Category Archives: Local News

New Federal Sports Gambling Bill Emerges in Congressional Committee

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many attempts of New Jersey to legalize sports betting. The reason all of their attempts have failed is because federal law prevents states from allowing sports betting under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, the Wire Act, the Illegal Gambling Business Act and most recently, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. A new federal bill, if passed, would remove federal bans on certain gambling and allow the states to regulate them as they please, thus effectively legalizing sports betting for New Jersey and others if they so choose. An online source breaks down the Gaming Accountability and Modernization Enhancement Act (GAME Act):

The US Congress may consider a gambling bill that would annul a *federal gambling ban*. This, on the other hand, would allow the country to make any form of gambling legal and regulate it. 

[I]f the GAME Act is enacted, it would annul the 1992 federal law and would allow every state to separately add sports betting and online gaming to the gambling operations that are legal there. As explained above, *customer protection rules*, as well as rules about *taxation and regulations* are also implemented in the proposed piece of legislation.

Stakeholders are also allowed to give their feedback for the GAME Act. As it has already became clear, the American Gaming Association backed the legal expansion of sports betting operations. Other organizations, such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) do not support the bill. 

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

UPDATE: Florida Senate Passes Ban on Internet Cafés, Gov Signs into Law

Casino Watch Focus reported that in the wake of the major investigations of Florida’s internet cafés, the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill to ban the gambling parlors.  Further investigations revealed that these strip mall casinos were so under regulated, that no background checks were required and those with criminal pasts were running those facilities.  As expected, the Senate has joined the House to ban internet cafés.  The Miami Herald reports:

After a rigorous debate, the Florida Senate sent to the governor on Thursday a fast-tracked bill designed to clarify that slot-like gambling machines operated in Internet cafes, South Florida’s adult arcades and Miami’s maquintas are outlawed in Florida.

The measure is a reaction to a federal and state investigation into Allied Veterans of Florida that has led to 57 arrests for illegal gambling, money laundering and racketeering. Police allege that that the pseudo veterans group made $300 million in profits by operating the illegal machines, but allegedly donated only 2 percent of its proceeds to charity. Legislators responded by concluding that the vague state law that allowed the gaming centers to operate needed to be clarified to give law enforcement more tools to shut down the illegal machines that have proliferated in strip malls throughout the state.

The Senate voted 36-4 for HB 155, which was approved two weeks ago 108-7 by the Florida House.

 Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law, making it effective immediately.  The Herald provided comments given by Gov. Scott:

“I think the House and Senate did the right thing to crackdown on illegal gaming, especially in light of the Allied Veterans multi-state criminal conspiracy,’’ Scott told reporters on Wednesday.

The law becomes effective immediately, giving law enforcement new definitions on illegal gambling machines. It also imposes new restrictions on arcade games and bans all electronic casino look-alikes, including maquinitas in Miami and Hialeah.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who praised Scott and state lawmakers for passage of the bill, wasted little time in directing county law enforcement authorities to take action.

“I have already directed Miami-Dade Police Director J.D. Patterson to begin enforcing the law,” said Gimenez in a statement. “There is no longer any ambiguity about the fact that these machines and operations are illegal, and the newly-signed law will help deter the continued growth of illegal activities in Miami-Dade County and throughout the State of Florida.”

Because of the broad stroke used in the legislation to end these types of machines, there are groups that believe their type of gambling machines should have been allowed to operate.  Prosecutors have long held that these machine only existed because of various loopholes and now those loopholes are closed:

Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger, who anchored the federal and state investigation called “Operation Reveal the Deal,” told the Herald/Times that the governor’s actions validated his efforts.

For years, Eslinger was among a handful of sheriffs that urged lawmakers to tighten the law to make it easier for law enforcement to crackdown on the illegal games only to have their proposals languish and Internet Cafes proliferate. In the meantime, the industry donated millions to legislative campaigns, estimated at more than $2 million in the 2012 election cycle alone.

“It wasn’t a loophole in the law,’’ Eslinger said Tuesday. “The law was complex, difficult and expensive to investigate — and this will certainly will enhance law enforcement efforts.’’

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

Missouri Gaming Commission undergoes major personnel changes including the replacement of Gene McNary

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon named several new members to the Missouri Gaming Commission.  The Kansas City Star reported:

A former sheriff and a corporate executive have been appointed to the Missouri Gaming Commission. Gov. Jay Nixon on Tuesday appointed Barrett Hatches and Jack Merritt to the commission that regulates casinos and bingo halls.  Merritt is a Republican from the city of Republic. He retired from the Missouri  Highway Patrol in 1997 after a 27-year career and served as sheriff of Greene Countyfrom 2001 through 2008. Hatches is a Democrat from Kansas City who served as chief operating officer of Swope Community Enterprises from 2004 until this year. He also worked for Missouri Gas Energy. The appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.

Its was also reported that the current Gaming Commission director, Gene McNary, is resigning effective July 1st. Rodger Stottlemeyre, a former Missouri Highway Patrol superintendent and the current Director of Enforcement for the Gaming Commission, was named as the new Executive Director.  McNary indicated that it was Gov. Nixon’s appointment of Hatches and Merritt that lead to his resignation.  The St Louis Business Journal reported:

“The day before yesterday’s commission meeting, the governor announced two new appointees to the commission. Gene clearly saw a changing of the guard,” said LeAnn McCarthy, a spokeswoman for the commission. “He is familiar with the term process and wanted to provide for a smooth transition. Roger is here and is Gene’s deputy. He knows the process and where we are at with the (soon-to-be-available gaming) license. The whole process was done in the best interest of commission and the state.”

The Gaming Commission will have control over which company is awarded the next casino license and where that license will be granted.  Given the fire McNary’s decision to revoke the President Casino’s gaming license has come under, some are speculating that St Louis Mayor Francis Slay and other legislators who wanted to limit the commission’s authority on the matter have succeeded on applying the pressure needed to see McNary out of office.  As the St Louis Post Dispatch reported, the Exceutive Director will play a major role in the location of the new casino:

McNary was poised to be a key player in the decision, which is expected to pit competing proposals from Cape Girardeau, the St. Louis region, Sugar Creek near Kansas City and possibly elsewhere in the state. The executive director leads the staff that will analyze casino proposals and has typically acted as the state’s voice on gambling issues. Now that job will fall to Stottlemyre.

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

Take stand against Missouri House Reps Grill and Colona’s bill to urge Congress to lift ban on sports betting

An online source is reporting that the Missouri House legislature’s Grill and Colona have introduced a bill to urge Congress to lift sport betting rules:

A resolution in the Missouri House asking the US Congress to lift PASPA, proposed by Reps. Grill & Colona, both Democrats:

House Concurrent Resolution No. 22




…therefore, be it resolved that the members of the House of Representatives of the Ninety-fifth General Assembly, Second Regular Session, the Senate concurring therein, hereby urge the United States Congress to remove the federal ban on sports wagering;

This piece of legislation, however, is far from being enacted.  The resolution must be assigned to a committee and face public hearings before it could be voted on by the committee, much less advance to the full House floor.   It is also a “House Concurrent Resolution” that would require both the House and Senate adoption, thus facing the entire legislative process.  Use this time to contact your local House and Senate representative and tell them to oppose such measures.

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

North St Louis County Casino Rezoning plan passed, despite strong-arm tactics by Vegas casino exec

Casino Watch focus last reported that the idea of a casino in north St Louis county looked bleak given Pinnacle’s decision to fix the Admiral and leave the casino at its current location.  However, the issue still came before the Council and they voted 4-2 to approve the measure.  This means that should a license become available, a casino could be potentially built in the Spanish Lake area in north St Louis County.

One council member came forward to give his account of what happened leading up to the vote.  As reported by the St Louis Post Dispatch, he claimed that he was given the strong-arm treatment in an attempt to vote against the proposal:

Stenger said he was paid a visit shortly before the meeting began by Daniel R. Lee, chairman and chief executive officer of Pinnacle Entertainment Inc., and several members of Lee’s entourage.  Stenger said it was the first time he had met Lee, who had flown in that afternoon from Las Vegas.

“He comes into my office 15 minutes before the meeting begins and he muscles me,” Stenger said. “He said, ‘This (the casino) is the largest investment your district has ever seen or will ever see. And we are asking you to vote no (on the North County rezoning issue).'” “I asked Lee why he cared, but he would only say, ‘Voting no is the right decision to make. You need to vote no.'” Stenger said.

The pressure didn’t stop there.  Once the vote was cast, a visibly upset and clearly out of control, Daniel Lee made another move.  The  Post Dispatch explains:

After Stenger cast his vote, he said, Lee got out of his seat near the back of the chambers, hurried down the side aisle and stepped up onto the council dais.  “He got about two feet from my face before someone waved him aside, telling him he could not interrupt the meeting like that,” Stenger said.

Stenger said Lee then approached Stenger’s assistant, Linda Henry, who was seated at the side of the dais. “Lee says to her, loud enough for everyone to hear, ‘He (Stenger) just made the worst move in his political career! I won’t forget this! I never forget things like this!'” Stenger said.  Henry confirmed the incident. “He said it very menacingly,” she added. “I felt threatened.”

In a typical public relations move, Daniel Lee attempted to apologize for his behavior in an email.  He claimed he is just very passionate about the issue.  Either way, his behavior was clearly unacceptable and the vote was clearly unfortunate.  However, if the Admiral can pass an inspection, its unlikely a casino will be moving north.  Please keep reading Casino Watch Focus for more updates on this situation.

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

Planning Commission to hold hearing on North County casino

The St Louis Post Dispatch is reporting about an important meeting being held by the St Louis Planning Commission regarding a possible new casino in North St Louis.  This meeting represents an important first step in the process.  Proposition A placed a cap on the number of casinos at 13.  The possibly exists that the President casino could be shut down due to the age and safety of the current boat.  Should that happen, a new casino could be granted a license.  Several companies have already expressed interest in a placing a casino in North St Louis, or the possibility exists that the President could be moved to the location as well.  The hearing is open to the public and The Post provides the details below:

The St. Louis County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Aug. 10 on a proposal for a casino complex on 376.82 acres along Riverview Drive in north St. Louis County.

The site is just south of the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area, 0.9 miles north of Interstate 270. It also is north of the old North Shore country club site, which in both St. Louis and St. Louis County, which people for years have talked about as a location for a casino. Two developers presented proposals for the North Shore site in the 1990s.

The public hearing will be in the county council chambers, 1st floor, county administration building, 41 South Central Avenue, Clayton.

The hearing is the start of what could be a long process that a developer must complete before opening the casino.

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

Turner Report: New Gaming Commission Director has long ties to gambling industry

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon appointed Jim Mathewson as the new Missouri Gaming Commission Director.  Mathewson, a Democrate, served in the State Senate from 1980 to 2006.  The Turner Report is explaining that Mathewson has ties to the gambling industry that go back to 2002, when pushed a bill to remove the $500 loss limit, on top of receiving more than two-thirds of his campaign contributions from gambling interest:

Mathewson’s 2002 reports filed with the Ethics Commission show he received $15,800 in contributions. Of that amount, $11,124 either came directly from casino interests or can be connected to a gambling industry lobbyist.

The October 2002 report shows Mathewson receiving $9,225 in contributions, with $5,475 coming from gambling interests. The contributions include

Isle of Capri $350
Isle of Capri-Boonville $575
Harrah’s Operating Company $575
Isle of Capri Casino-Kansas City $350
Ameristar Casino-Kansas City $1,000
Missouri Gaming Company, Argosy Casino $1,175
St. Joseph Riverboat Partners/Frontier Casino $587.50
Ameristar Casino-St. Charles $725
Mark Twain Casino LLC, $587.50
Aztar Missouri Riverboat Gaming Company, $500

To Read the Complete Turner Report Click Here

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

Local gambling expert explains the cost of gambling far out weighs any benefits

Casino Watch Focus reported that local experts point to easy casino access as a key reason why the Joplin area is experiencing an increase in problem gambling.  The same Joplin Globe article addressed why the costs of casinos far out weights their benefits:

There are four “steps” or levels by which a person becomes addicted.

In the first phase, gambling is treated as an occasional, recreational activity. From there, the gambling becomes more preoccupying and more frequent. The third phase is where gamblers experience some sort of “impact” in their lives, says McDonald. The impact could be financial, such as using household money to gamble, or social, such as arguing with a spouse. In the final phase, the gambling becomes an obsession. McDonald describes this phase as one of desperation.

“People can’t get it off their mind, the idea that ‘I’ve got to get this fixed,’” he said.  McDonald believes the problems casinos bring outweigh the benefits.

Help is available, as the Globe concludes:

Problem gamblers use the Voluntary Exclusion Program provided by the Missouri Gaming Commission. The program is a way for problem gamblers to acknowledge they have a problem and to take personal responsibility for it by agreeing to stop visiting casinos.

Help is also available by calling (888) BETSOFF to learn about free counseling services or Gamblers Anonymous meetings in the local area.

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

Local experts say Problem gambling growing in Joplin due to easy access of Casinos

Casino Watch Focus previously reported that a new Oklahoma casino, which is located on the boarder of Oklahoma and Missouri, would be aggressively targeting the Joplin market for employees and would be gamblers.  Now, The Joplin Globe interviewed local gambling experts to determine the impact of the new casino and local experts are explaining that the proximity of the casino is causing an increase in problem gambling:

There are a number of casinos or gambling locations within a 30-mile radius of Joplin. [Mark McDonald, a compulsive-gambling counselor at Ozark Center] says there’s been an increase in problem gambling in the area because of easy access to casinos.

“It used to be the closest place people had to go to was in Kansas City on the river boats,” he said. “The availability of the casinos is going to cause its own criminal activity and damage to the community.”

The Globe goes on to report that those who suffer from gambling problems experience a “high” similar to drugs and families often suffer the consequences:

Problem gambling doesn’t discriminate. McDonald says it crosses all social and racial lines. What problem gamblers have in common is the “high” they get from gambling. McDonald says it’s similar to the high an alcoholic or drug addict gets.

Nora Bock, clinical director for the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse at the Missouri Department of Mental Health, says gambling becomes a problem when a person begins to experience “adverse consequences” as a direct result of gambling.

“Because of their preoccupation with gambling, they start to let other aspects of their lives suffer, like family, friends, career, school,” Bock said. “These things are ‘replaced’ by the person’s gambling.”

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

HB 566 – “bingo slot machines” and mini-casinos coming to a neighborhood near you

Rick Alm of The Kansas City Star has reported on a very devastating piece of legislation being proposed in Missouri that would allow fraternal lodges and halls to establish “untaxed mini-casinos:”

Introduced last week by Sugar Creek Democrat Rep. Ray Salva, the measure would allow any fraternal, veterans, religious and other organization licensed by the Missouri Gaming Commission for bingo games to also offer one Class II slot machine for each 40 people on its membership rolls.

A Class II slot machine looks exactly like a garden-variety cherry master slot machine, but they play against other machines like a bingo game.  They are virtually identical to a slot machine and cause the same tragic addiction and family devastation as a typical slot machine.  These devices are currently found in tribal casinos.

Not only will these mini-casino’s be devastating to our families and communities, it will cost the state millions of dollars to regulate:

Auditors with the state’s Oversight Division estimate passage would require the hiring of 16 additional gaming commission employees plus other regulatory changes at an estimated annual cost of around $1.3 million.

The auditors also noted fraternal slots also might draw away traditional bingo players, slashing the state’s annual $2.1 million in bingo taxes on game suppliers by as much as 25 percent.

Historically, every time a new community allows bingo slot machines, charitable bingo is harmed and the fraternal organizations take a big cut before the “profits” go to other charities.  HB 566 will expand gambling, hurt our families, and hurt current charities.

We are no longer talking about expanded gambling isolated to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.  We are talking about mini-casinos throughout the entire state.  The old Missouri attitude of ignoring the problem because it’s “Not in My Backyard” is a thing of the past.  This bill will effect you no matter where you live and it can’t be ignored.  Please take action and contact your local Senators and Representatives and warn them of the dangers of HB566!!!

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

Missouri Gaming Commission looking to authorize more expanded gambling

CNN is reporting Pinnacle Entertainment is looking to move their President Casino to a new spot on the Mississippi river, and they will likely see little resistance from the MGC.  The President has been in financial trouble all year and executives believe a move to a spot near the Chain of Rocks Bridge will help expand their business.

Without question the largest problem The President Caisno faced was the flooding this year, but a move to Chain of Rocks wont stop that problem.  The casino may very well find itself shutting down due to flooding because they are staying on the Mississippi and not moving too far from its current location.  However, The Kansas City Star is reporting that Pinnacle wants to use the old age of the boat to justify building a new onshore full casino complex like Lumiere Place:

Once the boat is settled in there, Pinnacle could replace it with a modern, off-river “boat in a moat” gambling complex.

Pinnacle spokesman Mack Bradley confirmed Tuesday that the company had an option on land there and hoped the move would be allowed.  “We’ve been assuming there will be some action to be taken in 2010, either repairs or looking at a new facility,” Bradley said.

The age of the boat combined with a desire to expand gambling, means the executive director of the MGC, Gene McNary, will want to push forward very quickly:

“I think the Gaming Commission agrees that the boat is old, the hull is not good,” McNary said. “So if Pinnacle decided to file an application we would move as quickly as possible to move the President.”

Also potentially expediting the move, McNary said, is the fact that Pinnacle’s executives already have undergone background checks, and a survey has already been performed on the site where the casino would potentially move. He declined to estimate how long the approval process might take.

TAKE ACTION:  If you live in the Chain of Rocks area you should plan to attend the MGC meeting and make a statement against moving the casino into your neighborhood. The Next MGC Commission meeting will take place Wednesday, December 3,2008 at the MGC main office in Jefferson City. Meeting time is 9:00 a.m.

MissouriNet: So many Different Groups Oppose Prop A

MisouriNet News featured a story outlining just how many different kind of groups are in opposition to Proposition A. I guess there is something in there for everyone to dislike. Download or listen to the audio at the link below:

Woman abandons kids in car while gambling in MO casino

Casino Watch has reported some very tragic statistics regarding child neglect and abandonment when parents choose to leave their children locked in vehicles while they enter a casino to gamble.  We hoped to never have to report that such tragedy has happened in our state.  Unfortunately, as with all of gambling’s terrible devastation; it’s just a matter of time.  KFVS12 Heartland News reports:

A 56-year-old Texas woman decides to go gambling and that decision costs her.
Police say Glenia Roberts of Rock Port, Texas went into the Lady Luck Casino Saturday and left her granddaughters, ages (13) and seven, in the car.  When she came back out, the car was gone. Officers say the older girl apparently drove away.  Authorties (sic) found the car and the two girls at a nearby park. Roberts pleaded guilty Monday to child endangerment charges. She will serve two days of shock jail time and received a one year jail sentence. The two children are back with family members in Texas.

This woman not only left the children in the car, she left the keys in the car for a 13-year-old girl to drive away.  We are truly grateful that so many more people were not hurt during this incident as it’s not hard to imagine the kind of damage a 13-year-old behind the wheel could have caused.

Someone who is willing to do such a selfish and harmful act to a child most likely has a gambling addiction and such acts are simply an extension of the abuse and neglect their family suffers from when such addiction is present:

The 1999 National Gambling Impact Study Commission Report found that compulsive gamblers had higher rates of child abuse and neglect.

“The impact on [the] lives of those poor souls and their families is stunning,” said Timothy Kelley, the commission’s director.  “It’s not that they’re bad people. But they’re engaged in an activity that is so powerful that they literally escaped from their own life. They don’t think about their own life. They literally forgot that their child is out in the car dying,” he said.

Missouri casinos really don’t believe in “limits”

A new kind of loss limit story has surfaced.  This time instead of the casino’s trying to spend millions of dollars to remove the loss limit, one seems to be encouraging players to ignore it all together.  Rick Alm of the Kansas City Start explains:

Somebody at Harrah’s North Kansas City Casino and Hotel wasn’t thinking before placing the full-page ad that appears on Page 3 of today’s Kansas City Star Preview section.  It shows three guys playing what appears to be blackjack. One of the guys is passing a chip to another guy….No big deal, right? Wrong, at least in Missouri.

Under the state’s unique loss limit rules it is unlawful to give chips or slot machine credits to another player, said Les Hahn, a gaming enforcement manager for the Missouri Gaming Commission.

The ad was no doubt in bad taste as it sends the message that it’s okay to try to circumvent the law.  Luckily for the families of Missouri, enforcement personnel from the Missouri Gaming Commission will be watching.  Rick Alm continues:

[I]f you give somebody chips you can expect a firm tap on the shoulder from an eye-in-the-sky security agent and your day could be ruined.  Hahn said Harrah’s ad is now getting a bit of official scrutiny in Jefferson City.

“It’s something we’ll certainly look at,” he said. “We may have a conversation with (Harrah’s) that it may be in poor form to represent a gambling activity that would cause a violation of the regulations.”  Harrah’s officials could not be reached.

Voters Say It’s Time to End Smoking in Kansas City

Guest Article by Laurel Spencer

In a metro-wide attempt to curb public smoking, Kansas City voters and the North Kansas City Council approved smoking bans that would prohibit smokers from lighting up in restaurants, bars, and other businesses. Aimed to take place in August, the ban is complete with strict restrictions and heavy fines for violators, but what would appear to be a simple measure of public regulation may not be as cut and dry as it seems.

One item of particular interest is the effect that this ban would have on the casinos in the Kansas City area. Currently, the smoking restrictions would not extend to casinos, unless all of the surrounding gaming facilities enact similar laws. So far, downtown Kansas City, KS and Riverside are the only areas not conforming to the voice of the people, and it doesn’t appear that they are likely to change.

Billy Friend, second chief of the tribe that controls the 7th street casino located in downtown Kansas City, said that smoking is a big part of the establishment and the tribe plans to resist any attempts to implement such restrictions on grounds of tribal sovereignty.  However, there is some debate as to whether the 7th street casino would affect the surrounding area as defined by the current smoking bans.  The language of the bans seem to suggest that it does but there are a myriad of reasons why its should not factor into the decision including the fact the 7th street “casino” is actually defined as a bingo parlor.

Although there are potential legal issues concerning the tribal gaming facility, Riverside definitely is fair game in regards to the ban. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like they are eager to implement it any time soon either.

The Kansas City Star reports that “Riverside officials also show no sign of a considering a ban anytime soon that might affect the Argosy Casino Hotel and Spa within its borders.”

Efforts should be made to contact downtown Kansas City and Riverside officials and remind them that the voice of the people has already spoken in favor of the ban. It is fitting that those representing the county should respect the wishes of the Kansas City, Kansas voters and the 7-1 majority ruling of approval from the North Kansas City Council by enacting the smoking ban.