Category Archives: Social Costs

Guest Article: Gambling Lobbyist Finally Admits it – Casinos Prey on Customers

John Sowinski, President of NoCasinos.org, in Orlando, Florida, provides a guest article about a topic that most understand, but few realistically factor in when gambling expansion issues come up. Many tend to focus on the initial economic benefit of casinos and make empty promises about how money taxed from gambling will be put to use in the educational system. Many are simply looking for a different night of entertainment and never think about the consequences so many face so they can spend a night at the casino. But in a revealing article published in Florida Politics, we see the truth of the casino industry on display – that they prey on their customers and make losers of those around them: 

Marc Dunbar is one of Florida’s best-known gambling advocates. When it comes to pushing for more and bigger casinos, he wears the hats of a lawyer, lobbyist and investor. And so, call it a Freudian slip or just a moment of candor, it was interesting to hear someone from the inside let us all in on how the industry views its customers – as prey.

This came out in a recent interview with the /News Service of Florida/. In it, Dunbar discussed the state’s longstanding rejection of Vegas-style resort casinos — something the industry has sought in this state for decades.

Because of that prohibition, he said, “you arguably have the kind of gambling that you don’t want to have, the kind that preys primarily on your constituents, as opposed to the tourists.’’

It’s an interesting argument to make to state lawmakers – fleece the tourists to spare your voters. Perhaps it would be an argument some might buy if there was any validity to it. But it’s a fake choice.

Before getting into that, however, let’s deal with the part of Dunbar’s statement that is accurate.

Casinos do indeed prey on customers. And the most effective method they have for doing so is with high-tech, digital slot machines. Researchers have documented that these machines create a fast-paced, immersive environment in which gamblers lose track of time and losses.

A professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology documented the phenomenon in the book, “Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas.”

These machines entrap those prone to become problem gamblers, who in turn represent a significant slice of casino revenues. This is why pari-mutuels throughout Florida are pushing so hard to get slot machines.

So, Dunbar’s comparison of customers to prey is appropriate. Where he runs afoul of both research and reality is the premise that bigger and splashier casinos will target tourists instead of locals. 

The complete article can be found HERE

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

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GUEST ARTICLE: [Florida] Lawmakers’ Rushed Deal to Expand Casinos in Miami is a Reckless Gamble

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to expand gambling in Florida by authorizing a new, Las Vegas style, destination resort casino. As recently pointed out by the Mason-Dixon poll, the vast amount of voters, 84%, want to either hold the line or actually reduce gambling expansion. When it came to gambling expansion through new casinos, the Florida legislature has typically done as the people have asked and not expanded gambling in this measure. However, that appears to be coming to an end as House and Senate are making a deal to allow a new casino to come to Miami and they are facing huge opposition. The below article is the office Miami Herald Editorial Board position:

After years of an impasse between the House and Senate on expanding casinos in Florida, comes a sudden and unseemly rush to get the job done.

The Legislature needs to slow its roll of the dice. Legislation pushed through in a hurry, without much, if any, public notice or input, is never a good thing….

House and Senate leaders appear to be closing in on a deal to radically revamp Florida’s gambling industry and strike an agreement with the Seminole Tribe in what could be a considerable expansion of gambling throughout the state — and Miami-Dade.

The measure rightly has been met with resistance from gambling opponents. This rush toward a decision in the session’s final days to allow, among other things, a new casino in Miami-Dade has that hush-hush, backroom feel — almost always unwise, and usually at taxpayers’ expense.

Count the Editorial Board among those calling for putting the brakes on this troubling quickie deal. The Board has long opposed turning Miami-Dade into a Las Vegas-style destination — and we continue to do so. Gambling, indeed, can transform communities — often for the worse. Miami-Dade is a progressive community of great accomplishment, but one, too, that already is a magnet for too many dangerous and illicit activities. Casinos won’t help…

Among the opponents of the deal is Armando Codina, one of Miami’s most prominent developers, who told Herald/Times reporter Mary Ellen Klas that he was surprised by the sudden legislative sprint. Codina, chairman of Codina Partners, LLC, a real estate investment and development firm based in Coral Gables, has long been a critic of expanded gambling in the county.

“I’m well-informed, but this surprised me how it was snuck in without any public debate,” said Codina.

He added that while the new gambling revenue would flow to the state and county, it will cost Miami-Dade dearly, leaving the community with the kind of infrastructure and social problems that it is already hard-pressed to handle. We agree. 

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

 

 


March Madness Brings Illegal Gambling and Hardships for Addicted Gamblers

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing problems that come with the NCAA March Madness tournament each year. Millions is lost to employers through a decline in work place productivity and people continue to gamble away money at unprecedented rates. Most of this gambling is illegal and this year the trend continues. ESPN provides some analysis: 

Americans are expected to complete 70 million NCAA tournament brackets this year, risking on average $29 per bracket and contributing to the $10.4 billion that will be bet overall on March Madness, according to estimates released Monday by the American Gaming Association.

The $10.4 billion expected to be bet on the tournament includes popular office pools and is up 13 percent from last year’s tournament, the AGA says. Only a small fraction of the money bet on the tournament, around 3 percent, is believed to be wagered legally in the United States. The bulk of the remaining $10.1 billion is placed with offshore sportsbooks and local bookmakers, according to the AGA, which represents the U.S. casino industry.

The NCAA remains steadfast on its objection to gambling on the Tournament. They not only understand the hardships it places on addicted gamblers that cant control the shear volume of risk and loss the can suffer, but they also understand the impact to the integrity of the games at play. ESPN continues:

While gambling on the tournament grows, the NCAA remains opposed to all forms of sports betting — legal and otherwise — and believes it has the potential to undermine the integrity of the games and negatively impact the welfare of student-athletes.

 The legality of such gambling continues to be a prominent issue this time of year as many people view office pools as harmless fun. Unfortunately, its anything but and its almost always illegal gambling. ESPN explains:

“Generally, if the office pool charges a fee for entering the pool and awards prizes to the winner(s), then there is a serious question as to its legality. Some states exempt small pools from their gambling laws and regulations,” said Washington, D.C.-based attorney Steven Eichorn of Ifrah Law.

Sports betting is currently legal in only a handful of states, with Nevada the only state permitted to offer single-game wagering, the most popular form. The Nevada Gaming Control Board does not track the amount bet on the NCAA tournament separately, and combines the NBA and college basketball into one “basketball” category on its monthly revenue reports. The spike in action from March Madness is easy to see, though.

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


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