Category Archives: Slot Machines

Missouri Legislators Finally Discussing Ways to Enforce and Eliminate Illegal Gambling Machines Across the State

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the worrisome issue in Missouri of illegal slot machines popping up across the state in non-licensed locations such as gas stations and the even worse possibility of legislators contemplation making slot machines legal outside of casinos. However, the concern rose over such a massive expansion of gambling has now shifted to enforcement methods to eliminate illegal slot machines. So far it seems to be the responsibility of local prosecutors as the Gaming Commission can only enforce regulated, legal gambling. An online source explains: 

After years of inaction by Missouri lawmakers, the push may be on to take aim at the tens of thousands of illegal slot machines spreading across the state. In the first meeting of a special House committee formed to address gambling laws in the state, the chairman of the panel said he believes Missourians want to unplug the illegal terminals, which have popped up in gas stations, taverns and convenience stores. 

The Missouri Gaming Commission has deemed the terminals as “gambling devices,” which are prohibited outside of Missouri’s 13 licensed casinos. But, there is little agreement on how to control their spread. The Missouri Gaming Commission says it can only police establishments that have bingo licenses. And the Missouri Department of Public Safety, which oversees liquor licenses, says it cannot crack down on the machines because of a court ruling in 2000 that found the agency has no authority to seize gambling devices. For now, it appears most of the work to crack down on the machines is on the backs of the state’s 115 county prosecutors, a process which Rep. Dirk Deaton, R-Noel, called “cumbersome.”

However, it seems that many Missouri legislators believe its time to find a statewide solution to the problem, although many interests are in play. An online source explains: 

David Grothaus, executive director of the gaming commission, urged lawmakers to find a statewide solution. “What the state needs is a very focused effort on these illegal machines,” Grothaus told the panel. Rep. LaKeySha Bosley, D-St. Louis, said she knows of at least five locations within her district where illegal terminals are located. “It blows my mind that they are that blatant,” said Rep. Wes Rogers, D-Kansas City. “These illegal machines are everywhere. I have several of them in my district,” Shaul added. Shaul said some of the blame for the situation lies with the Legislature.

Finding a solution could be a tough sell when lawmakers gather for their annual session in January because of the varied interests involved in the debate.

Casino operators are opposed to legalizing the machines because they could cut into their profits. Casinos also want to begin taking wagers on sporting events, but the terminal operators don’t want to allow that without getting the ability to operate legally.

Among the companies linked to the spread of illegal gambling is Torch Electronics, which is managed by Steve Miltenberger of Wildwood. The company has hired a team of well-connected lobbyists and has pumped at least $20,000 in contributions to a campaign committee raising money for Gov. Mike Parson. Miltenberger, who previously worked for video gambling companies in Illinois, where they have been taxed and regulated since 2012, has placed video terminals in businesses across Missouri over the past year. 

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Missouri Prosecutors Advance Lawsuit to Shutdown Illegal Gambling Machines Popping Up Across the State

Casino Watch Focus has reported on a recent gambling expansion proposal in Missouri that would legalize slot machines outside of casinos. Currently, legalized gambling in Missouri is limited to a set number of licensed and regulated casinos that exist along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. The proposal would be an unprecedented expansion in gambling, as it would allow slot machines virtually anywhere in the state. However, the state is currently seeing similar expansion due to illegal gambling machines that operate exactly as these proposed slot machines would. These machines are popping up all over Missouri and the manufacture claims they are not slot machines because the reveal the result of the next spin to the player. These machines act exactly like the pre-reveal machines Florida had to deal with recently and the courts quickly called them out as illegal slot machines. It’s very clear that even though the initial spin shown is your outcome, it’s the spin after that the gambler is paying to see. Players are simply paying in advance and the subsequent outcomes are all a matter of chance. It is a slot machine through and through and a Platte County prosecutor is cracking down on these machines through a new lawsuit that seeks to get clarification by the court. An online source explains:

They look like slot machines, but they aren’t inside a casino.

Video gambling machines have been popping up across Missouri, including in St. Joseph, which has led one prosecutor to file criminal charges to stop their spread. Integrity Vending LLC, based in Kansas, currently faces one felony county of promoting gambling in Platte County.

“In Missouri, games of chance are illegal,” Eric Zahnd, the Platte County Prosecuting Attorney said. “These machines, according to the manufacturer, reveal whether or not you’ll win the next round of the game so they allege that it’s not a game of chance.”

“However to continue to play you have to play through those losing rounds,” Zahnd said.

The legal question that a judge must resolve is whether or not the machines constitute a game of chance, like a slot machine or video poker game. According to Zahnd, the company who distributed the machines, Integrity Vending LLC, has agreed to remove the machines if they’re determined to be illegal. 

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EA Tries to label Gambling-esques Loot Boxes as ‘Surprise Mechanics’ During UK Parliamentary Investigation

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing studies and investigations into the latest predatory gaming mechanics known as loot boxes. These are digital boxes that can be purchase with real money in video games and they contain random loot that can be used in game. In some cases these are vary rare items that have value in game. Most of the time, however, they are essentially useless items and kids or other gamers are encouraged to buy another box to get the good prize. It’s effectively a slot machine, along with all the psychological bells and whistles designed to get the player to keep paying to open more boxes.

In some cases, these items have enough value that they can be cashed out or soldmaking them exactly like a slot machine. As a result, they have been investigated and studied vigorously over the past year or so and even when some conclude they aren’t outright gambling, almost all conclude they are predatory, addictive, aimed at exploiting children and some have concluded that they lead to problem gambling & gambling addiction.  

Most recently, the UK Parliament’s Digital Culture, Media, and Sports Committee conducted an investigation and they heavily questioned EA, the company most famously known for its loot box controversies involving key games like Star Wars Battlefield II and FIFA. During the testimony, they attempted to rebrand loot boxes and tried to compare this highly sophisticated and psychologically trapping mechanic to surprise toys, like Kinder Eggs, that you can buy in the store. Screen Rate explains:

Kerry Hopkins, EA’s VP of legal and government affairs, went on record during an oral evidence session with the UK Parliament’s Digital Culture, Media, and Sport Committee as saying that the company doesn’t view its microtransactions as loot boxes, but rather as “surprise mechanics.”

It’s a frankly shocking and blatant disregard of much of the research that has gone into the problem of loot boxes, with Hopkins also likening EA’s loot boxes to “Kinder Eggs, or Hatchimals.” The difference? The latter two haven’t been correlated with gambling addiction in research studies, whereas loot boxes have, even if many more studies need to be done to conclusively link the two. EA’s attempted rebranding of loot boxes in the face of anti-loot box stances in the Netherlands, Belgium, and now in the United States is a clear appeal to keep the practice in place in the face of growing hostility.

With EA, it can be hard to separate the fact from fiction, but in this instance, it’s not difficult at all: loot boxes are loot boxes, not “surprise mechanics.” That the publisher is even attempting to assert they’re anything but what they are is an insult to consumer intelligence everywhere, and shows a blatant disregard for ethical concerns, instead prioritizing money.

This level of false equivocation is beyond concerning. EA pushed back against the Belgian Gaming Commission when it concluded their FIFA loot box cards clearly constituted unregulated gambling. Ultimately, they did remove them from the game in that specific country, but they really don’t see a difference in their gambling mechanic and Hatchimals. Video Game YouTuber YongYea, in a rather spirited, yet extraordinarily well reasoned video, properly outlines why this a dangerous false equivocation:

The only similarity between loot boxes and Kinder Eggs is that both involve opening some kind of container to reveal a random reward. But video game loot boxes go layers deeper than that. First of all, unlike Kinder Eggs, video games usually charge an entry fee, normally $60 for the standard edition. With Kinder Eggs there is no entry fee. You buy one or a couple, you get whatever toy inside and that’s that.

Most of the rewards you get out of loot boxes will be completely useless, with a small chance of getting something truly coveted, and that is by design. [B]ecause loot boxes are digital in nature, its parameters can be controlled and adjusted to the developer’s and publisher’s whim at their convenience. We often see games that tweak the odds post-launch, that introduce new roadblocks, add new coveted items that are easier to get or new modes that are easier to overcome by paying, rather than playing.

Then there is also the fact that with Kinder Eggs, opening a container for the little toy inside [is] pretty much the whole game. There’s not much else to it than that. The entire purpose of Kinder Eggs is to get that toy and maybe collect them. In-game loot boxes, on the other hand, act as this sub system that holds a lot of influence over the game itself. Loot boxes often tend to be implemented in such a way that you pretty much have to buy them in order to access the best possible experience for the game you purchased or downloaded. They essentially act as slot machine tollbooths for the product you already bought. Games will often implement intentional issues and roadblocks so that you will have to pay to mitigate them through the purchase of these randomized rewards.

I should also point out that when you open a Kinder Egg, there are no flashy animations or sound effects that are strictly designed to release these chemicals in your brain that give you that addictive sense of anticipation. With loot boxes, on the other hand, every time you open one you’re presented with this spectacle that is not too dissimilar to what you’ll find in casinos, slot machines specifically. That’s because slot machines and loot boxes are designed with the same purpose in mind, to keep those who are psychologically susceptible to gambling addiction and addictive tendencies coming back so they can be milked dry. This is regardless of their mental or financial health. That’s not a priority for these casinos and companies like EA.

Casinos at least have some kind of system where they keep kids away and what have you. The gaming industry, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to [care] about kids whose minds are still developing, who are more susceptible to addiction than adults are. The gaming industry certainly doesn’t care about susceptible adults or implementing monetization schemes responsibly.

The gaming industry cannot even uphold something as simple as an age restriction. As per the ESRB, on their website you can see that any game with real-life gambling must be considered an adult’s only game. Of course, this classification will prevent that game from being sold on most major platforms. But because loot boxes make them so much money, they’re trying to pretend like loot boxes aren’t gambling. That’s how they get around this and now companies like EA are going as far claiming loot boxes aren’t even loot boxes, but rather surprise mechanics. No EA, Kinder Eggs and loot boxes don’t come anywhere close to being the same thing. That’s like saying getting shot with a BB gun is pretty much the same as getting shot with sniper riffle because both involve pulling a trigger that ejects a projectile. This is false equivocation at its finest and this is a classic move from EA and other major publishers.

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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. 

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Missouri’s Largest Gambling Expansion Proposal Since Casino Legalization Emerges in the House

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various gambling proposals and changes in the Missouri gambling landscape, but this proposal might be the most shocking. The Missouri constitution was amended to allow gambling on riverboats by the voters back in 1994 and since that time, the qualifications for river boat gambling has drastically expanded. Its started as actual river boats that traveled up and down the rivers for a two hour period, but now no time or monetary limits exist and gamblers walk into full scale buildings up to 25 feet off the river bank (albeit with a tiny amount of river water with a tiny amount of river water pumped underneath them as to technically make them water craft). Even still, gambling has always been limited to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Now a bill has been proposed in the Missouri house that is so radical, it’s not an exaggeration to call it the largest and most problematic expansion of gambling the state has ever seen. An online source explains:

“This irresponsible bill would permit slot machines on every street corner where a restaurant, bar, convenience store or truck stop is located,” said Mike Winter, executive director of the Missouri Gaming Association. “These machines look and play just like slot machines. If this bill passes, we can expect to see them in every city, town or community across the state. Missouri could very quickly have more slot machines outside of casinos than inside them.”

“This is not what Missouri voters envisioned when they voted to approve casino wagering in Missouri,” Winter said. “Voters were very careful to restrict casinos to certain locations and to limit the number of casinos.”

The bill would bypass a vote by Missouri residents, who first authorized casinos by ballot initiative in 1994 and also voted to limit the number of casinos to 13 in 2008.

Not only does the bill drastically expand gambling, it seemingly bypassing regulation by the Missouri gambling commission and it leaves vulnerable those people and families who could be most impact by gambling addiction. The source continues:

If passed, the proposed gambling expansion is expected to heavily impact rural areas throughout the state. The same towns and cities that opposed casinos in their communities could suddenly see hundreds of slot machines in family restaurants, convenience stores and other retail establishments.

HB 423 would prohibit anyone under the age of 21 from playing lottery slot machines but oversight would be minimal as compared to the strict rules that regulate casinos. Busy retailers with machines on their premises would be solely responsible for monitoring their use.

“The proposed regulations, security and oversight are simply inadequate,” Winter said. “This gambling expansion would bypass not only our state’s voters but also our strong gaming commission, which establishes and enforces strict gambling regulations in our casinos.”

Missouri casinos and the Missouri Gaming Association provide a full range of programs to promote responsible gaming and to help those who have a gambling problem. Retailers hosting lottery slot machines would not be required to provide similar responsible gaming education.

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Florida Votes to End Dog Racing – What Comes Next?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the complicated decoupling issue masked as a simple greyhound ban that later officially became known as Amendment 13The amendment needed 60% voter approval to pass and it received 69%. At face, the Amendment will end live dog racing at the end of 2020, but many questions remain. The Amendment also decoupled the gambling requirements at those facilities from the actual live racing.   This means the facilities aren’t shut down completely, but they can offer simulcast races and slot machines and other prior authorized forms of gambling. The Orland Sentinel explains that some tracks will operate as these mini-casino’s, while others will have fewer options:

While all other tracks in Florida also have card rooms to supplement their dog-racing revenue, Sanford Orlando does not, making its future more tentative.

Florida’s 11 active dog tracks will have until Jan. 1, 2021, to phase out their live greyhound racing. They’ll still be able to race horses, if their tracks can accommodate the event, and they’ll still be able to have wagering on simulcast races from other tracks, including from dog tracks in the five remaining states where the practice is still active and legal.

The questions of how much gambling expansion will also need exploring thanks to the passage of Amendment 3, which will now require voter approval for new gambling. This is a bit of a grey area as it may seem clear that a new simulcast track may not be able to be built without voter approval (a key worry with decoupling as it would be far easier to set up a simulcast location and operate as a mini-casino via decoupling), but expanding the gambling at an existing location may be perfectly permitable. The key example is the number of slot machines. The Sun Sentinel explains how existing tracks could simply drastically increase their numbers as the amount allowed is already established: 

Dog track owners in Florida will be allowed to keep operating card rooms. They’ll be able to run slots in the case of dog tracks in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. So, another result could be that track owners will use their space to expand restaurants and nightlife, or even casino floor space. In turn, the combination of anti-gambling expansion Amendment 3 and anti-dog racing Amendment 13 could mean already existing casinos offer more entertainment options for patrons. 

There already is an example of that. The Magic City Casino in Miami had been a dog track until last year, when the state Department of Business andProfessional Regulation gave it permission to convert to ajai-alai fronton.

The decision capped off a six-year legal fight between the casino and state regulators. With the jai-alai court taking up far less room than the track, Magic City Casino has plans to expand by putting the jai-alai court where its entertainment venue, Stage 305, is now and then building a much bigger entertainment venue on top of the old dog track.

The Big Easy Casino, a Hallandale Beach dog track, would have to stop racing within three years. What might be in store? An option for the Big Easy could be to expand lucrative slot machines. According to its own website, the casino currently offers “more than 500” slot machines. The upper limit for perimutuel casinos under state law is 2,000, though none of them at this point have approached that limit. 

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Who should vote No on Florida Amendment 13? Those who oppose radical expansion of gambling and Those who want to join over 90 Dog Adoptions Agencies because they believe it hurts the best interest of Greyhounds

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the dangerously deceptive Greyhound Amendment and with the election right around the corner, its critically important that voters see through the deception.  Whether you are a dog lover or one looking to curb excessive gambling,  you should vote No on Florida Amendment 13  There are two reasons for a No on 13 vote and they are intertwined. 

The first reason to vote No on 13 is because it will result in a radical expansion of gambling.  As previously noted, Circuit Judge Karen Gievers calls it outright “trickeration,” because the decoupling issue is largely misunderstood by the public at large.  Right now, the only way these tracks can offer slot machines and other forms of gambling is if they operate a full racetrack.  This bill doesn’t simply stop dog racing.  In fact, it doesn’t stop racing at all, as races from other states will still be simulcast to the tracks.  However, the need to house a full track and care for the greyhounds in the proper and well regulated manner the law provides for today will no longer become necessary to have that other gambling.  This effectively means that tracks can operate as freestanding mini casinos and the only requirement is they simulcast races from other states. 

 The reason we don’t see a massive expansion of these mini-casinos now, is because it takes very qualified operators to raise and care for the dogs and maintain the space necessary for such races to physically occur.  Absent the need for an actual track, its infinitely easier for a “greyhound” parlor to start up, because it can simply fill the building with slot machines and provide a few TVs for simulcast dog racing.  It has been claimed that this could lead to the largest expansion of gambling in Florida, and it’s easy to see why.  If you would ordinarily be opposed to gambling expansion, then don’t be deceived.  This bill won’t reduce gambling by stopping dog races as you think.  It will expand gambling in the worst ways.

 The second reason to vote No on 13 is because of the wellbeing of the dogs involved.  At face, the amendment seems to get rid of dog racing as previously discussed, but its clear racing will still happen.  In this scenario however, the amendment will have negative impacts on the dogs.  This is precisely why over 90 dog adoption agencies are voting No on 13.  The following article, Guest Opinion: A No on 13 Vote is a Yes to the Best Interest  of Greyhounds, comes from an avid dog lover and greyhound enthusiast.  It is incredibly informative and explains from a dog lover’s perspective why a voter would want to oppose this amendment:

As one who has adopted two retired racers, I was initially torn when I saw this amendment. A ban on racing sounds like a good thing on the surface to a dog-lover.

Shouldn’t all dogs be spoiled like mine with couches for beds and baskets of chew toys? My first clue that this might not be the case came in my email inbox. I received my usual newsletter from the Greyhound adoption agency that we had used. The email stated their opposition to the amendment.

Quite frankly, I was shocked that this volunteer run organization, who put our family through an extensive adoption process which included thorough home visits, vet background checks, multiple references and intense education, was now explaining how the claims made by the proponents of the deceptive ban and Amendment 13 were unsubstantiated. They, along with 90+ adoption agencies, are in opposition to the amendment and encourage a “NO” vote.

After receiving the email, I went on a quest myself to find out more facts….

She goes on to outline very key points that dog lovers will want to learn, including the fact that there are absolutely no provisions in the amendment for dealing with the 8,000 or more greyhounds that will be displaced when live racing is banned.  Please click on article to get all the information and share as much as possible.

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