Category Archives: Illegal Gambling

Missouri’s Illegal Gambling Machines are Hurting Public Education Funding

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the on going issue of illegal gambling machines cropping up all over Missouri. These machines are essentially unregulated slot machines in areas outside of Missouri’s regulated casinos. Enforcement issues have been cited, as no one seems to be responsible for shutting them down. This has lead to their proliferation and only now are lawmakers starting to notice.

One of the bigger issues being reported is how money is being syphoned away from public educating funding. Gambling money being used to fund public education is already a troubling proposition, as it general boils down to a shell game of transferred money. Essentially the state has a budget for education. Then a tax on gambling is proposed, normally in exchange for expanded gambling, and a specified amount is then transferred to education. The problem is the original budget is almost always reduced or set in anticipation of the gambling money. It’s rarely ever an actual increase in funding for public education. So it/s even more critical that the expected revenues are collected as the state has made itself reliant on such gambling funds. Now that these gambling machines are spreading and pulling people away from legal, regulated and taxed gambling facilities, and state lottery sales, its public education that’s taking a hit. An online source explains: 

The Missouri Lottery’s executive director testified Thursday in Jefferson City that illegal slot machines are hurting public education in the Show-Me State. Illegal slot machines can be found in bars, restaurants, gas stations and convenience stores.

Scheve Reardon testified during a 90-minute hearing before the House Special Interim Committee on Gaming, which is chaired by State Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial. Shaul tells the audience that illegal slot machines cost Missouri education at least $50 million last year. He says the alleged illegal slot machines are hurting the Lottery, thereby impacting classrooms.

“The (Missouri) Lottery is losing revenue here, because of these alleged illegal machines. So are the (Missouri’s 13) casinos, so is everybody across that’s funding the state. The state is losing money because of these,” says Shaul. Thursday’s hearing was the committee’s second in two weeks. The Missouri Gaming Commission testified before the committee on August 22, saying the state needs a coordinated effort to stop the illegal machines.

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Missouri Legislators Finally Discussing Ways to Enforce and Eliminate Illegal Gambling Machines Across the State

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the worrisome issue in Missouri of illegal slot machines popping up across the state in non-licensed locations such as gas stations and the even worse possibility of legislators contemplation making slot machines legal outside of casinos. However, the concern rose over such a massive expansion of gambling has now shifted to enforcement methods to eliminate illegal slot machines. So far it seems to be the responsibility of local prosecutors as the Gaming Commission can only enforce regulated, legal gambling. An online source explains: 

After years of inaction by Missouri lawmakers, the push may be on to take aim at the tens of thousands of illegal slot machines spreading across the state. In the first meeting of a special House committee formed to address gambling laws in the state, the chairman of the panel said he believes Missourians want to unplug the illegal terminals, which have popped up in gas stations, taverns and convenience stores. 

The Missouri Gaming Commission has deemed the terminals as “gambling devices,” which are prohibited outside of Missouri’s 13 licensed casinos. But, there is little agreement on how to control their spread. The Missouri Gaming Commission says it can only police establishments that have bingo licenses. And the Missouri Department of Public Safety, which oversees liquor licenses, says it cannot crack down on the machines because of a court ruling in 2000 that found the agency has no authority to seize gambling devices. For now, it appears most of the work to crack down on the machines is on the backs of the state’s 115 county prosecutors, a process which Rep. Dirk Deaton, R-Noel, called “cumbersome.”

However, it seems that many Missouri legislators believe its time to find a statewide solution to the problem, although many interests are in play. An online source explains: 

David Grothaus, executive director of the gaming commission, urged lawmakers to find a statewide solution. “What the state needs is a very focused effort on these illegal machines,” Grothaus told the panel. Rep. LaKeySha Bosley, D-St. Louis, said she knows of at least five locations within her district where illegal terminals are located. “It blows my mind that they are that blatant,” said Rep. Wes Rogers, D-Kansas City. “These illegal machines are everywhere. I have several of them in my district,” Shaul added. Shaul said some of the blame for the situation lies with the Legislature.

Finding a solution could be a tough sell when lawmakers gather for their annual session in January because of the varied interests involved in the debate.

Casino operators are opposed to legalizing the machines because they could cut into their profits. Casinos also want to begin taking wagers on sporting events, but the terminal operators don’t want to allow that without getting the ability to operate legally.

Among the companies linked to the spread of illegal gambling is Torch Electronics, which is managed by Steve Miltenberger of Wildwood. The company has hired a team of well-connected lobbyists and has pumped at least $20,000 in contributions to a campaign committee raising money for Gov. Mike Parson. Miltenberger, who previously worked for video gambling companies in Illinois, where they have been taxed and regulated since 2012, has placed video terminals in businesses across Missouri over the past year. 

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


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. 

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


Tribal Casino Sues Video Gaming Company over Illegal Loot Box Gambling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing saga of the new gambling mechanic in video games know as loot boxes. This mechanic works by having players purchase boxes full of mystery items in video games. These boxes often cost real world money and the items coming out of the box can be garden variety or fairly useless in game items all the way to very powerful weapons or items that give players a leg up. There have been may instances where these items hold real world value and some examples exist of those items being sold for real money. So the player puts money in the game, pulls the box open lever, gets a random prize of various value and then the player trades those in for real world money, very possibly at a financial gain. Many would argue that the mechanic described is the same as gambling on a slot machine, and that’s the very foundation of for a tribal casino’s lawsuit is video game manufacture.   An online source explains how such a lawsuit could be brought forth: 

The Quinault Indian Nation has filed a lawsuit against Valve, the makers of Steam, claiming that it is running an unlicensed gambling operation and demanding payment for damages.

Okay, this gets a little complicated so settle in. The Quinault Indian Nation owns and operates a licensed casino in the state of Washington, one that is regulated by the Washington Gaming Commission. Valve is also based in Washington.

In its suit against Valve (via Geekwire), the Quinault Nation alleges that “Valve facilitated illegal, unregulated and unlicensed online gambling” when it launched skins for /Counter-Strike: Global Offensive /(/CS:GO/).

Back in 2013, Valve started releasing skins for weapons in /CS:GO/, these upgrades are purely cosmetic. Players would earn crates by playing /CS:GO /and these crates could then be opened with keys which Valve sold in its store. The keys were the only way to open the crates, and it made Valve a tidy bit of cash.

The Quinault Nation says that “the look, feel, sound and experience [of opening a crate] was basically an online slot machine”, providing YouTube footage of players opening crates to back up its claim.

What’s particularly striking in this case, is that seemingly at every level of the transaction, Value, the company being sued by Quinault Indian Nation, had their hand in guiding the process. An online source explains:

It points to the skin gambling sites that were launching and says Valve did nothing to stop them. “Valve had actual knowledge of the identity of the Valve accounts that gambling websites used to effectuate gambling transactions, and chose not to take any action against them,” the court documents state.

It goes on to claim that “Valve allowed gambling websites to use Valve accounts on Valve’s servers and Valve’s computers to effectuate gambling transactions” and that “Valve also provided technical support to gambling websites and real-money cash out websites, despite those websites violating Valve’s Steam Subscriber Agreement, and would return control of gambling websites’ Valve accounts back to the gambling website after being hijacked or hacked by other third parties.”

Despite simply providing an incredibly clear picture for those legislative and consumer protection bodies looking to best understand just how much these loot boxes are no different from gambling, the tribe also outlines exactly how it hurts not only their business with the State, but how doing so illegally without following state regulation further harms those involved. They conclude: 

The Nation has a contract with the State of Washington that means it must remain compliant with the state’s laws if it wants to operate casinos, and that compliance costs money. It has to “engage in responsible gaming, prevent fraud, prevent illegal gaming, and prevent underage gambling”. The Nation also pays 2% of its earnings in Impact Mitigation Funds, which go to paying support services in area around the casino.

If Valve is a gambling operation, like the Nation claims, then it is an unlicensed one and doesn’t incur any of the costs or the risks that come with a gambling license. The Nation is suing for damages, but also the money Valve obtained through gambling transactions.

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


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.

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

 

 


UPDATE: Court upholds that Florida’s Pre-reveal games are slot machines and illegal gambling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on a new type of slot machine that initially confused many as to whether it was a slot machine or a harmless entertainment machine. First and foremost, these devices look and function 100% like a slot machine. So why the confusion? These machines actually reveal the results of the next spin before you pay. This lead some, including the manufactures and those who operated the machines, to conclude that its not a game of chance, because you know the result, so it cant be gambling. These machines were quickly shut down, but a judge originally ruled that because you know the result, it’s not chance, so they were allowed.

The judge reconsidered the decision after further explanation that you are not paying to see the next spin, but rather you are paying to see the result of the subsequent spin. Its absolutely no different than a slot machine, except the first time you put money in, you know the result. Past that, its always putting money in, spinning, letting chance take over, and seeing if you win. No one would likely leave a spin showing where the next pull would be a winner. So any new player would in all reality be starting the slot machine knowing they are paying to see what the next outcome will be.   That decision was appealed, and the new Florida court has unsurprisingly upheld the lower courts ruling, preventing what would be an unimaginable expansion of gambling at every corner should such machines not be considered slot machines that require regulation. The Orlando Weekly reports:

Siding with state regulators, an appeals court Thursday ruled that controversial electronic games played in bars and other establishments are illegal slot machines. A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal upheld a circuit judge’s decision that what are known as “pre-reveal” games violate laws preventing slot machines in most of Florida. The panel’s 10-page ruling found, in part, that the games meet the definition of slot machines because they include an element of chance.

The ruling Thursday, quoting a section of state law, said the determination of whether the games are illegal slot machines “turns on whether the user may receive something of value ‘by reason of any element of chance or any other outcome unpredictable by the user.’ The element of chance or unpredictability must be inherent in the machine itself.”

“We hold that the trial court was correct in determining that Version 67 is a slot machine because the element of chance is inherent in it given that it has a preset win/loss ratio … and that the game outcomes are determined by the machine by chance, via an RNG (random number generator), and there is nothing the user can do to affect the outcomes,” said the ruling, written by appeals-court Judge Joseph Lewis and joined by judges James Wolf and Stephanie Ray. “Furthermore, Version 67 is a slot machine for the additional and independent reason that also inherent in it is an outcome unpredictable by the user. While it is true that the user is advised of the outcome of the game at hand ahead of time through the preview feature, the user cannot predict that outcome until it is randomly generated and then displayed by the machine. Nor can the user predict the outcome of Game 2 while playing Game 1.”

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


March Madness Betting Leads to Billions in Illegal Gambling, Poses risks for Problem Gamblers, and Costs Billions in Lost Work Place 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 this year the trend continues. The NCAA remains steadfast on its objection to gambling on the Tournament. They not only understand the hardships it places on addicted gamblers that can’t control the sheer volume of risk and loss the can suffer, but they also understand the impact to the integrity of the games at play. ESPN reports:

The $10.4 billion expected to be bet on the tournament includes popular office pools and is up 13 percent from last year’s tournament, the AGA says. Only a small fraction of the money bet on the tournament, around 3 percent, is believed to be wagered legally in the United States. The bulk of the remaining $10.1 billion is placed with offshore sportsbooks and local bookmakers, according to the AGA, which represents the U.S. casino industry.

While gambling on the tournament grows, the NCAA remains opposed to all forms of sports betting — legal and otherwise — and believes it has the potential to undermine the integrity of the games and negatively impact the welfare of student-athletes.

The 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.

Past the issues of legality, it’s especially problematic for those with gambling addiction. The NCAA tournament structure is particularly unique, as the gambling isn’t set on one game, as is the case with the Super Bowl. For a problem gambler, regardless of today’s outcome, there is another game coming up next, and a new chance to chase the action. Michael Rosen, counselor and VP of Clinical Services with the Center for Addiction Treatment explains:

For the person with a gambling problem, there’s literally always another tomorrow. “The problem gambler’s brain is producing ‘feel-good’ chemicals at each bet, even if he’s not winning,” Rosen said.

Why then do people who struggle with compulsive gambling keep trying to recapture their losses? For example, two of the top four-seeded teams in the tournament, Xavier and Virginia, were upset during the first two rounds. Virginia’s loss to the University of Maryland Baltimore County marked the first time in tournament history that a No. 16 seeded-team defeated a No. 1 seed.

“He has become conditioned to (gamble),” is how Rosen explained chronic betting even after losses. “It is simply the next part of the sequence that occurs without much conscious thought. A bet is made, and then another and then another.”

While most people cut their losses in the office pool, problem gamblers often aren’t aware of the dangers they face. Rosen advises to keep an eye on friends and family members who have a history of problems with sports betting. And, yes, he said, it can be an addiction that’s as dangerous as one to drugs and alcohol.

“You might not see physical symptoms,” said Rosen, who then ticked off a list of what to look for: Physical health may begin to deteriorate with increased hypertension, lack of sleep, less eating.

Psychological issues may include increased anxiety, depression, irritability, ruminating obsessive thoughts, and thoughts of suicide. Changes in behavior may include an increased use of alcohol or other drugs, tendencies to isolate, lying to others, experiencing angry outbursts, and reckless driving.

Clearly, March Madness has a dark side. And the gambling temptations keep on coming.

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.

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