Japan to let families apply for gambler exclusion

The Japanese authorities have announced measures to allow its citizens to apply to have family members barred from entering any of the country’s gambling facilities and from online betting. The move aims to curb problem gambling in the country, according to several media reports. It comes as Japan moves closer to having a regulated casino industry.

Japan’s public broadcaster NHK reported on Monday that Japanese officials had agreed “to call on public gambling providers to limit access of addicts [to their services] if members of their families make the request”.

The Japan Times reported also on Monday that the Japan Racing Association – an operator of horse racing betting – would start accepting on Thursday ban applications from family members of people “clinically diagnosed with gambling disorders or suspected of struggling with its symptoms”. The report said the ban would apply to online betting services.

The latest media reports mentioned government plans for all gambling operators in Japan to begin accepting – by April next year – requests from family members to have particular individuals barred from accessing gambling services. The Japan Times noted it was unclear how such measure would be implemented; the report added some operators already offered gambling self-exclusion programmes, but the enrolment figures were reportedly very low.

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New Mexico tribes step up to measure human cost of gaming legalization

The rise of legalized gambling in New Mexico has been a boon to tribal and the state economies, but there’s more than profits at the bottom line.

There’s the human cost of doing business.

Measuring the financial impact of easily accessed and increasingly sophisticated Native American casinos as well as the state’s own proliferating game of chance – the lottery – is a matter of accounting. The human cost is a trickier, and more political, calculus.

While it can be a simple matter to chart an uptick in bankruptcy filings and the kind of embezzlement crimes often linked to compulsive gambling behavior, arriving at the right percentages is a different matter. And as society becomes ever more obsessed with its cell and computer technology, and the opportunities to gamble online continue to grow, some gaming observers speculate that compulsive behavior may rise accordingly.

In New Mexico, tribal governments have begun funding an association aimed at studying problem gambling in the state, Thom Cole of the Santa Fe New Mexican recently reported. Conducted by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation of Washington, D.C., it is being touted as the first in-depth look at the issue in a decade. In all, $292,000 has been earmarked for the study, funded by the tribes under their Responsible Gaming of New Mexico group. The last study was undertaken in 2006.

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How the legal battle around loot boxes will change video games forever

Just a few weeks ago, Belgium’s Gambling Committee took up the most controversial gaming question of the season: are loot boxes gambling? Yes, they said.

Loot boxes are, in short, virtual boxes with random contents that you purchase through video games with real money. They contain everything from virtual cosmetic items to power-ups to gear that can dramatically alter your chances of winning the game. Rarer items, of course, show up in loot boxes far less often. The rush of buying them and rolling the dice on their contents has been likened to the psychological sensation one feels when gambling. That gets even more unsettling when you consider how many underage people play these games, and how much they spend; my own younger sibling, a few years ago, drained $400 from my bank account on Xbox Live purchases.

The debate over loot boxes has been one of the most divisive and furious that gaming has seen in years, and certainly one of the most important stories for the industry in 2017. Billions of dollars are on the line here — especially as legislators and regulators in more countries have started to speak up.

Hawaiian state representative Chris Lee recently held a press conference where he characterized loot boxes as “predatory gaming,” and is working on legislation to ban minors from buying them. He later added in a Reddit post that “these kinds of loot boxes and microtransactions are explicitly designed to prey upon and exploit human psychology in the same way casino games are so designed.” In Australia, a regulator for the state of Victoria agreed that “what occurs with ‘loot boxes’ does constitute gambling” and that the regulatory body for gaming was "engaging with interstate and international counterparts" on policy changes.

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Gaming employees at high risk of gambling disorders

From January to September 2017, over 30 percent of the people who sought help from the Social Affairs Bureau (IAS) due to a gaming disorder were employees in the casino sector, according to IAS deputy director Hoi Wa Pou.

In the first three quarters of last year, the IAS received requests for assistance from 119 individuals. 

The high proportion of gaming employees among the total number of cases reflects that gaming employees are at a higher risk of developing a gambling disorder.

According to Hoi, the IAS in recent years has offered the executives of gaming operators certification courses on responsible gaming instructors. Approximately 30 people have completed the training.

Hoi believes that if these instructors organize activities regarding the prevention of gambling disorders within their companies, then there will be a lower incidence of gaming employees becoming addicted to gambling.

Hoi also noted that the IAS supports the banning of gambling employees from entering the casinos while off-duty.

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Former NSW minister ignored advice to release gambling harm report

A landmark report on gambling addiction which recommended banning a controversial poker machine feature was sat on by the New South Wales government for almost two years, despite one department urging for it to be released “as soon as possible”.

On Wednesday Fairfax Media reported that the former NSW deputy premier and gaming minister Troy Grant ignored advice to release the report, which recommended banning “losses disguised as wins” in poker machines.

The losses disguised as wins feature refers to the use of flashing lights and celebratory music, even when players make a net loss on a machine. For example, when a player bets $1 and “wins” 75c. Experts say it helps aggravate gambling addiction, and it is the subject of an ongoing federal court battle involving James Packer’s Crown casino company.

The case alleges that pokies are deliberately designed to deceive people about their prospects of winning. It was filed by Maurice Blackburn lawyers on behalf of former poker machine addict Shonica Guy, against casino giant Crown Melbourne and pokies manufacturer Aristocrat Technologies.

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Bay State gamblers subject of long-term study

BOSTON – The relationship between roughly 3,000 Massachusetts residents and the expanding menu of Bay State gambling options will form a unique data set for researchers around the globe, and a top gaming regulator hopes it will eventually rank among the most historic scientific surveys.

The cohort study – which has cost around $3 million so far – is the only one of its kind in the world to begin collecting data on gambling behavior before casinos throw open their doors, according to Rachel Volberg, a professor at UMass Amherst and lead researcher.

Surveys conducted almost entirely before the opening of the state's first slots parlor in 2015 appear to show that Massachusetts had more new cases of problem gambling than other jurisdiction, according to Volberg, who presented some initial findings to the Gaming Commission on Wednesday.

So far all of the data presented was collected before the introduction of casinos, which are scheduled to open over the next 18 months.

Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby said the structure of study would "ideally" look something like the Framingham Heart Study, which recruited thousands of Framingham residents to shed light on cardiovascular disease starting roughly seven decades ago.

The Massachusetts Gambling Impact Cohort Study – or MAGIC – first surveyed 4,860 people and then developed a cohort of 3,139 people that researchers will regularly check in on, enabling them to watch trends and witness individual narratives as gambling develops a further presence in the state.

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Is this the future face of sports gambling?

A fat, Jewish kid from Chicago, by his own account, Robert Gorodetsky is also a 25-year-old college dropout who has emerged as one of the most compelling and controversial, albeit largely unknown, figures in sports.

He wears a black cap with white letters that spell GAMBLR., and like his personal logo with the missing “e" suggests, Gorodetsky is no ordinary betting man.

Sitting courtside at NBA games and behind home plate at Major League Baseball games. Canoodling with beautiful women, including a former Miss Utah and a former Miss California. Sharing photos of himself with athletes such as Odell Beckham Jr. and celebrities such as Drake. Using "gut instinct" to bet upwards of $100,000 on games. Winning and losing millions of dollars in what he calls "BigRobStyle."

In seven days of being shadowed by USA TODAY Sports in October and November, Gorodetsky wagered well over $1 million on a range of sporting events and tens of thousands of dollars more on blackjack and roulette.

He bets upwards of $350,000 on NFL Sundays, $100,000 on MLB games and tens of thousands of dollars on the NBA, WNBA, tennis, soccer and high school sports — even on “smoking hot” women whom Gorodetsky calls dimes. (Dimes, as in perfect 10s. Get it?)

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Gambling-style apps offered on Facebook without age checks

Fears grow over children’s risk of addiction as fixed-odds betting terminal supplier offers ‘social games’ aimed at young people

The company behind thousands of the UK’s fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) is offering gambling-style apps on Facebook without age checks, prompting allegations that children are being exposed to the risk of addiction.

Earlier this month, the industry watchdog warned that more than 60,000 children were either gambling addicts or were in danger of becoming hooked. Experts have warned that games mimicking real-life gambling are the “number one risk factor” for developing a problem later in life.

Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, who has launched a party review of gambling policy, said: “It is deeply worrying that games designed to get children in the habit of gambling are being marketed and played online. The company that makes these products is cynically targeting young people, some of whom are at risk of developing gambling addictions later in life.”

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Ohio among states itching to OK sports betting

A new report predicts that 16 states will introduce bills to regulate sports betting this year, with 11 — including Ohio — having a good chance of passing legislation.

Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, which tracks gambling legislation nationwide, said that is just the minimum; the firm predicts that more than 30 states could introduce sports betting bills.

The U.S. Supreme Court this year will decide a case brought by New Jersey that seeks to overturn a ban on sports betting in all but four states: Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon. A favorable ruling in that case could open the floodgates in terms of states adopting a new form of gambling.

“Assuming a Supreme Court decision or action by Congress permits it, we could see the largest simultaneous expansion of regulated gambling in U.S. history with sports betting in 2018,” said Chris Grove, the company’s managing director.

The court is expected by June to decide New Jersey’s case, which seeks to overturn a ban on sports betting by any state that did not meet a 1991 deadline to legalize it. States and private companies in the U.S. and abroad are already moving quickly to position themselves for a favorable ruling.

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Your Family: Gambling Problems

Sheryl Bautch from the Family Service of Champaign County joins the Morning Show with some tips for noticing when gambling could be becoming a problem.

Gambling has become an acceptable and popular form of entertainment for seniors. However, for some seniors, gambling for fun turns into problem gambling with serious, negative consequences. There are warning signs of which seniors and their families should be aware.

Entertainment and socialization: For seniors facing boredom and loneliness, gambling can be fun and exciting. It can also be an opportunity to socialize with others in a friendly and safe environment.

Increased availability: Opportunities for gambling have increased dramatically from what they were a generation ago, from casinos, to the Lottery, to Internet gambling.

Changing cultural values: While gambling was once widely regarded as sinful or immoral, it is now promoted as safe, fun and wholesome entertainment.

The lure of the “Big Win”: Many seniors are on a fixed income and are really struggling financially. Gambling presents the possibility, however unlikely, of winning big and being financially set for life, not just for the senior but for his or her children and grandchildren as well.

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Pros and Cons of Gambling on Mobile

The mobile platform has taken the world by storm, having an effect on nearly every industry across the globe. The fact that most people have been able to access smartphones and tablets much easier in recent times has driven most industries to embrace the culture and provide their goods and services on it. The gambling industry was among the first businesses to take these step in the early 2000s.

Gambling on the mobile arena is among the latest trends in the casino business. Ten years ago, this platform was unheard of; five years ago, only a few had access to it; today, it is a force to be reckoned with. With millions of gamers shifting their interests from brick and mortar casinos to the mobile platform, the trend has been able to pick up quite fast. The first mobile casino was launched back in 2013, and nearly all gaming software developers followed suit once they saw the potential the business had.

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Gambling priest had enabler: The state of Pennsylvania

The Darby Borough priest sent to prison for embezzling more than a half-million dollars to help fuel his gambling habit raises questions about the role of his two co-conspirators: the casinos and the state.

No doubt Msgr. William A. Dombrow is responsible for his actions and will serve his time in prison. But the casinos and lawmakers in Harrisburg share some responsibility for enabling the gambling addiction of Dombrow and thousands of others like him.

It is not enough to advertise gambling hotlines and issue canned statements telling customers to gamble responsibly. Nor is it enough to set aside a paltry .002 percent of casino revenues to treat gambling addicts.

The jobs and tax revenue generated by casinos come at a cost.

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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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