“Sorry, So Sorry”

quickDraw_playcard 

 

 

 

 A real-life narrative about Quick Draw

 

 

 

 

 

 

In describing certain measures the  nascent  Responsible Play Partnership proposes to police gambling by under-age persons, the RPP states  tamely “violations could result in fines, suspensions or revocation of an entity’s license.”  The verb is “could,” not even “may,”  much less “will.”   The url for the press release about the RPP is shown below. http://www.gaming.ny.gov/pdf/press_022013.pdf 

     The following true story instances  a  shocking lack of  oversight  circa 2002-2008 of the  lucrative New York State Lottery “game” Quick Draw in one small city.  It could be entitled “ ‘Regulation’  In Action;”   alternatively,  “Regulation  Inaction.”  Considering that legislation is pending as of March 2013 to relax rules about Quick Draw,  more stories like this – if not quite as infamous – may be expected unless regulatory policy can get out of the conditional mood.

 

Summary: a Quick Draw addict with unfettered access to his stepdaughter’s earned fortune gambled away a large part of it “playing” at a favorite bar.  The local  newspaper  investigated how the bar’s owner  could have permitted this abuse of trust to run  for years. The owner then  surrendered the QD license. This ended official enquiry.   Three years later he told the Lottery Licensing authorities that the newspaper had maligned him for political purposes.  The license was restored without investigation.

 

      From mid-1998 well into 2002 the Speak Easy Bar at 557 Pearl St. Watertown NY had an habitué who played Quick Draw there  over and over and over – and over.  A real estate agent, he was locally famous as the stepfather of a high-paid supermodel who had grown up in Watertown.  Not everyone in town, however,  knew he had induced her in 1998 to have him replace the outside financial manager she had recently taken on.  

     In 2002, after four years of near-daily multi-hour “play” the Quick Draw aficionado started to bounce checks.  According to the local  newspaper, instead of warning him to stop playing or (within their rights) prosecuting him, the owners of the Speak Easy Bar and of other Quick Draw locales in town borrowed money from their friends to let him keep “playing”  until he could cover the bad checks. They of course were profiting from his losses.  In fact the owner of the Speak Easy had received a “Top Agent Award”  from Lottery in 2001.

     In January 2003 the Quick Draw addict told his stepdaughter that he had been using her money to “play” and had lost a lot of it.   He was prosecuted for writing bad checks.  When he pled guilty to that charge and others in October 2004, his stepdaughter’s  losses 1998-2002 were estimated in documents submitted to the court at 7 million dollars, nearly all of her assets.  In early 2005 the  stepfather was sentenced to prison. After the newspaper ran a story on the bar-owner’s role in enabling the stepfather’s addiction and consequent abuse of entrusted funds, the bar owner “opted to surrender” his Quick Draw license as of March 2005.  This ended  investigation by Lottery. 

     In May 2005, the model brought suit against her stepfather and the bar owner.  After more than a year, the latter was removed as a party.  Later, he changed the name of the bar  and applied to get the Quick Draw license back.

     Writing in  2007  to the Licensing Director of the NY Lottery, the owner of the Speak Easy Bar said that all published charges of his enabling the  gambler’s addiction after bad checks began were false.   His letter, published in the Watertown Daily Times of May 18 stated  “I cut him off  [from Quick Draw at the Speak Easy].”  He did add a sort of apology (quoted below) which implies in the passive voice that someone had failed in a duty to “cut off service.”   This contradicts his assertion that he had refused to allow the habitué to continue Quick Draw at his establishment.

 “Clearly there is a lot to be learned from such an incident, including the need to impose restraint on customers in the same way we would cut off service of alcohol to the obviously compulsive drinker.  There is also a need for those who sell tickets not to get caught up in playing such games.  I understand that. “ 

After no investigation Quick Draw was re-installed at 557 Pearl Street  in early May 2008.  Just ask in town for “The Mayor’s Bar.”

Notes: For a description of keno (the generic name of  Quick Draw) go to http://preview.tinyurl.com/awf3yvb

The opinions in this post are those of the writer, Stephen Q. Shafer MD MPH, and are not necessariy shared by any or all other members of CAGNY.  Permission is given here to quote from this piece at any length as long as the source is made clear using the permalink address above. 

 

Albany and Art of Deception

Albany and Art of Deception: From the Land Where No Means Yes

by David Colavito

"Peering over the edge" Flickr CC

“Peering over the edge” Flickr CC

Question:  When can state government promote responsible policies without leveling with voters?

Answer:  It can’t.

Question:  Has Governor Cuomo leveled with New Yorkers about his proposal to amend the state constitution to permit casino gaming?

Answer: No

Beyond special interests and hidden agendas, it’s simple.  Public policy initiatives designed to mislead the public aren’t responsible, and when they’re promoted, hang on to your wallet, because you can be sure that same public will eventually be picking up the tab.

In his 2012 state of the state address, Governor Cuomo rolled out his economic development plan that featured, among other things, his proposal to amend the New York State constitution to permit casino gaming.  He implied that those who question whether we should be in the gaming business are the equivalent of delusional because, as he put it, New York is already in the gaming business.  He referred to horse racing and video lottery terminal locations throughout the state as bedrock justification for his assertion.  He waxed, perhaps not eloquently, about the benefits casino gaming would bring to the Empire state.  And he cited, as common-sense, the need to rethink how our state manages gaming, if it’s to stem losses of potential revenue flowing like water out of New York into neighboring casino-permissive states in what might be thought of as a casino siphon.  The Governor came as close to saying as one could without actually saying it: New Yorkers are fools if they don’t get with his program to legalize casino gaming in the Empire State.

And so it was that Mr. Cuomo chose to bury the lead, raising the same tired red flags proponents of similar proposals hope go unnoticed.  It was deeply disappointing for people who took seriously the commitments to transparency and disclosure he’d laid claim to throughout much of his political career.

 Casino gaming is fiction, because casino gambling isn’t a game.  It’s the antithesis of a game, because games aren’t reliant upon participants incurring personal and economic hardships, an immutable aspect of betting against the house.  Medical and law enforcement professionals have long acknowledged that gambling disorders are real and incur substantial costs for society, just as substance abuse and tobacco related diseases do, though you’d never know it from Mr. Cuomo.  And although federal and state governments have for decades derived substantial revenue through taxation on tobacco and alcohol products, they aren’t in the business of promoting either.  But this isn’t about ideological purity; it’s about Mr. Cuomo playing it straight with New York voters, the same ones he needs to ratify changes to the state constitution in order to have his way.  So it’s also about what paths he’ll travel to get his way.

Casino gambling epitomizes wagering against the house, where the house’s odds of winning ensure everyone else must eventually lose, and as every casino owner knows, that’s a very different paradigm than Saturday night card games among friends.   All this isn’t to suggest everyone entering a casino becomes addicted to gambling, anymore than it’s to suggest everyone consuming alcohol becomes an alcoholic.  What it’s saying and not just suggesting is trained professionals tell us gambling disorders are real, and they come with hefty costs to our communities that can greatly exceed benefits.  And if this was intended to be a scholarly work it would also cite documentation of the disproportionately high level of casino revenues obtained from people with serious gambling disorders, sick people in need of help not exploitation from state government.  It’s a predatory business model, because in a variety of ways it arguably cultivates those disorders to facilitate preying upon those so afflicted.  Sound familiar?  It should, at least for those of sufficient age to recall the earlier days of lawsuits against cigarette manufacturers, but with one important twist: the government was party to some of those smoking related lawsuits.   

So appreciating the first red flag raised by the governor is to appreciate gaming for what it is, his euphemism of choice intended to inoculate voters against making an informed decision.

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What We Didn’t See Is What We Got

                                          What We Didn’t See Is What We Got

 

8410159320_9203082701I recently posted on  how the NYS Lottery has made itself a role in balancing the State budget. The role is supporter of “education.”   The Governor thinks a like role will make acceptable to the voters the  new casinos he wants as one of his legacies to the State.  Voters know more about the downside of casinos in 2013 than we did about the future of State Lottery in 1966.  That makes for a harder sell. The magic words “for education” could still charm it through.  This 700-word essay has two parts:  (1) a history of  amendments in Article I § 9  starting with the one in 1966 that launched NYS Lottery (2) figures on  NYSL  as of  FY 2012.

             Between 1967 and 1993 there were 485 bills introduced to the legislature to amend Article I, an average of 18/year.  This made Article I one of the most targeted articles. Almost half the proposed changes were to do with gambling, which is in §9 but is not the entirety of that section.   Only two proposals in those 18 years to amend Article I passed both chambers in two legislatures.   Both concerned “charitable” gambling; both were approved by referendum.  In that same era, a total of 61 (1.4%) proposed amendments on all topics passed both chambers in two successively-elected legislatures .  Forty-one (67%) of these 61 passed in a referendum.  

Benjamin and Cusa* mention a total of six amendments to Section 9 between 1939 and 2001.  I reviewed those between 1966 and 2001 in McKinney’s.

1939 pari-mutuel (OTB legalized 1970)

1957 charitable gambling with many restrictions

  • 1966 State Lottery “implementing language” followed
  • 1975 amendment of wording on charitable gambling
  • 1984 further rewrites about wording on charitable gambling
  • 2001 small change in § 9 “fireman” to” firefighter.”  Many such small changes throughout entire Constitution, most of which were to replace gender specifying pronouns or titles.

 

*An excellent article on the amendment process for the years 1967-1993 is by Gerald Benjamin and Melissa Cusa  “Amending the New York State Constitution Through  the Legislature” pp 55-73 at the following web site:

http://www.rockinst.org/pdf/government_reform/1994-nys_constitution_a_briefing_book.pdf    

         As of now, the NYS Lottery operates about 13,000 virtual slot machines at nine racinos (Hamburg, Aqueduct, Monticello, Saratoga, Yonkers, Finger Lakes, Vernon Downs, Batavia and Tioga).  Chapter 383 of the Laws of October 2001 allowed the State Lottery to join with Mega Millions (2002).  In 2010 Powerball, another multistate lottery with stupendous prizes, was allowed.  Both these events have very frequent drawings, not daily, with the jackpot rising when there is no winner yet.  Two  other Jackpot “Games” wholly under State Lottery are Lotto (draws not daily, prize rises until winner known) and Sweet Million (draws not daily,  fixed prize $1M). There are four Daily “games”  Take 5, Numbers, Win 4 and Pick 10.  There are at least 8000 Quick Draw settings, with a result every 4 minutes,  23.5 hours a day.  There are scratchoff   instant games for bets ranging from one dollar to thirty dollars.  Here are the returns for FY 2012 (thru March 31) for each category. Column 2 and 3 in $millions.

Category                                Intake               “To Education”          % “To Education”

Jackpot 923 395   43
Daily 2010 808   40
Instant 3579 816   23
Social (Quick Draw) 502 156   31
“Casinos” (Video Gaming) 1426 696   48

 

      The first four rows, inexplicably referred to as  “Traditional,”  returned to the Lottery 7.01 billion   before prize payouts.   Most of the return went to prizes.  “To Education” went 2.10 billion, or 31% .  The racinos (AKA “Video Gaming Casinos”) saw a total amount bet of 19.48 billion, with a net of  1.426 billion after payouts to  bettors.   “To Education”   went 696 million (48%). Because these establishments must by law contribute to horse racing and to the support of the privately-owned tracks at which they are situated,  slightly less than half their net passed “to Education.”   In summary, Lottery as a whole sent “to Education” 2.89 billion in FY 2012.  This figure will likely be more in FY 2013, with Aqueduct’s share up and that of Yonkers,  down.

 http://nylottery.ny.gov/wps/wcm/connect/2aaf628044bec0b08c5d8c3b1ada7a32/YearEndReport12.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&Annual%20Report

Opinions are my own, do not necessarily relect those of other members of CAGNY.   Photo from flickrCC “scratchoff cards”