Category Archives: Social Costs

Billions in Illegal Gambling on Super Bowl comes with Serious Consequences for Many

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the significant amount of gambling on the Super Bowl each year, and each year the impact seems to grow. This year the amount of total gambling on the Super Bowl is estimated to be around $4.7 million. An online source breaks that number down:

Americans will bet $4.7 billion on Super Bowl 51 between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons, according to an estimate released Tuesday by the casino industry’s top lobbying group on Capitol Hill. That would 11 percent more than what was wagered on last year’s Super Bowl.

According to the American Gaming Association, only $132 million of the $4.7 billion will be done legally through Nevada’s casino industry. The 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act banned traditional sports betting outside of the Silver State.

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 addition.

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


Florida State & Seminole Tribe in Court over Exclusive Gambling Deal and Gambling Compact

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing nature of the gambling compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe. They operated under an ongoing exclusive agreement that provided Seminole gambling facilities exclusive rights to table games in exchange for a specified revenue stream to the state of Florida. That deal came to an end and a new compact had to be renegotiated. A new deal was worked between the Seminoles and Florida Gov. Scott, but it was full of extra gambling expansion and provisions that the Florida legislature rejected. The Seminoles and Florida government had been operating in good faith to uphold the exclusivity agreement while payments were being made to the state after the fact, but then they authorized games by other gambling facilities. Now a new trial has taken place that will seemingly be ruled in favor of the Seminoles. The Sun Sentinel online explains:

A three-day trial that could shape the future of gambling in the state ended Wednesday. Attorneys for the tribe maintained during the trial that regulators who work for the Scott administration allowed dog and horse tracks to offer card games and an electronic blackjack game that mimicked the tribe’s casino games. They said that under the initial deal, the tribe would be allowed to keep blackjack for another 15 years if the state allowed someone else to have the same type of gambling.

But attorneys hired by the state disagreed with that assertion and suggested that the tribe was trying to find a way to keep blackjack tables that it is no longer entitled to keep. Top regulators for the state testified that they began to crack down on illegal card operations once they became aware of it.

The judge has not yet ruled on the case but his statements during the trial seemed to very cleanly indicated he was siding with the Seminoles. The impact of this ruling will have very clear impacts on the expansion of gambling in Florida and who will be allowed or not allowed to offer such games. The Sunshine State News explains: 

A federal judge appeared convinced Wednesday that Florida gambling regulators’ decision to allow controversial card games violated an agreement with the Seminole Tribe that gave tribal casinos exclusive rights to conduct “banked” games such as blackjack. “The state has permitted banked card games to go on (at pari-mutuel facilities). … It’s a stretch for you to convince me that the state did not permit that,” Hinkle, who is expected to rule in the coming weeks, told Moe.

Hinkle pointed to testimony from the Seminoles’ expert witness, Jimmie Ray Kilby, who defined a banking or banked card game as one in which all players play against the bank, instead of against each other. “Everybody in the industry knows that’s a banked game,” Hinkle said. 

[Additionally, he said,] “The state of Florida says if the secretary of DBPR (the Department of Business and Professional Regulation) says we’re going to allow banking games in flat-out competition with the tribe, this provision would not be extended beyond five years (because the Legislature didn’t authorize it)?” an exasperated Hinkle asked. “You’re not going to win that argument. You’re just not.” Department Secretary Ken Lawson, who was present for Wednesday’s closing arguments, would not respond to questions from reporters.

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


Florida Lottery Could Double Gambling Under Major Expansion

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many ongoing efforts to expand gambling in Florida. Most efforts have focused on new mega casinos, expanding the amount of slot machines that operate in the state, or adding new card games to various gambling facilities, whether in electronic or actual card form. But one danger that can often be overlooked stems from the lottery. Florida has operated a large lottery for some time, but now the dangers to Florida families could potentially double under a new major expansion contact. The Times Union online explains:

The Florida Lottery – which just registered more than $6 billion in annual sales — is in line for a large expansion due to a massive new contract that state officials signed this month. Lottery officials, who report to Gov. Rick Scott, signed a 13-year contract worth more than $700 million with IGT Global Solutions covering major aspects of the lottery, including the systems used to sell tickets for games such as Powerball and Mega Millions. 

One big change in the contract is a plan to nearly triple the number of automated ticket machines capable of selling both scratch-off tickets and those for online games such as Powerball. This would increase the number of machines statewide from 2,000 to 5,500. The contract also calls for a new smartphone application that will let players check their tickets and allow them to enter second chance sweepstakes that the Lottery also offers.

The state of Florida is hopeful see huge revenue gains, but many see the downside to making losers of its people and additional issues with deals that expand gambling without involving the legislature or the looking to the will of the people. The Times New Union continue:

State Sen. Rob Bradley questioned the plans by lottery officials to expand their gambling operations. He noted that this past year legislators considered bills that would have limited some of the tickets they can sell.

“If there are portions of the agreement that result in expansion of the lottery, that’s a cause of concern,” said Bradley, a north Florida Republican who has been in charge of the Senate committee that regulates gambling.

“This is a government sponsored enterprise,” Bradley added. “We have an extra obligation to make sure we are not preying on individuals addicted to gaming. We have to make sure we are not focusing on populations who can’t afford to be spending their hard earned dollars on gaming.” 

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


Daily Fantasy Sports Face Security Issues from Hackers and Insider Trading Scandals

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing saga of America’s newest form of gambling, Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS). Many people participate when they see advertisements for DraftKings or FanDuel without realizing it could be an illegal form of gambling. Others may know, but assume the risk is low and play because it seems so prevalent. Few, however, consider the risks beyond its legality and assume it’s a safe environment to pay and collect money. Unfortunately, that is hardly the case. Casino Watch Focus has already reported on one insider type trading incident as a DraftKings employee wont $350K at its rival FanDuel’s site. As on employee of one site, they have access to betting trends and outcomes and can use the information unfairly when “competing” against others. Now, its appears another type case has manifested itself. Deadspin explains the details:

Stefon Diggs had a fantastic game last night , torching the Green Bay Packers and helping his team win in the first game at their new stadium. His nine catches and 182 yards with a touchdown also played a key role in securing Al Zeidenfeld first place in DraftKings’ biggest contest of the weekend, the NFL $5M Fantasy Football Millionaire. That’s a $1 million prize, even before his other Week 2 entries.

Zeidenfeld is also a regular DFS contributor to ESPN and, in his words, a “sponsored professional Daily Fantasy Sports player at DraftKings.com. On air personality and content provider for DraftKingsTV and Brand Ambassador/endorser.” It’s at least curious that the winner of DraftKings’ flagship contest is someone paid to give advice to his ostensible competitors, but a Draftkings contractor raking in a big prize is an unwelcome callback to last year’s controversies.

But even if such cases don’t seem like the norm and something players consider when playing these games, then surely the protection of their personal and financial information should be? Cybersecurity experts are warning of the large target such DFS communities pose. And the threat isn’t limited to hackers stealing financial information outright either, there are legitimate concerns or them manipulating the data used to determine winners as well. An online tech source explains:

A growing chorus of cybersecurity experts is warning that fantasy sports websites represent a prime target for hackers. The volume and sensitivity of data on these sites is significant. And many have failed to put expansive data protection measures into place.

The daily fantasy industry netted $290.7 million in revenue just in the US in 2015. DraftKings accounted for $174 million of that revenue and FanDuel for $106 million. It is predicted that growing competition in the market will push the total revenue for daily fantasy sports into the billions in the near future.

In addition to the money itself, these sites store the personal and financial data of million of users. These sites may not rank in the Top 10 of consumer-facing websites, but their appeal as targets for hackers is significant.

Theft is not the only concern. Experts have also warned that hackers could manipulate the data used to determine winners and losers to award legitimate prizes to fraudulent users. The explosion in traffic these sites face on the Sunday morning before most football games also puts them at risk of denial-of-service and zero day attacks.

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


Guest Article: Tampa Bay Times Editorial: Florida Lottery Targets Poor Residents

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the recent bill introduced to allow Florida Lottery tickets to be sold on line in the wake of the Lottery Secretary resignation scandal. The downfall of lottery winners and the disadvantages of this form of gambling have also been heavily reported on. Now, the Tampa Bay Times has released an editorial outlining the disproportionate effects the lottery has on the poor:

The Florida Lottery recently introduced five new scratch-off games, a move that likely will boost the lottery’s bottom line at the expense of its most vulnerable ticket buyers. Scratch-offs, which range from $1 to $25 a ticket, are most heavily played by the poor. No one is forcing them to fork over their money, of course. But as the lottery tailors its offerings to maximize scratch-off sales and markets games in low-income neighborhoods, Floridians would be right to question whose interest that really serves.

The names of the games are straightforward and promote a potential windfall: Maximum Money, Bonus Crossword, Double Deuces, Lucky Seven and Fast $100. All cost between $1 and $5, with a top prize of $250,000 for the $5 game. The new options mean the lottery now offers 83 scratch-off games, which account for 65 percent of ticket sales. Why do the poor play them more? For the instant gratification, experts say. People in poverty see the lottery as a chance to improve their lives. It rarely works out that way, but ticket sales soar nonetheless.

The South Florida /Sun /Sentinel recently analyzed lottery sales figures, marketing data and geographical information to discover who buys scratch-offs and what it costs them. The findings are disturbing. From 2010 to 2015, sales of scratch-offs rose three times faster in poor neighborhoods than in other areas, and it happened as the lottery directed more advertising to poor and minority areas, the /Sun /Sentinel found. Those parallel increases point to a win for the lottery’s marketing department but no one else.

Gambling critics refer to lotteries as a tax on the poor. But unlike taxes, lottery purchases aren’t compulsory. However, like taxes, they affect populations differently. The /Sun Sentinel/ found that people in high-poverty areas spent an average of $385 in 2015 on scratch-off tickets. In better-off areas, the average was $245. Those figures validate the argument that lotteries are regressive and even harmful.

Where that harm might be mitigated — in increased money for education — inequality persists. Florida’s Bright Futures scholarships, funded with lottery money, are awarded to students who score in the top tier on the SAT or ACT. The high standards mean mostly middle- and upper-class students earn the scholarships, not poor and minority kids. That gap grew wider last year when the state raised the bar even more on Bright Futures in order to rein in costs.

These are salad days for the Florida Lottery, which is enjoying its highest sales ever — $532 million in July alone. Profits were up 17 percent compared with July 2015. But too much of the windfall is coming out of the pockets of low-income Floridians who are being lured to spend money they can’t afford to lose on a long-shot bet.

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


Guest Article: Only Casino Interests Push Casinos in Florida

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts of the Florida based group, No Casinos, and their attempts to protect Florida families from the ever increasing dangers of expanded gambling. The group’s president, John Sowinski, has addressed these issues on many levels, including directly answering positions or articles that seek to advance the casino’s interest. This article is one such response:

As the president of No Casinos, I occasionally respond to the pro-gambling missives of an industry that has the same interest in Florida that a tick has in a basset hound. But one that recently appeared in Sunshine State News is a bit novel. According to Steve Norton, who helped bring big-time casinos to Atlantic City and now wants to do the same favor for Florida, Orlando has blocked the rest of the state from gambling happily ever after May 12 guest column, “Floridians Should Look Beyond Orlando to Weigh Casinos’
Benefits”. …

No Casinos gets singled out for its effectiveness in this effort and I certainly appreciate the shout-out, even if in his very first sentence, Horton spilled the beans that I get paid. I only wish I got paid as much as the people on his side. But seriously, and with all due humility, we are not as good as Horton implies. It’s not like casinos are some unknown quantity that we can spin a gullible public into opposing.

Casinos are multiplying in some parts of the country like amoebas in a petri dish, getting so crowded that they now are cannibalizing each other to survive. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been in one. So we don’t have to plot any voodoo marketing strategies. All we have to do is shine a light on the industry and say, “Hey, look everybody.” Rest assured, when Florida has said no to expanded gambling, time and again, it has done so with eyes wide open….

A common myth perpetuated by the industry is that more and bigger casinos spur economic development and create jobs. In fact, the state’s chief economist has dismissed that argument. Casinos don’t create new business. They simply divert money that would have been spent elsewhere to slot machines and card tables.

In its comprehensive analysis of the Florida gambling market, the Spectrum Gaming Group reported that 93 percent of revenues from an expanded casino market would come from residents, not a stampede of high rollers flying in from around the globe. That means little economic benefit, no significant number of new jobs and no increases in local salaries. This is all public record, not No Casino spin.

But for argument’s sake, why not? Why not open the door to more casinos? Here is my answer: Casinos create gambling addiction and then profit from it. Research indicates that living close to a casino doubles the chance of someone becoming a problem gambler, with a third or more of casino revenues coming from such problem gamblers.

There also is growing research about the addictive nature of high-tech slot machines, which actually can transfix players in a zone, dribbling out just enough small winnings to keep them pumping in more money. It’s all about increasing seat time to maximize losses.

For the complete article, please click HERE 

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


Genting Attempts, Desperate, Hail-Mary Lawsuit to Force through a New Florida Casino; City Aid for Major Steps Down from Genting in Disagreement

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many failed attempts by Genting to construct a new, Vegas-style, destination resort casino in Florida. Most of the attempts have come through the Florida legislature, but those stopped a few years ago when they decided to go the route of initiative petition to get the issue put on the ballot for the state voters to vote on. They finally dropped that petition and decided to buy the Herald Building in Miami and partner with pari-mutuel company Gulfstream in hopes of forcing the hand of local officials. Many organizations fought the move and it worked. Now they are making a final, desperate attempt to use the courts to get their casino in place. The Miami Herald’s Fabio Santiago’s op-ed plainly calls the case frivolous and a waste of time and cites others who indicate the negative impact on the community:

The gambling resorts giant insists on bringing casino operations to the waterfront downtown Miami property it purchased in 2011 in the Omni area, where the defunct OmniMall used to cater to luxury shoppers and The Miami Herald building proudly stood. The area, now a thriving arts district, is not territory poised to become gamblers’ row. But the Malaysian casino refuses to take no for an answer from local authorities, voters or the state.

After spending millions in political campaigns — and losing legislative battles to expand gaming in a way that would allow them to build the massive casino resort —– Genting’s Resorts World Omni is suing Miami-Dade County and State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle to force the state to allow card games and slots in the old Omni mall space.

They’ve concocted a deal to get around a 2014 denial by state regulators to move a Gulfstream Park pari-mutuel permit to the Omni, and they’re asking a judge to declare it lawful — and to pre-empt police and prosecutors from filing criminal charges against what would be illegal Omni casino operators.

Really? Enough already. Go away, Genting. Flip the land while it’s a boom market. The bust is always around the corner in South Florida’s storied real estate history. Take the money and run while you can.

“It seems to be like a last ditch effort to get a slot house in Miami-Dade,” Frank Nero, president of Beacon Global Advisors, told me. “Destination Casinos have no real positive economic impact but slot houses, which this will be, are the worst. They prey upon the poor and elderly. Not exactly the high rollers from Asia on chartered flights that Genting initially promised. These type operations do not bring in incremental revenue. They tap into the existing tourism and locals disposable income. They need Miami-Dade. We do not need them, as we already have a vibrant tourism industry with high occupancy and high room rates that are among the best in the country.”

Their Tallahassee lawyers don’t think so, but the Genting lawsuit smacks of nothing but desperation.

The suit isn’t even universally accepting in the Genting ranks and has now forced an aid to Miami-Dade major Carlos Gimenez, Jesse Manzano-Plaza to step down from his consulting role with Genting. The Miami Herald explains: 

A top campaign official for Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has ended his role as a consultant for Genting, an abrupt change that came after the casino giant sued the county to force acceptance of a new slots parlor in downtown Miami.

Jesse Manzano-Plaza, who runs the day-to-day operations for Gimenez’s reelection effort, said Tuesday he stopped being a Genting consultant last week after years of working for the Malaysia-based company.

Gimenez this week said he’s against Genting’s plan to bring slot machines and card games to the old Omni mall. The slots plan — first unveiled in 2014 but recently brought back into the spotlight because of the suit —represents a dramatically scaled-down version of the casino resort that the company first proposed when it purchased the old Miami Herald headquarters and Omni complex in 2011.

“I’m not in favor of that kind of additional gambling here in Miami-Dade County,” Gimenez said of Genting’s slots plan. “I don’t think at this point it would help. I don’t think that was the original intent of Genting.” 

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