Category Archives: International

New Loot Box Legislation Proposed Domestically as Foreign Governments Ban them in Video Games: Publishers State they Wont Stop Exposing Children & Gamers to Such Practices

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing realization that loot boxes are simply a sophisticated form of gambling in video games. More and more jurisdictions are becoming aware of loot box and skin gambling as they are expected to reach revenue over $50 billion dollars by 2020. Many domestic jurisdictions have already proposed regulations, studies or called for the industry to self-regulate. Minnesota is the most recent to propose legislation. An online source explains: 

[N]ew loot box bill was introduced in Minnesota this week. The bill joins other state level legislative efforts in the USA, which were introduced since the global loot box debate peaked in the second half of 2017. State Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South Saint Paul) introduced the bill H.F. 4460, which “would regulate ‘loot box’ gambling in video games”. The matter was discussed and both parties spoke in favor of the bill. According to Rep. Hansen “People are spending real money on random drawings in video games. Minnesota regulates gambling and when loot boxes meet the threshold to be considered gambling, then we need to treat it as such and regulate it too.”

The bill prohibits the sale of a “video game containing a system that permits the in-game purchase of (1) a randomized reward or rewards, or (2) a virtual item that can be redeemed to directly or indirectly receive a randomized reward or rewards to a person under 18 years of age” [sic].

Additionally, no video game may be sold or provided unless accompanied by a warning stating: “Warning: This game contains a gambling-like mechanism that may promote the development of a gaming disorder that increases the risk of harmful mental or physical health effects, and may expose the user to significant financial risk.” For games sold through electronic means, the warning must be acknowledged by the purchaser.

The Minnesota bill has a long way to go before it becomes binding legislation, as do most of the domestic bills discussed recently. However, several foreign government have passed and implement regulations including outright banning loot boxes from video games. The online European source The Verdict explains: 

Belgium has followed the Netherlands in banning the sale of loot boxes in video games, as Europe begins to crack down on what it deems to be illegal gambling operations run by major game publishers. Speaking to /Verdict/, a Belgian Gaming Commission spokesperson said: “The Belgian Gaming Commission has come to the conclusion thatreal-money loot boxes are gambling. This means that in Belgium, these types of games are prohibited unless licensed.”

If they do not adapt their games, they all potentially face criminal prosecution. Punishments would include up to five years in prison and fines of up to €800,000, which could be doubled if it is found that minors were involved.

It is highly likely that this would be the case. Approximately 22% of video gamers are aged between ten and 20 years old according to Statista, which is largely the cause of the Belgian Gaming Commission’s concerns. The Belgian Gaming Commission added:

“Real-money loot boxes are not innocent. Especially because the video games that they appear in are often played by children. “The Gaming Commission wants to protect the players in general and vulnerable groups (e.g. minors) in particular.”

Despite all these bans and all the discussion of how loot boxes are gambling and harmful to children, publishers don’t seem to willing to stop such predatory practices. EA, the publisher whose Star Wars video game Battlefront started this backlash, has been the most vocal about their inability to part from this gaming mechanic. The Verdict continues:

The loot box debate has been going for some time, but the bans issued by the Netherlands and Belgium are the first sign that governments are beginning to take notice. However, at least for the time being, publishers are unlikely to be too concerned.

Tom Wijman, market consultant at video game research company Newzoo, told Verdict: “I don’t expect publishers to be too worried, it should be quite simple to turn the option for loot boxes off for Belgian and Dutch bank accounts, and those markets are pretty small compared to the United States or UK.”

EA stated that it disagrees with Belgium’s ruling. A company spokesperson told /Verdict/ that the company welcomes discussions with Belgian authorities, but did not confirm whether it intends to comply with the request to remove these items from its games. EA CEO Andrew Wilson has since told industry analysts that the company plans to continue pushing forward with services such as Fifa Ultimate Team, which generates vast revenues through the sale of loot box items known as player packs.

For now, the issue is more of a nuisance than a problem for game publishers, but it could get worse if other regulators decide to follow Belgium’s lead. “I think the significant part about these bans isn’t so much theNetherlands and Belgium banning loot boxes, but rather the messagethis sends to regulatory institutions for gambling worldwide,”Wijman added. Should other countries issue similar bans, the attack on loot boxes could prove costly for developers.

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Florida Gambling Cruise Line Fleeces Customers

Casino Watch Focus has reported many times on the gambling cruise industry in Florida. These cruise ships take customers out into international waters where there are no gambling regulations. Legislation has even been considered that would allow ships to stay docked. Recently a cruise company offered a cruise to customers online, but after they paid for the trip and showed up, the ship wasn’t boarding or leaving port. A local NBC affiliate explains: 

A Palm Beach County family says a planned trip on a casino cruise never happened.

And they’re not alone. NewsChannel 5 has heard from three people who say they recently bought a ticket for the Island Breeze Casino Cruise. When they showed up for departure, no one was at the port and the boat wasn’t going anywhere.

“Free drinks, live entertainment, a cruise for six hours, it all sounded exciting,” said Jeannie Therrien.

She didn’t hesitate to book tickets for the Island Breeze Casino last week and even invited her nephew in Vermont to come down and tag along.

“I just flew 1,500 miles just to get disappointed. I’m [not] happy about that,” Brooks explained.

“Oh I was irate, I was angry,” Therrien added.

She called the company asking for an explanation, but never heard back. And later this week, her credit card was billed three times what she paid. 

There is virtually no oversight when it comes to cruise ship gambling. There are no laws protecting customers to ensure fair or safe gambling. In cases like this, the customers will have to travel all the way back to the area the next time the ship actually plans to leave port to even participate. The official story was that the website was up and running too early, but the company only offered refunds after the news station got involved, not before. If they cant be trusted to provide reasonable customer service, why would anyone think the casino gambling games they run would be any better?

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Zynga to Expand Real Gambling Options in the UK along side Facebook: Sights set on the US

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing partnership of Facebook and Zynga to introduce real money gambling into the social media arena.   Facebook has already started allowing real money gambling and will soon introduce sports betting.  The Daily Mail reports:

Facebook will offer real money betting on horse racing and football matches in a major expansion of its gambling operations. The social networking site was criticised last year for launching a range of Las Vegas-style casino games with the promise of jackpots worth tens of thousands of pounds.

It already offers virtual slot machines for children as young as 13 – with real money games advertised as soon as users hit their 18th birthday.

Now it will begin offering sports betting under a lucrative deal with online bookmaker Paddy Power, which was announced last night. The game, called Paddy Power In-Play!, will be rolled out in the coming days. It will only be available in the UK, where gaming laws are more relaxed than in the US.

 Zanga is also a part of Facebook’s gambling strategy, but Facebook appears to be far more important to Zynga’s success. As explained by The Week, Zanga has started offering real money gambling games and their operation will soon be available on Facebook:

At a World Gaming Executive Summit in Barcelona, Facebook’s Sean Ryan is showcasing two new Zynga games, ZyngaPlusPoker and ZyngaPlusCasino, according to VentureBeat‘s Dean Takahashi. Zynga “says that social gaming remains its heart and soul,” Takahashi says, “but the gambling games are a logical extension for fans who want to bet real money and win it in social games.”

The first step is conquering Britain, where online gambling is legal and regulated. In April, Zynga released online and downloadable versions of its two real-money games in the U.K., in partnership with established British poker company Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment. Facebook and mobile versions are coming soon.

The Facebook component is key to Zynga’s strategy. Zynga and its investors believe, with some justification, that “the real-money Facebook games could be a game changer, luring in the general U.K. population that has known Zynga for years as a social gaming pioneer,” says Jennifer Booton at Fox Business

 So how will this affect the American Market?  Right now Britain is viewed as a test market to work out any issues and with the current US legislation landscape shifting to States allowing online gambling, Facebook and Zynga could be worth billions in the future.  The Week continues:

Britain is “the ideal test-case for Zynga, with it’s concentration of seasoned online gamblers contributing to a £2.3 billion ($3.4 billion) industry for the country,” says Lauren Hockenson at GigaOm. But the company’s “sights are no doubt set on the United States, which, despite its currently restrictive gambling laws, could be worth $9.3 billion by 2020.”

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) is pushing for legislation to drop all federal regulation of online gambling, leaving it up to individual states to decide what to allow. Nevada and New Jersey — home to Las Vegas and Atlantic City, respectively — have recently legalized the practice. (Nevadans can already play online real-money poker against other Nevadans, and New Jersey and Delaware are setting up their online gambling systems.)

It won’t be a slam dunk getting a chunk of the Jersey or Nevada markets — Zynga needs to partner with a casino in Atlantic City, and only two of the 10 are still up for grabs, says VentureBeat‘s Jeffrey Grubb. But as signs point toward more online gambling in the U.S., Zynga has put itself in a prime position to profit. It has an established brand plus loads of customer data to work with, and Facebook is a great platform for minting new online gamblers.

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Hungary Views Slot Machines as a Threat to National Security

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing gambling expansion efforts in Florida.  As the election draws near, many local communities will be voting on a myriad of gambling initiatives, most of which involve slots.  The dangers of slot machines can be devastating to a community and one nation has more than recognized their danger.  Hungary is viewing slots as a threat to their national security.  The Wall Street Journal explains:

Hungary’s government decided Monday urgent action is needed to crack down on gambling because it eats into people’s incomes and poses a threat to national security.

State secretary Janos Lazar said that slot machines present a serious hazard, especially for the rural poor who spend sizable chunks of their small salaries and welfare benefits on one-armed bandits.

“Gambling is explicitly dangerous and harmful for society,” Mr. Lazar said. Games of chance in general go against the credo of his conservative political family, he said, which is why the government considers the matter a key priority.

The country is so adamant about the dangers of slot machines, that they are taking swift measures to outlaw them. The Wall Street Journal continues:

Mr. Lazar said the ruling majority will rush the necessary legal changes. A group of representatives from the governing Fidesz party will submit legislation Monday with a final vote coming as soon as Tuesday. The urgency is warranted by new information on a national security risk from groups in the gambling industry, Mr. Lazar said while declining to divulge any details regarding the nature of the risks.

Under the legal revision, slot machines will no longer be put into operation and those currently in use would be recalled, the only exceptions being casinos that have concessions from the state. If adopted, the measure will have widespread effects on many low-range bars and pubs, which operate slot machines that generate a considerable part of their revenue.

Mr. Lazar said that the revenue shortfall to the budget resulting from the slot machine ban will be made up through new regulations and taxes on online gambling.

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London Olympics’ gambling numbers set records and top 100 million

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts of the International Olympic Committee to minimize gambling on the games.  Protecting the integrity of the games is key in a sports world that is under constant scrutiny for game fixing due to huge gambling markets.  The first move of this games IOC was to ban athletes from gambling on the games. The IOC knew that their action would only do so much, especially considering how prevalent online gambling is in the host town of London. Now that both Olympic Games have come to a close, the final gambling numbers are in.  An online source reports:

The final tallies are out and the big winners at this year’s London Olympics was not the athletes but rather the online bookmakers.

An estimated £80-100 Million is believed to have been wagered on the London Olympics, according to Sporting Index.  Initial forecasts called for somewhere between £20-£40m. Ladbrokes forecasts the industry will have taken in almost £80m for the entire two week period, compared with £4m from the Beijing Games in 2008.

It was not immediately clear as to how the books performed in terms of wins/losses, however, football betting specifically resulted in big wins for the bookmakers, especially with Mexico’s shocking gold medal victory against heavily favored Brasil.

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IOC issues a gambling ban for athletes in the upcoming 2012 Olympic Games

Casino Watch Focus has reported that the International Olympic Committee is no stranger to dealing with gambling scandals and game-fixing.  The next Olympic Games will take place in London in 2012.  Unfortunately, the region has been home to cricket and soccer game-fixing scandals.  One of this years goals of the IOC is to uphold the integrity of the games by proactively preventing any temptation to fix the Games.  The Telegraph explains how:

The International Olympic Committee is to introduce a widespead gambling ban  at the London 2012 events in an attempt to prevent the match-fixing scandals  which have blighted cricket and football.

The ban will apply to all 11,000 athletes, their coaches and support staff,  VIPs and accredited politicians and journalists. It will also cover anybody  who has access to inside information of the sporting competition or  competing athletes.

The IOC hopes the tougher stance will help combat illegal and irregular  betting, which president Jacques Rogge has called the biggest threat to the  credibility and integrity of sport.

The International Olympic Committee will attempt to enforce the ban to the best of their ability.  The Telegraph continues:

The IOC has the authority to strip medals from competitors and ban them and  their support teams from future Olympic competition if the rules are  breached at any time from July 16 to Aug 15 next year.

Those who face action by the IOC disciplinary commission will be asked to hand  over telephone bills, bank statements, internet service records, computers,  hard drives and other electronic information storage devices.

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A brief look at crime 8/17 – 8/23

1 dead, 3 injured in overnight shooting in St. Louis

A teenager is dead and three other people are hospitalized after a shooting in St. Louis.  Investigators say the victims and others had been gambling in a dice game prior to the shooting.

Founder of BetonSports Pleads Guilty to Fraud, Forfeits $43 Million to Government

As part of a complex plea agreement, Kaplan, 50, entered pleas of guilty to charges of conspiracy to violate the RICO statute, conspiring to violate the Wire Wager Act and violating the Wire Wager Act. The plea had Kaplan forfeit to the United States $43,650,000 in criminal proceeds, which he wired from a Swiss bank account to a U.S. District Court bank account approximately one week prior to entering his guilty pleas.  BetOnSports advertised heavily in the U.S. to solicit U.S. residents to place sports wagers by telephone and over the Internet.

“Gary Kaplan made millions of dollars by making it too easy for people to gamble away their hard earned money without having to leave their homes,” said John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in St. Louis. “Today’s guilty plea should have a lasting effect because Kaplan was not only the founder of BetonSports, he was also one of the pioneers of illegal online gambling.

Mom charged after leaving infant in car to gamble in Windsor

Police today said a 32-year-old Tilbury, Ontario, woman has been charged with abandonment after allegedly leaving her infant daughter in a hot car while gambling at Caesars Windsor Casino….one count of abandoning a child and failing to provide the necessaries of life for allegedly leaving the 6-month-old girl in her car while she played the tables Thursday. Police said she admitted she had a gambling addiction.

Texas Completes Biggest Gambling Prosecution Ever

The state combined many of their law enforcement agencies on the raid that took place back in May of last year. When executing the search warrant, they found thousands of dollars in cash and also seized the eight-liner machines. In addition to the illegal gambling charges, founder of Aces Wired, Gordon Graves, plead guilty to felony tampering with evidence charges. The state of Texas is just one state that is attempting to crack down on these illegal gambling establishments.

Former health care worker pleads guilty of exploiting elderly St. Charles woman

A former health care worker was placed on probation today after admitting that she took $100,000 from an elderly St. Charles woman because of a gambling problem.  McClinton worked for a health care company an 85-year-old woman used in 2005 to help care for her 103-year-old mother.

Ex-panhandle sheriff sentenced to nearly 6 years

The former head of the Florida Sheriffs’ Association apologized to his Panhandle county and former employees for heading a money laundering and corruption scheme before a judge sentenced him to nearly six years in federal prison.  Investigators have said the bonus money came from Homeland Security and Justice Department training grants and that an inner circle within the department used some of the money to fund first-class Las Vegas gambling trips.

2 Orange County farms raided in dog-fighting probe

Federal and state law enforcement agents raided two Orange County farms Tuesday in an investigation of suspected breeding and training sites for dog-fighting operations. “There should be more” arrests, said Jeff Franklin, a spokesman for the Indiana Gaming Commission’s gaming control unit, which investigates illegal gambling. He said the investigation began about two years ago when the commission received a tip about gambling on dog fights.

Former credit union employee promises to repay $537,000 stolen for gambling

Court documents reveal that while audits during that period uncovered inconsistencies in automatic banking records, she was able to explain them away, at least in part because she was a highly trusted employee.

Ex-federal employee sentenced to 3 years for embezzling nearly $600,000

A former federal accountant who admitted embezzling nearly $600,000 from the government has been sentenced to three years and one month in prison. Harrington said he used the money to gamble and to pay off gambling-related debts and loans.

Suicide try made by suspect

A second man arrested in connection with the fatal shooting of a Holyoke man Aug. 9 remained under guard at Springfield hospital Saturday after attempting suicide, police said.  DeJesus and Bonilla-Torres shot Hernandez in an attempt to rob him of his gambling winnings, said Holyoke police Chief Anthony R. Scott.

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