U.s. Lobbyists Still Hard At Work

U.S. LOBBYISTS STILL HARD AT WORK

05th August, 2012 at 06:09:09
Source: http://www.azonlinecasinos.com

Q2:2012 numbers from the Center For Responsive Politics.

Gambling interests continued to pour dollars into lobbyist firms for a range of gambling-related issues in the second quarter of 2012, according to mandatory filings with Congress.

This time around it appears that technology supply companies - either software or testing services - have been especially active, perhaps manoeuvring for position to benefit from any online gambling legalisation, and the business potential that carries.

GTech was particularly involved, investing more than $30,000 above their last tranche at $115,000, whilst Intralot maintained the same budget with a the $90,000 lobby-spend.

Payment processing was represented in the shape of a slightly reduced lay-out of $60,000 from UC Group, which also supports the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative advocacy group.

Machine and content provider International Game Technology reprised its last contribution of $50,000, whilst testing agency GLI coughed up $30,000, having recently announced a massive expansion of its testing facility in Las Vegas. IGT has been very industrious in building online capability this year with acquisitions like DoubleDown Interactive.

Among the operators, the main Caesars Entertainment group dished out almost a million in the quarter at $955,000 - up almost $70,000 from its previous report, with MGM Resorts and Rational Entertainment Enterprises, better known as Pokerstars, a poor second at around $150,000 apiece.

Racing company Churchill Downs Inc. invested another $80,000 during the quarter, and was matched by the European online betting group Bwin.Party digital entertainment, hardly surprising in view of its partnerships with MGM and Boyd Gaming with online poker in mind. Speaking of Boyd - that group spent slightly less at $50,000 in the quarter.

The social gaming giant Zynga and its online gambling ambitions have made many a headline in 2012, and they appear to be seeking political friends with a lobbying budget for Q2 of $75,000

Penn National Gaming's interest was maintained unchanged at $70,000, as was Station Casinos, which spent only $30,000 despite the mounting interest of owners Fertitta brothers in the online gambling milieu.

For all its owner's much-publicised opposition to internet gambling, Las Vegas Sands only devoted $30,000 to lobbying on a diversity of interests.

Industry trade bodies continued to show a lively interest in the lobbyist sector, with the American Gaming Association - representing most of the big names in Vegas land gambling - writing cheques for $755,000 (a significant rise of around $150,000) to make its feelings known on a range of subjects.

The vociferous Poker Players Alliance was somewhat quieter, decreasing its lobby-spend by around $65,000 to a still substantial quarter-million dollars.

Online gambling operators' association, the Interactive Gaming Council also cut back spending, investing $60,000 less at $150,000 in Q2.

Presumably racing issues were the focus of activity by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association ($90,000); and the American Greyhound Track Operators Association ($30,000).

Tribal attitudes towards online gambling have been under the microscope just recently, and this sector of the gambling industry was noticeably present in second quarter lobbying statistics.

The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians paid out $80,000, followed by the Kalispel Tribe on $70,000, the Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Nation and the United Auburn Indian Community on $50,000 each, and slightly smaller commitments of the Barona Band of Mission Indians, the Tulalip Tribes and the Muckleshoot Tribe.

The Auburn and Muckleshoot investments are worth noting in light of recent industry deals by these bodies.

The United Auburn Indian Community recently entered into a ten-year agreement with Bwin.Party, a major online gaming company, to provide the technology for the tribe's online poker services should California legalise Internet gaming, whilst the Muckleshoot of Washington State recently completed a social gaming equity deal with Bookie Mania Ltd.

MASSIVE BETTING ON F.O.B.T.s ATTACKED

Daily Mail newspaper claims that Britons could be wagering as much as £ 46 billion a year on machines in betting shops

Britain's Daily Mail newspaper appeared to be embarking on another anti-gambling crusade over the weekend, using published financial results from Ladbrokes and William Hill to calculate that Britons could be wagering as much as £ 46 billion a year on casino games on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in high street betting shops.

The article appears just ahead of a planned Channel 4 'Dispatches' television program on a similar topic scheduled for screening Sunday night.

Under a banner headline the article reports on "The £46 billion cost of Britain's roulette machine addiction," and interviews political and problem gambling experts, along with poignant accounts of gamblers in trouble.

The Mail's starting point is the half year financial reportage of Ladbrokes and William Hill; the former declared £ 5.9‚EUR‰billion was wagered on FOBTs in their 2,137 outlets across the UK, whilst William Hill reported that £ 6.6‚EUR‰billion was staked on electronic Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in its 2,371 betting shops from January to June this year.

"By comparison, William Hill said £ 1.3‚EUR‰billion was wagered on over-the-counter bets on sports including horse racing and football over the same period. Ladbrokes said £ 1.2‚EUR‰billion was wagered on their over-the-counter bets in the first half of this year. The chains revealed they made more than £ 350‚EUR‰million in net profit in the same period from FOBTs, the newspaper reports.

Using the FOBT numbers, the Mail calculates that for the whole of 2012, on just over half the FOBT machines in the UK market, the two bookmaking firms took in £ 25 billion in bets.

"Even allowing for the fact that machines in other bookmaking chains might not have as many people playing them, the rapid and continuing rise in popularity of FOBTs means that the total for the year across the industry could be as much as £ 46‚EUR‰billion," the newspaper concludes, noting that.

other major bookies like Coral and Paddy Power do not reveal how many FOBTs they operate or the amount of money wagered on them.

The Mail claims that the numbers "have shocked anti-gambling campaigners and MPs, who have asked for tighter regulation of FOBTs."

Gareth Wallace, a policy adviser for the Salvation Army, told the newspaper: "Studies have shown they [FOBTs] are eight times more addictive than other forms of gambling." He did not reveal his source for that statistic.

Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Harriet Harman MP, currently the Shadow Culture Secretary, will apparently admit to the Despatches program that her party was wrong to relax gambling laws whilst in power.

Harman condemned the Labour Party's Gambling Act for promoting an increase in bookies with Fixed Odds Betting Terminals.

"I think we were wrong. We have made a mistake and we need to do something about it," Harman said. "If we had known then what we know now, we wouldn't have allowed this."

Harman said she had been driven to speak out after hearing stories from people who have become hooked on FOTBs, which allow punters to stake £ 100 at a time on roulette, blackjack or poker games in the hope of winning £ 500. She added that FOTBs were ‚EURňúbringing casinos right into the high street', and the law should be changed.

Labour MP David Lammy said: "I want tighter regulation. If you look through the windows of bookies, all you see is young people losing money on these machines."

Clive Efford, Labour's Shadow Minister for Sport, confirmed his party was reviewing gambling laws, but a Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesman said: "The Government has no plans to amend the Gambling Act unless there is clear evidence of a need to do so."

Labour Party politicians are likely to be in conflict with the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which recently called for more gaming machines in bookies to prevent clusters of betting shops in high streets. Its proposal is to allow local councils to license each betting shop and decide the number of machines allowed in each outlet.

The newspaper explains that FOBTs are either slot or virtual roulette machines with maximum pay-outs of £ 500 per bet. The slot machines allow a spin every three seconds, and customers can wager as much as £ 2 per bet. The virtual roulette machine allows three spins per minute and can swallow up to £ 18,000 in one hour on a maximum bet of £ 100 per spin.

The machines offer better chances for success than other types of gambling. On average, betting shops keep 8p for every £ 1 wagered, as 92p is given back as winnings. On the virtual roulette, the payout rate is 97.3 per cent.

With over-the-counter betting, the average payout rate is 85 per cent. Gambling industry figures show that each FOBT machine earns a betting shop just under £ 1,000 per week.

A spokesman for the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) told the Mail: "There is no evidence of a causal link between electronic gaming machines and problem gambling."

He added that betting shops are highly regulated, with established and effective security procedures, and work very closely with police. "A shop is only opened when there is a business case to do so," he noted.

A spokesman for Ladbrokes said: ‚EURňúFOBTs are popular products because they offer high pay-outs to customers, and there is no evidence to suggest that they are addictive."

The Daily Mail exposure gives considerable space to the report by the 'Dispatches' television investigative journalist, which leans toward the negative aspects of gambling, especially in low-income areas; the claimed addictive nature of FOBTs and the political implications of the issue.

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