Florida House Passes Gambling Bill but Gov Scott Asks the Senate to Hold Off while he negotiates with the Seminole Tribe

Casino Watch Focus reported on the two bills the Florida House and Senate were debating.  The Florida House committee has now voted to create a new state gambling agency to act as a gambling commission.  The Miami Herald explains that Gov. Rick Scott is asking the Senate to hold off moving forward until after he has negotiated with the Seminole Tribe:

“The governor’s office called me and asked if we would slow down the process until we know what the terms of a potential deal with the tribe is,’’ Richter told the Herald/Times late Wednesday. He said he expects the vote to be delayed for at least another week and he is optimistic the governor will resolve the gaming compact before session ends in May.

The compact, a legal agreement between the state and the tribe, guarantees that the tribe give the state about $234 million a year in revenue in exchange for the exclusive right to operate slot machines at four casinos outside of Miami-Dade and Broward. It also allows the tribe to operate banked card games — blackjack, chemin de fer and baccarat — at the Hard Rock casinos in Tampa and near Hollywood, plus three other casinos.

The portion of the agreement that relates to table games expires Aug. 1, 2015, and Scott has decided to start negotiating terms of the deal now. If he resolves the agreement, legislators must ratify it and it is uncertain whether that could be completed before session is scheduled to adjourn May 2.

These negotiations will have a big impact on what the legislature can do with gambling expansion.  The Daily Business Review breaks down the relationship the Seminole Tribe’s compact has on the states plans to expand:

House and Senate leaders are waiting for Gov. Rick Scott to seal a deal with the Seminole Tribe before they finalize decisions about the future of gambling in Florida.  The governor is playing his cards close to his vest, and it’s unclear whether he’ll wrap up negotiations in time for the Legislature to ratify a new compact with the tribe before the legislative session ends May 2.

But the elements of any new deal between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida would center on three items—the tribe’s revenue to the state, the types of games the tribe is allowed to have and the tribe’s rights to be the only gambling operators in the state to offer certain games, known as “exclusivity.”

“If nothing’s done, the tribe is going to lose their ability to operate the banked card games. That’s a real issue for them and it certainly is leverage for the state of Florida,” said Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, one of the chief architects of the current, $1 billion, five-year deal with the Seminoles that sunsets on Aug. 1, 2015. “So the heart of the negotiations have to be the continuation of the card authorization, most likely an effort to have additional games at their facilities, and (the Seminoles) would have to couple that with a new, greater offer of dollars.

Ultimately the decision of the Senate to move forward is their own to make and if the Gov doesn’t resolve the issues quickly, they may very well act.  The Daily Business Review goes on to explain that even if the Senate does pass gambling legislation, the House Speaker Will Weathorford, is insisting that they wont pass any major gambling bills until the negotiations have concluded.

 

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Brief Look at Crime 03/03 – 03/09

Man admits to stealing more than $4.9 mill. from his employer

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Neosho, Mo., man pleaded guilty in federal court today to stealing more than $4.9 million from his employer. David VanWinkle, 60, of Neosho, waived his right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush to wire fraud, money laundering and failure to pay taxes. VanWinkle was the comptroller for Frontier Leasing Incorporated (FLI) in Joplin, Mo. By pleading guilty today, VanWinkle admitted that he stole $4,911,621 from FLI between June 2008 and December 2013, which he spent on personal expenses and gambling. Under the terms of today’s plea agreement, VanWinkle must forfeit to the government $4,911,621, a 2013 Holland tractor, a 2007 Hummer H3, a 2012 John Deere no-till seed drill, and $28,086 that was seized from various bank accounts. Under federal statutes, VanWinkle is subject to a sentence of up to 30 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $750,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

Gretna woman pleads guilty to stealing $4.1M

A 54-year-old Gretna woman already serving time for tax evasion has pleaded guilty to stealing the $4.1 million on which she didn’t pay taxes. Caroline Richardson made her plea Monday in Douglas County District Court in Omaha. Her sentencing is scheduled for March 18. She faces up to 10 more years in prison. She’s already serving a five-year term. Prosecutors say Richardson stole from Omaha-based Colombo Candy and Tobacco in 2010 and 2011 while working as company controller. Prosecutors say she used the money to gamble at Ameristar Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Colombo has sued Ameristar, saying the casino knew about Richardson’s job and her approximate salary and should have known Richardson was gambling with ill-gotten money.

Biologist discovers body

It was a gruesome discovery: a man’s partially decomposed body lying halfway down a steep gully in the Summit-Waller area, shrouded by bushes. A biologist who set out Friday morning to do some field work near Swan Creek at the base of the ravine found the remains and called 911. Margaret Effelberg, the woman charged in Cortes’ murder, told a friend “she was surprised that he has not been found yet and that he is close by,” according to charging papers in the case. Effelberg is charged with first-degree murder, second-degree trafficking in stolen property and second-degree possessing stolen property in Cortes’ death. She became a suspect after detectives learned she was the last person to speak to Cortes on the phone. Effelberg reportedly helped Cortes manage his bills and other paperwork. Prosecutors allege she killed Cortes because she was desperate for money due to a gambling addiction and faced eviction. Effelberg also is accused of gaining access to Cortes’ bank account, using stolen debit cards and selling his truck.

Investment banker stole more than £500,000 from wealthy clients to fund gambling habit

An investment banker who stole nearly £600,000 from wealthy clients to fund his gambling habit has been jailed for two years. Timothy Brooks, 42, who was employed at the Mayfair Private Banking Service division of Lloyds TSB Banking Group, plundered money from the private banking accounts of customers over a six-year period. The married father-of-three pleaded guilty at Manchester Crown Court to 17 counts of fraud, with withdrawals totalling £573,736 diverted to bank accounts he set up in the names of his children. He revealed that he had deliberately chosen customers with the biggest portfolios who were least likely to notice thousands going missing. The money was stolen in 57 separate transactions – but went unnoticed until a processing error led to one of the payments being looked at more closely last July. Mark Ford, defending Brooks in court, said that at the time of the thefts Brooks was in the ‘vice-like’ grip of a gambling addiction. Huge sums were spent on casino tables and online sports betting with companies including Grosvenor Casinos.

Woman threatens to blow up gambling hall where she lost 130,000 yuan

A WOMAN threatened to set off explosives in an illegal gaming room in Chongming County after she lost 130,000 yuan (US$21,138) on gambling machines, but instead fainted due to high blood sugar and was sent to a hospital, police said yesterday. The woman, 48, whose name was not released, became addicted to gambling after a neighbor took her to a nearby game room in November to cheer her up after an investment of hers failed. She won some money at the beginning but then lost 130,000 yuan over three months. On February 28, a gambling machine broke when she thought she was about to win over 6,000 yuan. She got into a dispute with the gaming room owner and he hit her on the head, causing her to fall to the ground, police said. Driven by anger at the owner, she bought firecrackers and put the gunpowder inside them into glass bottles. She took the bottles to the gaming room and used an iron bar there to damage the machines. She also threatened the workers who tried to stop her by shouting that she had explosives. But she fainted as her blood sugar spiraled while she was angry. Police called to the scene removed the bottles with gunpowder, and the woman was sent to a hospital, where she was questioned by police.

 Former Bellevue employee admits to stealing $117,000 meant for youth sports

Long-time Bellevue Parks and Community Services employee Heather Christoff has resigned her position as recreation program coordinator while the Bellevue Police Department investigates to see whether she stole more than $117,000 to fund her gambling habit. During questioning at police headquarters in January, Christoff, a 10-year veteran of the parks department, admitted she “created the business to embezzle money from the City of Bellevue.”  The court documents said that Christoff also confessed “she stole the money because she was experiencing financial difficulties” which were “a direct result of her gambling addiction.”

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Florida State Agency Blocks Genting – Gulfstream Resort Deal

Casino Watch Focus last reported that the Genting group was attempting to establish a destination resort that could easily support the addition of a mega casino.  They purchased the Miami Herald complex property and partnered with Gulfstream Park in an attempt to subvert the will of the voters and to that extent, the legislature that turned down their earlier casino plans.  Genting newest plan is to use a pari-mutuel permit held by the Gulfstream Park to allow a stand alone casino at their newly acquired downtown Miami site.  The St. Peters Blog is reporting that the State is declining that attempt:

On Friday, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation denied a request by Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred After-Racing Program, or GPTARP.

The agency decided the permit was only for use in Broward County and cannot be transferred to a separate place in Miami-Dade County.

The permit was the key element in a deal between Gulfstream and Resorts World, part of the Malaysia-based Genting Group, joined by breeders and thoroughbred owners and trainers, to start a new hotel/casino at a Genting-owned Miami bayfront property. Genting purchased the site in 2011 for $236 million.

In the agreement, Resorts World would use the GPTARP document to operate up to 2,000 slot machines at the Miami site while races remain at Gulfstream Park.

Critics claimed the deal essentially “decouples” racing from the highly profitable slot machines, poker and other gambling that is allowed onsite by pari-mutuel permits.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Brief Look at Crime 02/24 – 03/02

Former court clerk who stole from Merrillville gets 30-month prison term  

A Merrillville woman who stole more than $175,000 from the town of Merrillville will spend two and a half years in prison. Virlissa Crenshaw, who pleaded guilty in 2012 to stealing $176,763 from the town and lying on her income tax return, cried as she apologized at her sentencing hearing Monday morning in U.S. District Court in Hammond. “I’m so sorry,” she said repeatedly through her tears. Crenshaw used her position as a clerk for the Merrillville Town Court to steal the money from bond payments made by defendants who had been arrested on misdemeanor charges, such as driving while intoxicated or battery. She then stole from other defendants’ bond payments to pay back some of those she had stolen from. Bell also said Crenshaw used the money to gamble. “You stole from the taxpayers to gamble?” U.S. District Judge James T. Moody asked Crenshaw, appearing shocked. “Yes sir,” she responded.

Disbarred New City lawyer who stole almost $1.15 million to be sentenced April 1

A judge on Tuesday promised a disbarred attorney who stole nearly $1.15 million from clients that he’s going to be sentenced to prison April 1. Joel Grossbarth’s sentencing has been adjourned since June based on his promises to repay more money to his clients and his decision to change lawyers. He’s repaid $297,086, leaving his debt $849,470, prosecutor Gary Lee Heavner told Judge Barry Warhit in Rockland County Court in New City on Tuesday. Grossbarth’s promise to include $250,000 in bail never materialized after Warhit jailed him in November on his March guilty plea to two felony counts. Warhit said he couldn’t understand why the cash was never turned over to prosecutors as promised, or how Grossbarth’s family didn’t get the money. Grossbarth stole from about 20 clients over five years to support a gambling habit, Heavner said. He represented those clients in medical malpractice claims, real estate deals and other matters. He also worked as an attorney for Sloatsburg, Airmont and New Hempstead.

N.J. Man Sentenced in Real Estate Fraud That Targeted Jews

A New Jersey man has been sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role in a real estate fraud and money laundering scheme that targeted Orthodox Jews and caused $200 million in losses. The Justice Department on Tuesday said Eliyahu Weinstein, of Lakewood, N.J., was also ordered to pay restitution of $215.4 million and forfeiture of the same amount of money for his role in the scheme. The 38-year-old’s scheme generated headlines in 2010 when a criminal complaint was unveiled and alleged Mr. Weinstein amassed a personal multimillion-dollar collection of jewelry, clocks and watches, including items from Bulgari, Cartier and Harry Winston. Mr. Weinstein also used money from the fraud to pay millions of dollars in credit card bills, legal expenses, luxury car lease payments and gambling in Las Vegas, the Justice Department said.

2nd Casino Hit With Counterfeit Chip Scheme in Less Than a Month

Maryland Live! is the second casino in under two months to be struck by a counterfeit scheme.Maryland State Police have charged a Virginia couple and are looking for two other individuals in the matter. Police say Rosa Nguyen of Annandale, Virginia, bought counterfeit chips online and they were altered to look like Maryland Live! chips. Police say the chips were thrown into a lake, but they floated and most were recovered. Late last month, the Borgata Casino was forced to cancel a tournament following the discovery of counterfeit chips.  A clogged pipe at an Atlantic City, N.J., casino ultimately led to the discovery of $2.7 million in counterfeit poker chips that had been flushed down a toilet.  Christian Lusardi of Fayetteville, North Carolina was arrested on charges including theft and rigging a public contest.

Woman gets 13 years for scamming elderly out of $800K 

When she was just 22, Tiffany Hall started coaxing elderly victims into giving up financial information by posing as a fraud investigator looking into unusual activity on their accounts, federal prosecutors say. Over the next five years, Hall’s scheme bilked more than $800,000 from at least 1,000 victims, some of whom lost their life savings. Many were living in nursing homes and needed canes and walkers to get around. At least two of the victims handed over their credit cards to Hall while holding oxygen tanks, according to prosecutors. “(Hall) not only stole the victims’ money, she also stole their trust, their security and their belief in the goodness of others,” prosecutors wrote in a recent court filing. “The victims were old, lonely, trusting, and just wanted some company – someone to talk with.” Hall used the money to gamble and to purchase high-end items such as cars, designer bags, shoes, electronics, clothes and games, prosecutors said. She and her husband also paid their own bills and expenses with the ill-gotten gains.

97-year-old Devon man had £200,000 savings stolen by gambling relative

A TEIGNMOUTH man was caught trying to board a ferry to France after stealing more than £200,000 from his elderly relative. David Comer, 51, fleeced his wife’s granddad of his life savings in order to pay for holidays and feed his gambling addiction, a court has been told. Over a period of four years Comer siphoned-off money using the elderly man’s internet banking accounts. He then forged bank statements to make it look like nothing was wrong. Exeter Crown Court was told the victim, aged 97, is now living in a state-funded residential home with no way of ever getting the money back. In total he lost £213,455. Comer, a bankrupt, cannot pay and the banks have refused, saying the accounts were legal. The defendant, who admitted one count of theft, was jailed for three years and four months.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Billions to be lost in gambling & work productivity as we enter NCAA March Madness

Selection Sunday will signal the beginning of a gambling craze.  As Warren Buffet offers a billion dollars to a perfect bracket, more and more people will interested in filling out brackets.  As the country gears up for another year of March Madness its important to understand the impact that office pools have on employers and the communities. Obviously, not all office pools will result in gambling, however, a vast majority do involve illegal gambling. A USAtody article points to reports of online pools that take an entry fee and award cash and prizes. These pools may seem harmless but FBI spokesman Ross Rice explained that,‘“There could be a violation if there’s a payout and if the operators take a cut.” So how many people will engage in office pools this time of year and how will it impact work productivity? The St Louis post dispatch provides some good insight:

Nearly half of U.S. workers have participated in an office pool, and nearly a quarter have watched or followed sports events on their computer at work, according to a recent survey. 10 percent of employees have called in sick to watch or attend a game. 11 percent of workers aged 18 to 24 have participated in an office pool, compared to 77 percent of those 65 and older.

Very few employers offer guidance in their policies regarding office pools, even though it may mean taking a hit in terms of productivity, said John Heins, chief human resources officer for recruiting and staffing company Spherion Corp.

In terms of cost to employers, the Charlotte Observer points to a Chicago-based survey which says as much as $1.7 billion will be lost by employers in productivity, which breaks down to $109 million lost for every 10 minutes spent following the tournament. They believe there will be over 37 million workers participating in pools with 1.5 million watching games and results online from their desks.

The Charlotte Observer went on to quantify the financial impact of just the gambling.  On the low estimates they point to Terry Elman, acting executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling in New Jersey, who said “As much as $750 million is wagered on the tournament in office pools each year.”  On the high end, Lazer wager, an online sports, casino and entertainment gambling website, was reported claiming that, “with bracket pools ranging from $5 to $25 per person, office pools are now worth an incredible $2.5 billion.”

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Brief Look at Crime 02/17 – 02/23

Man gets 25-to-life for killing casino winner

A man who killed a Southern California casino winner during a botched robbery has been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. The Orange County Register says Tad Carroll was sentenced Friday, two months after pleading guilty to first-degree murder. Another defendant, Barbara Hamel, had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder but prosecutors say she backed out of a plea deal Friday and the case will return to court. Orange County prosecutors say the pair followed 55-year-old Chi Bui after he won $10,000 at the Hawaiian Gardens Casino in Los Angeles County in 2010. Bui was confronted in Santa Ana. Prosecutors say Carroll knocked him down and Hamel drove over his head, killing him instantly. A third defendant, Michael Ross of Long Beach, received a 15-years-to-life sentence last year.

 Peppermill faces $1M fine for slot machine spying

A $1 million fine is being levied on Peppermill Casinos Inc. that owns operation in Reno, Sparks, Henderson and Wendover for sending out an employee to illegally gather information on the slot machine win percentages of its competitors. The state Gaming Control Board and the Peppermill signed a settlement Thursday in which the company admitted the allegations in the two-count complaint. The complaint alleged that since 2011, Peppermill employee Ryan Tors had a slot machine “reset” key that allowed him to enter the slots in other competitors to determine the amount of hold. That’s the amount of money kept by casino on the wagers. On July 12, 2013, security caught Tors using a reset key at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno. A subsequent investigation revealed that, beginning at least in 2011, Tors had used the reset key to obtain the information in 10 other casinos in the Reno-Sparks and Wendover areas.

Herndon man to plead guilty to insurance theft

A Herndon man charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office with stealing more than $630,000 in insurance funds plans to enter a guilty plea Tuesday. Derl H. Knarr, 55, will plead guilty to a felony of theft of insurance funds before Judge Matthew Brann in U.S. District Court in Williamsport and has agreed to make full restitution. According to U.S. Attorney Peter J. Smith, Knarr stole the funds in Snyder, Northumberland and other counties while he worked as an agent for Allstate Financial Services. The thefts occurred between 2006 and 2012. The investigation was conducted by the FBI, State College Resident Office. Allstate Financial Services is a subsidiary of Allstate Insurance Company, which offers auto, home, life and business insurance, retirement and investment products and banking services. According to court documents, Knarr allegedly embezzled, abstracted, purloined and misappropriated money, funds, premiums, credits and other property of the insurance business totaling $630,836.72. His actions caused clients to liquidate certain Lincoln Benefit Life Company annuities and endorse proceeds checks to him. Knarr also allegedly used the funds stolen from his clients to pay for personal expenses including trips to gambling casinos in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

North Bay social worker arrested on embezzlement charges

A North Bay social worker has been accused of stealing from those who trusted him most, authorities said. Santa Rosa Police arrested 66-year-old Larry Sark on Monday as they served a search warrant at his home, seizing computers and financial records. Salk worked with developmentally disabled adults, helping them manage their lives. But investigators say he helped himself to their Social Security funds. “We believe he lived way beyond his income” Sgt. Phil Brazis told KTVU, “and following the money, we find it to be true.” Brazis says bank records going back at least five years reveal hundreds of checks, ostensibly allocated for client’s personal and incidental needs, but siphoned to Sark. The amount embezzled allegedly amounts to $400,000. Investigators say they found evidence Sark spent the money on fine dining, golf and gambling trips out of state, and even a honeymoon in Egypt.

Ex-Pa. gas drilling exec pleads guilty over thefts

 A former chief operating officer who stole more than $9 million from his gas drilling company to feed his casino gambling habit has pleaded guilty to conspiracy, mail fraud and income tax fraud. Larry Dean Winckler will be sentenced May 30 by U.S. District Court Judge Terrence McVerry, who accepted his guilty plea on Tuesday. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Melucci and defense attorney Martin Dietz agreed that federal guidelines call for a sentence of just over five years in prison to as much as 6 1/2 years. Winckler, 53, has agreed to forfeit more than $481,000 in a bank account, jewelry including four Rolex watches and a house to help satisfy the debt. Winckler didn’t comment beyond answering the judge’s questions with “yes” or “no” answers, and Dietz declined to comment except when asked how much of the thefts were driven by Winckler’s gambling habit. “Every penny,” Dietz said.

Employee at historic private member’s club accused of stealing £500,000

One of Britain’s most historic private member’s clubs has been left reeling after a trusted member of staff allegedly stole more than £500,000 to feed a gambling habit, the Daily Telegraph can disclose. The East India Club in London’s exclusive St James’s Square has attracted the great and the good for more than 160 years, including Prince Albert, Lord Mountbatten and Lord Randolph Churchill. The mansion house boasts 66 bedrooms and charges annual fees of up to £985 for its 5,200 members.  But embarrassed officials have been forced to write to each member to inform that more than half a million pounds had been stolen from club funds. The letter, seen by this newspaper, also sought to reassure them that the club’s future was safe and that the alleged theft would not result in an increase in subscription fees.  It is understood the man, who has been arrested and charged, was an experienced long serving employee in the accounts department where colleagues have been left stunned by the case.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


New Florida Gambling Bills Look to Overhaul the System and Allow for More Casinos

Casino Watch Focus recently reported  that a new drove of lobbyists have come to Florida to ensure gambling expansion by way of new designation resort casinos. The mod has shifted as a result and now a Florida Senate Bill looks to allow two new Vegas style casinos directly while the House version of the bill would allow Gov Scott to authorize expanded casinos.  The Miami Herald Reports:

The Florida House weighed into the gambling debate on Monday and proposed a bill that won’t authorize new casinos but will overhaul the state’s gambling laws, putting all regulation of race tracks, slot machines and poker rooms under a Gaming Control Commission, similar to those in Nevada, New Jersey and other large gaming states.

Unlike a similar Senate plan, which overhauls regulation and authorizes new casino resorts in Miami Dade and Broward counties, the House plan leaves the decision to introduce mega-casinos to Florida to Gov. Rick Scott.

The governor can approve or reject the casinos when he negotiates a new gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The governor has until July 2015 to re-negotiate a portion of the 20-year gaming compact that applies to the tribe’s exclusive right to operate table games such as black jack, chemin de fer and baccarat at its South Florida casinos.

The bills also offer the guise of protection against future gambling expansion, but only in so much as the public would have to directly vote for any new expansion that isn’t passed into legislation this year.  The Miami Herald continues:

The House also drafted a constitutional amendment that would require voters to approve any expansion of gambling that does not get approved by legislators this year. The measure could close the door to any future expansion of gambling in the state because 60 percent of voters statewide would have to approve of any new venture. That condition offers a measure of economic security to those in business now, and attempts to win the support of gambling opponents who see it as a permanent limit on expanded gambling.

The Senate has also proposed a constitutional amendment that give voters the authority to restrict future games, but the House proposal is more restrictive.

The bills also look to create a type of gambling commission to oversee Florida’s gambling activities.  The Herald explains:

The major thrust of the House proposal, HB 1383, follows the initiative announced last week by the Florida Senate to revamp the way gambling is regulated in Florida.

The primary House bill, which was filed by Rep. Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill, the head of the House Gaming Committee, creates a Gaming Control Commission that would regulate all gaming in the state except the lottery. It is similar to the Senate plan to create a state Gaming Control Board.

Unlike the Senate gaming board, which includes five members appointed by the governor, the House gaming commission would be comprised of five members appointed by the governor from a list of candidates chosen by a legislatively-controlled nominated commission.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


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