Is reading your Keno ticket online online gambling?


Dormant account
Dec 12, 2000
All eyes on Connecticut in Internet gaming dispute

Associated Press Writer

July 29, 2005, 5:35 PM EDT

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- A first-of-its-kind computer program has state regulators and one of the world's largest casinos locked in an Internet gambling dispute that is being watched around the country.

At issue is the Foxwoods Resort Casino promotion PlayAway, an Internet-based game that allows gamblers to buy keno tickets at the casino, check their status from home, then play a simulated slot machine or a hand of blackjack or poker that wins or loses depending on the keno results.

Foxwoods officials, who launched the game then quickly shut it down because of state protest last week, say it's just a different way of displaying traditional keno results, which are already available online. But state officials believe it is Internet gambling and have threatened a federal lawsuit if Foxwoods puts the game back online.

Foxwoods on Friday agreed to suspend the game until Aug. 15, 13 days later than the original Aug. 2 restart date. A spokesman for the casino said the tribe will use the extra time to provide detailed information to the state.

Foxwoods, which is owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, is the first casino in the country to try such a venture. If it succeeds, members of the National Indian Gaming Association expect the idea will attract other interested tribes.

Casino regulators in New Jersey are also watching. The Casino Control Commission is considering allowing Atlantic City casinos to use such software and spokesman Dan Heneghan said regulators will monitor the Connecticut dispute.

Foxwoods believes the issue is a matter of appearance. The PlayAway Web site never explained that the fancy blackjack and slot machine graphics were just a facade, a way to heighten the experience of checking for a winning keno ticket.

"Clearly the impression when you first went onto the Web site was that this was online gambling," said George Henningsen, chairman of the tribe's gaming commission. "It looks like you're playing. I know you're not, but I can't argue that it looks like it."

From a gambling standpoint, Henningsen said, it's the same game they've been running for years in which players try to guess series of random numbers. Visitors can buy keno tickets for future games, go home, miss the drawings, check the winning numbers and return to Foxwoods to cash in.

Henningsen said the tribe is tweaking its software to tell people that, despite the animations, they aren't actually playing games. They also plan to add a button to skip the graphics and just check the keno numbers.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal says the software crosses the line into Internet gambling, which is illegal. If this promotion is approved, he said there's nothing to stop the tribe from coming back for another slight change later.

"The slope is so slippery," Blumenthal said. "Once Internet gambling is allowed, almost any form of Web site gaming will occur."

The Internet gambling market is expected to generate nearly $17 billion in yearly revenue by 2009, according to the American Gaming Association. But Foxwoods officials say that's not their market. They don't want people sitting at home. They want players driving to the casino, which is what a winning PlayAway game forces them to do.

Internet marketing is big in every industry, Henningsen said, and casinos must keep up with the times.

"You're crazy not to be using the Internet," he said. "It's a personal link to someone who you know already has an inclination to gamble."

Steve Kane, CEO of GameLogic, the Massachusetts-based company that wrote the software, wouldn't discuss where else he's pitching his product but said it would be a good fit in any market. He said Connecticut's concerns are "imminently solvable."

Blumenthal said the tribe hasn't formally proposed any software changes but he said he can't foresee anything that would make the game acceptable as long as people are playing casino games online with a profit attached.

While the Mashantucket Pequots said they're eager to reach a compromise, they said they expect the game to be online soon.

"At this moment," Henningsen said, "I can't see any way this will be withdrawn."

Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.
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I've been following this since it started hitting the news columns, and I get the feeling there was initially something of an ego-element in it, too.

Foxwoods' marketing of the product, with a start date before the game had been submitted for inspection (which Foxwoods didn't believe was necessary, but the gaming authority did) seemed to get up the nose of the state AG and there were some pretty firm statements made by both sides.

Then other officials, including the governor, weighed in as the issue escalated and Foxwoods then started to take a more conciliatory tone. It was encouraging to see them all actually getting around a table last Friday, instead of making independent press statements with the potential to fuel the fire. That was followed by Foxwoods postponing the re-launch and submitting the game for approval.

It will be interesting to see what happens next, because Foxwoods would seem to have a strong case - the money changes hands both at deposit and payout (if any) on the land casino property, as does the results calculation and announcement.

I guess the confusing US legal approach to online gambling will always make potentially precedent issues like this good news material.
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To argue the counter case, I can see how the state sees this as a slippery slope. One of the arguments advanced for the legality of online gaming is that the results are generated in a legal jurisdiction via rng--just as the Keno results are generated at Foxwoods.

It could later be argued that financial transactions "occur" at the processing site.

Finally, there is the issue of both deceptive marketing and the nature of the game as presented via the interface. It was marketed as being casino games other than Keno; it is presented in the interface as being games other than Keno; they are card games (blackjack)hence there's the problem that players expect their decisions to make a difference in the outcome of the game but they really don't.

I could see how the AG would have legitimate, non-political reasons for shutting it down as presented and insisting on changes that make the presentation to the player more honest. Just as we face this problem here online.
Of course the whole dispute wouldn't exist in the first place if the US government trusted their citizens enough to make their own moral decisions as to what's right and wrong.

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