Big Brother Is Watching: Gambling Goes Mobile in #AZ (video)

Arizona legalizes online sports betting

Today — April 15, 2021 — Governor Doug Ducey signed legislation that legalizes sports betting, fantasy sports betting, and other off-reservation forms of gambling on a bipartisan vote. In fact, without strong support from Democrats, HB2772 and its Senate mirror bill would have died. More Republicans voted “no”  than Democrats; I was one of only four Democrats who voted no. I still have serious concerns about the public health consequences of widespread gambling (particularly smart-phone-based gambling) and about the privacy of user data. This deal with the governor will allow the tribes to add online gaming and more brick-and-motor casinos with renewal of the gaming compact.

The following blog post and video were originally published on Facebook on February 10, 2021.

HB2772 is a bill legalizing fantasy sports betting and event wagering. This bill is more than 40 pages long and has a five page amendment.

Why is it so long and complicated? Because it represents a dramatic increase in gambling, particularly mobile device gambling in Arizona. This bill legalizes gambling outside of the casinos and beyond lottery tickets. HB2772 is Governor Doug Ducey’s plan to “modernize gaming”. OK, I have been preaching that businesses and industries need to reinvent themselves to survive COVID. The past is gone, and they need to rethink their business models for the post pandemic world. HB2772 is the gaming industry reinventing itself by shifting to other types of legal betting, more gambling locations (off tribal lands), mobile device gambling, and sports betting. (What could go wrong?)

In 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down federal regulations regarding gambling. SCOTUS said that states can regulate gambling. Almost immediately states jumped into gambling. Before this ruling, gambling was relatively limited to Nevada, tribal gaming in selected states, and certain gambling districts in designated states. Gambling was not legal nationwide; the SCOTUS ruling is well on its way to changing that. The proponents of this bill say that people are gambling illegally on apps from other countries. They want to bring your gambling losses home and turn them into profits.

In its current form, I am against HB 2772 for many reasons. First of all, gambling is an addiction. People lose their wealth, their relationships, their families, their homes and sometimes their lives to gambling. We cannot ignore that fact. This bill has boilerplate phrases here and there that give a nod to problem gambling. There is a restricted users list, people who are prohibited from gambling or who exclude themselves voluntarily. This doesn’t go far enough. There should be a gambling victim relief fund to help addicts and their families recover and keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Please, let’s not unwittingly open the doors to increased financial and family stress due to widespread gambling losses. Every dollar earned by the state of Arizona, the casinos, the horse tracks, the pari-mutuel betting sites, sports arena betting kiosks, and the mobile device betting apps is a dollar lost by someone in Arizona.

According to lobbyist estimates, the state of Arizona could bring in roughly $20-$40 million a year with this expansion of gaming. In committee, I asked the professional sports franchises (Diamondbacks, Coyotes, Cardinals, Phoenix Raceway, and PGA Tour) how much they expect to make on bets placed on their games, and none of them claimed to know. They were all very enthusiastic about the gambling. Again, this is another way for sports teams to reinvent themselves. People aren’t coming to those big events. The actual game will become secondary to the profits from gambling on the game, in my opinion. In the state of New Jersey, 95% of the bets are made on a mobile device. This is really scary.

There are phrases in the bill about tracking the gaming activity of individual users, sending users warnings about their behavior, or instituting time limits on rapid-fire repetitive bets within a compressed timeframe, such as 30-60 minutes.

Beyond the addiction issue, I have serious concerns about personal data privacy. You can watch the committee video where I ask multiple speakers about the personal data collected on gamblers and how that data will be used. I was told today by lobbyists and gambling vendor representatives that they don’t sell the gamblers’ personal data, but they definitely use the data to market to the users.

How many of you have been hounded on social media by Corporate America because of a click, an email or even a conversation near a listening device? Imagine that you are a gambler, and you are getting notifications from a gaming app. “Today’s your lucky day!” I am extremely concerned about data privacy. In addition to the data they collect to verify user eligibility to gamble (ie, in Arizona, at a certain location, of a certain age, with a bank account), they track every click, every bet, every win, every loss, time/date, etc. If you win, and you have a court judgment against you or you owe child support or you get other types of assistance, the vendor (on behalf of the state) will take some or all of your winnings. An enormous amount of private information is being gathered by these private unregulated companies, and they are operating nationwide. How many millions of users are they already tracking and profiling? .

Corporate America is already watching our every click, every trip, and every purchase and using that information to mold our behavior. With gambling apps, Big Brother will be watching you gamble. Am I the only person worried about privacy and surveillance?

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