Testimony Opposing AB 800

TO: Chairman Swearingen and Members of State Affairs and Government Operations

FR: Lorri Pickens, Citizens Against Expanded Gambling

DATE: January 27, 2015

RE: Testimony Opposing AB 800


Thank you Chairman Swearingen and Members of State Affairs and Government Operations.

My name is Lorri Pickens, and I am here on behalf of Citizens Against Expanded Gambling. Citizens Against Expanded Gambling is a group of concerned citizens, employers and community leaders who oppose the expansion of gambling in Wisconsin.

Citizens Against Expanded Gambling represents like-minded citizens across Wisconsin who have joined our efforts to oppose the expansion of gambling, educate policy leaders about the dangers of expanding gambling in Wisconsin and to advocate for state policies that will keep Wisconsin a safe and healthy place to raise a family.

Accordingly, AB 800 presents great concern for us. This bill represents the biggest expansion of gambling in Wisconsin history. Ultimately, you’ll be opening a casino and lottery retailer in every bedroom and smart phone in the state.

The DFS games themselves are dishonest and predatory. Legalizing them doesn’t change that reality. It’s a public rip-off.

Moreover, Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) meets all of the requirements of the fundamental definition of commercial gambling and have a fundamentally different relationship to chance than season-long fantasy games. On a given day an injury, a snowstorm, or a ball bouncing strangely could affect a result. In this regard, placing a wager with a DFS operator is very similar to placing a bet with a bookmaker.

It has consideration (the player wagers money).

It has a prize (the player wins cash prizes).

And it has chance (there must be at least enough variance that an unskilled or lesser skilled bettor can win the prize, at least in the short run).

Calling it a game of skill doesn’t change that reality. It’s a public deception.

Many of America’s casino operators and gambling regulators publicly call DFS “gambling.” MGM Casinos Chairman Jim Murren recently said those who argue that daily fantasy games are not gambling are “absolutely, utterly wrong.” Murren added, “I don’t know how to run a football team, but I do know how to run a casino, and this is gambling.”

The CEO of major sports book operator William Hill U.S., Joe Asher, echoed Murren’s declaration. “You put up of something of value, cash, to win something of value, cash. It’s the classic definition of gambling…any suggestion that (fantasy sports) is not gambling is the biggest bunch of baloney I’ve ever seen.”

Even the people who run these online DFS sites publicly admit they are running a gambling operation like “a casino.” DraftKings CEO Jason Robins acknowledged his website was “almost identical to a casino” in an online discussion on Reddit three years ago.

AB 800 legalizes DFS gambling and provides the entry way for all online gambling. Gambling has grown at an extraordinary rate after the Wisconsin Legislature legalized the lottery in 1989. Wisconsin’s own Council on Problem Gambling shows an alarming increase in problem gambling with a direct correlation to the expansion of gambling in Wisconsin.

Approximately 333,000 Wisconsin residents have a gambling problem.

Calls to the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling’s 24-hour Helpline have increased 329% since 1996.

The average debt of callers contacting the Helpline is $46,967.

Rose Gruber, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling says the total number of calls only tells part of the story. The calls in 2015 included:

• A call from a Sauk County woman who said her boyfriend attempted suicide when she found out about his gambling addiction
• A call from an Outagamie County man who said he is now homeless due to gambling.
• A Brown County caller who says he gambled away the $500,000 he inherited from his father and has also maxed out his credit cards and lost his job.
• A Milwaukee County woman who said she usually limits herself to $10 to $20, but recently spent her whole paycheck gambling.

With online gambling, all you really need is a credit card and a computer, and you’re one click away from losing your home, your family, and your life.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Lorri Pickens
Citizens Against Expanded Gambling
lorri@citizensagainstgambling.com