The ESRB made an announcement yesterday that it will now start labeling games that sell loot boxes. The problem? It will also be labeling games that sell /anything/, loot boxes, microtransactions, boosts, even DLC, using one, catch-all “In-Game Purchases” label.

The issue that was immediately pointed out by everyone was that nearly every game on the market contains “in-game purchases” in 2018, so this will be a sticker slapped on pretty much all titles, barring perhaps some indies. Hassan herself even saw this as a pretty obvious dodge, saying this after the announcement was made:

“While today’s announcement of the creation of a new ‘In-Game Purchases’ label and the ESRB’s response to my letter are a positive step for parents and consumers, I am still concerned by the ESRB’s skepticism regarding the potentially addictive nature of loot boxes and microtransactions in video games. I will work with all relevant stakeholders to continue oversight on these issues and ensure that meaningful improvements are made to increase transparency and consumer protections.”

The ESRB very clearly understood that people would see through such meaningless actions, so they attempted to preemptively address everyone’s criticism. As Forbes points out, their response was nonsense and it’s incredibly obvious that the industry won’t be attempting to address the issue unless legislative bodies like Congress force them to protect children from this form of gambling:

The ESRB anticipated that it would get flack for not targeting loot boxes specifically with this move, and president Patricia Vance said this in its defense:

“I’m sure you’re all asking why aren’t we doing something more specific to loot boxes,” Vance said. “We’ve done a lot of research over the past several weeks and months, particularly among parents. What we’ve learned is that a large majority of parents don’t know what a loot box is. Even those who claim they do, don’t really understand what a loot box is. So it’s very important for us to not harp on loot boxes per se, to make sure that we’re capturing loot boxes, but also other in-game transactions.”

This is, of course, nonsense. While the ESRB is setting up a site to better educate parents on in-game spending in addition to this new “in-game purchases” sticker, the point is that the ESRB is totally ducking the real issue here. They still want to get /nowhere/ near declaring loot boxes gambling and doing something drastic like making all loot box-infused games M or AO rated, so this is their incredibly phoned-in compromise.

To me, this is about as useful a gambling regulatory body (run by the casinos, not the government) informing you that a stay at a casino will cost you money, but without differentiating between spending cash on food, blackjack, drinks, poker, hotel rooms or slot machines. Kids can order food and drinks and stay at the hotel, but they can’t gamble for obvious reasons. But the ESRB with its new system is lumping /all/ forms of spending together in a way that is bound to do nothing but confuse parents even further, obscuring the real issue.

It is absolutely absurd that the ESRB is creating a system that would group something like /Horizon Zero Dawn/’s Frozen Wilds [Downloadable Content (DLC)] in with something like /Battlefront 2/ loot boxes. This “solution” is totally glossing over the crux of the issue, which is not that players are able to spend money past the $60 asking price of a game, but that /the way/ in which they’re asked to spend money has often been honed by psychologists to ensure it’s as addicting, if not more so, than traditional gambling. But the ESRB is not touching that with a ten foot pole, relying on the old argument that since nothing of “actual value” is won during this gambling because the items are digital, that it isn’t gambling at all. And yet there is nothing psychologically addictive about wanting to buy DLC for a game you’ve purchased, while there certainly is for players, often children, that are spending dozens, hundreds, or thousands of dollars on randomized, slot-machine-like loot box rewards across the majority of releases today.

So yes, the ESRB did something that is essentially nothing, and it’s clear they’re not going to be a player in this fight unless legislation forces them to change their tune. 

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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 

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