Category Archives: legislation

UPDATE: Washington State joins Hawaii in pushing investigation and legislation around gambling-esque loot boxes in video games.

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing revelation that video game publishers are pushing what many have called predatory gambling mechanics into recent video games. These loot boxes that are purchased by a gamer dispense in-game items by chance. The players don’t know what items they are actually purchasing and thus they chase after the change of getting the good loot much like a gambler chases after the right combination in a slot machine. What’s worse, publisher EA used these gambling boxes as the primary way to advance through their latest Star Wars video game, Battlefront 2. Naturally, this not only caught the eye of the media, but Disney themselves had to step in. Then governmental agencies started investigating and expressing concern for such psychologically manipulative mechanisms in video games that are available to children. Chris Lee, a Hawaiian legislature pulled no punches when he categorized the game and loot boxes as simply an Star Wars themed online casino aimed at taking kids money. Apple called for companies to disclose the odds of obtaining various loot in any games sold in there app store, but the industry as a whole decided not to regulate loot boxes through the ESRB system. Given the lack of sell governance, yet another state has pushed forward to investigate the issue. The Rolling Stone reports:

As the debate surrounding loot boxes and microtransactions as a form of gambling targeted at children continues, a new bill proposed in Washington is looking to force the game industry to regulate these mechanics, The News Tribune reports.

Washington State Senator Kevin Ranker introduced a bill this month asking state officials, as well as game developers, to determine once and for all if loot boxes and similar mechanics are specifically designed to prey on children.

“What the bill says is, ‘Industry, state: sit down to figure out the best way to regulate this,’” Ranker told the outlet. “It is unacceptable to be targeting our children with predatory gambling masked in a game with dancing bunnies or something.”

Despite the controversies, the game industry seems to be fully-committed to loot boxes and microtransactions. In a recent industry survey, the Game Developer’s Conference found one in 10 developers plan to implement the mechanics in their next game.

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UPDATE: Despite Florida Supreme Court Ruling, Gadsden Looking to Authorize Slots in North Florida Again

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing saga of a north Florida county attempting to legalize slot machines. Florida law very clearly outlines the jurisdictions of where slot machines and other gambling are legal, and Gadsden county is not one. The issue of voter approved slot machines in not designated areas reached the Florida Supreme Court and they unanimously agreed Florida law prohibited such gambling venues. However, it appears a new bill has been filed to again allow Gadsden County to hold a referendum on authorizing slot machine gambling at the local race track. Florida Politics breaks down the attempted angle they are taking:

A unanimous Florida Supreme Court last year ruled against the track and facilities in seven other counties that previously passed local referendums allowing slots, saying “nothing in (state gambling law) grants any authority to regulate slot machine gaming to any county.”

The holding was limited to non-charter counties, however. Gadsden does not have a charter but did pass a slots referendum in 2012. Tuesday’s bill responds to the court’s ruling that “the Legislature did not specifically authorize” that referendum.

It would OK the following ballot question: “Shall slot machine gaming be authorized at the pari-mutuel quarter horse racing facility in the City of Gretna?”

The issue was quickly addressed by Executive Direct of Florida group No Casinos, and Paul Seago was very to the point in his opposition:

“First, we think it violates the Florida Constitution, which prohibits expansion of casino gambling without a statewide vote,” he said. “Second, it sets up a violation of the compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe, jeopardizing millions of dollars in revenue.”

The Seminole Tribe of Florida enjoys exclusive rights to offers slots outside of South Florida; breaking that exclusivity entitles the Tribe to reduce or stop paying a cut of its gambling revenue to the state.

“Third, any municipality that thinks casino gambling is a key to economic development need look no further than Atlantic City to see the associated crime and social ills that come with it,” Seago added. “For these reasons we will vigorously oppose HB 1111.”

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Florida Bill Seeks to Legalize Daily Fantasy Sports, but Might Violate the Seminole Gambling Compact

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various attempts at legalization of Daily Fantasy Sports DFS), especially in Florida, a state that has been heavily lobbied due to major DFS companies DraftKings and FanDuel physically residing there. Last January an attempt was made to officially legalize, but it never materialized. New efforts have surfaced and have now passed committee. Florida Politics reports:

A proposal to exempt fantasy sports from state gambling regulation cleared a Senate committee Thursday—but with one notable opponent.

“I don’t think the issues raised are clear,” said Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Port Orange Republican and vice-chair of the *Regulated Industries Committee, which handles gambling policy.

Aside from Hukill’s ‘no’ vote, that committee otherwise moved the bill (SB 374) by *Dana Young, a Tampa Republican, on an 8-1 vote. Similar measures (SB 840 223) have been filed for the upcoming Legislative Session.

In the online games, players pick teams of real-life athletes and vie for cash and other prizes based on how those athletes do in actual games.

Asked to clarify her position after the meeting, Hukill said, “Is this a game of skill or not? I don’t think that’s clear, at least for now.”

The issue isn’t as simple as legislation clarifying if it’s a game of skill or change and gambling or simple recreation. There is also the issue of the major gambling compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe. They have issued a letter that clearly outlines they view Fantasy Sports as gambling and in violation of the compact and they have threatened to withhold payments to the state if such gambling expansion is pushed through by the legislature. On online source explains:

In a Tuesday letter to the state officials, the Seminole Tribe made it clear that the regulation of sports contests is to violate the tribe’s exclusive rights and the Seminole is to stop making payments to the state. The letter was signed by the Tribe’s general counsel Jim Shore and addressed to Sen. Travis Hutson and Rep. Mike La Rosa. The letter points out that the bill is to reduce the Tribe’s exclusivity. Furthermore, it states that the tribe is ready to discuss the issue with the state representatives. According to the letter, the bill is to violate Part XII of the 2010 Gaming Compact between the State and Tribe.

At present, the state reaps more than $200 million per year for granting gambling exclusivity to the tribe. Supposing that the state to tax daily fantasy sports contests, the tribe threatened to cease payments to the state. Industry insiders believe that the tribe’s warnings may change the officials’ stance on the matter and the DFS regulation may hit the rail. This seems to be the likely scenario as Florida is eyeing DFS regulation since 2015. Two years later, the bill is pending a stamp by the local government. 

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Florida’s Voters in Charge Petition Reaches 200K Signature and Receives addition backing by Disney

Casino Watch Focus has reported on Voter’s In Charge petition for Florida voters. The idea is simple, voters should have the final say in gambling expansion. It shouldn’t be enough for legislators to pass gambling expansion, in especially in an era of backroom deals and cronyism. They believe when an issue has such a drastic impact on Florida families, specifically gambling expansion, the final decision should be left to the voters. So far the petition has passed all the normal steps on its way being on the ballot, including a look by the Supreme Court. Its now being reported that an important milestone is being reached and additional support continues. An online source reports: 

Disney Worldwide Services, part of the Disney entertainment empire, contributed another $600,000 in August into a Florida ballot initiative that could make it harder to expand gambling in the state. This, according to a newly filed campaign-finance report.

As of Aug. 31, Disney had contributed $1.75 million of the $1.98 million raised by a political committee known as Voters In Charge. The group is at the forefront of efforts to get the initiative on the November 2018 ballot. The initiative would change the Florida Constitution by giving voters the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling” in the state.

The political committee needs to submit a total of 766,200 petition signatures to get on the ballot. As of Sept. 11, it had submitted 216,469 signatures, according to the state Division of Elections website. The committee had spent $1.47 million as of Aug. 31, with the majority of the money going to petition gathering and verification.

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UPDATE: Florida Decoupling Decision Draws Challenge

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to decouple dog racing from gambling venues, thus allowing them to operate stand alone slot machine gambling parlors. True decoupling efforts have been prevented, but the first approved case of de facto decoupling just happened in Florida. An old 1980 law was instrumental in the Magic City case and lead to the recent decoupling that will allow the facility to supplement actual races with jai alai matches. That ruling, however, is now being challenged, but its unclear if the challenge will be heard. The Miami CBS affiliate reports: 

Hartman and Tyner, Inc., and H&T Gaming, Inc., which run the Broward pari-mutuel, have filed a motion requesting that the Department of Businessand Professional Regulation vacate or reconsider the decision last month related to Magic City Casino in Miami.

The decision by the department’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering would allow Magic City, operated by WestFlagler Associates, to replace dog races with jai alai matches and continue offering lucrative slots. The approval dealt with a long-controversial issue known as a “summer jai alai” permit.

In their motion, attorneys for the Broward pari-mutuel’s operators said, in part, that their effort to intervene in the issue was improperly dismissed by the department. Also, they pointed to a 2004 constitutional amendment that allowed slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward counties and contend that Magic City is only allowed to offer slots in conjunction with a greyhound-racing permit — not a summer jai alai permit.

“As an existing greyhound permit holder and slot machine gaming operator, intervenors (Hartman and Tyner and H&T Gaming) have a right to be heard as to how the constitutional and statutory provisions are being interpreted as it relates to allowing new permits to be used for expanding slot machine operations,” the motion said. “Intervenors assert that slot machine gaming at West Flagler’s facility pursuant to its summer jai alai permit should not be authorized and would be illegal.”

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Florida and the Seminole Tribe finally reach a new Gambling agreement

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing struggle between Florida and the Seminole Tribe to come to an agreement over exclusivity rights in the local gambling landscape. The part of the Seminole Compact that dealt with table games and other exclusivity rights has been in need of a new agreement for some time now, and each new gambling bill that has been suggested seemingly strained the nature of such an agreement. Additionally, earlier iterations of a new compact have included far more gambling expansion proposals than legislators would allow. Now, it appears interested parties have come to an agreement and it reestablishes exclusivity and doesn’t allow an uptick in gambling expansion. The Miami Herald reports:

Blackjack will continue uninterrupted at casinos run by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, parimutuels will be ordered to stop offering controversial competing card games, and the State of Florida will have access to more than $340 million in new money, under a settlement agreement reached late Wednesday between the tribe and state regulators.

Under the agreement, the Seminole Tribe has agreed to continue monthly revenue sharing payments to the state in return for the state’s agreeing to enforce a judge’s ruling that allows it to continue to operate blackjack and other banked card games at its casinos for another 13 years.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation must also enforce a rule that prevents competing casinos and card rooms from operating blackjack and slot machines that mimic the banked card games the tribe is entitled to operate exclusively in Florida.

“The settlement is one of the rare incidents where everybody benefits,” said Barry Richard, attorney for the Seminole Tribe. “Nobody gave up anything. The state has an immediate infusion of money, and the tribe gets to continue its games.” 

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Disney backs Florida Initiative Petition Efforts to Allow Voters the Final Say in State Gambling Matters

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing progress of the initiative petition by Voters in Charge which seeks to make all gambling expansion decisions passed by the legislature pass a vote of the people before they can become law. Many view this as a wonderful check on gambling expansion given the resent report that 84% of Florida voters want to hold the line or dial back gambling in the state. Most recently, the petition passed a legal challenge and the Florida Supreme Court cleared the bill to proceed, ruling it properly dealt with one subject and is not misleading. Now, Disney has decided to back the effort to collect the final signatures to put it on the 2018 ballot. An online source explains:

According to the group’s information on Facebook, Voters in Charge is sponsoring a ballot initiative “to give Florida voters, not politicians, the exclusive right to approve or disapprove casino gambling.”

Disney’s support for Voters in Charge jibes with the corporation’s previous claims that destination casinos would spoil the family-friendly vibe that its DisneyWorld resort prefers to give off. Disney is one of the highest – if not the top – contributor in the political committee’s campaign last month. 

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