Investigative Journalism

Gamblers in Ohio have lost $9.7 billion over four years

Ohio citizens betting at the state’s four casinos, seven racinos at horse-race tracks, and the Ohio Lottery have lost $9.7 billion in the past four years, according to a Columbus Dispatch analysis. Including all major forms of legal gambling, nearly $62.9 billion was bet and $53.3 billion was won from 2012 to 2015.

While the winning percentage at casinos is very high — up to 90 percent of the money bet on slots — losses add up when so much money exchanges hands.

In calendar year 2015 alone, $535 million was lost on slot machines and $273 million on table games at Ohio casinos.

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Les BernalGamblers in Ohio have lost $9.7 billion over four years
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The ‘feminization of gambling’

Although men are by no means immune, most of the big stories about problem gambling in New Mexico have involved women since the legalization of slot machines and other casino gambling in the mid-1990s.

The issue can also affect the mom next door, and researchers in recent years have been looking deeper at female problem gambling as a result of what some call the “feminization of gambling.”

Female gamblers prefer nonstrategic forms of wagering, like slot machines, which have a fast pace of winning and losing that is associated with increased risk of problem gambling, researchers have found. And women can access the devices much easier today because of the explosion in legalized slot machine gambling in the United States and around the world.

Women develop gambling problems almost exclusively with slot machines, researchers say. Some men also develop an addiction to the devices, but research shows male problem gamblers typically branch out to wager on table games, races, sports and lotteries.

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Les BernalThe ‘feminization of gambling’
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Statewide Casino Expansion Could Be A Risky Bet

When it comes to its casino expansion initiative as a vehicle for economic prosperity, New York seems very eager to keep hitting. But it’s a gamble that, at the moment, doesn’t appear to be paying off.

Three new upstate commercial casinos opened this year: del Lago Resort and Casino in Waterloo; Rivers Casino and Resort in Schenectady; and Tioga Downs in the Southern Tier. All have failed to produce the amount of revenue that was initially predicted.

The three casinos are estimated to produce a combined $220 million less in revenue this year than they promised to state regulators when they won their bids to build the casinos three years ago. Del Lago has generated $113 million in gambling revenue in its first nine months, far short of its $263 million projection.

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Les BernalStatewide Casino Expansion Could Be A Risky Bet
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Why gambling is so prevalent in Minnesota’s Lao community

Throughout the decades Sunny Chanthanouvong has served his Lao community in Minnesota, he wanted to solve one widespread problem that has had crippling financial and social effects on many Lao-Americans: obsessive gambling.

As the executive director of the north Minneapolis-based Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota, Chanthanouvong has worked with people who lost their savings, jobs and children as a result of their addiction to gambling.

Those who succumbed to the addiction, said Chanthanouvong, included his relatives and close friends, who have lost young children to the child protection services after leaving them home alone for gambling.

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Les BernalWhy gambling is so prevalent in Minnesota’s Lao community
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Asian-American seniors riding casino buses not to gamble, but to make ends meet

WABC Eyewitness News in New York City found that many Asian-American on casino buses aren’t going to gamble, they’re there out of necessity. It’s about making a few bucks just to get by, and it’s happening seven days a week, as long as the buses are running.

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Les BernalAsian-American seniors riding casino buses not to gamble, but to make ends meet
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Offshore gambling firms take billions and Australian authorities cannot act

According to this excellent investigative reporting by Australia’s Herald Sun:

Billions of dollars are being bet on rugby league and other major sports using unregulated offshore gambling companies — and football bosses are ­helpless to stop it.

Government regulations aimed at illegal gambling and the threat it poses to the integrity of sport are “laughable”, according to insiders.

Racing Australia chief executive Peter McGauran said rugby league and other football codes were like “babes in the woods” as they battled overseas gambling interests.

The Philippines, Malta, ­Antigua and remote Alderney in the Channel Islands have become betting havens for punters wishing to outlay hundreds of thousands of dollars to escape detection by Australian regulators.

A leading racing figure, who asked not to be named, estimated $1 billion a year is bet overseas on Australian sports.

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Les BernalOffshore gambling firms take billions and Australian authorities cannot act
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Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock was a gambling machine addict

Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock had a serious gambling machine addiction. Read the latest New York Times story on his gambling behavior. Electronic gambling machines were at the center of his life.

Yet news coverage continues to use terms like “professional gambler” when describing Paddock. He was not a professional gambler.

No professional gambler uses slot machines and video poker machines like Paddock did. The machines create the illusion of skill but a user is mathematically guaranteed to lose all their money the longer they play them. Once you press the button on the machine, there is no skill involved. The computer inside the machine (known as the Random Number Generator) decides whether you lose or win. The player has no control over the outcome.

The image below is from the landmark book investigating electronic gambling machines Addiction By Design (Pg 112):

The business model of casinos is based on people like Paddock losing over and over again. While he may have won occasionally, it’s a statistical certainty that he lost huge sums of money the longer and more frequently he played as the graph above shows.

Paddock was playing hundreds of hands per hour (about one hand every six seconds) for many hours straight. Almost day after day.

No credible gambling addiction expert unaffiliated with gambling operators and independently-funded would describe him as a “responsible gambler.” ‘Responsible gambling’ is little more than a marketing slogan made up by commercialized gambling operators and their partners. Its intent is to place the spotlight on the citizen and away from their predatory and fraudulent business practices.

Whether Paddock’s out-of-control addiction to electronic gambling machines was a central factor in what happened last Sunday will be determined by the FBI investigation. But news coverage and public discussion should not normalize Paddock’s single-minded obsession with gambling machines and the exploitive business practices used by the casinos to keep Paddock gambling continuously.

Les Bernal, National Director, Stop Predatory Gambling

Les BernalLas Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock was a gambling machine addict
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The U.S. has a lottery problem. But it’s not the people buying tickets.

From The Washington Post:

Despite their role in increasing economic inequality, lotteries remain remarkably popular in the United States, as millions of players believe in the distant chance that a lucky gamble will change their life. In 2014, annual sales reached over $70 billion, and Americans spent more on lottery tickets per year than they spent on books, sports tickets, music, video games and movie tickets combined.

The United States has a lottery problem, but it runs much deeper than players duped by a “stupid tax.” Public officials need to address the nation’s lottery addiction. When they do so, however, they need to consider not only the root causes of lotteries’ popularity — for example, declining access to social mobility and the concentration of lottery outlets in poor neighborhoods — but also the beliefs about taxes and state revenue that ushered in lottery legislation in the first place.

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Les BernalThe U.S. has a lottery problem. But it’s not the people buying tickets.
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Massachusetts slashes problem gambling services funding by 17 percent

When corporate gambling interests and state officials lobbied for government-sanctioned casinos in the state, they told the public that problem gambling services would be fully funded. Just a few years later, the state is slashing problem gambling services funding by almost 20 percent.

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Les BernalMassachusetts slashes problem gambling services funding by 17 percent
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O.J. Simpson parole hearing is an example of the new kind of gambling wagers

Allowing government-sanctioned sports gambling across the U.S. would corporate gambling operators to offer wagers on virtually anything far beyond sports. O.J. Simpson will be out of jail soon.

OJ Simpson’s hearing in front of the Nevada Board of Parole is one example. The sportsbook advertised to citizens to place bets on the outcome.

Under the proposition bet: “Will O.J. Simpson be granted parole in 2017?” the lines were “Yes” (-300) and “No” (+200). The means to make $100 on a bet for “Yes” you would have to risk $300 while a $100 bet for “No” would net you $200, making “Yes” a heavy favorite.

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Les BernalO.J. Simpson parole hearing is an example of the new kind of gambling wagers
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