Category Archives: Online Gambling

As Gambling Growth is Expected to Soar with this Year’s March Madness, Employers and Addicted Gamblers to Face Troubling Results

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on the Madness of March and the impact this massive gambling event has on communities everywhere.  Last year, there was no NCAA National Basketball Tournament due to an abundance of caution following the beginning of a global pandemic.  So with a year off and many eager gamblers, it’s no surprise that the estimate for total bet and the total amount gambling are so incredibly high. Fox Business breaks down the numbers:

March Madness, both the tournament and the betting frenzy surrounding it, will look different this year due to the coronavirus pandemic and online betting.

March Madness could be the most wagered on sporting events of all time, according to research from PlayUSA, which projected that the tournament could generate as much as $1.5 billion in legal bets. Online betting is expected to ramp up this year as the traditional system of paper brackets filled out in the office no longer works with most people working from home. Increased legalization of online betting is also making a huge difference.

During the last March Madness tournament, which took place in 2019, sports betting was only approved in a handful of states. This year, more than 20 states allow placing a bet online. Roughly 50 million Americans are expected to place bets this year, according to theAmerican Gambling Association.

With nearly 50 million people expected to gamble on the Tournament this year, clearly a lot of problem gamblers will find themselves in the mix, and the results could be unsettling.  An online source explains:

This year’s March Madness is highly anticipated after 2020’s NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. According to ODDS.com, the American Gaming Association projects more than 47 million Americans will place bets on March Madness — so it’s no coincidence that Problem Gambling Awareness Month falls in March.

The effort makes sure “people who are engaged in gambling, whether it’s brackets or other forms of gambling, are also aware that gambling can be a problem for some, and it can actually turn into an addiction,” said Jeffrey Wasserman, judicial outreach and development director for the Delaware Council on Gambling Problems.

Gambling disorders often tend to worsen, he added. Relationships can deteriorate, jobs can be lost, people could turn to criminal behavior to pay off debts — a pursuit Wasserman knows too well. “I’m 65 years old. I probably gambled since I was 18,” Wasserman said. “And my gambling addiction really progressed over the years, making me just a different person, making me discard my values and my value system I raised my kids with. Gambling became the most important thing in life for me.  After more than 30 years as an attorney, Wasserman lost his career because of gambling. He was in a dark place.

He’s been in recovery for the last five years. He attributed part of his turnaround to his family, who recognized he had a problem. Now with the Delaware Council on Gambling Problems, he’s helping people like him.

Individuals aren’t the only ones who can suffer from this multi-week gambling event.  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


Massive State Online Gambling Expansion Proposed by Missouri House Legislator

Casino Watch Focus has reported on various methods of expanding gambling in Missouri.  Everything from new casinos, the recent efforts of online sports betting, to legalizing illegal slot machines operating outside of regulated casinos.  In Missouri, the constitution only allows for 13 casinos to operate. They are technically riverboats, but outside of the lottery or perhaps some fraternal bingo/charity type gambling events, everything operates through the casinos.  With the Supreme Court ruling that states can now offer online gambling, it’s no surprise Missouri legislators would be examining the possibility of expansion.  There are still state constitutional limits however, so proposed legislation must be tailored accordingly.  A new bill being introduced does look to casinos to handle online gambling, but is the expansion too great?  An online source examines the newly proposed legislation:  

For quite some time, Missouri  has been looking towards legalizing sports betting. Now, it seems that lawmakers are also looking at online casino and poker games. The Senate has been the driving force behind sports betting and now it is the House looking to add other online gambling options in the state. Representative Dan Houx introduced a new measure this week, HB 1364, which will allow for complete online gambling, in all verticals. This bill would actually replace the Senate measure instead of a separate initiative.

Poker is mentioned in the legislation, but only to classify it as well as sports betting as a game of skill. Operators in the state are allowed to offer games of chance and skill. For the sports betting portion, the measure is similar to SB 256, which is already introduced in the state. It also allows for up to three skins per license holder.

The bill allows for each of the 13 riverboat casinos in the state to have up to three skins. If everyone gets involved and all the skins are taken, the industry would be the largest in the US.

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


Florida Opens Legislative Session with Sports Gambling Bills, but Can They Pass?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to legalize sports betting in Florida.  Florida not only has championship caliber sports teams in the Buccaneers (2021 Super Bowl Champions), the Lightning (2020 Stanley Cup Champions) and Rays (2020 American League Champions), they also hosted the Super Bowl and were part of the NBA Bubble during the Covid-19 Lockdown.  So it’s no surprise that there are continual interests in legalizing sports betting in the Sunshine State.  The methods seem to change, but the results remain the same, no success. Last year’s legislative session saw attempts without success as well, and this year’s legislative session begins with renewed efforts and possibly some of the largest expanded sports gambling attempts yet.  An online source reports:

When the Florida State Legislature opens Tuesday morning, it will do so with sports wagering  as part of the docke

The latest trio of bills filed by Reps. Chip Lamarca and Anika Omphroy would allow for wagering a pro sports venues across Florida, including NFL stadiums (three), Major League Baseball parks (two), NHL arenas (two), NBA arenas (two), and Major League Soccer stadiums (four), sites that host PGA, LPGA, and PGA of America events, WNBA arenas, National Lacrosse League and Major League Lacrosse sites, and Indoor Football League venues. Besides that, sports betting would be available at tracks offering parimutuel betting (horse and dog), jai lai frontons and tribal casinos.

The legislation envisions in-person wagering at all mentioned sites, as well as statewide mobile wagering, though HB 1317 doesn’t specify how many skins each physical location would be entitled to. That said, if only one skin were allowed, Florida would still have more than 20 skins available, and that’s just counting digital platforms tethered to the pro venues identified in the bill.

The question remains however, will the key issues be addressed or will expanded gambling be held back?  The online source explains:

As lawmakers and the governor look to move forward and create hype about sports betting, the elephant in the room that no one seems to be addressing is Indian Country, which under its compacts has exclusivity for casino gaming. Tribal gaming dates to 1999 in Florida, when the Miccosukee Tribe opened its casino in suburban Miami. But the state’s biggest tribe is the Seminoles, who have six properties including two operated by Hard Rock.

For reasons unrelated to sports betting, the Seminoles in 2019 stopped paying the state $350 million a year from gaming revenue. At the time, the Seminoles claimed their gaming exclusivity was violated by banked card games that were allowed at the state’s racetracks and jai lai frontons. The current compact which was signed on April 7, 2010, allows the Seminoles to withhold payments if the compact is violated.

Before the Seminoles suspended payments in 2019, the tribe had reached a tentative agreement with Sen. Wilton Simpson that would have allowed sports betting at the Seminoles’ casino properties, as well as racetracks and jai alai frontons for an annual payment to the state of $700-$750 million. The deal ultimately collapsed. Then, last January, Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, filed HB 1195, a proposed compact, that would have granted the Seminoles exclusivity for online sports betting. While that bill proposed a more than two-fold step-up in annual payments to $750 million, the legislation never made it out of committee.

The hard truth for lawmakers is this: Until there is a compact, it’s highly unlikely that sports betting will gain a foothold in the legislature.

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


IRS Issues new Federal Tax Requirements for Fantasy Sports impacting FanDuel and DraftKings beyond the economics of the tax revenue

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many ongoing issues with one of the newest gambling fads, daily fantasy sports (DFS) betting.  After many years of legislators realizing how exactly DFS is actually gambling, many took efforts to ban them.  Then, the Supreme Court legalized sports betting, opening the door for states to legalize DFS as they saw fit. Now, the IRS has published its guidelines for the tax liability companies like FanDuel and Draftkings face as a result of their gambling business.  Yahoo Finance reports:

he IRS, in a July 23 internal memo made public on Aug. 7, issued new guidance that amounts to a major shot across the bow at daily fantasy sports (DFS) operators DraftKings and FanDuel.

The memo, which does not name those companies, concludes that DFS contest entry fees count as wagers, and thus fall under the existing excise tax on sports betting. The tax is 0.25% of the amount of a wager, or for DFS companies, a contest entry fee. In 2018, as an example, the DFS industry brought in $3.2 billion in fees  (that’s “handle,” not revenue), which would have meant $8 million in IRS excise taxes—significant for an industry that only generated $335 million in revenue that year.

The implications of such regulation actually extend beyond the simple tax revenue that companies owe.  The money owed will add up sure, but it’s the fact that paying the fees means the industry is stipulating that they are, in fact, gambling operations.  Even though it’s rather clear they are, they have long fought this distinction.  Their worry here is that acknowledgement in the tax code to being a gambling business will open them up to other gambling regulations that they would rather avoid clearly.  Yahoo Finance explains:

The companies will surely fight the IRS decision in court, a scenario that will reunite the two business rivals that worked together through 2015 and 2016 as they fought various state attorneys general to argue that their contests are “games of skill” rather than chance.

The companies won’t challenge the IRS merely because they want to avoid paying the taxes, but also because they have to challenge it on a reputation basis: agreeing to pay the taxes could amount to a concession that they do accept unauthorized wagers, which could open up the companies to additional legal penalties.

Back in 2015, as ESPN reported a former assistant U.S. attorney sent the IRS a letter about his belief that DFS companies “are clearly engaged in betting or wagering for purposes of the wagering excise tax.” If the IRS prevails, it would cost the two companies tens of millions of dollars—especially if a tax court decides the decision applies retroactively.

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


Florida Gambling Hotline Reveals Crisis Experienced by those During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing complexities of Covid-19’s impact to the gambling industry.  Beyond the obvious loss of revenue revenue and shut downs, coronavirus’ impact reaches problem gamblers as well. The current climate has created a perfect storm of issues that can drive people to gamble and with the accessibility of online gambling to many, the threat of devastation is very real.  A Florida gambling hotline is helping to make the general public aware of such issues.  An online source explains:

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reshape life as we had once known it, closures of traditional brick-and-mortar gambling facilities coupled with social distancing restrictions and requirements have resulted in dramatic shifts in gambling behaviors along with serious negative consequences as reported by contacts to Florida’s 888-ADMIT-IT Problem Gambling HelpLine in March and April.

According to Jennifer Kruse, Executive Director of the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG), “Of particular concern with recent COVID-19 closures and quarantines, is the associated increase inproblem-gambling-related risk factors that occur as a result, such as loneliness, stress, anxiety, depression, and increased use or abuse of substances. The severity of problems reported by individuals contacting the FCCG’s 888-ADMIT-IT HelpLine in March and April illustrate the increased occurrence of these associated risk factors and resulting, exacerbated problem-gambling-related impacts experienced during this time.”

During the pandemic, the economic consequences have hit the country hard, and as result of the government mandated business closures, economic stimulus checks have been sent out to help keep people on their feet.  This situation can be viewed as a windfall of money to some, which has prompted calls for gambling to be shut down during this time.  Many will view the stimulus check as a way to gamble and increase their financial situation.  This big win mentality can trigger many stressors that exacerbate the problems leading to troubling and fatal consequences .  The source continues:

Receiving a stimulus check may also be viewed as an unexpected “big win” for at-risk and problem or recovering gamblers. Money lost gambling can lead to financial difficulties, which can trigger associated stressors that interfere with relationships, mental, and even physical health. These experiences can leave problem gamblers and their loved ones feeling discouraged and hopeless about the future.

“When a problem gambler feels they have lost everything and sees no possibility to gain or recover, suicidal ideation and/or attempts are very real possibilities. This is unfortunately what we have seen with contacts to the 888-ADMIT-IT HelpLine in April, with more than one in five (21%), revealing current or recent suicidal feelings or thoughts due to their gambling problem,” explained Kruse. 

“The share of callers referred to Crisis Lines in April (23%), also rose significantly by more than double, with increased levels of hopelessness and desperation reported, due to gambling-related financial and mental health repercussions brought about by the COVID-19 crisis,” Kruse noted, as cause for additional concern.

Unfortunately, these are not isolated pockets of impact, but rather spread all over the state.  Access to online gambling and the lottery means that closed brick and mortar casinos don’t shield those around the state from gambling’s destructive impact.  Help is available and should be sought out.  The source concludes:

The data reported during the month of April by 888-ADMIT-IT HelpLine contacts, reveals that help seekers this month were from areas all over the state and were primarily from those engaged in the forms of gambling activities still available during quarantine and social distancing restrictions, Online Gambling and the Lottery. This illustrates the effects that gambling addiction can have on any community in the state, and further highlights that those associated impacts will correlate with what gambling options are accessible or available in a particular area.

At a time of uncertainty while the whole world anxiously awaits the return to “normal life,” whatever that may be, reassurance for anyone negatively impacted by a gambling problem that resources are available and accessible through Florida’s 888-ADMIT-IT Problem Gambling HelpLine has never been more important. “Gambling addiction is treatable, and population-specific programs and services for gamblers and their loved ones are accessible any time of the day or night, any day of the year.

The FCCG’s 24-hour confidential and multilingual HelpLine may be reached by calling 888-ADMIT-IT (888-236-4848), texting (321) 978-0555, emailing fccg@gamblinghelp.org, initiating a live chat at gamblinghelp.org, or by reaching out to us on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter,” concluded Kruse.

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Covid Concerns in Florida are Driving Discussions of Legalized Mobile Sports Betting Via Tribal Gambling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various attempts at legalizing sports betting in Florida.  Most efforts have thus far failed, including attempts during the legislative session to open it at casinos.  Now that the coronavirus has shut down the economy and is keeping people indoors, the focus seems to have shifted to mobile sports betting.  An online source reports:  

The Seminole Tribe is currently in talks with state legislators to draft proposals on regulating mobile sports betting in the Sunshine State. The fallout from COVID-19 has devastated economic activity and led to widespread unemployment across Florida. In an attempt to make up the budget shortfalls, Florida legislators are eyeing out-of-the-box proposals such as regulated online betting activity.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida owns and operates the hugely successful Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. As lawmakers continue to work feverishly on crafting a budget for 2020/2021, unforeseen expenses and the shuttering of non-essential economic activity has ramped up financial pressures on state coffers. According to the New York Times, there are currently over 36,000+ cases of coronavirus in Florida, with 1,378+ deaths, and rising.

This push is viewed as a financial boon for the city looking for quick tax money and a financial windfall for the Seminole Tribe.  The estimates are in the hundreds of millions, but its still unclear if such gambling would actually be legal, given the amendment passed by Florida voters that requires a vote on new gambling expansion.  The online source continues: 

Nonetheless, it has widely been reported that the Seminole Tribe will be paying the $500 million for the first year and the $700 million every year thereafter to the state of Florida for exclusivity vis-a-vis online sports betting services.

Lawmakers hope that legislation permitting mobile sports betting can mitigate the effects of severe budget shortfalls that are currently being experienced. Back in 2018, Florida voters decided by a margin of 71%-29% that they will have the final say on any further gambling expansion a.k.a. /Amendment 3./

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


Super Bowl LIV (53) expected to break all previous gambling records…but at what cost?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the significant amount of gambling on the Super Bowl each year, and Super Bowl 53 is poised to be the most impactful yet.  When the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers take the field, there will be more states with legalized sports betting than ever.  As a result, experts see record amounts of money being bet on this year’s game. Fox Business breaks down the numbers:

About 26 million Americans are expected to bet on the game through various means, including brick-and-mortar sportsbooks and online platforms, the American Gaming Association said. The record total marks a 15 percent increase compared to the estimated betting turnout from last year’s game, which drew wagers from approximately 22.7 million Americans.

The bets will be worth an estimated $6.8 billion, up from $6 billion last year. The projected total includes both legal betting venues, such as brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, and illegal methods, such as bookies and offshore mobile platforms.

Many think gambling on the Super Bowl is harmless fun, and for some, who do it legally, it could be that simple. However, the consequences for others can be extreme. A Fox News affiliate has reported that Super Bowl night is not only the biggest night for gamblers, but it also sees the most suicides as well. For those that don’t suffer the ultimate fate, they can still lose enough to cause irreparable harm to their finances and family. Fox Now online explains:

“Super Bowl is probably one of the biggest gambling days of the year,” said Gambling Addiction Counselor, Jim Harrison [a gambling counselor in Milwaukee.] He says the wagers placed on the Super Bowl are often not taken as seriously and can be seen as harmless and fun. “In reality it is betting, it is gambling,” said Harrison. Those compulsive gamblers see it as a day to make up for other sports losses this season.

Harrison says it’s not harmless at all for those with an addiction — betting is done with bookies and online and it could bring losses. “If it causes family problems, certainly financial problems,” said Harrison. “I’ve had clients who have literally lost over $300,000 gambling,” said Harrison. The Super Bowl can bring losses to those betting on it all, and it can be tempting to those dealing with gambling addiction.

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


UPDATE: DOJ Wire Act/Online Gambling Case Advances as Court Calls for Briefs

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to restore the original interpretation of the Wire Act. The Wire Act is the law responsible for the regulation of online gambling. Prior to a shocking reversal by the Obama Administration, the Wire Act made online gambling illegal. Their new interpretation claimed the law only applied to sports betting, meaning all other online gambling suddenly became legal. The Department of Justice under the Trump Administration is working toward restoring the original interpretation, thus making online gambling illegal. Their decision was challenged in court and overturned, but quickly appealed. That court has now called for briefs by each side. An online source explains:

The lawsuit over the *Wire Act and its applicability to online gambling is far from over. In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit just set the briefing schedule for William P. Barr, United States Attorney General and the United States Department of Justice. The First Circuit is requiring Barr and the DOJ to file their briefs and other necessary paperwork by Nov. 12.

With that in mind — and according to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure 31(a) — the New Hampshire Lottery Commission along with the other state lotteries and vendors that joined the suit have 30 days thereafter to respond after the DOJ files its brief. The DOJ’s reply brief is then due within 21 days after the plaintiffs respond.

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


UPDATE: DOJ to Files Intent to Appeal Wire Act Court Ruling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing battle to properly regulate online gambling through the Wire Act. The Wire Act’s long standing language and interpretation limited online gambling, yet the Obama Administration claimed it only applied to sports betting, thus freeing the way for all other forms of online gambling. The current Administration reversed that puzzling interpretation and declared the Wire Act applied beyond sports betting. Recently, a US District Court upheld the Obama Administration interpretation, and the DOJ asked Attorney’s General to hold off enforcement until the issue could be properly vetted. An online source reports: 

The DOJ in 2011 had stated that the Wire Act applied only to sports wagering. But it *reversed course with a memo from 2018 expanding the possible reach for federal prosecution, which triggered worries about its applicability to online gambling, lotteries, and other forms of gaming that potentially cross state lines.

The New Hampshire District judge had forecast that the case would likely reach the*US Supreme Court*. While the case is going on, the DOJ has said it would not enforce the new interpretation of the Wire Act until 2020.

The *Department of Justice* filed its intent to appeal a district court decision on the Wire Act to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. In June, a federal judge in the New Hampshire District ruled that the Wire Act applies only to sports betting, and not to other forms of interstate gaming.

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

 


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.

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


UPDATE: Court Strikes Down DOJ’s Wire Act Ruling – Appeal Likely to Follow

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the Department of Justice’s Wire Act interpretation as it relates to online gambling. Prior to the Obama Administration, the Wire Act was always interpreted to apply to all online gambling. During the Obama Administration, the DOJ decided the wire act only applied to sports betting, thereby legalizing all other forms of online gambling. Its been argued that their decision wasn’t grounded in the plain language and clear intent of Congress when the act was passed in the 1960’s. Never the less, it opened the floodgates to online gambling. Recently, the DOJ produced a memorandum that said they planned to reinterpret the wire act to apply to all gambling as it was for so many years prior. Naturally many groups opposed the ruling and the DOJ delayed its enforcement to allow time for the court process to take place. Now, the first ruling has been made and unsurprisingly, it upholds the Obama Administrations ruling. An online source reports:

In a memo dated June 12, 2019, US Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen instructed all US attorneys to hold off on implementing the Wire Act opinion until the end of the calendar year. The last date given had been June 14, 2019, but the decision by the US District Court last week makes any enforcement of that Wire Act opinion illegal as it pertains to any forms of gambling other than sports betting.

[E]veryone will wait to see if the DOJ decides to appeal that decision or let it stand. It is unlikely that the DOJ will not appeal, as even Judge Barbadoro fully expected the case to head to the US Supreme Court, as noted during the oral arguments phase.

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

 


Sports Betting and Other Major Provisions in the Florida Gambling Compact with the Seminole Tribe Could Prevent Deal

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to renegotiated the expired portion of the Seminole Gambling Compact. Several attempts have been made over the past few legislative sessions, but nothing has been established and they have been acting in good faith since.  As this year’s session approaches its end, the efforts to finalize a new compact have strengthened. As previously explainedit was suggested that sports gambling could be legalized in Florida without needing to involve a vote of the people. Tribal gambling is not regulated in the same way, so if they were to offer it, its believed that it could be a way to work around the need for voter approval. Florida Politics online explains:

Simpson acknowledged last week that the concept of allowing the tribe to run sports books at the state’s dog and horse tracks and jai alai frontons was intended to sidestep a constitutional amendment that passed in November requiring statewide votes on citizens’ initiatives that would expand casino-type gambling.

But [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis, a graduate of Harvard Law School, indicated the constitutional amendment adds another layer of analysis to an already-complicated legal deal that also encompasses serious policy-making decisions.

“Obviously, me and my staff we’re going through it, looking substantively (at) what it means, but also legally. As you know, there’s a lot of legalities that are involved in this. There is just a (constitutional) amendment that passed. You know, the question, does it apply to the tribe? Does it apply to this or that? So there’s a whole host of things I think that need to be vetted through, but prior to yesterday I had not seen the outline. We have it now and are going through it,” DeSantis said.

This sports betting provision in general, however, is being set up in a way that Florida Gov Ron DeSantis believes could cause problems. Florida Politics continues:

With time already an enemy, Gov. Ron DeSantis injected more uncertainty Tuesday into a gambling deal reached by a Senate Republican leader and a representative of the Seminole Tribe, suggesting its passage would be too heavy a “legislative lift.”

The governor said he and his staff have begun scrutinizing “a draft outline” of the agreement, which would open the door for sports betting in Florida, with the tribe acting as a “hub” for sports betting at the state’s pari-mutuels.

But the Republican governor appeared skeptical of some sports-betting provisions in the deal, which reportedly also would permit in-play betting at professional sports arenas.

The manner in which sports betting is set up “could really affect the integrity of the games,” said DeSantis, who, as an undergraduate played baseball for Yale University.

“If I can place a wager on whether the first pitch of a game is going to be a strike or not, well, hell, that’s a big moral hazard, because that’s not necessarily something that would affect the total outcome,” he added.

Clearly sports betting has its own set of issues, but that’s not the only sticking point for a successful compact. Designated player games also need addressed given the temporary agreement expires after May of this year. The Tampa Bay Times explains: 

But some issues opposed by pari-mutuels could imperil the deal’s success in the House, several lobbyists said.

Controversial “designated player” games offered at many of the state’s pari-mutuel cardrooms are a key element of the deal. The Seminoles — and a federal judge — have maintained that the card games violate a 2010 gambling agreement with the state that gave the tribe “exclusivity” over offering banked card games, such as blackjack.

Amid the dispute about designated player games, former Gov. Rick Scott entered an agreement with the tribe in which the Seminoles have continued to pay about $350 million a year to the state, which pledged to “aggressively enforce” how the games are played. But that agreement expires on May 31, and the House and Senate have not included the revenue in next year’s budget.

The deal under discussion would severely alter the way the card games are being played, making them virtually unprofitable for pari-mutuel cardrooms, sources said.

House Speaker José Oliva told The News Service of Florida on Tuesday afternoon that he had seen a “brief outline” of the gambling proposal.

The issues don’t stop there either. There are discussions to decouple horse racing in the same way dog racing was decoupled by the voters last election as well as other intertwined gambling issues. At the end of the day, Gov. DeSantis thinks it could simply be too many issues with too many parties to come to an agreement in time. The Tamp Bay Times continues:

To appease the pari-mutuels about the changes to the designed player games, the proposed agreement would also allow horse tracks to do away with horse races, while keeping lucrative activities like cardrooms and slot machines, which are legal at tracks in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. It is unclear whether such “decoupling” would also apply to jai alai frontons. Dog tracks are already allowed to drop greyhound races, thanks to a voter-approved constitutional amendment passed in November.

The pari-mutuels would also be able to operate sports books, with a cut going to the tribe, but the profits from sports betting wouldn’t offset the losses from the changes in the designated player games, according to industry experts.

Under the agreement, the Seminoles would be able to add craps and roulette to other gambling activities currently underway at the tribe’s casinos. The tribe would agree to pay about $400 million a year to the state, an amount that could gradually increase to about $500 million a year. That’s a boost from the current revenue-sharing agreement with the tribe, but far less than what legislative leaders had originally envisioned.

The decisions by the House and Senate to not include the tribe’s annual payments in their budget proposals takes some pressure off negotiators as lawmakers work to hammer out a final budget in the coming days.

Senate President Bill Galvano on Tuesday afternoon told the News Service that Simpson was continuing to work on the gambling deal, which the president said was still in play.

But with just a week-and-a-half left before the legislative session is slated to end, DeSantis hinted that passage of a compact would be extremely difficult. 

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


DOJ Seeks to get State Online Lottery Lawsuit Dropped

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the Department of Justice’s reversal of the Wire Act and that decision’s impact on online gambling. Many said lawsuits would be the deciding fact as to whether or not they could reverse the out of place Obama Administration’s reinterpretation of the wire act, which lead to the massive expansion of online gambling. One area of concern for states has been the impact on state lotteries, specifically where those state offer online access to their lotteries. The DOJ recently extended the deadline as they wanted to more closely examine the full range of its ruling. The DOJ is now seeking a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by New Hampshire claiming they don’t have standing to sue yet and that the state hasn’t proven that the ruling would even impact them. The Associated Press explains: 

The U.S. Justice Department says in a federal court brief that the New Hampshire Lottery Commission has failed to demonstrate that it wouldn’t be immune from 1960s law enacted to crack down on the mob.

On Thursday, the Justice Department filed the brief in Concord, New Hampshire, in response to a judge’s order for it to clarify its interpretation of the Wire Act. States fear losing at least $220 million annually in lottery profits if the Wire Act is determined to apply to all forms of gambling that crosses state lines.

The department also affirmed any early promise to not prosecute state lotteries or their vendors while it continues to review whether the Wire Act applies to lotteries.

The concern goes beyond the state of New Hampshire. Several states offer online access to their lotteries and some lotteries extent to multiple states. Some believe the intent of the DOJ isn’t to stop lotteries, as Powerball and Mega Millions are too engrained as a societal norm, but the actual transactions might very well fit the original 1960 Wire Act. An online source explains: 

The states are anxiously waiting on a clarification from the Justice Department about its opinion that, if strictly interpreted, would outlaw lottery tickets sold online and prohibit all lottery-related activities that use the internet. Legal experts say Powerball and Mega Millions are at risk if the opinion is read to the letter, which would cost the states billions. 

Seven states now sell lottery tickets online and others offer residents internet-based lottery subscription services.

When state lotteries use the internet to transmit data for online ticket sales, the network signal can cross state lines, and games that are played in multiple state s, like Powerball and Mega Millions, transmit data to a central database out of state, according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.

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UPDATE: Wire Act Changes delayed by DoJ until June 14

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the developing situation surrounding the Department of Justices’ decision to restore the interpretation to the plain language of the Wire Act to ban all online gambling. The Obama Administration went against this long standing interpretation and concluded the Wire Act was only refereeing to sports betting, meaning all other forms of online gambling were not banned by federal law. This opened the floodgates to numerous state lottery programs as well other online gambling activities such as online poker. Now that the Trump Administration has announced its intent to restore the Wire Act to it original intention, many have objected and others have threatened to join in legal action. As a result, the DoJ is extending the recommended enforcement deadline to allow time for some of the legal challenges to play out. An online source explains: 

The U.S. Department of Justice extended any implementation of the agency’s revised Federal Wire Act opinion until June 14, according to a memo from outgoing Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

The memo to all U.S. Attorneys, assistant attorney generals and the director of the FBI was signed Thursday. The Justice Department originally delayed the implementation until April 15. “We have decided to the extend that window an additional 60 day (through June 14, 2019),” Rosenstein wrote. “Providing this extension of time is an internal exercise of prosecutorial discretion and does not create a safe harbor for violations of the Wire Act.”

The move allow a legal challenge to the opinion, brought by New Hampshire, to moved forward in federal court. Rosenstein issued a memorandum on the 90-day delay the day after the opinion was announced, giving “businesses that relied on the 2011 (Office of Legal Counsel) opinion time to bring their operations into compliance with federal law.” Rosenstein is leaving office this week. Some in the gaming industry quietly hope new U.S. Attorney General William Barr – a state’s rights advocate – will simply opt not to enforce the opinion, just as the department doesn’t opt to prosecute for simple possession of marijuana. 

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Florida Bill Banning Online Lottery sales Advances with Additional Warnings for Gamblers

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing developments of the Department of Justice’s decision to restore the wire act to its long standing position that makes online gambling illegal. Many states have an eye on the developments as legal action was threatened by New Jersey and New Hampshire. The topic is also of interest in Florida where many are curious how gambling legislation will move forward in the wake of the Voters in Charge gambling bill being passed that requires statewide voter approval for gambling expansion. The most well know issue centers around sports betting, but online gambling is also of interest. To that extent, a bill is moving forward in the Florida legislature to end the practice of online lottery sales before it gets off the ground. An online source reports:

Florida does not sell lottery tickets over the internet — and if a bill passed Wednesday by the House Gaming Control Subcommittee becomes law, it never will.

While New Hampshire has sued the Department of Justice in a bid to protect the revenues it derives from its online lottery operations, State Rep. Will Robinson (R-Bradenton) wants to the option taken off the table entirely.

The main aim of Robinson’s bill — which was advanced by the committee in a 10-1 vote — is to shut out third-party websites that claim affiliation with the state lottery but actually just buy tickets and mark up prices.

The bill would ban the use of personal electronic devices for the sale and purchase of tickets, ensuring that every ticket sale involves a transaction between a store and an in-person buyer.

“These fraudulent websites are, in my view, illegally advertising when they are not related to the lottery system at all,” he told /Florida Politics/ earlier this week. “The lottery is significantly regulated and that’s for a purpose … The state of Florida wants to make sure the right thing is being sold.”

The bill’s intent goes beyond just selling tickets online however. The Rep. Will Robinson Jr believes people should truly understand how very unlikely the changes of winning the lottery are for would be gamblers. He has proposed additional warnings placed on physical tickets. The Tampa Bay Times explains:

Debate about a bill that would require warnings on lottery tickets quickly turned into a debate on Wednesday about whether anyone in Florida is actually addicted to lottery games, with one lawmaker blasting it as “deceptive.” The bill (HB 629) by state Rep. Will Robinson, Jr., R-Bradenton, would add two warnings to the front of every lottery ticket:

“WARNING: PLAYING A LOTTERY GAME CONSTITUTES GAMBLING AND MAY LEAD TO
ADDICTION AND/OR COMPULSIVE BEHAVIOR.”

And, “THE CHANCES OF WINNING A BIG PRIZE ARE VERY LOW.”

Under the bill, those two warnings would take up 10 percent of the face of every lottery card, and they would be required in every Florida Lottery advertisement, including those on television.

But state Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, grilled Robinson during a House Gaming Control Subcommittee meeting about whether he knows of anyone addicted to lottery games. Robinson he didn’t know of any personal examples, but he pointed to news articles out of state. That led Slosberg to come out strongly against the bill.

How many people might be addicted to the games is unclear. But the numbers show that some Floridians spend a staggering amount each year on lottery tickets. Last year, the Florida Lottery sold $6.7 billion in tickets — nearly $400 in tickets for every adult in the state. (The figure doesn’t include tourists, some of whom also play.) And while the Florida Lottery does post the number to a gambling addiction hotline on its website, it doesn’t say anything on its tickets. State Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, who used to run a casino consulting company in Las Vegas, disagreed with Slosberg. “The research proves that there are people that become addicted to gambling, and whether it’s 1 percent or 5 percent, people do at times become susceptible to this,” he said. “I know this from my prior life.”

The bill passed the House Gaming Control Subcommittee with only Slosberg voting against it. 

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