Category Archives: Social Costs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Individuals aren’t the only ones who can suffer from this multi-week gambling event.  In terms of cost to employers, the Charlotte Observer points to a Chicago-based study which says as much as $1.7 billion will be lost by employers in productivity, which breaks down to $109 million lost for every 10 minutes spent following the tournament. They believe there will be over 37 million workers participating in pools with 1.5 million watching games and results online from their desks. ESPN recently quantify the financial impact of just the gambling:

On the low end, the FBI estimated in 2013 that $2.6 billion was bet illegally on the tournament. On the high end, veteran bookmakers estimate the number to be anywhere from $12 billion to $26 billion. Friendly bracket pools are everywhere, with most everyone betting on the NCAA tournament in some form. But there are bets, and then there are bets. You don’t get to $26 billion with $20-per-sheet office pools.

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


Covid-19 Pandemic Expected to have Dangerously Impacted Super Bowl 54 Betting

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the significant amount of gambling on the Super Bowl each year, and the covid pandemic is expected to impact Super Bowl 54 the most yet. When Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took on the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl, sports betting was legalized in more states than ever, and the unique situation of the pandemic saw an increase in sports betting in general.  So it might not be surprising to learn that even though ratings and viewership were down for this year’s Super Bowl, the amount of gambling was at an all time high.  NBC News reports:

Even as Super Bowl LV’s TV audience declined, the amount of money wagered on the game skyrocketed in some states — especially in New Jersey, where gamblers doubled their action, regulators said.

The lure of a game featuring Bucs quarterback Tom Brady, considered by many to be the greatest of all time, and his heir apparent, Chiefs signal caller Patrick Mahomes, drew many casual bettors, regulators said. “I believe people love great sports no matter of a pandemic,” said Wes Ehrecke, president and CEO of the Iowa Gaming Association. “This epic GOAT-baby GOAT matchup would have been hyped the same, either way,” referring to the acronym for “greatest of all time.”

Gamblers were able to make their first legal Super Bowl bets in Washington, D.C., Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Montana, Tennessee and Virginia. Illinois books accepted a whopping $45.6 million in the state’s first Super Bowl wagers, the Gaming Board reported. Meanwhile, Colorado gamblers placed $31.2 million on Sunday’s game, according to the Department of Revenue.

Gambling of this magnitude is expected to prompt many gambling problems and will impact high-risk problem gamblers the most.  PBS Online explains:

Some 26 million people wagered almost $7 billion dollars on last year’s Super bowl, according to the American Gaming Association. That was a 15 percent increase from the previous year. This year’s figures are expected to go even higher. Zion Market Research predicts that sports betting will increase from $104 billion in 2018 to a whopping $155 million in 2024.

These kinds of escalating figures put high-risk problem gamblers in even greater peril, says Scott Anderson, the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Problem Gambling Treatment Coordinator. He works with the Ohio’s “Before You Bet” Campaign to attempt to identify and help problem gamblers. And, sports gamblers have been identified as one of the largest groups of addicted and potentially addicted gamblers. According to Ohio for Responsible Gambling, 24.4 percent of the at risk/problem gamblers are sports bettors.

Yet, Anderson says, that gambling and gambling situations are difficult to avoid. It is all around us from mobile phone day trading to state supported lotteries. Although problem gambling can be devastating to an individual’s personal, financial and professional life, it can sometimes be difficult to detect in its early stages. If someone is concerned about their gambling or the gambling of a friend or loved one, Anderson suggests that the person visit BeforeYouBet.org

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

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

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

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


New Study Shows Children Exhibit Gambling Addiction Behavior like Stealing from Parents to fund Gambling-esque Loot Box Addiction

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the multifaceted impact loot boxes have in the gambling space.  More and more governments and organizations are recognizing loot boxes as gambling and many links have been observed in studies that examine loot boxes’ impact on the children who are seemingly playing safe video games.  These boxes act like slot machines in that children have to pay to pull the lever, or open a box, chasing after in-game loot.  There seems to be no significant cognitive behavioral difference in the addition of slot machines and loot boxes and in many cases, especially where the gained items can be sold for value, they fit the definition of gambling.  As such, more studies are being conducted and the newest study has some sobering results.  An online source reports:

According to new research by the Gambling Health Alliance, some 15% of young gamers have taken money from their parents without permission to buy loot boxes. An estimated 11% of gamers have used their parents’ credit cards to finalize the transaction, the GHA has reported.

The organization cautions that video games come with pitfalls and in a way resonates with what Scottish MP Ronnie Cowan said earlier this month, urging parents to boycott buying video games that contain loot boxes lest they start showing symptoms of gambling addiction.

The 15% reported by the GHA means that almost one in six young gamers has stolen money from their parents. Worse still, one in ten children, or 9%, have borrowed money they couldn’t repay to buy loot boxes, the research said. Three families had to re-mortgage their homes to cover the purchase of loot boxes, the GHA revealed. Based on the research, one in four respondents or 22% spent over £100 on average during the regular playthrough.

The addiction that follows loot boxes is not substantively different from that of slot machines, so the cognitive mechanics that addict gamers are generally understood. However, researchers want to know what drives the initial desire for children playing these games to start paying for and opening these addictive loot boxes.  Such information can help parents determine which games are safe and which could lead to such devastating addictive behaviors.  The source continues: 

Youngsters also reported that loot boxes interfered with their gaming experience for several reasons outlined by respondents in the survey. Children cited the “pay to win” model which made competitive play impossible. Another reason children cited was the scarcity of valuable items which could be procured through loot boxes. According to the GHA, all of the above made loot boxes increasingly addictive.

GHA Chair Duncan Stephenson has commented on the addictive tendencies among young children, acknowledging that teenagers enjoyed video games and that was perfectly fine. However, Stephenson cautioned the general public about the effects loot boxes can have on young people’s mental and financial well-being.

“Aside from the financial cost our latest survey with gamers suggests that the fixation with loot boxes can lead to classic symptoms of addiction including mood swings, problems sleeping, and impacting on their social life.”-GHA Chair Duncan Stephenson

He cautioned parents to be careful about the risks that loot boxes entail, especially when considering purchases of games that contain loot boxes. Stephenson also noted that these game mechanics will sooner or later be classified as gambling and be removed from games played by individuals who are under 18 years of age. There have been multiple calls for the reclassification of loot boxes already.

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


Guest Article: Editorial: Why won’t state and local officials enforce Missouri gaming laws?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing issue of shutting down illegal slot machines that popped up all over in Missouri gas stations and similar business.  Those machines were finally the subject of a proper lawsuit  giving way to full enforcement of Missouri’s regulations to only allow slot machines in regulated casinos.  However, that enforcement has been almost non-existent.  Nearly two months ago it was reported that enforcement wasn’t happening as expected  and it doesn’t seem to have picked up too much.  The following article is from the Editorial Board at the St Louis Post Dispatch and can be read in its entirety HERE, with a few highlights below: 

It is illegal in Missouri to host gambling machines except in licensed casinos. The law is clear on that, and just for good measure, a judge in September confirmed it. So why are state officials and local prosecutors still failing to confront the bars and gas stations that are hosting thousands of these unlicensed video gambling machines?

Some argue that gambling should be legalized across the state altogether, if only because it’s already everywhere anyway. But legalization must come with oversight and taxation, which still isn’t being applied to these rogue games. That must change, especially at a time when the state should be scrounging for every bit of revenue it can find.

At issue are some 14,000 video machines in business venues all over the state that players pay to play on the chance of making more money back. If that sounds like exactly what goes on in a casino, well, it is. Yet the machines aren’t licensed, taxed or regulated by the state, in blatant violation of Missouri’s gaming statutes…

There is no reasonable justification for it. They’re just doing it, and getting away with it, in large part because the industry lobbies heavily and contributes to politicians’ campaigns, including Gov. Mike Parson’s.

The fact is, the judge’s ruling wasn’t even necessary for state officials and local prosecutors to move on this. The purveyors of these machines are breaking the law. Until the law changes, they and the business venues that host them should be raided, prosecuted and fined. Period. They have gambled on Missouri’s patience long enough.

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


New Covid-19 Guidelines lower Las Vegas Casino Occupancy to 25%

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on the ongoing efforts to ensure covid-19 isn’t being spread through mass gambling activities.  Casinos have received tremendous criticism for not taking the popper precautions, both to protect the public, and to protect those workers at those operating casinos.  Employees have had to sue or act as whistleblowers to expose the labor issues seen in various casinos.  Most recently, there was criticism over Vegas casinos entwined in properly reporting key information to the public.  So its no surprise that this industry in particular is looked at as playing a more critical role in the spread of Covid-19.  As a result, new guidelines have been passed that limit the occupancy further in Las Vegas casinos.  The Las Vegas Review Journal reports:

In a Sunday press conference, Sisolak said effective 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, occupancy limitations at casinos and their bars and restaurants will be reduced from 50 percent to 25 percent. Sisolak said he has had conversations with “most gaming operators” in the last 24 hours, and said the full force of the Nevada Gaming Control Board will be behind the implementation and enforcement of the new requirements. He added that if casinos do not follow the new requirements, “they will suffer the consequences.”

Newly-appointed Control Board Chairman Brin Gibson said the state’s gaming regulatory body will vigorously enforce the new gaming floor occupancy restrictions among the state’s licensees. “The more successfully Nevada mitigates the current spread of COVID over the next several weeks, the more likely we are to experience a complete return to current gaming floor occupancy percentages at that point” he said. The Nevada Gaming Commission already has acted on nine complaints brought by the Control Board against licensees since late July.

A spokesperson for Caesars Entertainment Inc. said the company will comply with Sisolak’s orders. Its restaurants and bars will remain open and continue to offer to-go options, and guests at most of its Nevada resorts will have the option to order pick up or delivery to their hotel Room. Wynn Resorts Ltd. spokesman Michael Weaver said the company will also implement the directives of the pause. “We believe the Governor made a prudent decision that will protect public health,” he said.

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


Loot Box Gambling in Video Games Front and Center of new UK Legislative Efforts

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to classify loot boxes as gambling.  Most recently, the Netherlands issues huge fines against video game publisher EA over this gambling type mechanic in their game Fifa and Spain has shifted focus to regulating these loot boxes as gambling to help protect the children who play these video games.  The UK has been examining the issue for a while, and a new effort being pushed by a local legislator is placing loot boxes front and center.  An online source reports:

Midlothian MP Owen Thompson called for the updating of gambling laws to include tougher action to prevent children and young people being encouraged into gambling-like behaviours while using video games. After the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Minister Nigel Huddleston outlined plans for a forthcoming gambling review, the Midlothian MP called for it to include measures to regulate the use of “loot boxes” in video games. Academic research has linked loot box spending to problem gambling in adolescents.

Mr Thompson called for an extension of the Gambling Act 2005 to include loot boxes and action to prevent video game companies from profiteering on the back of young people who develop gambling-like addictions.

Mr Thompson said: “It is well past time the UK’s gambling laws were made fit for the digital age. Of particular concern is the rise in gambling in children under 16. One important step would be to close the loopholes that allow gambling-like tools to be excessively used in children’s video games. “Parents don’t care about the legal definitions of gambling – they want to know their children are safe when playing popular video games and that means tighter regulations to protect from online harms.

When describing the nature of loot boxes, Mr. Thompson points out that academic research has explained the link to problem gambling and that these video game companies are operating in a legal loophole that needs to be addressed.  The online source continues:

“The presence of loot boxes can encourage young people who are enjoying a video game to spend money they can’t afford in order to keep going, and academic research shows this is linked to problem gambling. It is a very short step between that and addictions to other forms of gambling games like slot machines.

“This is a loophole in the law that needs to be closed down so that tougher regulatory measures can be taken. The Vice Chair of EA Games described loot boxes as ethical and fun, but as a gamer myself I find they can be a costly distraction at best, and capable of encouraging online harm at worst. I find it highly unethical to profit from excessive spend from teenagers on games of chance.

“We cannot wait for the industry to take tougher action – the UK Government needs to tighten the laws and ensure everything possible is done to ensure children and young people are protected when online.”

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


Nationwide Smoking Ban in Casinos Pushed by Advocacy Group to Protect Public Against Covid-19

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the recent smoking ban proposals for casinos as a means to prevent the spread of coronavirus.  These efforts have been fairly localized, but the impact of such a policy is self-evident.  Covid-19 is widely spread through air particulates and exhaling smoke puts many particulates and germs in the air.  The extension of such a policy on a national level, could therefore have tremendous benefit in preventing the spread of the virus, especially in gambling venues that haven’t decreased the volume of gamblers in the facilities by a large about or those that force smokers to congregate in one area, thus drastically increasing the consolidation of germs in the air.  An advocacy group has taken note and is pushing the policy on a national level.  An online source explains: 

The largest advocacy group in the nation that seeks to ban smoking in casinos said Thursday operators should be denied any federal COVID-19 relief funds unless the gaming industry goes smoke-free. Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights took that message to the American Gaming Association ahead of the Washington D.C. trade organization’s semi-annual board meeting, scheduled for Friday.

“We take issue with casinos potentially receiving such relief funding, (which) is necessitated by a pandemic involving respiratory issues, while still permitting an activity – indoor smoking – that promotes the spread of COVID-19,” Cynthia Hallett, CEO of the Berkley, California-based Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, wrote in the letter. She wrote that Miller should use his “leadership position to make the argument to your members about why smoke-free indoors is a smart policy.”

In their letter, they not only point out the clearly obvious hazards to allowing smoking indoors during a pandemic, but also the need for a strong enforcement measure, including holding back Covid-19 relief funding if facilities fail to protect the public though a smoking ban,  The online source continues: 

In her letter to Miller, Hallett wrote that “industry arguments against going smoke-free have grown stale and do not withstand scrutiny.” Casinos throughout the U.S. have reopened under various COVID-19 health and safety guidelines calling for cleaning and social distancing protocols. Most properties require everyone on the casino floor – employees and guests alike – to wear masks or facial coverings at all times, unless eating or drinking.

“Guests who wear a mask but are allowed to remove it while inside to smoke are blowing potentially hazardous droplets into shared air for fellow guests and gaming employees to breathe in, which increases the risk for transmission of COVID-19, amongst other health risks,” Hallett wrote. “No credible public health official would approve of this, but it’s standard operating procedure in most casinos.”

he said the letter was also shared with members of the Congressional Gaming Caucus and other congressional members who are leading COVID-19 relief negotiations. “We request that you only accept taxpayer dollars, which we agree are needed to sustain gaming jobs and business operations, if casino operators agree to adopt a smoke-free indoor policy that would help to keep employees and guests safe,” Hallett wrote.

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


Spain Looking to Reclassify Loot Boxes as Gambling

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on the ongoing crackdown of loot boxes in video games.  These loot boxes are essentially a slot machine mechanic, where the player buys boxes to open as they are trying to get game specific loot.  In some cases this loot has value and is sold, which is the typical gambling.  In other cases they can’t be sold, but the mechanics are designed to get children to chase the good loot or gear in a game and as such, they dump hundreds or thousands of dollars into them.  Psychologically, they act exactly like slot machines and cause the same addiction you see with gambling.  More and more jurisdictions are recognizing these gambling-eque loot boxes for the dangers they pose to children, and are looking to regulate them accordingly. Most recently, an example of regulation in the Netherlands saw a major court ruling against publisher EA for their Fifa soccer game as they classified loot boxes as gambling.  Now it appears Spain has joined them and other European governing bodies in the notion that loot boxes should be viewed as gambling and regulated as such.  SBC News reports:

Mikel Arana, Director-General of Spain’s DGOJ, has confirmed that the regulatory agency has advised the government to introduce changes to the ‘/Gaming Law/’ in order to reclassify ‘loot boxes as games of chance’. The DGOJ’s leader urged Congress to support the initiative yesterday, stating that the government will launch a public consultation before the end of the year, aiming for new regulations to come into force by the second half of 2021.

Furthermore, Arana supported the directive to Spain’s joint commission on the ‘*/Study of Addiction Behaviour//s/*’, whilst further advising the ‘*/Responsible Gaming Advisory Council/*’ to support its review in amending the current law to establish loot boxes as gambling components.

Mirroring European counterparts, the Spanish government aims to review its digital laws with regards to protecting minors by “limiting compulsive and impulsive transactions’. The DGOJ is reportedly seeking guarantees that loot box laws and gaming protections will be included in the next phase of federal gambling reforms sanctioned by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.

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


Military Veterans Face Double the Risk of Problem Gambling over the Civilian Population

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various efforts to deal with gambling issues in the military.  These issues don’t simply exist while active duty, but they can often be seen impacting those long after they separate.  As we focus on Veteran’s Day, it’s important to realize the range of issues they deal with extend beyond their civilian counterparts.  There are many factors to consider, and one online source helps break the gambling issues down:

The 11th month, November, on the 11^th   day is dedicated to commemorating the men and women who have served in the U.S. military. As a country, we strive to honor and protect these individuals after returning to civilian life. While there are many mental health and addiction resources available throughout the nation, one issue usually remains hidden — problem gambling.

It’s a problem any time gambling causes financial, vocational, mental or interpersonal problems in one’s life, and it’s an issue that affects roughly two million Americans. However, Veterans have elevated rates of problem gambling — at least twice the rate as the general adult population (Westermeyer et al., 2013). Additionally, the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) estimates that as many as 56,000 active duty members of the Armed Forces meet the criteria for gambling disorder.

Problem gambling is often viewed as inconsequential and limited to financial impacts among its victims. The sad reality, however, is that its impact is far reaching and can often times be deadly.  The source explains:

Compared to the national population, problem gambling may not seem like a priority. However, problem gambling can impact up to 55 percent of the population. It is estimated that each individual struggling with problem gambling can impact up to 10 additional people.

On top of that, problem gambling has the highest suicide rate among all addictions. “About 50 percent of those with disordered gambling have had suicidal thoughts. Over 17 percent of these individuals have attempted suicide,” (Moghaddam et al., 2015).

Problem gambling is also extremely underreported_ and low screening rates, especially in the military, remain a barrier. Some initial screening tools that are available include the “Lie Bet” and the “Brief Biosocial Gambling Screen.”  which provide basic questions on gambling habits.

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


Unregulated Slot Machine Enforcement in Missouri is Off to a Slow Start

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the illegal gambling machines that exploded all over Missouri.  These devices are essentially just slot machines that pre-reveal the result, meaning you aren’t really gambling on the very first pull, as its result showing, but on the next pull.  Clearly, they de facto function exactly like a slot machine and thus, they are illegal outside of a properly licensed and regulated Missouri Casino.  It’s been a problem in Missouri for a while, but some real direction finally came with a recent court decision that definitely found one of the slot machine manufacturers guilty of illegal gambling.  Since then however, the enforcement of crackdown on other facilities across the state hasn’t picked up.  The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports:

In the wake of a recent ruling that a Kansas-based company’s unregulated slot machine-style games were illegal, Missouri officials are now divided on how to move forward with policing roughly 14,000 similar devices deployed at gas stations and bars across the state.

The Post-Dispatch obtained a draft letter from state liquor regulators to licensees informing them of the Sept. 22 ruling by a Platte County Circuit Court judge, but emphasizing the judgment was “not final at this time” while the company, Shawnee Kansas-based Integrity Vending LLC, appealed.

Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, said the letter was “probably not strong enough.” He said he wanted the state to give businesses time to unplug the games before facing suspension or revocation of their liquor licenses, but said he understood officials’ caution, given that appeals are possible.

There has been an initial reluctance to move forward with prosecution or the pulling of liquor licenses as of now.  Moreover, internal money and resources set aside for such activities haven’t been disseminated as initially allocated. The St Louis Post Dispatch explains:

Because the games are unregulated, there are no consumer protections to prevent low payouts, no money directed to public education and no resources available for addicted gamblers.

Schatz’s desire for the state Department of Public Safety to start pulling liquor licenses from noncompliant gas stations and bars would mark an escalation in the state’s efforts to police the games. This year, the Missouri Highway Patrol, operating under the Department of Public Safety, had as of Oct. 6 forwarded 72 probable cause affidavits to local prosecutors for illegal gambling charges, an agency spokesman said in an email. But most prosecutors, at least before the Platte County ruling, had been reluctant to file charges. 

Senate Budget Chairman Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, included $150,000 in this year’s budget for investigations of the devices. The money was earmarked for the attorney general’s office, which enforces consumer protection laws. Gov. Mike Parson withheld the money this summer amid lagging revenue projections, temporarily stopping any action. With a more favorable budget forecast, his administration released the funds this month, but Attorney General Eric Schmitt is still reluctant to spend the money.

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


Netherlands Court Rules EA’s Loot Boxes are Illegal Gambling and Upheld Earlier Fine

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the newest form of gambling in video games known as loot boxes. This particular gambling-esque mechanic was first brought forth to mainstream media because of their prevalence in EA’s Star Wars licensed BattleFront II game.  Since then, regulators all over the world have urged for studies or moved to advance legislation that regulates or bans loot boxes.  So perhaps it’s fitting that the publisher EA is again at the forefront of the battle over loot boxes in the Netherlands.  This time they have been accused of allowing illegal gambling in their world popular soccer game Fifa.  The court ruled that their loot boxes are illegal and ordered them to pay a fine. An online gaming source explains:

A Netherlands District Court this week ruled against Electronic Arts in a case over FIFA loot boxes, allowing the Netherlands Gambling Authority (Kansspelautoriteit, or Ksa) to proceed in fining the publisher €10 million for violating the country’s Betting and Gaming Act.

“The Ksa believes it is crucial to shield vulnerable groups, such as minors, from exposure to gambling,” the regulator explained. “For that reason, the Ksa supports a strict separation between gaming and gambling. Gamers are often young and therefore particularly susceptible to developing an addiction. As such, gambling elements have no place in games.”

According to the judgment, EA argued that FIFA loot boxes would not count as gambling under the Betting and Gaming Act because FIFA Ultimate Team packs (loot boxes) don’t offer items of value because they cannot be directly converted into money, that FIFA is inherently a game of skill rather than chance, and that there is no scientific evidence linking the opening of Ultimate Team packs to gambling addiction.

The court was unswayed by those arguments, noting that there are ways for people to profit from Ultimate Team cards that can be valued at nearly €2,000, and that people can ignore the proper FIFA gameplay and “play” the Ultimate Team packs as their own sort of game.

As for the lack of scientific proof, the judges ruled it not necessary that every new game of chance be proven to cause problems, because the Betting and Gaming Act is based on the assumption that games of chance carry with them a risk of gambling addiction. They also pointed to an increasing body of scientific research and experts warning about loot boxes, as well as reports made to the Ksa by individuals who had been affected by them.

Naturally, EA is expected to appeal the decision.  They asked the court to not disclose the amount of the fine, but the court’s response was “that the public interest in announcing the fines and warning the public about unlawful commercial practices outweighed EA’s interest in preserving its reputation.”

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


Apple & Google face Federal Lawsuit for Allowing Gambling-esue Apps in their Play Stores

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on the development, recognition and battles over loot boxes as a new gambling mechanism in video games, including a pair of recent California based lawsuits against Apple and Google.  Those suits centered around popular gaming apps that had loot boxes inside an otherwise normal looking game like EA’s Fifa soccer or Nintendo’s Mario Kart Tour.   A new Federal lawsuit, however, alleges that same access to loot box type gambling, but in a more obvious gambling related app.  An online Alabama new source reports:

Two federal lawsuits filed Wednesday seek refunds for Alabama residents who downloaded games from app stores that the plaintiffs say are illegal gambling under state law. The potential class action lawsuits were filed against tech giants Apple and Google by two Shelby County residents who purchased the app-based games and paid money for more playing time. The suit specifically deals with games that begin with offering the player a set number of free starting “coins” to play the slots, blackjack, roulette, poker, keno, bingo, and other card and gambling games.

A loss results in a loss of the coins, but the customer has the chance to win more coins. When a customer runs out of coins, the player is prompted to use real money to buy more coins to keep playing. Both suits list 200 games available through Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store that feature casino-type gambling.

“Apple and its chief mobile device software competitor, Google, both allow customers to purchase games that are no more or no less than casino-style slot machines, casino-style table games, and other common gambling games,” one suit alleges. The suit contends that under Alabama’s gambling statutes, paying money in a game for a chance to win more playing time constitutes illegal gambling. 

The suit brings up state law’s definition of “something of value,” which it says is not limited to games where one gambles in the hopes of winning actual cash. “Rather, ‘something of value’ specifically includes ‘extension of a service entertainment or a privilege of playing at a game or scheme without charge.’ As a matter of law, paying money to get ‘coins’ one bets hoping to win more ‘coins’ so as to gain the ‘privilege of playing at a game or scheme without charge’ is gambling a thing of value under Alabama law,” the suits contend.

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


Unregulated Slot Machine Manufacture Found Guilty of Illegal Gambling in Western Missouri

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing struggles to properly regulate illegal slot machines outside of casinos in Missouri.  These slot machines, often referred to as pre-reveal machines, have been popping up all over the state claiming to be legal games and not slot machines.  The regulatory problems have mostly stemmed from disorganization regarding who needed to be regulating these machines.  Local prosecutors had to take the lead and bring charges in their individual jurisdictions while the Missouri Legislature debated how to handle the situation.  The results of the first prosecution attempt are in and as expected, the machines were deemed illegal. The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports:

A Platte County Circuit Court judge on Tuesday found a Kansas-based company guilty of promoting illegal gambling in the first degree, a class E felony that carries a fine of up to $10,000.

The ruling against Shawnee, Kansas-based Integrity Vending LLC likely will have wide-ranging consequences: gaming companies have long argued that their machines are legal under Missouri law; the Missouri Highway Patrol and some county prosecutors have disagreed, saying the machines are illegal gambling devices. Observers had long awaited Judge Thomas Fincham’s ruling for clarity on what kind of games Missouri law actually allows.

The unregulated machines — state officials estimated last year there were about 14,000 of them in gas stations, bars and clubs across the state — have come under fire because of the stealth nature by which they were deployed.

Unlike regulated gaming, no proceeds are diverted to education. There are also no government-sanctioned resources for addicted gamblers or rules to protect consumers from low payouts.

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Whistleblower Lawsuit Alleges Caesars Rushed to Reopen during Covid-19 Pandemic Which Violated California Labor Law

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on the ongoing impact the coronavirus has had on the gambling industry.  The pandemic has been understandably disruptive, but the goal of the government and community leaders has been to balance keeping people safe and preventing the spread of the virus against keeping the economy from collapse and keeping people employed where possible.  Unfortunately, the gambling industry isn’t in any way viewed as essential, which places its employees in an incredibly tough position.  However, maintaining a balance isn’t just about doing what’s morally correct, but it’s also about following the various laws of each jurisdiction.  This year has already seen a casino close properties it had just opened after not having or enforcing proper PPE equipment which lead to an employee’s death.  Additionally, a suit was filed by Las Vegas hospitality workers claiming they didn’t have proper protections. Now, a new southern California whistleblower lawsuit has been filed by a casino executive that alleges he was forced to quit for opposing a rush to reopen.  The San Diego Union – Tribune reports:

A Harrah’s Resort Southern California  executive who resigned before the casino reopened in May has filed a lawsuit against the parent company, Caesars Enterprise Services, alleging the tribal casino rushed to reopen despite safety concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Darrell Pilant, who had served as the senior vice president and general manager, worked for the company for 23 years. He alleges that he was forced to resign  from his position because he said he didn’t want to follow the direction of his employer to reopen because doing so posed a threat to employee and customer health, according to the lawsuit filed Aug. 31.

This suit isn’t simply about an executive being pushed out of the organization.  This suit alleges that Caesars has violated California laws aimed at protection in order to place business and profits first.  The The San Diego Union – Tribune continues:

The lawsuit, which declares it is a whistleblower action, claims that in reopening during the pandemic, the casino violated the California Labor Code and Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations for the health and safety of employees.

“Pilant, among other things, alleges that Caesars constructively terminated his employment because he opposed and refused to carry out Caesars’ directive to reopen Harrah’s Resort Southern California,” the lawsuit states. “Rather than carry out the illegal and dangerous directive of his employer, Mr. Pilant had no alternative but to resign his long-time employment with Caesars.”

Harrah’s Resort Southern California is operated by Caesars Enterprise Services, but is owned by the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians and located on its 5,000-acre reservation in North County. Tribal Chairman Bo Mazzetti said profits from the casino make up about 85 percent of the tribe’s budget during an interview in April.

“The disregard for public health and safety outlined in this lawsuit is consistent with the arrogance we’ve grown to expect from many tribal casino operators in California,” Kirkland said. “By remaining open while other indoor recreational facilities have been forced to close, they have demonstrated a lack of concern for the health of their employees, guests and the surrounding communities in the pursuit of slot machine profits.”

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Cell Phone Data seemingly indicates travel to Las Vegas for Gambling might be a major contributor for continued Covid- 19 Spread

Casino Watch Focus has reported on all the various impacts coronavirus has had on gambling this year.  The country has gone through one lock down and many areas regressed back after initial attempts to reopen.  Las Vegas has gone through its own reopening experience and not without controversy.  Recently, the city was seen as providing regulations that set the maximum occupancy of churches at only 50 total people, while allowing companies like casinos to set their  occupancy to be set at a whopping 50%.  Beyond the calls and concerns for double standards, many wondered how the draw of this much gambling capacity would impact those coming to the area and then traveling back home, potentially with Covid-19 in tow to spread back home.  New Cellphone data was examined and concludes there is a potentially huge impact to prolonging the pandemic.  The Reno Gazette Journal reports:

An analysis of smartphone data during four days, a Friday to Monday in mid-July, revealed how most of the U.S. is connected to Las Vegas – a likely hot spot of COVID-19 spread.

During that time frame, about 26,000 devices were identified on The Strip, according to data mined by the companies X-Mode and Tectonix. Some of those smartphones then traveled to every state on the mainland except Maine.

The cellphone analysis highlights a reason the virus keeps spreading and shows how travel to Las Vegas could be fueling the pandemic, according to health officials.

“In this rush to reopen and reposition the economic activities, all we’ve been doing is spreading and amplifying the reach of this disease,” said Oscar Alleyne, an epidemiologist and chief program officer with the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

Six public health experts told ProPublica that casinos are a high-risk environment for COVID-19 – “a feeding ground for COVID-19. “There is a serious opportunity for spreading the virus, especially for people who are mildly sick or don’t know they’re sick,” said Crystal Watson, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “We’ve seen big outbreaks kicked off by these types of situations.”

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