Could legalized sports betting come to Ohio?

Anticipated U.S. Supreme Court ruling could become wild-card issue in 2018 Ohio election

The U.S. Supreme Court could toss a wild card into Ohio’s 2018 political sweepstakes. By mid-year, the court will rule on Christie v. NCAA, deciding if states can permit their citizens to wager on sports.

The case stems from New Jersey, where voters in 2011 amended the state constitution to authorize sports betting. In 2012, the legislature passed a law allowing sports betting at the state’s struggling casinos and racetracks.

That prompted the NCAA and four professional sports leagues — the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB — to file suit, arguing the New Jersey law violates federal law, specifically the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Dec. 4. While predicting court decisions is dicey, many legal analysts believe the court chose to hear the case because several justices question PASPA’s constitutionality. The sports leagues won at the district and appellate court levels.

Twenty states, including Ohio, filed an amicus brief supporting New Jersey’s position. They argue PASPA overextends the long-established meaning of the 10th Amendment’s supremacy clause on federal-state relations.

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Be wary of lottery scams, Ohio attorney general’s office warns

Scam artists are looking to swindle you by using phony calls or letters claiming you've won millions of dollars. 

The Ohio Attorney General's Office has already received several reports of scams this week, according to a statement AG Mike DeWine’s office released  Friday. 

These scams typically begin with someone stating that you've won a large sum of money through the lottery or a sweepstake. And in order to receive your prize money you have to wire several hundred dollars for taxes or "processing fees." 

But in reality, the money goes to a scam artist and there is no prize money. 

"We just warn people to be careful," DeWine said. "In most cases, if you're getting a call saying you've won millions of dollars, it's a scam." 

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UMass Team Reports Gambling Research to Gaming Commission

Results of a baseline study on gambling behavior in Massachusetts that establishes how people participated — or not — in gambling prior to the opening of any casinos were reported this week to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) by epidemiologist Rachel Volberg and colleagues at UMass Amherst’s School of Public Health and Health Sciences. It is the first major cohort study of adult gambling to be carried out in the U.S.

Volberg and colleagues were selected by the MGC in 2013 to conduct a first-of-its-kind, comprehensive, multi-year study on the economic and social impacts of introducing casino gambling in the state. The Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts (SEIGMA) team is examining an array of social and economic effects.

As part of MGC’s research agenda, the results are from the separate Massachusetts Gambling Impact Cohort study of factors critical to developing strategic and data-driven problem-gambling services. Cohort studies survey the same individuals over time and provide information on how gambling and problem gambling develops and progresses, and how individuals may experience remission.

“This has significant value as it can highlight risk and protective factors important in developing effective prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery-support services,” Volberg noted.

The report is based on analyses of 3,096 Massachusetts residents who completed the SEIGMA baseline study of self-reported past-year gambling behaviors in wave 1 in 2013-14 and wave 2 in 2015. The researchers observed a statistically significant increase in overall gambling participation as well as in participation in casino gambling and horserace betting within the cohort between wave 1 and wave 2. They also reported a statistically significant increase in the cohort in the average number of gambling formats engaged in over the previous 12 months. However, in all cases this increase was “quite small,” they note, between 2% and 3.2%.

Before beginning this research, Volberg predicted the state’s sweeping research initiative would change the intellectual landscape and knowledge base about gambling, and she said the results released this week support that view. “This tells us new things, but it is nuanced. Based on this new study, researchers will think about gambling behavior in new ways.”

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Columbus casino was tops in Ohio in revenue in 2017

Hollywood Casino Columbus was the state’s top casino in 2017 based on revenue, marking the second year in a row it’s claimed the distinction, according to data released Monday by the Ohio Casino Control Commission.

Scioto Downs, the racino at the horse racing track on the South Side, remained the second highest-grossing racino in the state, behind Hard Rock Northfield Park in northeast Ohio.

Ohioans overall were in a gambling mood last year, resulting in increases in all but one of Ohio’s casinos and racinos. Only Jack Cleveland saw a slight decline in revenue year-over-year.

Statewide casino revenue increased by 2.6 percent in 2017 compared with 2016. Racinos continued to see even stronger gains, with a 7.1 percent increase year-over-year. Gaming experts attribute the popularity of racinos largely to their location: They are generally in more suburban locations that are perceived as easier to get to, easier to park at and safer than casinos in more urban locations.

Hollywood Casino Columbus on the West Side has continued to make improvements to operations and added perks to its loyalty program to continue attracting players, general manager Himbert Sinopoli said in an interview with The Dispatch ahead of the casino’s fifth anniversary last fall. Owned by Pennsylvania-based Penn National Gaming, the casino is able to offer trips to other Penn properties across the county as rewards to its best players. It also has added new restaurants in the past year, along with two covered outdoor slots areas where smoking is permitted.

Hollywood Casino spokesman Bob Tenenbaum said Monday that Penn National doesn’t “comment on the specifics of the monthly revenue announcements,” but said Penn continues “to be very pleased” with customer response to the casino.

It’s Too Soon to Start High-Fiving Over Legal Sports Betting

As a long-time casino sports book industry executive, I am amazed by the exuberance of the gaming media and my professional associates regarding the possible repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA).  It is now commonly believed that the Supreme Court will vote in favor of the legalization of sports betting in New Jersey. Although legalization is long overdue, the real heavy lifting has yet to begin.

Assuming that New Jersey and all other states will be permitted to enact sports betting legislation, we must speculate as to how each state and municipality will tax this new revenue stream.  The current version of New Jersey’s Gaming Accountability and Modernization Enhancement Act of 2017 does not provide a proposed tax rate.  However, New Jersey casinos currently pay 9.25 percent tax on gross gaming revenues, and their online casinos pay a 15 percent tax rate.  I would have to assume that New Jersey would like to make a larger percentage of taxes from sports book revenues.  Nevada sports books pay about 6 percent of their revenue in state taxes and a federal tax of 0.25 percent of handle.  Nevada is a friendly environment to conduct business.  Illegal bookmakers are not a problem in Nevada because the legal bookmakers offer a competitively priced product, pay timely, and are subject to stringent regulations.  Nonetheless, the sports book industry is a very tough area to succeed because of its low profit margins.

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How Conscious is Our Gamble?

GambleAware have been saying it for years. Indeed, it’s in their very name. If we’re going to gamble, it is vital that we gamble responsibly, within financial and mental limits which match our personal circumstances. Further, as a society, it’s vital that we provide support for the problems that can develop in gambling, and this is what GambleAware and other charities in the sector such as GamCare are working on.

It was revealed back in May that the recommended voluntary industry contribution of 0.1% towards GambleAware was not being reached by sufficient operators to allow them to even reach their most recent funding targets, and in fact that they are now operating with a £2 million (20%) shortfall on that goal. This week, the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) added their voice to a growing call to transform that contribution into a statutory levy, a tax, the proceeds from which would be used to provide support for problem gambling and programmes towards its avoidance.

Departing CEO of the UK Gambling Commission Sarah Harrison has contributed to the discussion, warning the industry that if operators didn’t up their game with regard to voluntary contributions, the UKCG would back the proposed levy. Labour has also already pledged to put into place a similar compulsory process if and when they come to power. Shadow Sports Minister Rosena Allin-Khan raised the issue at GambleAware’s annual Harm Minimisation conference held in early December, commenting on how “unacceptable” the £8 million industry contribution looked when viewed alongside its record-breaking £13.8 billion in takings.

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How Aristocrat’s $990 million Big Fish deal will shake up social casino games

Billion-dollar game deals are pretty rare, but one slipped by last week without much attention. Australian gambling machine maker Aristocrat Leisureannounced last week it is buying social casino games maker Big Fish Games in Seattle for $990 million.

It was the second deal in a relatively short time for Big Fish. Churchill Downs, the owner of the Kentucky Derby, bought Big Fish Games in 2014 for $885 million. Aristocrat is clearly the latest company that believes that mixing gambling expertise (via its slot machines business) and non-gambling social casino games (where you can play virtual slot machines but can’t win real money) are a good fit.

Adam Krejcik, analyst at Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, issued a report today analyzing the deal. In the past 12 months, without the Big Fish results included, Aristocrat’s game divisions made an estimated $292 million in digital revenue in the period ended September 30, up 41 percent from a year earlier. In the third quarter ended September 30, Eilers & Krejcik estimated that Aristocrat generated $93 million in revenues in social casino games, up 63 percent from a year earlier.

Aristocrat, which has 5,000 employees and started making gambling machines in 1953, has been making big moves. In 2014, it bought Video Gaming Technologies for $1.3 billion to bolster its gambling machine business in North America. And it paid $500 million for Israeli mobile game publisher Plarium. Aristocrat will be behind only Playtika, which was acquired by Chinese game companies, in the social casino games business.

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Gambling addicts still hooked on machines as bookies fail to enforce scheme

A government scheme that is meant to allow staff at betting shops to bar problem gamblers has drawn fresh criticism after an investigation found that addicts are still being allowed to bet.

An undercover reporter posing as a known problem gambler who should have been ejected from bookmakers when attempting to use fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) was asked to leave only two out of 21 betting shops.

The reporter had signed up to the multi-operator self-exclusion scheme, a Gambling Commission initiative that helps problem gamblers by circulating their photograph and details to betting shops in the area where the gambler lives or works. This should ensure the gambler is not served in those businesses.

The exercise, carried out by BBC Five Live Investigates, raises questions over attempts by the gambling industry to discourage addicts. It was conducted in Grimsby, chosen because the Lincolnshire town has one of the highest concentrations of bookmakers in the UK.

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Real Danger of Loot Boxes Still Unknown, Gambling Commission Says

Even if players aren't technically gambling, video games and their use of loot boxes and microtransactions may still pose similar threats to children that real world gambling will, the UK Gambling Commission recently told Eurogamer. What this means for the future, and how big the threat actually is, is hard to tell as of right now. 

Big game publishers now rely heavily on a stream of tiny purchases – here's a guide to the terminology and controversial practices

"In relation to loot boxes specifically, the key thing here is the loot boxes we've seen, none of them contain a facility to be able to cash-out within the game itself, and that's really the key thing which is preventing them from crossing that line into becoming gambling," executive director of the UK Gambling Commission Tim Miller told the outlet. 

Though there's concern over the risk of these in-game items posing threats to children where they're using real-world money without understanding the implications of what they're doing, they're still not recognized as gambling. According to Eurogamer, while attending the charity Gamble Aware's annual conference, there was a lot of talk about games and their use of gambling mechanics. But there was no word from developers, the ones implementing these systems. 

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More in Maryland seek help for gambling problems

MGM National Harbor became Maryland’s sixth casino on Dec. 8, 2016; the state’s five others opened between 2010 and 2014.

It has been one year since MGM opened, and gambling in the state is bringing in millions each month — $130.5 million just in November.

While the state’s casinos have had a huge economic impact, it’s not known yet what the opening of MGM National Harbor has meant for problem gambling.

It has opened, however, in the middle of an influx of people seeking help for problem gambling in the state.

The state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene conducted a study before the first Maryland casino opened in 2010, and published it in 2011. They found that nearly 90 percent of Marylanders had gambled, and that 3.4 percent were either pathological gamblers or problem gamblers.

The department is in the final stages of a new study, which they expect to release early in 2018, that will provide a picture of problem gambling in the state after more than seven years of casino gaming.

The Maryland Center for Excellence on Problem Gambling, run by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, reported that contacts with the helpline — calls, texts and tweets — increased by 8 percent in fiscal 2016 over the previous year, and by 65 percent since fiscal 2013. They added that 143 people were put in treatment by providers on their list in fiscal 2016 — a fivefold increase over the previous fiscal year.

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25,000 children in Britain are problem gamblers, report finds

Gambling Commission says children encounter gambling through social media and computer games

About 25,000 children aged between 11 and 16 are problem gamblers, with many learning to bet via computer games and social media, according to a report that has prompted warnings that Britain is “sleepwalking into a future public health storm”.

In its annual survey of youth gambling (pdf), industry regulator the Gambling Commission voiced fears that children were gambling in a “consequence-free environment”, including through so-called “skins” betting on video games.

Its concerns prompted Labour, which deregulated the gambling industry in 2005 but has changed its stance, to brand existing legislation “woefully out of date”.

About 370,000 (12%) children in England, Scotland and Wales have gambled in the past week, the commission found. More than quarter of a million children gambled with a licensed operator, such as a bookmaker or online casino.

They spent an average of £10 on gambling a week, more than a third of their £28 income from work or pocket money, with 8% claiming to have spent more than £40.

Almost 1% of children aged between 11 and 16, or about 25,000, are defined as problem gamblers, with a further 36,000 at risk of developing a problem.

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SLU Researcher Leads Call for Action to Address Gambling Disorders

Associate psychology professor Jeremiah Weinstock, Ph.D., and researchers from more than 25 universities, are leading the push for expanded resources for gambling-related research and treatment.

Scholars from more than 25 universities across the United States have issued a Gambling Call to Action Statement regarding the need for more research on gambling and its mental and physical health consequences.

The action grew out of discussion following the October 1, 2017 mass shootings in Las Vegas when media reports suggested that the shooter exhibited behaviors suggestive of a severe gambling problem and that gambling may have been part of the shooter’s motivation for his crime.

At the time of the shooting, several of the leading scholars on gambling disorder were in Las Vegas attending the National Center for Responsible Gaming’s 18th Annual Conference on Gambling and Addiction. Many of the conference’s sessions touched upon the same issues and themes the Gambling Call to Action Statement highlights, as these are long standing issues.

Legal gambling opportunities, both in-person and online, have expanded dramatically within the past 30 years and generate significant revenues for gambling operators, state and federal governments. Yet, the lack of resources devoted to study, treat and prevent gambling problems poses significant hurdles that only increase and perpetuate the human suffering associated with gambling disorder.

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'Nobody stopped me' at the casino: Ontario self-exclusion program fails to keep gambling addicts out

Facial recognition technology was set up to spot self-excluding gamblers who would be asked to leave

Despite promoting responsible gambling, the Ontario government's program to help addicts stay out of casinos is failing to do so, an investigation by CBC's The Fifth Estate has found.

Gambling addicts interviewed by The Fifth Estate said that while on the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG)'s self-exclusion list, they entered OLG properties on a regular basis.

"For that first six-month period, I went back probably 10 times," said Joe Frieri, a gambler in the Greater Toronto Area who self-excluded three times over three years.

Frieri figures he'd lost up to $300,000 before self-excluding the first time in 2008. He was wrestling with his addiction, and says he felt he needed the OLG's help.

"In this case, I couldn't do it on my own anymore."

Even though he was on the list, Frieri said he was never stopped from entering casinos in Ontario.

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Japan gambling addiction bill delayed to 2018

The lower house of Japan’s parliament took measures on Friday to carry over an anti-gambling addiction bill to the next session, expected to start in January, GGRAsia has learned.

Enactment of such a bill is widely reported as a necessary step before the Integrated Resorts (IR) Implementation Bill – a further phase of the process to legalise casinos in the country – can be passed.

Japan’s governing coalition, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its partner Komeito, had resubmitted on December 1 – to the lower chamber, the House of Representatives – such a bill, Japanese newswire Jiji Press had reported. The so-called extraordinary session of parliament ended officially on Saturday (December 9). An earlier version of the gambling addiction bill had fallen because it had not been enacted before the end of the previous legislative session.

Jiji Press had also reported on December 1 that opposition party Nippon Ishin no Kai, known in English as the Japan Restoration Party, had proposed a similar bill. According to GGRAsia’s correspondent, on December 6 another opposition group – the Constitutional Democratic Party – submitted yet another version of a anti-gambling addiction bill.

The government’s effort is referred to by some news outlets – based on a translation of the bill title that is mentioned in Japanese on the House of Representatives’ website – as the “Basic Bill on Gambling Addiction Countermeasures,” implying it is a framework to which more detail is to be added.

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Sources: Federal agents seize documentation, cash from Ron & Mike's Football Pool

One of the largest football survivor pools was shut down this week after federal agents seized documentation and the money the pool organizers collected, sources told ESPN.

Several participants in Ron & Mike's Football Pool said there were at least five NFL survivor pools this season with at least $2.5 million at stake to the winners. The participants spoke under the condition of anonymity and had access to the website from the beginning of the season.

"Please be advised that the Ron and Mike website has been forced to shut down at this time and is unlikely to open again," read a note sent to people who were still alive in the pools.

"We understand your frustration and anger at this time but closure of the pool is beyond our control. We apologize to those that are still alive in our various pools and we ask for your patience and understanding while we contemplate the next steps. Unfortunately at this time we cannot make any additional comments."

Sources said the organizers, who were running the pool for at least the past eight years, are Ron Kronengold and Mike Bernstein. Joe Conway, the attorney representing the men, confirmed that the website was voluntarily shut down after circumstances earlier in the week caused their business to be compromised. Conway said that neither he nor his clients have been furnished with any information from the government, other than a search warrant.

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New Convenience Store Concept Rocks The Buckeye State

Casino and entertainment destination Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park has a mission to “deliver authentic experiences that rock.” Enter RockStop Gas & Wash, the first-ever Hard Rock-branded, state-of-the-art retail service station and car wash, which opened Oct. 18.

Located on the Northwest side of the Rocksino, RockStop Gas & Wash boasts 45,000 square feet of space, including a 3,500-square-foot retail store and car wash building.

The original Rocksino property opened in December 2013. As the first Rocksino in the Hard Rock family, Northfield is a regional gaming, dining and entertainment model. That’s why it was fitting to develop Hard Rock International’s first-ever gas station and car wash template here, Mark Birtha, president of Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park, told Convenience Store News.

“We are constantly looking for ways to increase the value of our loyalty program and thus, the RockStop was conceived right here in Northfield as a continuation of our mission to ‘deliver authentic experiences that rock’ to our Rock Star Rewards members, team members, and those in the local and regional community,” Birtha explained. “Offering a one-of-a-kind gas, retail and car wash amenity with a Hard Rock flavor was the next evolution in that vision.”

RockStop Gas & Wash features a number of differentiators that make it a true “Hard Rock-branded experience on all levels,” the executive noted.

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Jack Cleveland Casino's annual revenue continues to decline, unlike the state's other three casinos

 Jack Cleveland Casino's annual revenue continues to decline, dropping about 1 percent from $203.6 million in 2016 to $201.4 million in 2017.

The state's three other casinos increased revenue from 2016 to 2017, according to the monthly report from the Ohio Casino Control Commission.

Annual revenue at the Cleveland casino was: 

  • $212.7 million in 2015
  • $220.4 million in 2014
  • $242.6 million in 2013

Here's annual revenue at the other three casinos for the past two years:

  • Jack Cincinnati Casino: 2017: $198 million. 2016: $189.2 million.
  • Hollywood Casino Columbus: 2017: $221 million. 2016: $213 million.
  • Hollywood Casino Toledo: 2017: $198.6 million. 2016: $191.6 million.

The downtown Cleveland casino had $17.5 million in revenue for December 2017, a $1 million increase from December 2016.

Statewide casino revenue for December was $70.1 million, compared to $66.3 million in December 2016 - a 5.7 percent increase.

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Pennsylvania expands gambling options to airports, truck stops; what about Ohio?

Some of the most sweeping gambling changes in the country are coming to Pennsylvania.

Legislators, in an effort to bolster the Keystone State budget, approved an expansion last year that will allow people to bet online, at 10 mini-casinos, and in airports and truck stops.

The move is expected to generate an additional $200 million or more annually from license fees and taxes, Pennsylvania officials have said. The move also will have consequences for Ohio.

Ohio's new governor, who will be elected this year, will likely scrutinize the changes in the neighboring state and may propose some new initiatives, said Alan Silver, an assistant professor of restaurant, hotel and tourism at Ohio University.

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World Health Organization planning to recognize 'Gaming disorder' as a mental health condition

The World Health Organization is currently working on the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases, with a planned release of 2018. The last revision of this important document was back in 1990, and it is used by 117 countries around the world as a standard diagnostic tool for various purposes. Sharp-eyed observers of the early drafts have noticed a new addition to the various diseases and conditions listed, one that has become very relevant as time has gone on.

Gaming disorder is set to be officially recognized by the organization.

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Dayton goes after taxes on Ohio lottery winnings

The city of Dayton recently sent more than 300 letters to Ohio lottery winners to try to collect the unpaid taxes owed on their winnings.

The city has identified unpaid taxes on lottery prizes dating back to 2014 and has already collected $35,000 since October when the initiative began, officials said.

“Our path to progress next year is to continue our very proactive tax collection efforts,” said LaShea Lofton, Dayton’s finance director.

About 9,000 customers from the city of Dayton have won prizes of $600 or more since 2014, said Marie Kilbane, Ohio Lottery spokesperson.

Lottery prizes are considered income, and the Ohio Lottery reports all winnings of $600 or more to the Internal Revenue Service, Kilbane said.

The state sends people who win lottery prizes of $600 or more tax forms to report their winnings on their tax returns, the lottery said.

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