Casinos dangle funny money to lure customers

Think of it as the candy cigarettes of the casino industry.

Players lose no actual money on the online games recently unveiled by Plainridge Park Casino. But they can still win — and win big. It is meaningless points that players accrue on the games, but it’s a heady feeling nonetheless to see your tally soar into the stratosphere.

Natasha Dow Schull, a New York University professor who studies the gambling industry, tells the Globe’s Sean Murphy the goal is to “prime your system for gambling — to hook you in.”

Welcome to yet another front in the state’s new gambling enterprise — the only industry state government essentially partners with while also expressing misgivings about having it succeed too wildly.

Schull says the sites — known in the business as “social gaming” — have a bait-and-switch dynamic because the winnings they offer are greater than those at real slots facilities. A spokesman for Penn National, the owner of Plainridge Park, says players have the same odds of winning as at real slots in terms of the “percentage of spins” that pay off.

“But the jackpots are far higher, creating the illusion of success,” Murphy writes about the online faux slots.

The site also uses players to try to help promote Plainridge, offering them extra points to click a button to email friends about the online games.

“It’s marketing and advertising to get people to come to your casino,” one Las Vegas consultant tells the Globe.

All of that should be welcomed by the state, which gets nearly half (49 percent) of the gambling revenue at Plainridge. What’s more, Plainridge has had a horrible start, with projected revenue for its first year now roughly half of what was originally forecast. Anything that can boost its bottom line means revenue for the state.

But the state’s casino legislation also committed Massachusetts to the most ambitious program in the country to combat compulsive gambling — just the sort of thing some critics say “social gaming” can act as a gateway drug for. The $15 to $20 million a year that casinos are expected to send to a trust fund to research and treat gambling addiction will roughly double the amount spent on such programs across the entire country.

The state gambling commission, in a statement, said the social gaming being promoted by Plainridge — in which no money changes hands — does not come under its purview. But it suggested it is keeping a close eye on the ever-changing gambling landscape.

“We continue to closely monitor the introduction of new gaming trends and we will take the appropriate steps when and if necessary to ensure the integrity of the state’s gaming industry,” the statement said.

–MICHAEL JONAS

 

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Boston officials acknowledge violating the state’s Open Meeting Law in providing inadequate advance notice of a recent hearing on instituting buffer zones for marijuana dispensaries, but say it was the result of a typo. (Boston Globe)

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno vetoes a City Council initiative that would have limited his ability to grant employees waivers from the city’s residency requirement. (Masslive)

Quincy city councilors want money to hire their own lawyer rather than relying on the city solicitor who is appointed by the mayor. (Patriot Ledger)

The Brockton 21st Century Corporation, a non-profit taxpayer-funded agency that oversees economic development in the city, is seeking forgiveness of the remaining $6.8 million it owes on the $8 million loan the city granted to build Campanelli Stadium, which houses the Brockton Rox. (The Enterprise)

Joe Battenfeld, waves another yellow flag for Boston’s IndyCar race, writing that the event will need approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency before it can pave over a contaminated waste site filled with PCBs. (Boston Herald)

CASINOS

A state gambling commission member seems skeptical of Somerville’s claims in challenging environmental permits for the Wynn casino in Everett. (Boston Herald)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Two of the attackers in the Brussels bombings were brothers whom police had been searching for since last week’s raid that resulted in the capture of the man wanted in the deadly Paris attack at a concert last November. (New York Times) Police presence was stepped up at the T and Logan Airport in the wake of the bombings. (CommonWealth)

ELECTIONS

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton win in Arizona; Ted Cruz takes the Utah caucuses. (Time) Something for everyone in primary voting and caucuses Tuesday, except for John Kasich. (U.S. News & World Report)

Scot Lehigh ponders a brokered Republican convention and sees possible light (i.e., John Kasich) at the end of that tunnel. (Boston Globe)

A special election for the state Senate seat vacated by East Boston’s Anthony Petruccelli is showcasing the changing political landscape in the city, with two minority women who are first-time candidates, Diana Hwang and Lydia Edwards, among the seven Democrats vying for the seat. (CommonWealth)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

An insider account of life in the Cambridge start-up HubSpot — which company officials went to great lengths to try to obtain an advance copy of — is set for release. (Boston Globe)

Aegis Energy Services, which is planning a $7 million expansion in Holyoke, wins state approval of an arrangement that will allow the company to avoid paying any property taxes for 10 years, saving $400,000. The company will also receive a $300,000 tax credit. (Masslive)

Federal regulators are seeking a 62 percent cut in the cod catch quota, a reduction fishermen say would be devastating to the Northeast commercial industry. (Standard-Times)

The success of Uber’s technology for on-demand service isn’t translating well to other services such as food shopping, grocery delivery, and valet parking. (New York Times) CommonWealth spotlighted the problems with one such service that has since folded up shop in Boston.

Chick-fil-A was banned in Boston, but it’s opening a restaurant in Worcester. (Telegram & Gazette)

EDUCATION

Boston school superintendent Tommy Chang says the city should consider revamping the calendar by beginning classes before Labor Day, scrapping the February vacation week, and adding some days to the winter break. (Boston Globe)

The state taps Jessica Huizenga, an assistant superintendent in the Cambridge schools, to be the receiver for the troubled Southbridge school district. (Boston Globe)

The New Bedford School Committee and City Council will hold an unusual joint session to seek ways to curb the increasing disciplinary problems among students including incidents of violence and bullying in the middle schools. (Standard-Times)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The FDA announces stronger warnings for opioid painkillers. (Time)

Though nearly all Massachusetts adults have health insurance coverage, affording premiums and other charges and having ready access to a provider are another matter, according to a new report. (Boston Globe)

Narcan, the overdose-reversing drug, saved four lives in Haverhill on Monday. (Eagle-Tribune)

Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge are working on a book about Pete Frates and his family. Frates, who suffers from ALS, and his family launched the ice bucket challenge that has raised $220 million. (Gloucester Times)

David Whitlock, co-founder of the Cambridge biotech company AOBiome, who hasn’t showered in 13 years, talks about the benefits of live bacteria and the dangers of soap. (Greater Boston)

TRANSPORTATION

A Globe editorial encourages the state to consider privatizing the long-struggling Worcester airport.

In the wake of two assaults, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh wants legislation regulating ride-sharing companies to allow municipalities to impose their own rules. (State House News)

While state officials were basking in the glow of the shiny new $82 million Government Center MBTA station, a Herald editorial uses the ribbon-cutting to warn against overly grandiose — and pricey — plans for stations and other amenities along the proposed Green Line extension to Medford.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Gov. Charlie Baker, once an opponent of Cape Wind, now seems amenable to supporting offshore wind, with some caveats. (CommonWealth) Could approval of the governor’s hydroelectricity bill affect whether the Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline gets built? (Masslive)

Danvers balks at joining a regional municipal coalition opposed to the Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline. (Salem News)

Methuen considers taking baby steps to rein in how much trash residents can throw away each week, limiting garbage output to a single 64-gallon container. (Eagle-Tribune)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A Lowell Sun editorial applauds Duxbury for substituting mandatory fines instead of criminal complaints for initial underage drinking violations.

PASSINGS

Dr. Arthur Pappas of Auburndale, the former team doctor for the Boston Red Sox, died Tuesday at age 84. (Telegram & Gazette)

Former Toronto mayor Rob Ford at 46 after cancer fight. (Time)

MEDIA

An Oxford kennel sues the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester for defamation. (Masslive)

Nick Denton of Gawker offers his insights on the $140 million Hulk Hogan verdict. (Gawker)