Category Archives: Social Costs

Missouri Senate Proposes Gambling Expansion at a Time Many View as Socially Irresponsible

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing gambling expansion issues in Missouri.  The most recent issues have been the illegal gambling machines in places like gas stations and truck stops and those hoping for a new casino at the Lake of the Ozarks.  This specific expansion policy involves increased pull tabs at truck stops, and several Missouri legislators thing the idea is socially irresponsible.  The Columbia Daily Tribune reports:

The Missouri Senate passed its spending plan Tuesday with language allowing the state lottery to install 100 new pull-tab machines throughout the state and open up truck stops to the games for the first Time. Currently, only 500 are allowed and they can only be installed in veteran and fraternal organizations. The pull-tab name refers to the perforated tabs covering slot-machine style symbols on tickets dispensed by the machines. Players pull back the tabs to see if they’ve won a prize.

But a number of lawmakers objected to the idea, calling the expansion morally wrong. Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, said it would be “a direct offense to our low-income people who will divert their money to things like this.” “This bothers me a lot,” he added.

Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, said the same thing and that it would be even worse at a time when people are reeling from the pandemic and the resulting downturn. “With people not thinking as straight as they normally would with all the pressures of the stay-at-home and lack of community and other things that would stabilize a person, I think the impact would be even greater than it would at another time,” he said.

Sen. Eric Burlison, R-Battlefield, added that the idea “disgusted” him. “I’m not a fan of funding our schools through gambling,” he said.

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Animal to Human Transmitted Covid-19 Virus brings new light to Cockfighting and Transference of Diseases like Avian Flu

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various criminal activities associated with cockfighting and the illegal gambling for which it exists, including a recent decision by Puerto Rico to openly disregard new federal legislation. Numerous reasons exist to treat this barbaric activity illegal, but the coronavirus is demonstrating why its even more important to work hard to eradicate cockfighting. An online source explains:

In an emailed statement, Animal Wellness Action recommending banning cockfights for animal health and to prevent the transfer of avian flu to humans.

Due to the impact of the coronavirus, we must look at other risks of animal-human disease transmission including cockfighting, the organization said. Animal Wellness Action argues that handling chickens during cockfights is dangerous and inhumane to both humans and animals.

“China’s leaders were reckless in allowing live-animal markets to flourish even after warnings that capturing and butchering pangolins, civet cats, and other wild animals posed considerable risks of spawning a zoonotic disease,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action, in an emailed statement.   “It’s similarly irresponsible for political leaders in any part of the world to have any degree of tolerance for cockfights, which are dangerous mixing bowls where humans and birds interact in ways that can readily pass blood and respiratory fluids to people and infect them.”

According to Dr. Annie Harvilicz, a veterinarian and chief medical officer of the Animal Wellness Foundation, “It’s just foolish to allow people to interact with birds and exchange bodily fluids with them, only for the purpose of gambling on staged fights.   Talk about an unnecessary risk.”

So exactly how does cockfighting allow for the spread of such fluids between birds and humans? At a basic level, respiration alone can cause the transfer, but cockfighting creates additional opportunities.  Roosters are often handled with razors attached to their feet. This is designed to help ensure one of the cocks is killed in the fight, thus making the gambling wager and winner clear cut.  There is animal blood all over the birds and it’s not hard to see a scenario where handling them leads to a slice on human skin and transference.  But beyond that, there is a more shocking scenario that most certainly creates a massive risk, not only for Avian flu, but potentially new, more deadly viruses like Covid-19.  An online source explains:

In what constitutes perhaps the riskiest imaginable practice when it comes to animal-to-human disease transmission, some cockfighters are known to put the head of a rooster in their mouth to suck airway secretions from the injured and exhausted animal. For the cockfighter, sucking up the blood and other secretions from the lungs and other air passages after the animal has suffered a stab wound is not a life-saving intervention, but a way to prolong the fighting and pull out an unlikely victory.

Cockfighters in Puerto Rico and Guam — the two biggest U.S. territories and both international hubs for cockfighting – are not only breaking the federal law against animal fighting, but they’re courting the next wave of avian influenza and other zoonotic diseases by handling animals in these dangerous ways. The hard-core practitioners are persisting with felony-level crimes three months after the latest provisions of federal law took effect.

Once roosters in a locale are infected with avian influenza, perhaps through contact with migratory birds with an innocuous form of avian influenza, the virus can reassort and become more virulent or contagious. At cockfights, men handle bloodied birds, with knives attached to their legs, potentially exposing the handlers to cuts. The blood and infectious respiratory secretions from an infected bird can infect them, allowing the virus to jump the species barrier. At that point additional reassortment can occur where avian and human influenza viruses mix and create a new, deadly virus like the Spanish Flu or COVID-19.

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Despite Missouri Casinos Closing to Adhere to Coronavirus Guidelines, Illegal Gambling Machines are still Operating Statewide Creating unsafe environments

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to shut down illegal gambling machines that have popped up all over the state.  One of the biggest problems is the fact that they are completely unregulated. Up to this point, the impact has been loss of revenue for Missouri school systems and absolutely no checks and balances to safeguard those who play the machines from being cheated out of their money.  However, these rogue machines are now creating a new issue that stems from being unregulated – they are still operating and tempting the public to gather at a time when the rest of the casinos are shut down due to the covid-19 pandemic. The St Louis Post Dispatch reports:

Post-Dispatch visits to Columbia-area gas stations, where slot machine-style games have operated for months, showed many games were still plugged in on Tuesday, despite casinos receiving the order a week ago to shut down until March 30.

The inconsistency highlights the unregulated nature of roughly 14,000 gaming devices in Missouri, located in gas stations, clubs and bars.

Mike Leara, chairman of the Missouri Gaming Commission, which regulates licensed casinos, said the commission wanted to prevent large crowds from gathering at casinos during the outbreak — something that wouldn’t necessarily happen at a gas station.

A study released March 17 by the National Institutes of Health said the new coronavirus was detectable for “up to two to three days” on plastic and stainless steel surfaces.

Wildwood-based Torch Electronics is one of the biggest players in unregulated slot machine-style devices in Missouri. Torch faces felony illegal gambling charges by the Linn County prosecutor. A hearing in that case is scheduled for April 23.

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Florida Casinos Criticized as Irresponsible during Covid-19 Pandemic by Waiting far too Long to Follow Government Orders

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many ongoing gambling issues in Florida.  Most of those issues connect to public safety by way of gambling addiction.  However, with the recent coronavirus pandemic, Florida casinos have put public safety on the line in a devastating new way.  Despite social distancing orders, many casinos stayed open. After pressure, many decided to finally shut down. However, two remained open drawing the ire of leadership.  State Rep. Jackie Toledo condemned the casinos for staying open, and singled out The Hard Rock Casino in particular for their dangerous practices.   A local NBC affiliate provided the story:

State Rep. Jackie Toledo is condemning the Seminole Hard Rock Casino for remaining open during the coronavirus and says the casino is putting profits over people.

“There are reports from inside that there have been no changes to cleaning procedures and that sick employees are not being sent home,”Toledo said.

Toledo says employees approached her office, in fear for their jobs and health claiming the casino is business as usual with not practicing social distancing, no one actively disinfecting, and no posted signs about change in procedure.

The Seminole Nation claims they are providing a safe environment for workers, but the facts seem to contradict their claims.  An online source reports:

After receiving pleas from casino employees, State Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, hosted a news conference Wednesday outside the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa in the hopes of pressuring the casinos to close during the coronavirus outbreak.

Seminole Hard Rock CEO James Allen issued a statement saying that the casinos are following all hygiene protocols, have closed its poker room, limited the number of slot machines, canceled all concerts, poker competitions and tournaments, and is limiting the number of guests at game tables and in the hotel’s restaurants.

“This is the exact opposite of what we are hearing from inside the walls,” said Toledo. “Employees are claiming if they do not have PTO, the casino makes them work while they are sick. We are told by patrons there is no hand sanitizer, and we’ve heard from dealers saying they have been out of sanitation wipes for days. This is a breeding ground for this virus.”

She said she learned Wednesday that the casino gave away free drink tickets to draw in nearly 8,000 people. “It is criminal to hold promotions to bring vulnerable guests in their doors,” she said.

And it would appear Rep. Toledo was right about the public health concerns of creating a social environment in which the virus could spread.  The casino has now closed its doors, but only after a confirmed case stemmed from their facility. It’s currently unknown just how devastating the spread of covid-19 will be as a direct result of their actions, or inaction in this case. An online source explains:

Seminole Gaming announced Friday they would be closing all of their casinos, including Hard Rock casinos, across Florida starting at 6 p.m. amid coronavirus concerns

This comes just one day after a man who died from COVID-19 was said to have visited the Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee.

Representative Heather Fitzenhagen and an employee at the casino called for the casino to close down after learning this.

“I think that this makes it even more important that they decide to do the right thing and close down the casino for the safety of everyone in Southwest Florida,” she said.

She says the 77-year old man spent hours playing the slots the weekend

before he died on March 13.

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Missouri Legislators to introduce Sports Betting Bills, this time with a cut for Professional Leagues

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing growth of sports betting after the Supreme Court’s ruling to allow states to legalize sports gambling.  Many states have done just that, with Florida being the most recently reported state to consider its legalization. Nothing has passed in Florida and Missouri attempted last year to introduce legislation, but it lacked any fees to pro sports organizations.  Now it would appear that with the pre filing of two new sports legalization bills, Missouri is going to reattempt legalization, but this time with the addition of integrity fees.  An online source reports:

Lawmakers in Missouri have pre-filed legislation to legalize and regulate sports betting, following the issue of a favorable special committee report. The new proposals are similar to bills introduced earlier this year, which failed to pass before the end of the 2019 legislative session.

However, sponsors of new bills have called for the inclusion of integrity fees to be paid to professional sports leagues, and as much as 0.75% of handle.

Here’s what’s included in the bills: SB 567 from Sen. Denny Hoskins calls for the Missouri Lottery Commission to oversee sports betting with 0.25% of handle paid to the leagues. SB 754 from Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer seeks 0.75% of handle to be paid to the leagues. The bill would put the Missouri Gaming Commission in charge of regulation.

The decision to include an integrity fee might not actually help the legislation get passed this year considering the issue has been vehemently opposed in other states.  The online source continues:

The issue of integrity fees is a thorny one and is bitterly opposed by operators, who argue that they would eat into their slim profits from sports wagering. Operators usually only keep around 5% of the total handle and, should this be compromised, the additional costs would then have to be passed onto players in the form of un-competitive lines and less enticing promotions.

Integrity fees have been advocated most notably by the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Major League Baseball (MLB), as a way of profiting from the proliferation of sports betting in the U.S. However, none of the states to launch legal sports betting so far have approved such a fee, with New Jersey  going so far as calling the idea “insulting”.

Whether or not such gambling efforts violate the Missouri constitution that limits gambling to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers remains to be seen.  However, the possible inclusion of mobile operators would sure seem to make that question more discernible, which could make the passage harder than typical legislation.  The new legislation is vague, but does seem to want to set up such a system. The source concludes: 

The committee report, which was presented to the state House on Dec. 5, does at least include a potential sweetener for the operators:statewide online/mobile wagering. While vague on the subject, the report stated it is interested in mobile wagering and “creating a level playing field insofar as that is possible”“.Whether that means the market will be opened up to several mobile operators or ensuring retail sportsbooks aren’t dominated by single operators is unclear.”

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Veteran’s Affairs Hospital Opens Gambling Treatment Facility in Las Vegas

Casino Watch Focus has reported on various legislative attempts to regulate the gambling exposure of active duty military members.  Gambling addiction affects all, but active duty military can find themselves in a unique situation. Many find themselves overseas with few entertainment options and in some cases, the military themselves operate gambling establishments.  Such has been the focus of various Congressional legislative efforts to properly regulate and offer help to those caught in gambling’s web. The VA has decided to expand its efforts as well, as they have opened the second ever gambling treatment facility.  The Military Times reports:

The Department of Veterans Affairs has opened its second in-patient gambling addiction recovery center, right in the heart of Sin City. VA officials announced this month that the Las Vegas VA Residential Recovery and Renewal Center, or LVR3, will host 30- and 45-day programs for gambling and substance abuse treatment.

The facility is the second of its kind in nearly 50 years at VA: the department’s first gambling addiction center – a trailblazing treatment facility that was the first of its kind in the country for addressing compulsive gambling – opened at the Brecksville, Ohio, VA Medical Center in 1972.

Now part of the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, it was the sole inpatient treatment center for gambling addiction, drawing more than 100 veterans annually from around the country for care.

The Las Vegas location was of particular interest considering the access veterans have in that city.  The veteran population appears to be twice as likely to be negatively impacted by gambling addiction than the general civilian population.  The Military Times continues:

“There is definitely a great need for this here in Las Vegas,” said LVR3 Program Manager Roxanne Untal in a release. “Gambling and substance abuse already exist here … the biggest goal is to provide residential care for veterans when more intensive care is needed than what they would receive in outpatient treatment.”

A study conducted in the VA’s New England region funded by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission found that among a small group of veterans, 260, a third had gambled in the previous year and 6 percent screened positive for a gambling disorder.

According to the study, those in the gambling disorder group also had histories of anxiety, depression or PTSD and some reported having suicidal thoughts.

The National Council on Problem Gambling estimates that roughly 1 percent of the adult U.S. population meets the clinical criteria for compulsive gambling and up to 3 percent would be considered problem gamblers.

The program won’t be limited to just veterans and all those in need in the Las Vegas area are encouraged to visit the facility.   The Military Times concludes:

VA officials said veterans interested in the programs at LVR3 or Cleveland can talk to their primary care provider, either at VA or in the community care system.

“Even if you aren’t an enrolled veteran yet, if this is something you need to address, come on in. Any licensed provider can put in a consult, and we are doing quick turn-arounds for screening them for admission,” Untal said.

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Miami Casino Plans that Were Halted Look for Life in Lawsuit Against the City

Casino Watch Focus has reported on past efforts of Magic City Casino to built gambling facilities in Miami. Most efforts, including the many attempts by Genting grouphave been shut down, and this was no different. In this case, Magic City Casino was looking to open a jai alai fronton and poker room in the Edgewater neighborhood, however, zoning law changes stopped the project and expansion of gambling in Miami. Now, West Flagler Associates, the parent company to Magic City Casino is suing the city for not only the lost money that was invested in the project, but the right to continue with the original gambling expansion plan. An online source reports:

A court has given West Flagler Associates, Ltd., owner of Miami’s Magic City Casino, the go-ahead to proceed with its lawsuit against the city of Miami. West Flagler sued the city in April of this year for $750,000 after the city’s commission altered the zoning code for gambling venues. The date for the proceedings was set for May 2020.

The lawsuit is the result of a zoning law change approved in September 2018 by the city’s commissioners. In a 4-1 vote, the commissioners passed a new rule that would require four of the five commissioners to approve any new gambling locations.

West Flagler is seeking upwards of $750,000 plus the right to build its gaming establishment. The company argues that it announced its plans when the zoning rules allowed for pari-mutuel betting in the area and had been given written approval by the city. The rules were still in place when West Flagler received its permit.

The primary reason for the zoning adjustments was to limit gambling in the city. It was clear those in the community didn’t want to see the expansion in their neighborhood, and they city commissioners agreed. The source continues:

Commissioner Ken Russell said that he had heard from many local residents who opposed a gaming establishment in or near their neighborhood.“We don’t need gambling in the city of Miami,” auto magnate Norman Braman told the Herald “We’re doing very well without it. Gambling is a parasite, and this is an invasion.”

“As a resident of that neighborhood, I don’t believe it’s a bad thing for the neighborhood,” Havenick countered. “This will be a good attraction. It is not going to be anything more than poker and jai-alai. We’ve said that all along. It is not a casino. It’s simply poker in an area that has many other forms of entertainment, and this is another form of that.”

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