Category Archives: Gambling Regulation

Virginia To See Expansion of Slot Machines

Rosie’s Gaming will be opening its latest slot machine parlor in the town of Dumfries in southern Prince William County. The facility will host over 100 machines and marks a continued expansion of gambling in the state.

The machines are know as historic horse racing slots. They function exactly the same as traditional slot machines with the same look and feel as those on the Vegas strip. The odds and results however, are based on the outcomes of old horse races. The terminals offer a rarely used feature which allows users to wager based on stats of the horses’ odds and previous results.

Gambling expansion in Virginia has had a tough time getting a foothold. Voters in the state have long rejected the practice. However, the Virginia State Legislature approved the use of such slot machines and since 2018, they have seen a steady rise in popularity. The slot terminals at Rosie’s are operated by the same company that is currently running slot machines at Colonial Downs racetrack located in New Kent County and a portion of those proceeds are devoted to the purses for races at Colonial Downs as a way to boost the horse racing industry in Virginia. Gamblers in the state have responded positively to the machines in places where they are active. At Colonial Downs off of Midlothian Turnpike in Richmond as well as in Winton and Hampton, patrons have helped make the HHR slots a Virginia success story. Revenues are up and in November the machines paid out total winnings of $155 million of roughly $170 million wagered.

Competition Abounds

This is an encouraging sign for Rosie’s which will face top competition from larger casinos in the area. Currently, Virginia residents can travel a short distance across the Potomac River to MGM National Harbor. Located in Maryland, it is one of the biggest casinos on the east coast. Alternatively, patrons can travel to West Virginia to place their wagers at the Hollywood Casino at the Charles Town racetrack. Both locations are a short travel distance for Northern Virginia residents and offer additional casino amenities such as table games.

Rosie’s will see increased competition in the coming months as well. The Virginia Lottery is set to approve a number of commercial licenses for online sports betting. In addition, four other Virginia cities have voted to open new casinos which are expected to launch in the next few years.

Optimistic Outlook

Management of Rosie’s is confident that they will be able to offer Virginians an enticing gambling location. Rick Casagrande is the general manger for Rosie’s Dunfries location. “In every jurisdiction, the people that come out are looking for an entertainment option that’s clean, safe, and friendly. And we provide that,” he said.

Mayor of Dunfries, Derrick Wood, and other town officials took a tour of the new facility as the final slot terminals arrived and the finishing touches were added. Wood stated that he was impressed with the effort Rosie’s is making. He is also optimistic for what the facility will do for the community. Rosie’s will be hiring over 100 local residents at $15 per hour and has made substantial commitments to assist local groups like the Boys and Girls Club.

In 2019 voters in Dunfries passed gambling 468 to 306. Mayor Wood suspects that those opposed to the expansion will remain so despite the new Rosie’s facility. “Everybody ain’t gonna like you, everybody ain’t gonna like me, and everybody ain’t gonna like every business that comes to town,” he said. However, some opponents could be won over as they start to see the improvements that Rosie’s plans to bring to the town he said. Rosie’s will be the biggest employer to establish itself in town in a few years. Conservative estimates place increases in revenue to the town at roughly 20% to start. “Dunfries has always been a place people drive through. Now we are trying to create a sense of destination,” says Wood.

Senator Scott Surovell has supported the town’s plan to bring Rosie’s Gaming to Dunfries. He stated that while he does not personally gamble, he is excited at the prospect of keeping gamblers in the state. “From where I live, I can walk a few blocks and look out over the Potomac and see $150 million in Virginia money going across the bridge. I’ve always said I’d be supportive of keeping Virginia’s money here in a responsible way.”

Arkansas Casinos Are Exempt From New Health Restrictions

Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas has issued new health restrictions in relation to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The health restrictions stipulate that bars, restaurants, and other locations with licenses to distribute alcohol are required to close no later than 11 pm. This order will be in effect through January 3 and the hope is that this curfew on alcohol will help to stop the spread of coronavirus in the state.

But not for Casinos

Thankfully, to many of Arkansas residents, the health restrictions will not extend to casinos. According to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration casinos will continue to be allowed to function from 9 am to 2 am in accordance with the health order issued last May. Industry leaders were also happy to hear the news of this exclusion.

Carlton Saffa is the Chief Market Officer at the Saracen Casino Resort. According to him, the exclusion of casinos from this recent health related order was not a mistake nor an oversight. “We are licensed as a casino,” said Saffa. “Obviously, we’re inclusive of some subsets of hospitality but this property is a gaming facility, just like Oaklawn and just like Southland. Since the onset of Covid-19 and the government’s first reactions to it, casinos have been regulated uniquely, and we should be.” The Department of Finance has issued guidance that confirms this opinion.

Amendment 100 to the Arkansas constitution allowed for the operation of four casinos in the state. According to the text, “Casino licensees shall be permitted to sell intoxicating liquor or provide complimentary servings of intoxicating liquor, only for on-premises consumption at the casinos, during all hours in which the casino licensees conduct casino gaming. To that extent, casino licensees shall not be subject to Ark. Code Ann. §3-3-211, which prohibits the sale of intoxicating liquor on Christmas Day, and Ark. Code Ann. §3-9-201, et seq. and other applicable Arkansas law requiring the residents of a dry county or city to vote to approve the sale of intoxicating liquor.”

Still doing their part

Therefore, casinos fall outside of the purview of the recent health restrictions. However, Saffa has taken the initiative to assist the state in attempting to stop the spread of Covid-19. The dine-in restaurants at the Saracen Casino will close at 11 pm as will the casino’s bar venues. On the gaming floor, drink service will continue until the casino closes daily operation at 2 am. In addition, all of the other health related measures practiced at large across the country will continue to be observed. Disposable drinkware, social distancing, sanitation stations, and mask requirements will all still be in place. “Outside of that, we’ll continue to do what we have been doing, which is to continue to implement a robust contact tracing protocol. The casino industry has been asked by the state to participate in contact tracing for all patrons, so thousands of people enter this building every day and every one of their IDs are scanned, so we have a running log of who comes in the building,” says Saffa.

States Across the Union Approve Expansions In Gambling

The gambling industry in the US saw positive results at the polls this November. Three states approved measures authorizing legal sports gambling. In addition, three more states approved and/or expanded their casino gambling market.

Sports Betting

South Dakota, Maryland, and Louisiana authorized ballot measures to introduce sports gambling into their states. With these additions, more than half of the states in America will have some form of legalized sports betting. This is no small feat after less than three years have passed since the US Supreme Court ruled the practice no longer illegal under federal law.

Sports gamblers likely will not be able to place legal bets in their respective states until at least 2021 and possibly into the year 2022. The state legislators in South Dakota, Maryland, and Louisiana are now tasked with creating a legal framework for the industry. The next steps will be rules and a regulatory structure for licensing private operators. Only then will legal sports books start taking their first bets.

Casino Expansions

Virginia

The state of ? Voters in Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth, and Norfolk, Virginia approved measures bringing casino gambling to their communities. “We look forward to fulfilling the trust the voters have placed in us by bringing 1,300 good-paying jobs, tourism dollars and economic development to the city, and we are incredibly excited to begin construction,” said Tom Reeg, Chief Executive Officer of Caesars Entertainment, of the successful Danville proposal.

Colorado

Colorado has expanded the types of games allowed on its casino floors while at the same time eliminating certain limits on wagers. Casinos in Black Hawk, Cripple Creek, and Central City will be introducing new games on their gambling floors. Baccarat, Keno, and a spinning wheel will all be available for state residents to play. In addition, state casinos are eliminating betting limits which restricted maximum bets to $100.

Nebraska

Nebraska authorized a measure which will add casino gambling in its horse tracks. Casino games will be added to horse racing facilities at Horsemen’s Park in Omaha, Lincoln Race Course, Fonner Park in Grand Island, Ag Park in Columbus, and Atokad in South Sioux City. Supporters of the state’s casino expansion say that taxing the industry could add nearly $65 million annually to state coffers. That revenue is slated to go to property tax relief for state residents.

A Positive Future

“It appears that Americans are becoming increasingly comfortable with legalized gambling,” says David Schwartz. Schwartz is a gambling historian at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. He went on, “the addition of casinos in Virginia and racetrack casinos in Nebraska indicates that casino-style gambling is on the upswing as well. We have reached a point where voters seem satisfied that legalizing gambling will offer positive returns for their state.”

Leaders in the country’s gaming industry are optimistic about what these expansions mean for the future of the gambling market. The American Gaming Association is the main trade group for the casino industry. Bill Miller, the AGA’s Chief Executive Officer, praised the decisions of voters in expanding gambling legislation. “As a result of successful ballot measures in six gaming states, more Americans will have access to much needed job opportunities, dedicated tax revenue, and safe, regulated entertainment options closer to home.”

Roulette Wheels Spin Again in Massachusetts

The game of roulette has returned to Massachusetts casinos. However, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, strict guidelines of play will be enforced. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission ruled on the reintroduction of roulette in a meeting this past week. The decision was to allow roulette to return on the gaming floor with the addition of a number of changes to the rules of the game in order to limit patron contact. The Commission approved roulette at the MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor.

The Commission allowed Massachusetts casinos to reopen in July. While most games were live, poker, craps, and roulette were not allowed back on gaming floors. According to Loretta Lillios, Interim Director of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s Investigation and Enforcement Bureau, both the MGM and Encore made requests to the Commission to reintroduce the games after three months of safe casino operation.

“We have worked with them to identify health and safety measures that could be implemented with roulette and in doing so we tried to hew closely to the measures that the commission already approved for the blackjack-style games,” said Lillios. “One of our obligations with a request like this is that we consult with the Department of Public Health and the department raised no objections to the reintroduction of the game and it communicated that it is comfortable doing so in conjunction with the minimum safety measures outlined here.”

The Department of Public Health also considered the fact that roulette is offered in casinos in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. That means that Massachusetts residents do not have to travel far from their home state in order to play the game.

New Rules Being Introduced

In order to offer roulette, the casinos must adhere to a set of safety guidelines set forth by the commission. Roulette will be cap at a maximum of three players. Each player will be required to be seated and will be separated by plexiglass. Bystanders will not be permitted to stand around the table and spectate. Encore will offer 16 roulette tables and MGM will be permitted to offer seven tables. However, neither casino will be permitted to raise their occupancy limit with the addition of the game.

Another significant rule change will be a prohibition on bets placed once the ball is in motion. According to Bruce Band, Assistant Director of the Investigation and Enforcement Bureau, classic roulette depends upon the dealer’s ability to hear and process verbal bets once the ball is placed in motion. With the Covid-19 health precautions, namely masks and plexiglass, the commission was concerned this would make verbal bets more difficult. Therefore, the decision was reached to simply eliminate these types of bets for the time being.

Commissioners took a positive stance on reintroducing the game. “I think we now have a history of watching our licensees and patron compliance,” said Commissioner Eileen O’Brien. “The numbers are not static; they are trending in the opposite direction of what we would like to see. But on balance I think if you look at the integrity of the games, the protections in place, the lack of increase to occupancy, the additional rehires that would occur as a result, I think it is an appropriate time now to discuss this and vote on it as a commission.”

Senators Eyeing Large Video Gaming Terminal Expansion in Pa.

Republican senators have been working tirelessly on an effort to bring a sweeping gambling expansion to the state of Pennsylvania before lawmakers break for the summer. The proposal, led by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, would bring an influx of video gaming terminals (VGTs) to the state. The majority of the effort was worked on behind closed doors, and now as the details of the bill have been shared, many are raising concerns about the proposal. Now officials are scrambling in an attempt to direct their efforts toward a resolution that will help push this bill before the summer holiday begins.

Details of Proposal

The new proposal is the result of a collaboration between Republican senators and lobbyists for large video gaming companies. The two have paired up in an attempt to bring VGTs to thousands of bars, taverns, social clubs, and other establishments holding a liquor license. A draft copy of the bill states that VGTs would be allowed at the majority of nearly 15,000 establishments currently holding a liquor license in the state. Each establishment could have up to five terminals, which could mean nearly 50,000 VGTs would become available if the bill is passed. Similar VGTs are currently operational at truck stops throughout the state, but these machines are not regulated and taxed, which is part of the reason why Republicans have brought the latest proposal to the table.

The Republican Senators in favor of the bill see it as an opportunity to capitalize on untapped revenue, as well as a way to offer safe and regulated VGTs to residents. Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman stated that the proposal was not necessarily about a sweeping gambling expansion, but rather a way to control and regulate the existing skill game terminals that are operating throughout the state. Many officials have questioned the legality of these terminals, some even calling for their removal. The latest proposal would regulate these terminals, while ensuring that the state benefits from the revenue produced.

Corman estimates that the proposal could raise up to $250 million annually. Under the current circumstances, this revenue could be directed toward mitigating the damage dealt from the coronavirus pandemic. In the future, the goal would be to direct this revenue to help freeze property taxes for senior citizens.

Many Officials Have Reservations

Since the behind-the-scenes campaign has come to the fore, many have found flaws in the plan and are questioning the timing of the proposal. The mounting challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic have forced many of the businesses in which these VGTs would be placed to close their doors for some time. Although businesses throughout the country are slowly beginning to reopen, the threat of the virus spreading remains and the safety of these terminals has come into question.

Additionally, many of the large gaming companies involved in the push for the new proposal were responsible for the funding of Scarnati’s campaign, leading many to question the integrity of the new proposal. Pennsylvania’s casinos have also weighed in, arguing that a gaming expansion this large could infringe upon their revenue, which has already taken a major hit from closures caused by the pandemic.

Timeline for the Proposal

The Senators pushing the bill have been optimistic about the expansion, but the mounting concerns and lack of support from Republicans and Democrats alike suggest that there is still a long way to go before these terminals become a reality. As of Tuesday, there were not enough votes from the Republicans to move the proposal forward, yet leaders were still hopeful that a vote could take place this week. If they fail to do so, it will be a race against the clock, as the legislature will break for summer at the end of the month, and they will not return again until September.

IGT and Twin River Partnership in Question

In January, Twin River Worldwide Holdings Inc. and International Gaming Technology (IGT) reached an agreement to embark on a joint-venture to pursue a 20-year contract for the state’s lottery and gambling rights. The deal would also expand and renovate the Twin River’s Lincoln casino, as well as a 12,000 square-foot Twin River headquarters in Providence, Rhode Island. The two entities were previously at odds over IGT’s ongoing attempts to lock down a 20-year contract extension that would have given them the right to the majority of Rhode Island’s slot machine needs. Now, it appears they were able to set aside their differences, giving IGT the opportunity to dominate slot machine offerings under their partnership. The proposed deal has now reached the desk of lawmakers and state gambling regulators, who have asked the two companies to defend their joint venture.

IGT’s Stronghold on Rhode Island

IGT is one of the leading slots providers around the world, offering machines for brick-and-mortar casinos, as well as online slots. Prior to their latest dealings with Twin River, IGT was responsible for providing about half of the nearly 5,000 slot machines in operation at the two gambling facilities in Rhode Island. The 20-year contract that was in dispute, would give them an even stronger command over the gaming industry in the state, and the resolution of this dispute suggests that IGT is inching closer to their goal.

If the proposed deal is accepted by lawmakers, IGT would emerge as a 60 percent shareholder of the new company, leaving Twin River with only a 40 percent stake. A new contract could grant IGT the right to provide and collect revenue on 85 percent of the video slots offered in the state. Previously Twin River was the only threat for a competing bid at the new contract, and now those tensions, it would appear, have subsided.

Details of the Partnership

The proposed partnership and legislation include exclusive management of 100 percent of video slot machines by IGT and Twin River. Under this deal, the companies would pay the state $25 million over two years for the lottery and gambling contract. Additionally, it is expected that IGT would be investing around $150 million for this project, in addition to the $100 million being used to renovate the Twin River Lincoln Casino. The new deal also guarantees to keep the 1,100 casino-related jobs in Rhode island, which will help generate the projected $300 million a year from slots and other casino games. The two companies believe that this partnership presents Rhode Island with the opportunity to increase gaming competitiveness with neighboring states like Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Criticism from Lawmakers

While officials have applauded IGT and Twin River for providing the state’s third-largest source of revenue, there are still a number of lingering questions that need to be addressed. There had been many concerns surrounding the length of the contract, especially before the joint venture was proposed. Initially, Twin River was adamant about encouraging competition and blocking 20-year contracts. Under their new partnership, they are included in the 20-year contract, and appear to be changing their tune.

The $25 million over two years for the lottery contract is the same amount that IGT proposed last year. That proposal was shot down and opposed by Twin River. A year later, under their new partnership, Twin River seems to feel that this is an appropriate amount. Director of Revenue, Marc Furcolo, disagrees, citing the fact that the latest proposal is for two exclusive licenses instead of one. In his eyes, the committee should thus expect more payment up front.

Many officials continue to question the length of the contract, pointing out that Rhode Island would be forced pay a premium while leasing slot machines from IGT for the next 20 years, rather than owning them outright. Republican House candidate Steven Frias suggested the deal should be for 10 years, at most. The new deal eliminates any opportunity for a competitive bid for lottery and gambling rights. According to Frias, in order to compete with neighboring states, Rhode Island should avoid locking themselves into a long-term deal like this.

The deal has done a lot to progress discussions about the future of gambling within the state, but many questions remain to be answered. Legislators will have to review the deal more closely before allowing IGT and Twin River to take over slot offerings for the next 20 years.

24-Hour Slots Raise Questions in Alberta

In the province of Alberta, Canada, casinos have been unplugging their slots between 3am and 10 am every day. That’s all about to change, as the Alberta Gaming Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) regulatory body lifts the ban and allows for 24-hour slots. The decision reflects recent regulatory changes made within the province, giving the casino operators the option to try and capitalize on the increased gaming time if they choose to do so. The sudden change comes in hopes of benefiting businesses but has not avoided speculation from groups who think the decision could be harmful to some.

Reasons for the Change

Heather Holman, spokeswoman for the AGLC, stated that the motion to allow 24-hour slots came from casino operators interested in using the additional slot time to support their business. While many provinces in Canada have already established a local online monopoly, Alberta still chooses to offer gambling on its well-established brick-and-mortar operations. There are 27 land-based casinos within the province that could capitalize on these new regulatory changes, while the possibility of an online gambling launch looms on the horizon.

As it stands, a number of casinos already operate 24 hours a day, offering 24-hour poker tables and other casino-style games. The AGLC will also continue to allow the sale of liquor between 10 am and 2 am, as well consumption until 3 am. As it stands, there is no timeline for when the new regulations for slots could go into effect. The belief is that this change could help counteract any future online gambling expansion that could take business away from brick-and-mortar locations

Concerns Surrounding 24-hour Slots

Many believe that the increased accessibility of slots poses a significant threat to gamblers in the form of potential addictive behaviors. Slots in particular offer instant results with very little time in between each opportunity to place a new bet. Gamblers can easily sit down at a slot machine and continuously place bet after bet, accumulating small or large wins and losses. The ability to sit down and pull a lever makes slots potentially more dangerous than a game like poker, which requires constant decision making about the game and the amount of money being wagered.

Some professionals have spoken out against the recent changes, claiming that they could indicate a slippery slope for the future of gambling and citizens interested in taking advantage of the new gaming opportunities. Ray Reshke, executive director of the Problem Gambling Resources Network (PGRN), sees the new regulations as an opportunity for casinos to take advantage of the AGLC and citizens alike. As the AGLC loosens regulations on the hours of operation for slots, Reshke believes casinos could push for them to do the same for other areas of gambling as well. Reshke claims that PGRN was unaware of the changes until after they had officially been made.

David Hodgins, a psychology professor at the University of Calgary, offered his opinion on the potential threat to gamblers as well. Hodgins believes that former regulations on slot operation times forces gamblers to take a break from gambling, giving them the time they need to realize the consequences of their wins and losses. Forcing gamblers to take breaks gives them the ability to regain control before falling victim to addictive gambling behaviors.

The Final Say

In response to backlash against the new regulations, Holman stated that the intentions of the AGLC are to find ways to support player wellness while offering a variety of gaming entertainment options. In this case, that means allowing casino operators the opportunity to offer 24-hour slots. As it stands, the AGLC sees no reason to backtrack on their decision to allow 24-hour slots in the province’s land-based casinos.

Pamunkey Tribe Planning to Build Richmond Casino

The Pamunkey Indian Tribe announced their attentions to build a new $350 million casino and resort in Richmond, Virginia, last week. The tribe has already acquired a significant amount of property within the city in order to begin construction on the planned facilities. However, the tribe could face significant roadblock: the state of Virginia has yet to legalize commercial gambling. Now the tribe is hoping to get their project approved by city officials, thanks to their status under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

History of Gambling in Virginia

Bettors in the state of Virginia have virtually no option when it comes to gambling on slots or casino games. Those interested in placing wagers must travel to brick-and-mortar locations in neighboring states, and they can do so through a number of services provided in the state to help them travel by bus to these casinos. As it stands, the state is losing potential gambling revenues to these neighboring states, and the Pamunkey tribe sees an opportunity to capitalize on these potential revenues.

There are some forms of regulated gambling in Virginia, however these options leave a lot to be desired for anyone who is looking to play slots or a hand of poker. At age 18, Virginia residents can choose to play the lottery, daily fantasy sports, bingo at a regulated bingo hall, or they can visit a horse racing track to bet on their favorite horses. Aside from these options, the state of the Virginia has very strict rules against any of the games that would be offered at the proposed Richmond Casino.

In many states throughout the country, Native American tribes are given the opportunity to legally operate casinos and other gaming facilities under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Under the act, Native American Tribes are free to conduct gaming on Indian Lands, meaning the Pamunkey Tribe may not need to wait for the passing of new bill to launch their new project.

Do the Pamunkeys Have a Right to Operate a Casino?

The Pamunkey Tribe received federal recognition from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs in 2015 and have since made clear their intentions to establish gaming operations through brick-and-mortar casinos. Their first proposed project in Norfolk was met with opposition when another tribe challenged their right to the land for the new casino. For the Richmond proposed project, the tribe has already acquired 49 acres of property in Richmond’s industrial Southside, and it appears that this time they will not be met with opposition.

With the challenge to their right to the land in Norfolk, the Pamunkey tribe can’t move forward with that proposed project unless the Virginia General Assembly passes a commercial gambling bill in the spring. In 2018, video horse-racing terminals that operate similarly to slot machines urged lawmakers to propose a bill that would grant five cities in the state, including Richmond, the right to allow commercial casino licenses. That bill could still pass this spring, when lawmakers vote on the issue at the end of the session on March 7. Either way, In Richmond, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act gives the tribe the right to launch their latest project with the consent of city officials.

Details of the Project

The new casino resort in Richmond would include a 275-room hotel, a spa, a high-end restaurant, and a number of casino staples, such as slots and poker. Mock-ups of the project depict a tall glass building including balconies and a roof deck. Early estimates predict that the project could create 1,000 construction jobs and an additional 1,500 casino jobs. At the conclusion of construction, a temporary training facility for casino employees would be converted into a grocery store, health clinic, or community resource for the city.

The revenue from the Pamunkey casino would benefit the tribe members, rather than the Richmond community. The money generated would be used for increased access to health care, as well as education and cultural opportunities.

The tribe still needs the city to accept their proposal of the project, but there seems little reason for the city to block the new casino and resort. If the proposed casino bill is passed in the spring, then there will be nothing standing in the way between the Pamunkey Tribe and their two projects. In an attempt to gain support from the local community, the Pamunkey Tribe launched a Facebook page called “All in for Richmond Casino” and is asking fans to follow for updates.

Gaming Terminals in Missouri Raise Legal Concerns

Video gambling terminals have become readily available throughout the state of Missouri, making it easy for any resident to take a trip to their local convenience store to start betting. This ease of access has raised many questions about the regulation processes for these games and the potentially negative effects they have had on residents and businesses throughout the state. The Missouri Gaming Commission has ruled that the only legal slot machines are those that are offered in the state’s 13 brick-and-mortar casinos, suggesting that action be taken on to remove the gaming terminals that have popped up in other locations. On the heels of a number of informal complaints as well as lawsuits, state lawmakers are now hoping to provide clarification about the legality of these machines.

Operating Without Regulation

Unregulated gaming terminals, similar to the types of electronic slot machines that can be found in brick-and-mortar casinos, have popped up at gas stations, bars, and clubs throughout the state. The immediate convenience of these terminals gives residents access to gaming opportunities that they used to travel longer distances to play. By placing these gaming terminals in these convenient locations, gamblers have found it easier to travel a few minutes down the road to take their chances on the slot machine-style games, rather than to driving to a brick-and-mortar casino. Additionally, these games have become available to many residents who have never set foot inside a casino, encouraging new players to try their hand. The combination of these two things has created the perfect storm of concerns. 

The terminals operating outside of casinos in Missouri are doing so without the regulation of the Missouri Gaming Commission. This means that there are no rules governing acceptable payouts or acceptable odds. The chances of winning at these terminals can be less that the chances of winning at a casino, which is forced to adhere to certain guidelines deemed appropriate by state lawmakers. Without the proper regulations for the video terminals, there are no protections in place to prevent gambling addiction or provide resources to those who are addicted.

Research has shown that slot machines are one of the most addictive forms of gambling, due to the fact that bettors can see instantly whether or not they have won their bet, and then can immediately place another bet after seeing the result. This type of instant risk and reward makes it a prime concern for addictive gambling behaviors, and the lack of regulation on these gaming terminals throughout the state makes it all the more concerning. Additionally, some residents who have used these terminals expressed that they were completely unaware that these games were not being regulated, which could put them at risk for dangerous gambling behaviors.

Threat to Existing Gambling Operations

In addition to the concerns surrounding residents and gambling addiction, the new gaming terminals pose a significant threat to legal gambling operations in Missouri. Easy access terminals could be deterring residents who would otherwise be spending their money on the lottery or at established casinos that are adhering to the laws laid out by the state.
Both the lottery and the brick-and-mortar casinos in the state are responsible for paying taxes to various state programs. For example, casino slot machines are taxed on the earnings they make each year, and a portion of those earnings are dedicated to funding education. If residents are choosing to go to a local gas station instead of one of these casinos, then educational funding will suffer.

Casino slot machines are required to offer payouts of at least 80 percent. This regulation ensures that games are fair, and that players aren’t being taken advantage of. Players have generally a 1-in-4 chance at winning some of these slot games, but their gaming terminal counterparts are not held to these same standards since they are unregulated. This means that the companies operating these terminals could be taking advantage of players without providing any safeguard against gambling addiction.

Emerging Legal Issues

A civil suit filed in Crawford County is calling for the removal of machines owned by Torch Electronics, whose machines have contributed to all of the concerns surrounding what the Missouri Gaming Board has called illegal machines. Torch Electronics has not disclosed its payouts or whether it has put any significant programs in place to prevent gambling addiction or offer programs for treatment. What’s more, is that Torch Electronics has been linked with a number of high-powered lobbyists and political consultants, including Mike Parson, who received $20,000 from the company for his political campaign. These dealings do little to help ease concerns of residents and lawmakers.

Torch Electronics and other companies responsible for the operation of the alleged illegal gaming terminals argue that their machines are legal amusement devices because they require skill not chance in order to win. However, even if that is the case these machines must still face some form of regulation like their casino counterparts. Now these issues will be brought before lawmakers for the 2020 session on January 8.

Pennsylvania Mall to Open Mini Casino

On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board voted unanimously to give a “mini casino” license to Penn National in order to begin construction at York Galleria Mall. With the issuing of this license, the mini casino will become the third of its kind and will be replacing what was once a Sears department store. The announcement of the new casino is reflective of the larger trends throughout the state and nation in which retail department stores are declining, while retail and online gambling are rapidly expanding.

The addition of this new satellite casino was made possible through a gambling expansion that was passed in Pennsylvania back in 2017. Casinos throughout the state have placed bids on satellite facilities in hopes of capitalizing on the new law. Philadelphia-based Stadium Casino LLC just recently broke ground on a satellite casino in Western Pennsylvania at Westmoreland Mall called Live! Casino Pittsburgh. Penn National is also working on Hollywood Casino Morgantown in Berks County. The project at York Galleria Mall is the latest development in the growing interest in mini casinos.

What to Expect from the Mini Casino

The awarding of the license gives Penn National the ability to construct a Category 4 casino, which they earned through their bid of roughly $50 million in an auction that lasted only 60 seconds. The casino is being constructed in a repurposed 80,000 square foot retail facility and will be affiliated with the Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course. Penn National has stated its already invested nearly $120 million in the project.

Construction is already underway at what will be the Hollywood Casino York, and it is expected that the casino will open in the next 12 to 13 months. According to a press release issued by Casino City Times, Hollywood Casino York will operate on a single floor, offering 500 slot machines, 24 table games, a sports and race book, and a variety of dining and entertainment facilities. The slots will include both reel and video, ranging from penny to $100 denominations. The table games are set to include craps, blackjack, and roulette, while regular live entertainment is expected to be scheduled on Fridays and Saturdays. By law, the license gives Penn National the option of expanding to a maximum of 750 slot machines and 40 table games. The company has not expressed interest in doing so, but an expansion could come if the mini casino proves to be successful.

Local Reception to New Casino Project

The casino has met little opposition in a state that is already home to many brick-and-mortar casinos, and the new Penn National project will be welcomed with open arms in place of and abandoned department store. Residents of Springettsbury Township, home of the York Galleria Mall and the new casino, were given the opportunity to voice their opinions of the new deal at a public hearing last year. While there were concerns surrounding a potential increase in crime and drop in property values, the majority of people were in favor of the new casino.

The new Hollywood Casino York is expected to create 260 construction jobs over the course of the next year. After opening, the casino is expected to have the equivalent of 200 full time positions. In addition to the new employment opportunities the new casino is expected to generate $1 million in annual tax revenue of the local community.