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Sunday, February 1, 2015

For gambling addicts, Super Bowl wagers could bring ruin

What are the odds gambling is popular for Super Bowl?

We all know what Sunday is — it’s Super Bowl Sunday, the day for one of the most-watched sporting events in the world.

For hardcore wagerers, as well as the casual “You wanna bet” types, Sunday also is known as the Super Bowl of gambling. The website predicts more than 200 million people will bet on the game, part of an estimated about $10 billion Super Bowl betting industry in the United States.

“The Super Bowl is fun to bet on simply because it is such a cultural event these days,” said Jimmy Boyd, who runs the Walnut, California-headquartered “Trying to win a few extra bucks is always fun, but when you can combine it with something that virtually everyone you know is going to be watching, it really amplifies the enjoyment.”

For Brevard County, and all of Florida, sports betting is illegal, though still very common.

There are straight-up bets between individuals and organized office pools where managers often turn a blind eye to the activity. At many gatherings tonight, party goers will pick a Super Bowl square for a small cash payout. And of course, there’s also betting through online gambling sites.

Sports gambling is growing so large that last month the U.S. Treasury Department threw a warning flag at casinos.

“Increases in sports betting conducted on behalf of third parties are facilitating criminal activity and posing a money laundering risk to the U.S financial system,” Treasury said in a letter on Dec. 24.

Because of the popularity of the Super Bowl, and sports betting, FLORIDA TODAY took a look at what’s happening with this issue on the Space Coast.

Victory Casino

There is only one place to gamble — legally — on the Super Bowl in Brevard County and that’s on the Victory Casino Cruise ship. Even then, you have to be international waters to make your bet and collect your winnings.

Passengers already have been laying plenty of action .

“The betting is happening on every cruise” for the past two weeks said Pete Lynch, the casino marketing manager at Victory Casino Cruises, Lynch said.

And the betting isn’t just on who will win the game. Gamblers can bet on dozens of things related to the game — even which team wins the coin toss before the game starts and how long it will take Idina Menzel to sing the national anthem.

Naturally, all the ship’s televisions will be tuned into the game — 20 screens in the ship’s sports book area and 10 at other locations.

Some additions:

A Super Bowl “tailgate” party with burgers, chicken wings and nachos.
Cocktail servers and card dealers in referee-striped outfits.
At least five former National Football League players mingling with the customers. Lynch said some of them have played in previous Super Bowls.

“It’s going to be a fun day,” Lynch said.

It costs $10 to get on the ship. Sunday cruises are noon to 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. to midnight.

Drinks are free for customers actively betting in the slot machine or table game areas. But if you’re just there to watch the game, be prepared to buy your own beers.

Sports bars and office pools

The beers and cocktails will be flowing at Duffy’s Sports Grill in Melbourne, where a full house is expected. Duffy’s has been selling tickets for $25 each for guaranteed seating.

While you can expect wings galore and loud cheering, don’t expect to see any gambling. And if anyone at Duffy’s is seen wagering, they can expect a swift reprimand.

“Frankly I’ve never come across that,” said Renee Masse, assistant general manager at Duffy’s. “If we saw something like that taking place, we’d tell them to stop and go some place else.”

Though there are probably informal office pools in Brevard, there are few employers that sanction them. Many strongly discourage any kind of gambling in a work setting.

In the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, it is common for human resources departments to send out warnings to workers telling them not to make sports bets on office property, said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray, & Christmas, Inc., a national employment consultancy based in Chicago.

Challenger said betting in the workplace is a risky move, since it can result in a formal reprimand or termination.

“In the banking industry or the financial sector, in particular, gambling is counter to the culture,” he said. “Those are companies that make their name by keeping people’s money safe and making wise investments, which is the complete opposite of gambling.”

Arguments against gambling laws

Some in Brevard say that gambling in moderation is harmless, and believe that Florida’s laws against sports betting are hypocritical, given that there is an official state lottery.

That’s the view of Jamie Nance, an attorney for Nance Cacciatore law firm in Melbourne.

“I imagine that there is a vocal minority that opposes gambling for moralistic or religious reasons, but look, man has been gambling since the dawn of time,” Nance said. “It’s probably one of the world’s oldest professions.”

Nance said given strained government resources it seems unwise for law enforcement to spend money on the incarceration of gamblers and bookies “for relatively victimless vices.” If any punishment was warranted, it should be a small fine.

“There supposedly is a big libertarian movement in this country, but for some reason with the libertarians I know, their philosophy stops with gambling and prostitution,” Nance said. “Even if you disapprove of those activities, regulating them is still a government intrusion.”


State gambling statutes say sports betting is a second-degree misdemeanor. Those convicted can get up to 60 days of prison time and a maximum fine of $500.

There are stiffer penalties for “bookies,” a person who accepts bets based on set odds..

Bookmaking is a third-degree felony for first-time offenders and a second-degree felony for repeat offenders. A bookie’s first conviction can lead to a five-year prson sentence and $5,000 pine. The penalties escalate for repeat offenders. Those who are twice convicted of bookmaking can get a 15-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine.

Bill Respess, the chief trial attorney in Brevard, said that law enforcement rarely prosecutes individual bettors and primarily focuses its energy on “the people that are making money off the operation.”

In the past, Brevard has prosecuted operators of internet gambling cafes, but gambling prosecutions are rare, Respess said.

“I don’t see us spending a lot of time enforcing the gambling law to prevent Super Bowl bets between friends, but that doesn’t mean it’s legal,” he said. “There are lots of things that go on that are illegal. I hear fireworks go off around the holidays all the time. When people are caught breaking the laws, we enforce them.”


Arnie Wexler, a self-described former compulsive gambler who operates a national hotline for gambling addicts, said that the Super Bowl is the time of year when temptations for gambling addicts are the most prevalent and intense.

“The Super Bowl is a hotbed for gambling. Compulsive gambling is an all-year kind of thing, but what happens is that the Super Bowl is the last game for gamblers to bet on in the football season,” he said. “With compulsive gamblers, if they’ve won money before, they’re putting it all on the line right now, and if they’ve lost money, they’re trying to get it back during the Super Bowl. It’s the get-out bet for a gambler.”

Wexler said that every year after the Super Bowl, he gets inundated with desperate phone calls to his hotline, 1-800-LAST-BET. In his new book, “All Bets Are Off,” he shares how he recovered from a gambling addiction and describes how others can do the same.

“Nobody really cares about gambling addicts. They look at alcoholics and drug addicts as sick people, but they see compulsive gamblers as crooks,” he said. “The motive of my book is to get people to understand that compulsive gambling is an addiction, and it’s treatable.”

Contact Price at 321-242-3658 or You can also follow him on Twitter @Fla2dayBiz.

Giving props

A big part of Super Bowl gambling is proposition, or “rop” betting, wagering on aspects of the game other than the outcome of the score. Examples:
Will the winning coin toss land on heads or tails?
Will the performer singing the National Anthem remember the words?
Which player will score the first touchdown?
Which team will score first?
Which team will score last?
Will the first score of the game be a field goal or touchdown?
How many songs will the half-time performer sing?
Which team will have the most penalty yards?
Which quarterback will have the most passing yards?
Who will be named Super Bowl MVP?
Source: American Gaming Association, Indianapolis Star research


Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

For gambling addicts, Super Bowl wagers could bring ruin

Posted: Jan 31, 2015

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Super Bowl XLIX is coming up on Sunday. It's the world's biggest sports spectacle, and also the event with the heaviest bets. Legal betting will rake in over $100 million this year, but that's dwarfed by illegal betting, which may total $3.7 billion.

So for problem gamblers, the Super Bowl may be a the last chance for a big win. A loss could be especially catastrophic.

Think you're a big roller?

"I lost a hundred thousand dollars on one bet," said a man we're calling Al. He's the head of Gamblers Anonymous in Hawaii. He lost the 100 grand rolling dice.

"I had 4, and I did not make the 4. I threw a 7," he said. "And it's the worst feeling of your life. But if you make the 4, it's the best feeling of your life."

Al said he even had to ask his relatives for about a quarter of a million dollars to pay gambling debts.

"During my 16 or 17 years gambling compulsively, we estimate that I lost over two million dollars."

According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, 10,000 people in Hawaii are pathological gamblers, those whose wagering has a severe negative effect of his or her job, relationships or mental health. Another 20,000 are problem gamblers, who wager despite possible negative consequences.

The Washington, D.C., group said last year, it received 2,759 calls for help from Hawaii because there are no local hotlines for gambling addiction. And since legal gambling doesn't exist in Hawaii, there's no public funding for treatment and prevention. Those programs could be useful on Monday, as Al expects hardcore gamblers to go big on Super Sunday.

"Football season is ending. The Super Bowl is the wrap up of this. So people are running out of games to bet on, and they can't recover all their losses and they can't bet enough to recover their season."

"I wouldn't be surprised if there were an increased number of people calling G.A. (Gamblers Anonymous) after the Super Bowl," said Dr. Robin-Marie Shepherd, a University of Auckland professor who has done research on gambling in Hawaii. "That would be interesting to find out if that's the case."

Meanwhile, Al is glad to have kicked the addiction:

"The two most important things in my life was my children and my wife, and I was willing to give that away to continue to gamble."

For help in Hawaii, Gamblers Anonymous has help here.


Former gambling addict talks about desperate days around Superbowl

Posted: Jan 30, 2015 10:53 PM EST

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
Super Bowl weekend is not just the climax of the football season -- it is the biggest weekend of the year for legal and illegal gambling.

Only social betting is legal in Hawaii, but the state still has its share of desperate gamblers according to the leader of Hawaii's only chapter of Gamblers Anonymous.

"Football season is ending the Superbowl is the wrap-up of this, so people are running out of games to bet on."

Speaking under the pseudonym "Al" the chapter leader said the festive weekend is a frightening time for many players.

"They can't recover all their loses and they can't bet enough to recover their season. So we are getting a lot of phone calls from people asking about how to stop."

Al says recovery is similar to recovery from a drug addiction and can take years. He himself took nine years and multiple lapses before he gave up betting completely 21 years ago. National experts say Hawaii does not have the enough resources to prevent chronic gambling or help wean gamblers of the addiction, primarily because of the assumption that gambling addictions would not be as common in a state with no legal gaming.

Click HERE for more information on how to get help in Hawaii.

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