Category Archives: Social Costs

UPDATE: 16 Countries Sign Agreement to Fight Loot Box Gambling in Video Games as New Study Draws Link Between Loot Boxes & Problem Gambling

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on the ongoing fight to regulate the addictive and gambling-esque gameplay mechanic known as loot boxes. Video games offer boxes that can be purchased for real money and they randomly provide in-game items. These items often have real world value and have certainly been sold as such. Clear links between this and slot machine gambling have been drawn and many are realizing what’s at steak. The issue became a main-stream topic when the Disney’s popular Start Wars franchise was licensed and used by video game publisher EA to make Battlefront II. The loot boxes were a critical component to advancing in the game and it was practically essential from children playing the game to buy these loot boxes to get equipment to be able to compete in the game. The situation was so bad one legislator called the game and Star Wars Themed online casino. After several individual dealings with loot box regulation, including the first actual ban, we now see the first coalition attempting to regulate this new form of gambling to children. Variety explains: 

Fifteen gambling regulators from Europe, as well as Washington State Gambling Commission, signed an agreement to work together to address the “risks created by the blurring of lines between gaming and gambling,” according to Gambling Commission It also plans to tackle third-party websites that offer players the chance to gamble or sell in-game items.

Certain countries, like Belgium and the Netherlands, have already taken measures including officially declaring loot boxes as gambling. Those countries even had players unable to open loot boxes in “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” (CS:GO) due to some players selling rare skins and other in-game items on third-party websites, sometimes for large sums of actual money.

Another measure was taken by popular games selling platform Steam, as Valve removed the ability to trade items in “CS:GO” and “Dota 2” on its platform to comply with gambling regulations in June. However, this will mark the first international combined effort against the concerns of gaming and gambling— which could mean a more intense effort than what individual states have taken.

Neil McArthur, chief executive and signatory of the UK’s Gambling Commission explained the intent behind the effort. “We have joined forces to call on video games companies to address the clear public concern around the risks gambling and some video games can pose to children,” McArthur said. “We encourage video games companies to work with their gambling regulators and take action now to address those concerns to make sure that consumers, and particularly children, are protected.” McArthur further noted that children could be “gambling with money intended for computer game products” using sites that allow users to bet real currency on in-game items. “We want parents to be aware of the risks and to talk to their children about how to stay safe online,” McArthur said.

Such efforts are even more critically important as more and more research is revealing the true cost and risk to our children. It was already reported that the loot box industry is expected to reach $50 billion dollars, but new research is demonstrating exactly what kind of negative effects that can have on children, and given the psychological similarities between gambling and these gaming mechanics, its no surprise the finding point towards a gateway to problem gambling. An online gaming publication reports:

An Australian committee has released the findings of an investigation on loot boxes in video games started earlier this year, reporting that loot boxes and problem gambling are linked and that the monetization practice comes with “a serious risk […] to cause gambling-related harm.”

The debate about loot boxes and their connection to gambling has been raging for quite some time at this point, but the Australian government’s investigation and findings back a growing number of lawmaking bodies and regulatory committees working to impose or encourage regulation of the practice.

In the case of this investigation, and according to information on the study shared by Lexology, researchers looked at a sample size of roughly 7,500 individuals and found “important links between loot box spending and problem gambling.”

The report notes that players with severe gambling problems were more likely to spend large sums on loot boxes in video games, and that its findings suggest that loot boxes can act as a gateway to problem gambling and that the monetization practice itself gives game companies “an unregulated way of exploiting gambling disorders amongst their customers.”

“These results support the position of academics who claim that loot boxes are psychologically akin to gambling,” reads a statement shared along with the findings, shortly after calling back to an earlier quote from the ESRB that likened loot boxes to baseball cards. “Spending large amounts of money on loot boxes was associated with problematic levels of spending on other forms of gambling. This is what one would expect if loot boxes psychologically constituted a form of gambling. It is not what one would expect if loot boxes were, instead, psychologically comparable to baseball cards.” 

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

Advertisements

UPDATE: MGM makes “Outrageous” Offer to Shooting Victims it’s Suing – Gets called out for PR Spin Attempt

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the MGM lawsuit that shocked so many. MGM’s hotel and casino, Mandalay Bay, was involved in worst mass shooting in modern American history. In what was seen as an unprecedented move, MGM decided to preemptively sue the victims families in an effort to stop any potential liability lawsuits they had and might occur. There are nearly 2,000 people that MGM is suing and they have reached out to try an offer a sort of an extremely strange deal that has been called out as a shameless PR stunt. The Associated Press explains: 

MGM Resorts International drew criticism Tuesday for saying hundreds of survivors of the Las Vegas mass shooting, who are being sued by the casino operator, could opt to have the money that will be used to serve them a lawsuit instead donated to a charity.

Serving defendants is a crucial step in a civil lawsuit. It informs a defendant that a lawsuit has been filed against him or her, provides the individual a copy of the complaint and starts running a 21-day deadline for the person to respond to the lawsuit. Eglet said the firms representing most of the victims have not been authorized to accept the legal notices. That would force MGM to find and serve each of the 1,977 people it sued.

The company […has] been working to notify them as it faces a standard 90-day deadline. MGM told the victims’ attorneys it would rather make the donations to charities than spend the money to pay people to serve the legal notices.

“The money spent on personal service of process — up to $250 per person — could be better directed to do some affirmative good,” MGM’s attorneys wrote in the letter shared with The Associated Press. MGM offered to make a $500 charitable donation for each person who waives being served or authorizes an attorney to accept service on their behalf, but a victims’ lawyer quickly called it all “nonsense.” Attorney Robert Eglet, part of a group representing most of the victims, said the company is just trying to “spin” its attempt to save money on serving legal notices. “It will cost the MGM significantly more than $250 to serve them,” Eglet said. “This is just more outrageous conduct by them.”

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


McDonald’s Come Under Fire for Super Mario Slot Machine Toy

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on underage gambling and risk factors for children exposed to gambling. The NFL came under fire for marketing fantasy football to minors, and they decided to end those efforts. More recently, its been loot boxes in video games that have been so widely discussed. As many have explained, it’s a game mechanic with virtually no difference from gambling, with on legislator outright calling Battlefield II a “Star Wars Themed Online Casino.” Where as Mickey Mouse, the second most recognizable character in the world under Disney was under fire (as they own the Star Wars brand and had to intervene in the loot box situation), its now the world most recognizable character, Nintendo’s Mario, that’s in news.   McDonalds made a slot machine toy of Mario in a line of Nintendo themed happy meal toys, and its been called inappropriate by the National Council on Problem Gambling and others. An online source explains: 

Today, Jennifer Kruse, Executive Director of the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG), joined the National Council on Problem Gambling by calling upon the toy manufacturer giant, Nintendo® of America, and the fast food industry leader, McDonald’s®, to stop marketing their Slot Machine Super Mario™ toy from McDonald’s® Happy Meals®.

“We were shocked when we noted the slot machine toy in a Happy Meal® here in Florida. Nintendo® and McDonald’s® need to be attentive to the messages their products are promoting among children,” said Kruse. Youngsters are very impressionable and despite the restrictions to gamble among minors, research reveals that adolescents are involved in gambling activities and are at higher risk for developing gambling problems than their adult counterparts.”

“Just because you cannot easily ‘see’ a hazard, does not mean it doesn’t exist. Had the Super Mario™ Happy Meal® toy highlighted a bottle of beer or bloodshot eyes, or had the fantasy character smoking a cigarette, government and others would be up in arms. Unfortunately, we can no longer afford a double standard when research confirms that problem gambling is a growing public health issue, in general, and especially among adolescents, that demands attention now,” concluded Kruse. 

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


Military Personnel to be Screened for Problem Gambling under new Trump Directive

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the concerns of gambling in the military. The Department of Defense actually operates gambling facilities where service personnel gamble on slot machines. A few years ago Sen. Elizabeth Warren pushed an amendment to study the issues of problem gambling saying, “If the military is going to operate gambling facilities that bring in tens of millions of dollars in revenue, it also needs to ensure there is adequate prevention, treatment, and financial counseling available for service members struggling with gambling addictions.” She explained that over 36,000 service members fit the definition of problem gamblers. Now the Trump Administration has passed an initiative to screen for problem gambling during service member’s medical examinations. An online source explains: 

Members of America’s armed forces will now have to undergo screening for gambling addiction thanks to a new provision contained within the *National Defence Authorisation Act* that was signed into law by *President Trump* this week.

Section 733 of the House Armed Services Committee Report 115-874 requires the Department of Defence (DoD) to incorporate medical screening questions specific to gambling disorder in the next annual periodic health assessment conducted by the Department as well as in the Health Related Behaviours Surveys of Active-Duty and reserve component service members.

NCPG executive director *Keith Whyte* said: “Previous DoD surveys have found active duty personnel are two to three times more likely to have gambling problems than civilians. Better detection of gambling problems improves overall health and reduces social costs. Undetected gambling addiction exacerbates substance use disorders, depression and suicidal behaviour.”

He added: “NCPG strongly believes military personnel need and deserve effective gambling addiction prevention, education, treatment, enforcement, research, responsible gaming and recovery services. With the provision requiring members of the Armed Forces to be screened for gambling addiction, championed by Senator Elizabeth Warren, we take a vital step to improving the lives of service members and their families.

 

 

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

 


Possible New Miami Gambling Expansion Plan Faces Regulatory Roadblock

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many efforts to expand gambling in Florida. There have been several attempts at passing Vegas-style resort casinos, but those failed. Other gambling expansion attempts include slots, card games and jai alai. Now most recently, gambling expansion efforts are being made in Miami. Magic City Casino is seeking to open a jai alai fronton and poker room in the Edgewater neighborhood. The proposal was seen as controversial by many citing concerns that it would lead to even more gambling expansion. Now in response, city planners are using zoning regulations to halt the immediate expansion so the process can be open to feedback from the community. An online source explains: 

City commissioners voted 4-0 on Thursday to authorize Miami City Manager Emilio Gonzalez and the planning department to begin working on amendments to the Miami 21 zoning code that would define what gambling facilities are and where such facilities can be located in the city. It would also require four out of five commissioners to vote in favor of any future pari-mutuels, casinos, or card rooms.

Commissioner Ken Russell proposed the legislation after learning that the state’s division of pari-mutuel wagering recently awarded a permit to West Flagler Associates, the entity that owns Magic City Casino. West Flagler would lease the property from Crescent Heights and would also include a restaurant and poker room.

Several prominent businessmen and developers, including Jorge Perez, Craig Robins and Norman Braman, have come out against the new gambling facility.

Russell said the city does not have a mechanism in place that requires gambling facilities to go through a public process that would vet any proposed development or give the city the ability to reject the location of a new casino, pari-mutuel or card room. He said adding the regulations ensures residents have a role in deciding whether they want gambling facilities in their neighborhood.

 

 

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


Florida Appeals Court to Rule on New “Pre-reveal” Slot Machines

Casino Watch Focus has reported on a new form of slot machine termed pre-reveal machines. These machines have the ability to drastically expand gambling in the state should the be viewed as anything other than a slot machine. Slot machines would be heavily regulated as a game of chance and face numerous restrictions. They work slightly different that a typical slot machine in that the reveal what the next spin will be. The creators and those that believe they shouldn’t be regulated as slot machines claim that because you see what the next spin will be, it can’t be gambling. The judge originally agreed with the creators and said they were legal machines. The judge was urged to reexamine how the machines actually work and it was explained to him that event though the next pull was revealed, it was the spin after that would be revealed that gamblers were chasing. It’s exactly like a slot machine except the gambler is one play behind. They basically pay for the spin they know is coming, but its really the next spin that will be revealed that they gamble on being a winner. Now the case has reached the Appellate level and its outcome could have a huge impact if these machines are deemed legal. An online source explains: 

In a legal dispute that’s dragged on for more than three years and has eluded a legislative remedy, an appellate court is grappling with whether popular tabletop games are illegal slot machines or more-benign entertainment options for customers of bars and restaurants.

The 1st District Court of Appeal heard arguments Tuesday in the case centered on games produced by Blue Sky Games and leased by Jacksonville-based Gator Coin II Inc., after a Tallahassee judge last year sided with gambling regulators who maintain that the games violate a Florida law banning slot machines in most parts of the state.

Proponents of the devices, known as “pre-reveal games,” contend that the machines are legal because the computer games include a “preview” feature that advises players of the outcome of the games.

But critics, including the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, say that doesn’t matter because the “random number generator” used to create the games equates to the definition of slot machines, which are games of “chance,” under state law.

There’s nothing players can do to affect the outcome of the game, which fits the definition of slots, department attorney Daniel McGinn told a three-judge panel Tuesday.

The only other argument that they are advancing is that because the first game is known, and only the games after are not known, then a ruling requires looking at all the games played and not simply a single game. The state believes its irrelevant if one game is played or many games are played. The online source continues:

A key issue in the case involves whether the slot-machine law applies to playing a single game or a series of games. While the outcome of the first game is revealed in advance, a player at the outset does not know the results of subsequent games.

Judge James Wolf repeatedly asked lawyers on both sides whether the court should consider whether a single game or a series of games violates the law.

“I’m a simple kind of guy. It comes down to whether we can consider the entire course of the play or one particular game. Their argument is one particular game is not a game of chance because you know the outcome. … What in the statute allows us to consider the entire course of play?” he asked, pointing out that the state law defines slot machines, in part, as a device whose outcome is “unpredictable by the user.”

The answer rests in the way the machines generate the games, which the state believes violates the law, said McGinn, whose department regulates gambling. “From our perspective, it doesn’t matter whether it’s one game. It doesn’t matter whether it’s multiple games,” he said.

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


MGM does the Unthinkable and Sues the Victims of the Las Vegas Mass Shooting

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the worst mass shooting in modern American history as it took place in Las Vegas on the Mandalay Bay casino-resort, and an MGM property. Understanding its impact to gambling industry was noteworthy, so it was discussed, but not at all on the same level of impact that tragic event had on the American people. None understand that more that the surviving victims and their families. Many have sought legal measures against MGM and given the shear scope of the operation Steven Paddock ran out of their hotel, with the unimaginable fire power he unleashed, the families actions seem understandable. In what can only be described as an absolutely unprecedented move, MGM has decided to sue the victims and their families in an effort to not have to deal with the lawsuits that have followed. An online source explains: 

MGM Resorts International has sued hundreds of victims of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history in a bid to avoid liability for the gunfire that rained down from its Mandalay Bay casino-resort in Las Vegas.

The company argues in lawsuits filed Friday in Nevada and California that it has “no liability of any kind” to survivors or families of slain victims under a federal law enacted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The lawsuits target victims who have sued the company and voluntarily dismissed their claims or have threatened to sue after a gunman shattered the windows of his Mandalay Bay suite and fired on a crowd gathered below for a country music festival. 

Attorney Robert Eglet, who represents victims in a lawsuit pending in federal court in Nevada, decried the casino-operator’s move. “MGM has done something that in over 30 years of practice is the most outrageous thing I have ever seen,” Eglet said. “They have sued the families of victims while they’re still grieving over their loved ones.”

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