Category Archives: Gambling Regulation

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.

Slot Machines or Skill Games: PA Commonwealth Ruling Adds to Confusion

Pace-O-Matic (POM) of Pennsylvania has been programming and manufacturing gaming devices for more than 44 years. In the past decade, however, their video game terminals, which have popped up in locations throughout the state, have raised questions about whether or not these machines should be considered illegal gambling devices. The deciding factor in the legality of POM’s machines, for years, has been their designation as Pennsylvania Skill games, rather than slot machines. A 2014 court ruling from the Beaver County Court of Common Pleas designated POM’s video game terminals as legal games of predominant skill, requiring players to use dexterity rather than chance to win. However, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court confirmed this week that the machines manufactured and distributed by POM are, by definition, “slot machines” under Pennsylvania law. Now opposing parties are adding their two cents about the ruling and what it could mean for POM’s operations throughout the state.

Details of the Ruling

The court decision focused on the POM terminals that can be found throughout the state in convenience stores, bars, and restaurants. Judge Patricia McCullough ruled that these machines do in fact fit the definition of slots as described in the Gaming Act. However, McCullough did not pass judgment in regard to whether or not POM was violating the Gaming Act. The court provided no conclusive decision on whether or not these machines could be classified as illegal gambling devices, citing the fact that the Gaming Act is not applicable to unlicensed slot machines. The court’s decision did nothing to help provide clarification on what should be done with the thousands of machines in operation, and thus opposing parties have interpreted the decision as they see fit.

Casinos in Opposition

Thomas C. Bonner, Group Vice President and Legal and Chief Counsel for Parx Casino, called for law enforcement to take action against what he has referred to illegal Pennsylvania Skill slot machines. In a press release, Bonner stated that Parx casino urges the Pennsylvania State Police, the Office of Attorney General, as well as police departments and District Attorneys across the state to bring an end to the POM gaming terminals. Parx believes that the new ruling, designating the games as slot machines, is grounds for officials to confiscate existing gaming terminals, as they are in violation of the law.

Bonner went as far to suggest that the machines operate in the same way that illegal casinos do, citing a number of issues associated with the safety and well-being of Pennsylvanians. Some of the largest concerns include the ease of access of these machines to minors who could be gambling illegally. Additionally, these machines are tapping into a market of consumers that would otherwise be spending their money on the state Lottery, which generates money for senior citizens. The press release stated that these machines could cause the state Lottery to lose millions of dollars, which would otherwise be benefiting these programs.

POM’s Defense

POM’s legal representative, Matt Haverstick, responded to the statement released by Parx, claiming that the court ruling was in fact a favorable one for POM. The ruling, although giving the video gaming terminals the label of “slot machines,” clearly stated that these games are not regulated by the Gaming Act. No decision about the legal status of the machines has been formally issued, suggesting that nothing has changed since the 2014 ruling other than the label associated with the machines. In regard to the concern surrounding the revenue generated from these games, POM’s Director of Communications Mike Barley expressed that the company is committed to working with legislature to tax and ensure the safety of customers using their terminals. Barley cited the jobs and the tax revenue that the company has generated in the past decade has been tens of millions of dollars.

From POM’s perspective, nothing about the gaming terminals has changed to shift their identity from skill games to illegal slot machines since the 2014 ruling. The machines require players to repeat patterns to maximize their scores and often include arcade-style shooting, which differs significantly from traditional slots. To prevent underage gambling, POM has employed a team of former state troopers to ensure the company is following a strict code of conduct. Despite their protests, POM has been victim to a number of raids upon their operations over the past decade throughout the state, and the latest court ruling has done little to quell their concerns.

What Does it all Mean?

POM has roughly 5,000 machines in operation across the state. As it stands, there appears to be no legal grounds for the confiscation of these machines, but the recent ruling has caused some confusion about that. Casinos appear to be concerned that these machines are infringing upon their business, while also endangering citizens. POM, however, is adamantly holding their ground and demonstrating how their skill-based games can operate freely, with no concern of violating the Gaming Act. For the time being, Judge McCullough’s ruling has done nothing more than change the designation of these machines from “Pennsylvania Skill” to “slot machines.”

Portsmouth Announces Casino Deal with Rush Street Gaming

On Monday, officials in Portsmouth Virginia announced a partnership with gaming industry leader Rush Street Gaming to launch a project that will introduce a new entertainment district to the city. The new entertainment district will be located just off the Tidewater Community College campus, and will be home to casino gaming, restaurants, and other entertainment attractions. Shortly after Monday’s announcement, the Portsmouth City Council voted unanimously in favor of moving ahead with the proposed development, with backing from the Portsmouth Economic Development Authority. Now officials are preparing to move forward with the project, but a number of challenges still remain; including the legalization of casino gaming within the state.

Industry Leaders

Portsmouth Mayor John L. Rowe touted Rush Street Gaming for their reputation throughout the gaming industry over the past 20 years. The Chicago-based company is responsible for the operation of full-service casinos, internet gaming, sports betting, and other entertainment venues throughout the country. One of Rush Street’s most notable achievements in the industry is the development and operation of its four destination casinos under the Rivers Casino brand. These casinos alone have created more than 6,000 new jobs, while also leading the industry in revenue generated in the Midwest and east coast. Rush Street Gaming’s casinos in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Chicago have not only generated substantial revenue for these regions, they have also benefited the communities in which they operate.

Rush Street Gaming has already demonstrated a commitment to serving the citizens of Virginia with the development of the new entertainment district. In addition to expressing their interest in promoting the local community, the company has also shown a dedication to helping non-profit organizations. Portsmouth Economic Development Director Robert D. Moore stated that the goal for the new development is to hire 1,000 local workers, with an average salary of $50,000. In addition to new jobs, the company has promoted its community engagement program called “Rivers Gives,” which aims to empower local employees to support nonprofits in the area. The company is known for its spending at minority and women-owned businesses, which are common throughout the city of Portsmouth. Rush Gaming also believes there is opportunity to offer hospitality business education programs at the neighboring Tidewater Community College.

Legal Challenges

The opportunity to partner with prominent industry leaders is enticing, and the area chosen for the new entertainment district certainly suggests that the new casino could become a hot tourist destination. The site chosen for the new entertainment district and casino is located on Victory Boulevard and offers approximately 50 acres of land. Additionally, the site has a substantial amount of infrastructure already in place for the new development. The new area is slated to become a high interest tourist destination for the state, but first it must overcome a number of legal hurdles that stand in its way.

Some people may feel that the new deal between the city and Rush Street Gaming is an optimistic one, as Virginia waits to see whether or not SB 1126 will be passed in order to legalize the new casino. As it stands, brick-and-mortar casinos are not legal in the state of Virginia, but the newly proposed law aims to solve that issues. In late November, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission will be releasing their findings about the review of casino gaming laws in other states, in order to determine if a gaming expansion in Virginia would be appropriate. The new laws must then be reviewed and adopted by the 2020 Session of the Virginia General Assembly, who would then enact the Code of Virginia amendments. At that point, the City of Portsmouth would hold a local referendum and citizens would have the opportunity to vote on the changes. Without the approval of city officials and citizens, the new deal could fall through and the casino would not be built. Under SB 1126, the Board is prohibited from issuing a license to operate a gaming facility before July 1, 2020. For now, the city will have to wait and see whether or not its deal with Rush Street Gaming can create the tourist destination they are looking for.

United Kingdom Officials Cracking Down on Online Casinos

Officials in the United Kingdom are calling for stricter gambling laws for online casinos amidst ongoing concerns about damaging gambling behaviors and habits. In the UK, anyone over the age of 18 is allowed to gamble with no tax on gambling winnings. The passing of the Gambling Act of 2005 legalized all forms of gambling in the UK, including online platforms, as long as the operators obtained a license from the UK Gambling Commission. Due to easy access and lack of taxation, gambling has become increasingly popular amongst citizens, raising concerns about what gambling operators are doing to ensure the safety of their customers. Members of Parliament (MPs) are now calling for stricter rules to be put in place in order to prevent gambling-related harm. The MPs recent report on gambling identifies some of these troubling behaviors, and now representatives are pushing for a number of new recommendations to change gambling law throughout the UK.

Proposed Changes

The changes suggested by officials are being viewed as a “root and branch” overhaul of gambling law. All of the recommendations focus on online betting, particularly the amount of money bettors are able to spend on a given bet or on their account. The MPs have suggested that the following be considered: a £2 stake limit on online slot machines, the elimination of betting via credit cards, restrictions on VIP accounts, and an investigation into non-disclosure agreements. The proposed £2 stake limit echoes the limit at all fixed-odds betting terminals throughout the UK, which went into effect earlier this year. The decision to end betting via credit card while restricting VIP accounts aims to limit harmful gambling behaviors. Betting via credit card allows bettors to rack up large amounts of debt before having to actually pay for their bets, and VIP or rewards accounts often promote special betting deals that encourage bettors to bet large amounts frequently. In addition to these changes, MPs believe that the Gambling Act of 2005 needs to be revised or replaced. Online gambling, which currently brings in nearly £5.6 billion a year, has changed significantly since 2005 and could benefit from new laws and regulations that appropriately address the online platforms that have become popular in the current market.

Parties in Agreement

The introduction of new policies may seem strict, but they are necessary in order to address harmful gambling habits in the UK. Members from all parties agree that stricter gambling laws must be introduced on some level, suggesting that gambling policy could undergo significant change in the near future. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Labour party have both expressed their support of stricter online gambling regulation, without providing any concrete plans for when changes could be implemented. While the Labour party was largely responsible for the lax gambling laws and regulations associated with the Gambling Act of 2005, they have since acknowledged the growing gambling problem within the UK and hope that action can be taken to resolve some of these issues.

The latest push for reform comes on the heels of a six-month inquiry led by All-Party Parliamentary Group members Duncan Smith, Carolyn Harris, and Ronnie Cowan. Their report provides evidence gathered from gambling companies, as well as gambling addicts. As a result of this inquiry, the UK has since put in place limits on fixed-odds betting terminals and are now hoping to do the same for online slots and games.

Addressing Concerns

Looking ahead, the largest concern for constituents is the safety of citizens who are under financial distress due to gambling addiction. The challenge lies in the ability to properly identify when a person has a gambling problem and whether or not there is existing software that is capable of monitoring this. What constitutes affordable gambling? When is it time for gaming companies to intervene and block bettors from placing additional bets? These are the challenges that officials are now facing in the UK. Brigid Simmonds, chair of the Betting and Gaming Council, suggested that the Gambling Commission, currently responsible for monitoring these issues, isn’t fit to monitor internet gambling since it has grown astronomically from its introduction over ten years ago. Some of the immediate concerns for lawmakers moving forward are ensuring that regulators are able to properly identify vulnerable individuals and to protect children from gambling illegally, while also simplifying terms and conditions for online gambling sites. While no immediate date for reform has been set, the fact that all parties agree that stricter laws should be in place would indicate that change is on the horizon.

Facial Recognition Coming to Las Vegas Casinos

The same type of facial recognition software that has become common in the smartphone industry may be coming to Las Vegas casinos. Konami Gaming Inc., who is already responsible for a large number of slot machine and video gaming terminals throughout Las Vegas, is currently developing slot machines with a small front facing camera to “recognize” patrons after they have registered their photo with the casino’s rewards desk. The same type of technology is also being developed for table games with live dealers. The new technology was introduced earlier this month at the Global Gaming Expo, and it could mean that changes are on the horizon for casinos throughout the country.

Why Facial Recognition?

At first glance, the sudden introduction of facial recognition software in casinos may seem unnecessary or even excessive, but the goal is to ultimately maximize the customer experience. NBC Las Vegas revealed that Konami Vice President Jay Betsch believes these changes are a step in the right direction in catering to customer needs. Facial recognition software will access the database of players who hold rewards cards at the casino. As a player sits down to play, their face will be scanned to help them accumulate rewards points, rather than having them insert their card into a slot machine or giving it to a dealer at a table game. This change means that players will be more likely to receive the rewards they have earned, lest they forget to insert their card.

In addition to the convenience of being able to sit down and enjoy games while racking up rewards points, casinos also believe that the new software can help enhance security. Suspicious activity could be flagged through the facial recognition software, and it could also be used to identify anyone who has been barred from the casino. These applications are tertiary to the use of facial recognition for rewards players but may still be applied once rules and regulations for the software have been set.

Concerns Surrounding Facial Recognition

The introduction of facial recognition technology in casinos has been met with mixed reviews. Facial recognition technology has been popping up across a variety of industries throughout the past decade, and its success hinges on customer acceptance. Often, customers feel that the use of such technology is an invasion of privacy. There exists the idea that such a technology gives customers the feeling of constantly being watched or kept under surveillance. Another concern stems from lawsuits against casinos in other areas of the country who have already implemented facial recognition technology.

In Illinois, two lawsuits have been raised, challenging the application of this technology in casinos. Both Caesars’ Harrah’s Casino and Penn National’s Hollywood Casino have been accused of breaching the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act. The act requires anyone using facial recognition technology scans to gather customer information to notify those customers via a written policy. In failing to do so, the two casinos violated the law, causing customers to file the lawsuit. With the same technology looming on the horizon for Las Vegas casinos, it would be wise for them to consider the rights of the customer.

Projected Launch

To avoid some of the controversy surrounding the new technology, Konami’s program will be designed so that customers may have a choice. Players will be able to choose whether or not they would like to continue using their loyalty cards or begin having their faces scanned as they play games throughout the casino. Additional regulation and guidelines must be considered before implementation, in order to avoid lawsuits similar to the ones that have come about in Illinois. Bertsch says that the way in which the technology is applied will ultimately be up to each individual casino. Konami’s new technology is expected to be ready for casinos throughout Las Vegas sometime in the next six to nine months.

North Carolina Court Rules Against Video Sweepstakes Games

Over the years, Gambling law has been relatively strict in the state of North Carolina, prohibiting almost all forms of gambling with the exception of a few casinos in operation on Indian reservations. Despite these limitations, video game sweepstakes have been available to the public at convenience stores, bars, and standalone sweepstakes cafes for some time. However, a new court ruling that came this past Tuesday could mean the end for many of these operations. The latest decision in the ongoing back and forth between vendors and state legislators claims that these sweepstakes games are in violation of North Carolina law.

Video sweepstakes games located throughout the state have operated like any games found at a brick and mortar or online casino; customers pay money to play these games of chance in order to win money or other items of value. The decision to ban these games is indicative of a constant back and forth between the vendors and the state legislation about whether or not the games require skill. Over the years, as new laws have been put in place to prohibit the machines, vendors have adapted and adjusted the rules for the games in order to remain in operation. The court’s most recent ruling adds a new chapter to this ongoing saga.

History Behind the Recent Ruling

For years, the Sandhills Amusements of Southern Pines has collaborated with Gift Surplus LLC, an Arizona-based company, to operate gaming kiosks throughout North Carolina, but not without facing some form of persistent opposition. In 2013, the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office seized gaming machines throughout their jurisdiction on the grounds that the machines violated the state’s gambling laws. Similar situations cropped up throughout the state, resulting in machines being removed and employees being arrested. As a result, Sandhills Amusements and Gift Surplus sued the sheriff and the state, claiming that their games were legal.

The initial case won in favor of the two gaming companies, but it eventually reached the N.C. Supreme Court, who, in 2015, said the machines violated the law and that all video sweepstakes machines should be prohibited. In response, Sandhills and Gift Surplus changed the way the games worked and replaced the old machines with new ones that met the requirements laid out by the state. The new machines were designed to involve an element of skill, as players had to try and stop the rotating slot machine images on screen with hand-eye coordination.

In 2017, the Superior Court Judge ruled in favor of the gaming companies, stating that North Carolina allows for the operation of promotional sweepstakes games. The changes made to games, the judge said, met federal and state regulations for promotional sweepstakes and did in fact include elements of skill and dexterity. On Tuesday, however, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals overturned this decision, adding to the ongoing confusion surrounding this style of gaming.

Differing Opinions

The panel may have agreed to overturn the decision, but they differed in their explanations for overturning it. As the Fayetteville Observer reported, Judge Hunter Murphy claimed that the slot-machine style games offered an “entertaining display,” which is specifically prohibited by state law. However, Judge Wanda Bryant contested that the term “entertaining display” offers an interpretation that is much too broad to truly outlaw these games. Bryant felt that the games violated the sweepstakes law due to the fact that chance, not skill, determined the outcome of the games. Judge Allegra Collins agreed with both Murphy and Bryant, stating that the games do have an entertaining display and depend largely on chance, not skill.

Over the years, the sweepstakes gaming terminals have been through many ups and downs resulting in the most recent ban. It seems that the only constant throughout the games’ history is the differing of opinions about whether or not they do violate gambling laws in North Carolina. For the time being, businesses operating sweepstakes games will have to head back to the drawing board in hopes of altering the rules of their games to meet state regulations or hope that the recent court ruling will be revisited and overturned once more.

Florida Considers Gambling Changes

After losing $350 million to the Seminole Tribe of Florida due to a breach in their gambling compact, House and Senate leaders are considering a new approach to gambling law within the state. Over the years, gambling laws in the state of Florida have caused some confusion due to their complexity. A compact that was established in 2010 between the state and the Seminole Tribe granted the Seminoles exclusive rights to operate banked card games, such as blackjack at its casinos in exchange for a payment of $350 million a year. Meanwhile, pari-mutuel-style casinos have been operating throughout the state while offering similar card games to their customers, resulting in conflict between the state and the tribe.

The Heart of the Problem

While pari-mutuels throughout the state may not go toe-to-toe in revenue with the Seminole’s Hard Rock facility in Tampa, the offering of designated player card games is a clear breach of the compact that was established between the state and the tribe. The violation denied the Seminole Tribe the exclusive rights to these types of games in the state, and thus gave them grounds to deny the state the $350 million payment that the compact guaranteed. This past spring, Gov. Ron DeSantis sought to come to an agreement that would resolve this issue, however, a federal judge ruled that the games being offered by pari-mutuels in the state did in fact violate the compact, giving the Seminoles the right to deny payment.

This court ruling resulted in a new deal proposed by Sen. Wilton Simpson, who will take over as Senate President in the upcoming year. Under the new deal, the state would agree to shut down any pari-mutuels who were offering designated player games. In return, the Seminole Tribe would pay the state at least $500 million a year. Despite the attractive figures, DeSantis refused to sign off on the deal, suggesting that more time was needed to properly review the issues surrounding the state’s complex gambling laws. The result, of course, was the Seminole’s refusal to pay the state until the issue was resolved.

A Shift in Thinking

Current Senate President Bill Galvano told the Orlando Sentinel that the state has “moved on from the tribe.” The annual payment that the tribe has committed to since the compact was established in 2010 was not included in the state’s $92 billion budget this year, and Galvano, as well as others, believe that the state can live without it, while exploring other gambling options. The shift in the approach to gambling in the state is good news for pari-mutuels, who could see a number of changes in the coming years, as officials examine ways to increase revenues from these businesses. Potential changes would include an increase in the offering of designated player games, an increase in bet limits, as well as the authorization of sports betting and fantasy sports. These changes would deny the Seminole tribe exclusive rights to designated player games, while exploring and promoting privately run gaming institutions.

Challenges to Inevitable Change

It is clear that the pressure for change to gambling law in Florida is mounting, but the timetable for this change remains unclear. A new compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe seems unlikely, as a number of state representatives have issued statements that suggest they are moving on to explore further options. A new gambling bill could be introduced during the upcoming legislative session in January, but the likelihood that it would be passed is slim, as many representatives have yet to come to a consensus on how to approach these issues.

Another hurdle that Florida faces stems from a newly approved constitutional amendment, which requires statewide votes on future gambling expansions. This power was previously held by state legislators, but now any casino gambling expansion, including sports betting, must be voted on by the citizens. The new amendment has been the topic of some debate, as Galvano has suggested lawmakers have the ability to repeal the amendment and restore the legislature’s ability to expand gaming, while proponents of the constitutional amendment have argued the opposite. While the details of Florida’s gambling expansion remain unclear, it seems that the mounting pressure will yield some significant changes to the gambling landscape in the coming months.

Ukraine Approves Gambling Legalization

On September 29th, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine announced that the country approved the legalization of gambling. The draft of the law to legalize gambling states that all gambling will be conducted at hotels throughout the country, rather than brick-and-mortar casinos. Additionally, these new gaming sites must use equipment with software that adheres to international standards. The announcement is an indication of Ukraine’s willingness to introduce gambling via electronic gaming terminals to the nation in the near future, but the details of how this will be completed remain somewhat unclear.

What We Know

The announcement to legalize gambling in Ukraine came as a side-note in the statement released by the government for their new Action Program. The Action Program also detailed legal changes to mining activities, the State Regional Development Fund, and credit instruments for the purchase of agricultural land. Although the legalization of gambling was a minor point in this statement, it marks a significant change from the country’s stance on gambling over the past decade. These changes are a reflection of the evolving Ukrainian government, led by its new President Vladimir Zelensky, a former comedian who was inaugurated in May.

Zelenksy first mentioned a plan to establish casino’s in the nations five-star hotels in areas of the country that are best known for their tourism. The decision to legalize gambling in areas such as Odessa and the Black Sea suggests that tourists, rather than citizens of Ukraine would be the primary target audience for future gambling establishments. By establishing casinos in the hotels that are located in these locations, Ukraine could benefit from the gaming revenue, while also rebuilding and strengthening tourism in these areas.

Gambling was abolished in Ukraine in 2009, with the exception of state-run lotteries. The push to legalize gambling has been developing or some time, and in 2015 a legislation draft was approved for land-based casinos, sports betting shops, and online gambling sites. Despite the approval, the plans never led to any action, even after an attempt to readdress the draft in 2017. Meanwhile, internationally licensed gambling sites have been the source of illegal gambling for Ukrainian citizens, and authorities have repeatedly blocked land-based operations.

Future Expectations

In an interview with Ukrainian Media, Prime Minister Alexey Goncharuk discussed how the legalization of gambling could lead to the closure of illegal gambling halls that have popped up over the past ten years. The goal of the draft of legislation to legalize gambling is to establish businesses that operate under rules and regulations that make it safe for customers, while benefiting from the revenue earned. Goncharuk cited gambling addiction as one of the major problems with the existing illegal gambling halls, suggesting that regulating gaming in Ukraine would give those struggling with gambling addiction the opportunity to be identified and seek help.

In addition to the benefits that come from regulation, Goncharuk suggested that the legalization of gambling could bring in anywhere from $83 million to $103 million annually. That being said, there is much to consider in terms of establishing the guidelines and laws for the proposed gambling sites located at the aforementioned hotels. While the legalization may help quell the issues with illegal gaming halls, the hotel-style gaming establishments may not provide the silver bullet the government hopes for.

While there is no timeline for the formal establishment of official legislation for these new gaming institutions, it is expected that Zelensky will finalize something before the end of the year. The proposals of legalization in 2015 and 2017 included online options, but for the time being it appears that Zelensky’s administration is focused on land-based options.

Norfolk City Council Approves Land Deal for Casino Resort

On Tuesday, the Norfolk City Council authorized a land deal that would allow for the construction of a new casino resort in the state of Virginia. The deal between the city and the Pamunkey Indian Tribe was met with some pushback at a public hearing, where a number of people tried to postpone the decision to a later date, as reported by The Virginia Pilot.

The deal was passed with a convincing vote of 7 to 1 and allows the city to sell the land near Harbor Park for roughly $10 million. The sale of the land comes with the promise of a casino that offers a combination of both gaming machines and tables. Councilwoman Andria McClellan, who was the sole vote against the deal, expressed her concerns about the casino’s economic impact on the city. Others suggested that the deal felt rushed without the proper research to support the casino resort’s construction.

Details of the Deal

Mayor Alexander released a statement about the casino and resort on Tuesday, offering details about the proposed land deal and construction. The statement reveals that the Pamunkey Indian Tribe will be using the land to construct much more than just a stand-alone gaming facility; The $700 million project will be a resort hotel casino and spa with a minimum of 75- gaming machines, 25 gaming tables, a luxury hotel, upscale restaurants, a 750-seat entertainment facility, and a waterfront promenade. Depending on the types of games available, the proposed project could be a Class 2 gambling facility, rather than a Class 3, which would be more comparable Las Vegas-style table games and slots. The land that the Pamunkey Indian Tribe purchased to construct this casino and resort covers 13.4 acres.

It is expected that the Tribe will ask the federal government to put the newly purchased land into trust, which would make the property part of the Pamunkey’s reservation lands. Doing so would give the Tribe the opportunity to build a tax-exempt tribal casino, assuming an agreement with the state could be reached. Upon the sale of the land, it was announced that the Tribe would be responsible for all costs of construction. This includes the infrastructure, flood mitigation, parking, and utility improvements. Even before the casino resort opens, the Tribe will be responsible for paying the city $125,000 per year. Once the casino is in operation, they will be responsible for paying 4% of net gaming revenues with a minimum payment of $3 million annually.

Concerns of Costs and Rights to the Land

Despite the payments to the city, the deal has done little to ease the concerns of some members of the City Council and residents. As with most casino projects, the overwhelming concern comes from the fear that the expected revenue may fall short of its original projections. Part of this concerns stems from the fact that the city has not conducted a study about the economic impact, and one will not be published until November. Max Shapiro, a resident who attended the public hearing, expressed concerns about the project’s cost to the city and said that he would be preparing a petition for a referendum on the vote by Wednesday morning.

Residents and City Council members are not the only oneswho have expressed their concerns; the Nansemond Indian Tribe has spoken out against the deal, contesting the Pamunkey’s ancestral claim to land in Norfolk. The Nansemond requested the council delay the deal, in order to come to a consensus between other native groups about the history of land ownership. The Pamunkey Tribe has previously noted that throughout the state of Virginia had a lot of overlap between land ownership between tribes and does not claim to be the sole owner of the land they have purchased.

Regardless of concerns, the Pamunkey Tribe will begin preparing to start their project on the newly purchased land. There is no timetable for the start of construction or the completion of the project.