Slots for Tots

July 31, 2011 9:28 pm

Another customer at a casino outside of Philadelphia was arrested after leaving a child locked in a car while they went inside to gamble. 

A 29-year-old man was arrested after his 6-year-old was found locked in a car unattended outside the Parx Casino in Bensalem. Temperatures were above 90 degrees on Saturday, but fortunately the child was not hurt. The man was charged with reckless endangerment.

This is the 10th time since February 2010 an adult has been charged with leaving a child in a car outside the Parx casino, which opened in December 2006 after Pennsylvania legalized gambling.

Similar incidents have occurred at casinos around the country, including in Iowa and South Carolina where children died. It underscores the addictive nature of casino gambling. It also shows how so-called “convenience casinos” attract local gamblers who swing in for frequent visits, sometimes leaving children at risk.

Parx thrives off of its repeat business. The former president of the Parx said last year that is not uncommon for gamblers to visit 150 to 200 times a year – or about three to four times a week.

A better way to help problem gamblers

July 29, 2011 6:04 pm

Government officials in Canada are taking a more pro-active approach to stop gambling addicts from playing slot machines. By comparison, in the United States it is up to the problem gambler to report their addiction.

Casinos in Ontario are installing face-recognition software on slot machines. The software is designed to recognize gamblers who have agreed to have their pictures stored in the database. If a photo matches a problem gambler at a slot machine, security officials are alerted and escort the person from the casino.

Other countries also have more pro-active procedures in place to stop problem gamblers, including turning of a slot machine if an individual has been playing it for a long period of time. The pro-active approach is at least a more good-faith effort to keep problem gamblers out of casinos. In the U.S., the casinos post toll-free numbers and wait for the problem gamblers to call. But by the time a gambling addict admits their problem, they are usually deep in debit.


Gambling and crime

July 29, 2011 1:00 pm

An interesting study out of Great Britain says that crime could be reduced by as much as 5 percent if problem gamblers were managed better and received proper treatment.

New research by the Howard League of Penal Reform found that the legal troubles of 5.4 percent of male inmates and three percent of female inmates were tied to gambling. The inmates had even higher problem gambling rates than the general population, underscoring the criminal element that is often linked to gambling.

The inmates told researchers that their legal problems included stealing money to gamble, selling drugs to get money to gamble and getting into fights over gambling. The study called for a more coordinated effort to tackle gambling problems as a way to reduce crime rates.

Every picture tells a story

July 28, 2011 4:51 pm

Anyone who has spent some time in Atlantic City knows that 30 years of legalized gambling has done little to improve the economic welfare of the surrounding community. In the shadows of the dozen of so gleaming casinos are pawn shops, payday lenders and run-down homes.

Granted, the retail outlets along Michigan Avenue have been a nice addition. But the real estate boom that has come to most other Jersey shore towns skipped over Atlantic City. Instead, there are many dilapidated and vacant houses, and long lines at soup kitchens.

These photos from The New York Times nicely illustrates the lack of economic spin off in the surrounding neighborhood of the once-stalled Revel Casino that is back under construction after receiving a $260 million bailout from Gov. Chris Christie that mainly benefited Morgan Stanley.

Like giving crack to babies

July 28, 2011 1:35 pm

One of the little-known gimmicks casinos use to entice low-rollers, short on cash, is called “free play.” This is where casinos give gamblers free credits to play the slots. The thinking is the credits will lure gamblers in and hook them. Eventually, the gamblers start to pump their own money into the slots, and the casino profits.

The scheme came to light in Connecticut, where two Indian tribe casinos have used free play for years. The state sued because it wanted its share of the winnings from the free play just as if customers had spent their money. 

The legal dispute was recently settled. As a result, Connecticut’s tax revenue from slots increased even though slots revenue at the two casinos has been dropping, according to a newspaper report. 


Gambling industry bets on Illinois

July 27, 2011 4:16 pm

Good-government groups called on Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn to ban all contributions from the gambling industry to elected officials.

The move came after an analysis by The Chicago Tribune showed Illinois lawmakers received more than $800,000 from the gambling industry in the past year. The political contributions poured in as the state is considering a major expansion of gambling that would add four new casinos and slot machines at O’Hare International Airport.

Common Cause, a government watchdog group, released a report that said the gambling industry has contributed at least $9 million to Illinois lawmakers since 2002, which backed up the newspaper’s analysis. Several states ban political contributions from the gambling industry.

Elected officials deny that the contributions influence their voting decisions. And they even manage to say it with a straight face.

Casinos push to expand gambling in Maine

July 27, 2011 8:20 am

The casino industry and lawmakers are pushing to expand gambling in Maine. As in other states, the playbook to win public support is the same. The industry is touting new jobs and lawmakers are boasting about the added tax revenue.

But the benefits hardly outweigh the costs, which of course are not mentioned. The latest push to add table games at the Hollywood casino in Maine is projected to add a whopping 100 jobs and generate an extra $1 million a year in state tax revenue.

That meager addition of jobs and tax revenue calls to mind the old Peggy Lee song: “Is that all there is?” The number of lives ruined by gambling will likely exceed the number of jobs created. The amount debt for some gamblers will likely top the added tax revenue. Maine voters will get to decide if they want to expand gambling in November.

Why states are hooked on lotteries

July 27, 2011 7:10 am

Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter David Cay Johnston does a nice job of explaining why states are so addicted to gambling. The short version: states get to pocket nearly 40 percent of the lottery revenue, effectively a high tax rate on gamblers.

There is no opposition to the high lottery tax, which is regressive. Meanwhile, lawmakers face constant pressure to lower corporate taxes.

Despite the high tax and low payout, lottery sales continue to expand. Americans spent $50.4 billion on lottery tickets, video lottery terminals and the like in fiscal 2009, according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.

Surfing the web or illegal gambling?

July 26, 2011 2:44 pm

A Florida grand jury said illegal gambling is taking place inside Internet cafes, and that the sites are a “public nuisance” that should be shut down, according to report.

Law enforcement officials raided several Internet cafes earlier this month and said they found evidence of illegal gambling taking place. They have asked for elected officials to pass a law that more clearly bans the cafes.

Cafe owners argue that their businesses are more like scratch-off games offered by fast food restaurants, which is legal. The grand jury said the argument is a “sham.” The New York Times reported in May on a robbery and the rise of the Internet cafes, which appear to skirt gambling laws.

Get your Alabama casino-corruption scorecard here

July 26, 2011 2:22 pm

For those following the vote-buying trial involving Alabama lawmakers, lobbyists and casino interests, here is a good scorecard to help follow the players and the charges they face.

The federal trial involving nine defendants is in its eighth week. Prosecutors expect to rest their case today. More FBI tapes were played in court yesterday that seemed to highlight conversations of efforts to get lawmakers to vote for favorable gambling legislation.