Category Archives: legislation

Missouri’s Illegal Slot Machine Problem gets Another Round of Missouri Legislator’s Attention Amid Record Complaints as some Fear it will become a Supreme Court Issue

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing issue plaguing Missouri residents, illegal gambling machines. These slot machines have been popping up all over Missouri and they are illegal. Enforcement has been an issue as the Missouri Gaming Commission can only regulate and enforce legal gambling. Local prosecutors have been responsible for enforcement and the issue has quickly gotten out of control.   Complaints for these machines have more than quadrupled in just the last year and its causing a strain to law enforcement. Missourinet explains:

The Missouri State Highway Patrol testified Thursday in Jefferson City that the number of complaints it’s received about illegal gambling has increased from 39 in 2018 to 145 so far this year. Most of those complaints are about alleged illegal slot machines. Highway Patrol Lieutenant Roger Phillips tells state lawmakers the Patrol’s Division of Drug and Crime Control (DDCC) only has two full-time investigators to handle these complaints. “In recent months, we’ve had such a volume of complaints that we’ve had to pull investigators from other assigned duties to come and help investigate these complaints,” Phillips testifies.

The Missouri House Committee has taken to a more formal round of discussion at the State’s Capitol, inviting testimony from the community, law enforcement and the manufactures of the machines. Interestingly enough, none of the machines manufactures actually showed up as they initially indicated. The St Louis Post Dispatch reports: 

After saying he would welcome the chance to talk to lawmakers, one of the men responsible for the spread of illegal gambling machines across Missouri was a no-show Thursday at a special House committee hearing. In September, a spokesman for Steven Miltenberger, owner of Wildwood-based Torch Electronics, said “we’d look forward to the opportunity” to make the case to lawmakers that

“I have not seen, nor am I aware, of any machines that would be legal,” said Steve Sokoloff, general counsel for the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, which represents county-level prosecutors.

He said the distributors and manufacturers of the machines find loopholes in state anti-gambling laws to help them avoid prosecution. But, no matter which feature is added by the companies, the general sense is that if people put money in a terminal with the belief that they might win money, that is gambling, which is illegal if it is not regulated by the state, Sokoloff said.

Given the shear volume of these machines and the massive amount of money that will be lost should they be properly regulated and formally declared illegal through legislation, some believe the issue will find itself in the Supreme Court. Missourinet explains:

House Special Interim Committee on Gaming Chairman Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, tells Missourinet he believes this issue will end up at the Missouri Supreme Court, because of powerful interests on both sides. “There’s going to be people that make a lot of money one way or the other, and it’s a lot of protection and the cost of going to the (Missouri) Supreme Court would be certainly less than what they would perceive would be won or lost through this process,” Shaul says. He also believes the issue will be litigated in court for three or four years.

Chairman Shaul compares the growing problem of alleged illegal slots to a different issue the Missouri Department of Conservation has dealt with. “Feral hogs weren’t a problem (in Missouri) ten years ago, we just had a little problem. Well, is this going to become the next feral hog issue in the state,” says Shaul.

The Missouri Gaming Commission has testified that any illegal gaming machines used in Missouri negatively impact casinos and the state Lottery, reducing taxes and funding for education and veterans.

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Jacksonville Florida Mayor to Enforce Internet Café Ban via Local Legislation, but a Lawsuit Seeks an Injunction

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing issue of internet cafés. Gov. Rick Scott banned this form of illegal gambling as these gambling machines essentially created unregulated mini-casinos. Formal legislation was needed as manufactures and venues routinely tried to claim they weren’t slot machines. However, many jurisdictions have been slow to enforce the new ban as some believed the general definition of internet café and the types of games it sought to restrict might ether be too vague or entirely too broad. Now, one area that has been allowing internet cafes has passed its own local legislation and informed these cafes that they must remove the machines or close entirely. First Coast News explains:

Mayor Lenny Curry signed legislation into law Friday that requires all Jacksonville internet cafes to remove all “simulated gambling” devices or close their doors for good. This legislation goes into effect Friday, and the city will begin enforcing the law on Tuesday, Oct. 15.

On Tuesday, the city council approved the ordinance that calls for Internet cafes to immediately remove simulated gambling devices or close their doors, as soon as the mayor signs the bill into law. The bill was introduced by councilwoman LeAnna Cumber during that Tuesday meeting, previously city council had voted to close all arcades with simulated gambling devices next year. 

As is often the case with gambling issues, and lawsuit has been filed to stop the legislation. Lawyers for the internet cafes filed the injunction almost immediately upon signing. Jacksonville online reports:

A lawsuit filed Friday seeks an injunction to stop the city from enforcing rules the City Council approved in May and this week. A lawyer for several internet café owners asked a federal judge Friday to block Jacksonville officials from enforcing new ordinances banning casino-style electronic games the city calls “simulated gambling devices.”

U.S. District Judge Brian Davis didn’t immediately react to the injunction request Mathis made on behalf of ’s injunction request, which he made on behalf of Triad Venture Capitalists LLC, The Grand Arcade LLC and Chapman Enterprises of Atlantic Beach Inc., all companies that run internet cafes affected by the new rules. 

Between 140 and 160 internet cafes are thought to be operating citywide, and city officials have said inspections to enforce the new rules could begin this month.

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UPDATE: Genting’s Miami Monorail Casino Plan Opposed by Mayor and Florida Senators Rubio and Scott

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts of Genting to build and operate a Vegas style destination casino in Miami Florida. None of their efforts have found legs, so they are attempting a most usual Hail Mary. They are working to bid on and fully construct a tax payer monorail system that would connect people across the bay to Miami. The Miami-Dade commissioners voted to open a bid process, but it was clear the already proposed Genting plan would be positioned ahead of any possible new proposals.   It seems extremely clear that the ulterior motive to gain the political favor to get their casino plan passed. That alone has local lawmakers concerned with the project, but additional security concerns against given the companies ties to foreign entities in China. As a result, new measures are being pushed forward by local lawmakers, and they have the backing of Florida Senators Mark Rubio and Rick Scott. The Miami Herald reports: 

When Miami-Dade invites companies to bid on a transit link between Miami and Miami Beach, the county could tell Chinese train makers not to bother.

A rule embedded in draft bid documents proposed by Mayor Carlos Gimenez would bar participation by Chinese train and bus companies, a prohibition that goes to the heart of a monorail proposal by casino giant Genting to use China’s BYD as its rail partner.

The move follows backlash to BYD’s possible role in building a new transit system for Miami-Dade, including warnings from Florida’s two Republican senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, of potential security issues. Armando Ibarra, a lobbyist and head of Miami’s Young Republicans group, led a campaign to block BYD, including funding a poll aimed at showing a lack of support in Miami-Dade.

Its very clear that the point of their involvement is get a casino plan authorized, so simple opposition on that level is enough and a fair counter. But those involved stress the security concerns are real and need to be evaluated. The issue isn’t something fabricated in this instance to stop the deal either, its roots stem from federal legislation and security concerns. The Miami Herald continues: 

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber is an anti-gambling activist who objected to the monorail proposal for linking a transit system to a property where Genting wants to build a casino resort. While his objections to the Genting plan centered on gambling, the former Democratic lawmaker said the anti-China legislation — sponsored by Rubio in the Senate — addressed a valid worry.

“While foreign has its place, I get the concern” about security risks from Chinese firms, Gelber said. “It’s not a fictional concern.” 

BYD is already a player in U.S. transit as a supplier of electric buses and is pursuing rail projects across the country. The bid framework, subject to County Commission approval on Sept. 4, would require proposers to comply with aU.S. House bill designed to bar and other Chinese firms from supplying trains or buses — known as “rolling stock” — for new transit projects in the United States.

“If anyone uses rolling stock from China, it’s not allowed,” Gimenez said in a brief interview Thursday. The proposed Miami-Dade rule follows the language of House Bill 5515, the National Defense Authorization Act for 2019, and would be in effect even if the federal legislation doesn’t pass, administration officials said

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Bipartisan Legislation filed to Address Military Gambling Issues

Casino Watch Focus has reported on past efforts to pass provide support to those in the military who experience gambling addiction, sometimes at military ran gambling facilities. Most recently, the Trump Administration pushed a directive to add gambling addiction screenings for military personnel in hopes of identifying and treating those in need. The new provision added to the National Defense Authorization Act carried out the screenings during the medical evaluation phase, but some believe even more can be done. Bipartisan legislation is being introduced by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D) and Steve Daines (R) that seeks to address the issue further and it has the support of the National Council on Problem Gambling. An online source reports:

The *National Council on Problem Gambling*(NCPG), the national organization for people and their families who are affected by problem gambling and gambling addiction, has welcomed the reintroduction of the bipartisan Gambling Addiction Prevention (GAP) Act of 2019 by *Senators Elizabeth Warren*and *Steve Daines*. The GAP Act, drawn up to protect members of the military, is complemented by companion legislation introduced in the House by Representative *Susie Lee*.

*Keith Whyte*, Executive Director of NCPG, commented: “I applaud Senators Daines and Warren and Representative Lee for taking the lead on the GAP Act to address problem gambling in the military. NCPG believes there exists an ethical and economic obligation to protect our troops by preventing gambling addiction.

“Problem gambling is a critical issue that is far too often overlooked. Research reveals that problem gambling uniquely impacts the military. For example, an estimated 56,000 service members meet the criteria for problem gambling, while military members lost $100m on 3,000 slot machines at overseas bases in 2018 alone. Clearly, the Department of Defense holds an even higher obligation to address problem gambling because of the windfall profits they make from gambling.”

Gambling addiction and gambling related problems can pose unique risks to those who serve in the military to go beyond the typical gambling related problems civilians’ experience. Military Times explains:

Warren said the move is designed “to honor the sacrifices service members and veterans make for our country” by helping individuals “get the treatment they need.”

Troops and veterans with significant gambling debts could face difficulties gaining or maintaining security clearances, due to fears that their financial situation leaves them more susceptible to blackmail.

Studies have found gambling addition is connected to a higher risk of suicide attempts, behavioral disorders, and other health concerns.

Complicating the issue are nearly 3,000 slot machines still in operation at overseas military bases, which bring in millions in revenue each year for military morale and recreation programs.

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


UPDATE: Florida Gov. DeSantis Vetoes Lottery Ticket Warning Labels

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many ongoing issues surrounding the Florida Lottery, with the most recent being a bill that sought to place warning labels on lottery tickets. The warnings would be visible on the ticket and remind players that lottery games could become addictive and to play responsibly. There was immediate opposition from those who relied on gambling as a source of revenue as they seemed to believe the warning labels would be effective and thus reduce their coffers. No Casino’s John Sowindki responded by pointing out the moral dilemma in funding education off gambling addicts, but it would appear that position is being rejected by Florida Gov DeSantis as he has vetoed the bill the passed the Florida legislature. An online source reports:

Lawmakers seeking to slap gambling-addiction warnings on state lottery tickets and advertising once again failed to scratch out a winner.

On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis, noting potential impacts to money for education, vetoed a controversial bill (HB 629) that sought to require the following warnings to be prominently displayed on the front of all lottery tickets: “Warning: Lottery games may be addictive,” or “Play responsibly.”

DeSantis in a letter accompanying his veto noted that Florida Lottery officials expressed concerns the new warning requirements could affect marketing and participation in multi-state games.

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UPDATE: Congress Looks to Defund the DOJ’s Ability to Enforce its Online Gambling Interpretation

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the Department of Justice’s Wire Act interpretation as it relates to online gambling. The Trump Administration looked to return to the original interpretation of the wire act, which effectively bans all online gambling. The need arose because the Obama Administration reinterpreted the wire act to only apply to sports betting, thus legalizing all other forms of online gambling. Both sides of the debate claim the wire act’s plain language allows for their interpretation, but thus far, Congress has yet to pass any new, or straightforward legislation that would clear the issue up. However, Congress does appear to be getting involved, but in a most unusual manner. A new amendment has been proposed that takes away the DOJ’s funding for enforcement of its new interpretation. An online source explains:  

Rules Committee members filed an amendment this week regarding an appropriations bill that will block funding that would be used to enforce the new Wire Act interpretation. The primary sponsor of the amendment is Representative Hank Johnson. He is joined by Representative Sanford Bishop and Representative Andy Barr as sponsors.

The proposal wastes no time and gets right to the point, stating that none of the funds made available by the Act may be used to enforce the new memorandum titled Reconsidering Whether the Wire Act Applies to Non-Sports Gambling.

The amendment is to be voted on this week and while it will not affect the law in general, it will prevent the Department of Justice from enforcing their new opinion.

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UPDATE: Seminole Tribe Ends Payments to Florida After Failed Compact Negotiations: Special Legislative Session Talks Begin

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the recent news that the Florida legislative session would end with no gambling deal in place. The failure to renegotiate a deal has been an ongoing issue. At the core of the problem is that the Seminoles have exclusive rights to table games and certain gambling. Florida has not been enforcing this exclusivity and the courts sided with the Seminoles. However, the Seminoles have been acting in good faith, providing the state with the estimated $300 – $350 million annual payments the original agreement set up for such exclusivity. But now that the legislature has once again failed to stop others from offering designated card games, which is expanding gambling in the state, the Seminole tribe has decided to now stop providing the good faith payments. The Sun Sentinel reports:  

The tribe had warned it would halt the payments, which totaled nearly $330 million last year, because of controversial designated-player card games offered by many of the state’s pari-mutuel cardrooms. The Seminoles — and a federal judge — say the games violate part of a 20-year gambling deal by the tribe and the state in 2010. That deal, in part, gave the tribe exclusive rights to “banked” card games. 

The Seminole Tribe of Florida made good on threats Tuesday by telling Gov. Ron DeSantis it is quitting a long-standing revenue-sharing agreement with the state after negotiations on a new gambling deal went nowhere this spring. 

In a July 2017 settlement between the Seminoles and former Gov. Rick Scott, the state agreed to drop its appeal of Hinkle’s decision and to take “aggressive enforcement action” against pari-mutuels operating banked card games that violate state law. In exchange, the Seminoles agreed to continue making payments to the state until the end of this month. “Unfortunately, there has not been aggressive enforcement against those games, which have expanded since Judge Hinkle’s decision,” Osceola wrote.

Florida lawmakers considered this possible outcome, and mad adjustments the budget, but some believe the financial contribution, and the gambling restriction that comes from Seminole exclusivity, too import to not make an attempt to resolve the issue.   An online source explains:

State Representative Evan Jenne called for negotiations with the Seminole Tribe of Florida to reinstate the annual payments of an estimated $350 million suspended by the tribe after a failure to reach an agreement about the future of gambling in the state. “That’s just too much money to be left out there unaccounted for in our budget,” said the legislator.

Jenne, a Democrat who represents 99th District which include most of Hollywood and Southern Broward, said the suspension of payments from the tribe could have been avoided. “It was something that was a long time coming, it’s been talked about for quite some time it’s been nearly a decade since the compact would, should have been signed,” he said.

“They had a promised of exclusivity when it came to games like that and the state has not done their part in holding up that part of the bargain,” said Jenne.

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