Miami Beach Mayor Worried about New Casinos Being Discussed in Backdoor Meetings, but Could a New Trump Casino or Other Really Come to Fruition?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing attempts to expand gambling via a new Vegas-Style casino in the Miami area.  Most attempts are geared toward establishing new casinos, but now discussions are underway that seek to transfer existing licenses to new jurisdictions.  Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber is speaking out in hopes of bringing the process to light.  The Miami-Herald reports:

Republican leaders in Tallahassee are quietly considering an effort to allow casino owners to transfer gambling licenses to venues in locales that have banned gaming and preempt local restrictions, setting up a fight between cities, anti-gaming forces and state lawmakers in Florida, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber warned Wednesday.

Gelber raised his concerns during the city’s commission meeting, saying that private conversations in Tallahassee could lead to legislation that would allow for a casino at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel. Jeffrey Soffer — who owns the Fontainebleau and the Big Easy Casino in Broward County — has pushed for years to allow for gambling at his Beach resort.

Gelber also alluded to efforts by Genting Group, which owns the former Miami Herald bayfront property near downtown Miami, to build a casino resort. Also Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that the Trump Organization is lobbying for legislation in Tallahassee that would allow for a casino at the Trump National Doral Miami.

“This is a very frightening moment,” Gelber said, later telling the Miami Herald that “the measure … is going to first help give it to the Fontainebleau, and then one of those other two locations.”

Speculation grew about a Trump Casino in particular, but just how likely is it that they could expand the casino business in Florida at this time?  A deep dive by an online casino trade source indicates its not very like, and some obstacles exist for other casino companies as well:

The troubles facing former President Donald Trump’s faltering business empire were well documented by /Bloomberg News/ this week. Jumping back into the casino industry, however, probably isn’t the most viable solution that would be offered up by Trump’s creditors. They are owed some $590 million in loans that come due over the next few years.

Based on Trump’s gaming industry track record, bankruptcy lawyers could be the only group excited by news reports that he may be eyeing a casino for his struggling Trump National Doral golf club near Miami. However, Florida’s Seminole Indian Tribe, Disney Corp., and the state constitution block the path for another Trump gaming enterprise.

Together, the Seminoles and Disney have spent millions of dollars defeating Florida gaming expansion efforts. In 2018, they threw their considerable weight behind the passage of Amendment 3, which changed the state constitution. Casino-style gambling can’t be expanded away from tribal lands unless it is approved in a statewide ballot measure that earns at least 60% support.

Republican legislators in Florida are reportedly considering a bill that would allow the gaming-license transfer process. But the idea has drawn opposition from the anti-gaming lobby. Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told the Associated Press that the governor and legislative Republicans would have to choose between “loyalty to Trump or loyalty to their constituents.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may be a Trump ally, but who is going to bet against the Seminoles, Disney, and the constitution? Even if Trump were to acquire a gaming license, good luck financing a casino deal.

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A Brief Look at Crime 03/22 – 03/28

Sports gambler Benjamin Tucker Patz pleads guilty to threatening to kill Rays players

A sports gambler pleaded guilty on Wednesday to threatening to kill four Tampa Bay Rays players via Instagram direct messages after a loss in 2019, authorities said via NBC News. Benjamin Tucker Patz is a 24-year-old gambler known as “Parlay Patz” for reportedly winning more than $1.1 million via parlays He pleaded guilty to transmitting threats in interstate or foreign commerce and faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison. He was initially charged one year ago. He told one player “0-5 against the Chicago White Sox isn’t going to cut it” and threatened that “because of your sins” Patz would behead him and his family, authorities said. Authorities wrote in the release that Patz “sent the messages knowing that they would be viewed by the player and his family members as a true threat to injure the person of another.”

Zynga Hit With Lawsuit Over “Illegal” Social Slots Games 

On Friday in the Northern District of California, a consumer filed a class-action complaint against video game developer Zynga Inc. over its social slots video games that purportedly violate various California laws. According to the complaint, Zynga leadership “decided that the company should move in the direction of online gambling.” Accordingly, “(a)fter Zynga recognized the profitability of modeling its online games after the gambling industry, Zynga began developing and offering ‘social slots’ games.” The complaint defines “social slots” games as “virtual slot machines that allow users to make bets using virtual ‘coins.’” Reportedly, some of Zynga’s current social slots games are: “Hit it Rich!”; “Black Diamond Casino”; “Wizard of Oz Slots”; “Willy Wonka Slots”; “Game of Thrones Slots Casino.”

The plaintiff claimed that Zynga “intentionally modeled its ‘social slots’ games precisely after Vegas-style slot machines. Users make ‘bets’ on ‘spins’ using in-game currency. Users are given an initial allotment of free in-game currency. But when users exhaust their supplies of free in-game currency, they must purchase more to keep playing – and must do so with real money.” As a result, the plaintiff contended that Zynga’s “social slots” games “are unlawful slot machines under California law,” that purportedly use the “same psychological tricks that casinos and physical slot machines use to cause users to become addicted. This keeps users playing – and spending.” Allegedly, Zynga markets these social slots games as “legal video games” without disclosing that they are “in fact illegal slot machines.”

Former Joplin bank branch manager pleads guilty to embezzlement

A former manager of a Guaranty Bank branch in Joplin has pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $158,000 from her employer over a six-month period. Kendra E. Richardson, 44, who in July of last year was sent a target letter by the U.S. attorney’s office in connection with the crime, waived formal indictment on the charge and pleaded guilty to embezzlement at a hearing Thursday in federal court in Springfield. Her plea agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office in Springfield states that she was a manager for a Guaranty Bank branch in Joplin when she embezzled $158,154.45 between June and December 2018. According to the plea agreement, she was able to conceal the theft through her control of regular audits of the currency in the bank’s vault and her misrepresentation of the true amounts present there at various times. The document further states that she “used a large portion of the embezzled money for gambling.” The plea agreement contains an admission of the defendant that she owes the bank restitution of the full amount that she is accused of having taken.

Minnesota casino employee pleads guilty to pocketing $315K from tribal organization

An employee for the Fortune Bay Resort Casino in Tower, Minn., pleaded guilty Tuesday to stealing more than $315,000 from the Indian Tribal Organization through a phony cash-refund scheme. Jennifer Lynn Boutto, 32, worked as a front desk clerk at the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa-owned casino, a position that allowed her to give cash refunds to customers with little oversight. In 2013, Boutto started identifying high-roller patrons and issuing phony cash refunds against their invoices after they checked out, according to the plea agreement, filed in Minnesota U.S. District Court. Then she took the money from the casino vault and pocketed it. Over seven years, Boutto enacted the scheme almost 3,000 times, stealing $315,740, according to court records. The plea agreement recommends up to two years in prison and $75,000 in restitution. She will be sentenced later this year.

Security Officer, Employee Dead in Apparent Murder-Suicide at Las Vegas Casino 

A Wynn Las Vegas security officer and an employee of the hotel-casino are dead in what police say was an apparent murder-suicide in a parking garage at the Strip location on Tuesday. An employee who had not been at work or called in for two days used his company badge to enter the employee garage Tuesday, police said. Use of the “proxy” card alerted security that the employee was on the site. A security officer who went to check on him was shot multiple times, said Lt. Ray Spencer of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Police were called to the scene at about 5:45 pm. The employee was seated in his car when he shot the security officer. The officer was standing at the car door, Spencer said in a news conference Tuesday night. The officer was pronounced dead at the scene. After shooting the security officer, the employee got out of his car and shot himself once, Spencer said. He also was pronounced dead at the scene.

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As Gambling Growth is Expected to Soar with this Year’s March Madness, Employers and Addicted Gamblers to Face Troubling Results

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on the Madness of March and the impact this massive gambling event has on communities everywhere.  Last year, there was no NCAA National Basketball Tournament due to an abundance of caution following the beginning of a global pandemic.  So with a year off and many eager gamblers, it’s no surprise that the estimate for total bet and the total amount gambling are so incredibly high. Fox Business breaks down the numbers:

March Madness, both the tournament and the betting frenzy surrounding it, will look different this year due to the coronavirus pandemic and online betting.

March Madness could be the most wagered on sporting events of all time, according to research from PlayUSA, which projected that the tournament could generate as much as $1.5 billion in legal bets. Online betting is expected to ramp up this year as the traditional system of paper brackets filled out in the office no longer works with most people working from home. Increased legalization of online betting is also making a huge difference.

During the last March Madness tournament, which took place in 2019, sports betting was only approved in a handful of states. This year, more than 20 states allow placing a bet online. Roughly 50 million Americans are expected to place bets this year, according to theAmerican Gambling Association.

With nearly 50 million people expected to gamble on the Tournament this year, clearly a lot of problem gamblers will find themselves in the mix, and the results could be unsettling.  An online source explains:

This year’s March Madness is highly anticipated after 2020’s NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. According to ODDS.com, the American Gaming Association projects more than 47 million Americans will place bets on March Madness — so it’s no coincidence that Problem Gambling Awareness Month falls in March.

The effort makes sure “people who are engaged in gambling, whether it’s brackets or other forms of gambling, are also aware that gambling can be a problem for some, and it can actually turn into an addiction,” said Jeffrey Wasserman, judicial outreach and development director for the Delaware Council on Gambling Problems.

Gambling disorders often tend to worsen, he added. Relationships can deteriorate, jobs can be lost, people could turn to criminal behavior to pay off debts — a pursuit Wasserman knows too well. “I’m 65 years old. I probably gambled since I was 18,” Wasserman said. “And my gambling addiction really progressed over the years, making me just a different person, making me discard my values and my value system I raised my kids with. Gambling became the most important thing in life for me.  After more than 30 years as an attorney, Wasserman lost his career because of gambling. He was in a dark place.

He’s been in recovery for the last five years. He attributed part of his turnaround to his family, who recognized he had a problem. Now with the Delaware Council on Gambling Problems, he’s helping people like him.

Individuals aren’t the only ones who can suffer from this multi-week gambling event.  In terms of cost to employers, the Charlotte Observer points to a Chicago-based study 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. ESPN recently quantify the financial impact of just the gambling:

On the low end, the FBI estimated in 2013 that $2.6 billion was bet illegally on the tournament. On the high end, veteran bookmakers estimate the number to be anywhere from $12 billion to $26 billion. Friendly bracket pools are everywhere, with most everyone betting on the NCAA tournament in some form. But there are bets, and then there are bets. You don’t get to $26 billion with $20-per-sheet office pools.

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


A Brief Look at Crime 03/15 – 03/21

Madison woman gets prison for $3M in tax evasion skimming video gambling machine money

A Madison woman was sentenced Friday to a year and a day in federal prison for avoiding paying more than $3 million in taxes on money skimmed from the proceeds of video gambling machines in bars. Mary Lavine, 65, pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the Internal Revenue Service and to filing a false 2018 corporate income tax return for Bullseye Inc., a business she co-owned, Scott Blader, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, said in a statement. U.S. District Judge James Peterson also fined Lavine $75,000, ordered her to serve two years of supervised release after her prison term and ordered her to pay restitution of $834,770 to the IRS and $1,927,853 to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

Argument over gambling leads to deadly shooting in Clayton

Investigators in Clayton County believe an argument over gambling prompted a shooting that killed one man and led to a murder charge for another, authorities said. Around 2:40 a.m. Sunday, officers and deputies were called to Dundee Court in Jonesboro on a report of a man being shot, according to the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office. A man, whose name was not released, was already dead from gunshot wounds. “Witnesses told law enforcement that the shooting resulted over an argument over gambling and identified the shooter as Kevin Green who had already fled the scene,” the sheriff’s office posted on social media. Green, 33, was arrested without incident and charged with malice murder. He was being held without bond late Monday, jail records show.

Woman wins jackpot at local casino, found dead 2 days later 

A woman was found dead inside her apartment days after winning a jackpot at Northern Quest Casino. According to court documents, Jenny A. Jones was found dead by her step-father, Albert Asher, on February 17. Jones’ mother, Sue Asher, asked Albert Asher to check-in on Jones after she did not answer her phone calls for two-days. Court documents said the last time Sue Asher spoke to Jones was the night of February 15. On February 15, Jones told her mother over the phone that she just won a jackpot at Northern Quest Casino. During the call, Jones told her mother  her phone was about to die, which it did, disconnecting the call. When Albert Asher went to check on Jones two-days later, he found her door unlocked and her body in the living room. Responding police said there was blood on Jones’ face and more blood on her shirt. Police said the blood did not trickle down her face to her shirt. Police also located a small knife next to Jones’ body. They ruled the death suspicious.

Rooster kills man at illegal cockfight in India 

According to the Associated Press the rooster, with a 3-inch knife attached to its leg, panicked and cut 45-year-old Thangulla Satish, its owner, in the groin area during the fight near the village of Lothunur in Telangana state. “Satish was hit by the rooster’s knife in his groin and started bleeding heavily,” police inspector B. Jeevan said Sunday. The man died on his way to the hospital. Inspector Jeevan said the rooster had been taken into custody. At least two people have been similarly slashed during cockfights since 2010. Cockfighting was banned in India in 1960 but remains popular in the country’s southern states. The fights often involve a lot of betting and are given tacit approval by local politicians. They are usually tied to Hindu festivals, as well.

Victim who died from stabbing after Brooklyn gambling den robbery was good Samaritan trying to break up fight 

A frenzied brawl sparked by a gambling den robbery in Brooklyn left a man dead after he selflessly tried to stop the fight, his family said Sunday. Yong Zheng, 46, was returning from dinner with friends around 9:30 p.m.Friday when he stumbled upon two groups of men battling near Seventh Ave. and 57th St., police said. “As we were walking home, we heard [the victims] yelling, ‘Robbery, robbery!’” said Xiu Lin, 34, a close family friend of Zheng. “Without thinking, he went up to help and that cost him his life.” Zheng rushed into the fray and tried to defuse the fight that had spilled onto the sidewalk after a pack of crooks robbed an illegal gambling den on 58th St. police said. “From his point of view, he saw something happening, he saw a crime, and he just went to help,” said Lin. “It’s a tragic loss.” Video obtained by the Daily News shows Zheng dashing across the street to intervene and then stumbling back, draining blood across the sidewalk and being supported by a woman before collapsing. He was stabbed four times in the chest.

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


Massive State Online Gambling Expansion Proposed by Missouri House Legislator

Casino Watch Focus has reported on various methods of expanding gambling in Missouri.  Everything from new casinos, the recent efforts of online sports betting, to legalizing illegal slot machines operating outside of regulated casinos.  In Missouri, the constitution only allows for 13 casinos to operate. They are technically riverboats, but outside of the lottery or perhaps some fraternal bingo/charity type gambling events, everything operates through the casinos.  With the Supreme Court ruling that states can now offer online gambling, it’s no surprise Missouri legislators would be examining the possibility of expansion.  There are still state constitutional limits however, so proposed legislation must be tailored accordingly.  A new bill being introduced does look to casinos to handle online gambling, but is the expansion too great?  An online source examines the newly proposed legislation:  

For quite some time, Missouri  has been looking towards legalizing sports betting. Now, it seems that lawmakers are also looking at online casino and poker games. The Senate has been the driving force behind sports betting and now it is the House looking to add other online gambling options in the state. Representative Dan Houx introduced a new measure this week, HB 1364, which will allow for complete online gambling, in all verticals. This bill would actually replace the Senate measure instead of a separate initiative.

Poker is mentioned in the legislation, but only to classify it as well as sports betting as a game of skill. Operators in the state are allowed to offer games of chance and skill. For the sports betting portion, the measure is similar to SB 256, which is already introduced in the state. It also allows for up to three skins per license holder.

The bill allows for each of the 13 riverboat casinos in the state to have up to three skins. If everyone gets involved and all the skins are taken, the industry would be the largest in the US.

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


A Brief Look at Crime 03/08 – 03/14

San Diego County’s Sycuan Casino Site of Reported Shooting

California’s Sycuan Casino Resort reportedly was the scene of a shooting Wednesday evening. Homicide investigators went to the crime site. But as of early Thursday local authorities did not reveal if the solitary victim was alive. Details on the extent of wounds were not released to the local media. The victim was transported to a local hospital for treatment of injuries, according to /KSWB/, a San Diego TV station. The homicide unit of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department went to the area of Sycuan Casino in El Cajon at about 6 pm to investigate the crime, according to the /San Diego Union-Tribune/ newspaper. News reports from/KSWB/ said the shooting occurred at the gaming property. The tribal casino is operated by the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation. The property is located about 16 miles east of downtown San Diego.

Longtime Hells Angel shot dead on the Danforth was killed amid tension over illegal gambling, sources say 

A longtime Hells Angel biker who was shot to death in a parking garage on the Danforth was embroiled in a bitter ongoing dispute over control of illegal gambling in the area, several sources say. Harry Lainas, 47, of the Hells Angels’ Simcoe South charter, is Toronto’s ninth homicide victim of 2021 and the eighth killed in a shooting. Two sources said that criminals running illegal gambling networks are smarting because of social gathering restrictions because of COVID-19, saying the Super Bowl is generally a major moneymaker for illegal gamblers, but the game last Sunday was a bust. Tensions were perking in illegal gambling circles even before COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. Lainas was fired upon in the area roughly two years ago while collecting illegal gambling revenues in the same area where he was slain, source  who knew him said. Lainas was well-known by police and in the biker world.

Case Of Children Left In Hot Car Outside Casino Draws Sharp Gaming Board Discussion

It is common for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to addindividuals to its involuntary exclusion list  each month, barring them from casinos for various infractions such as theft and cheating. But the Feb. 10 meeting added an unusually high 19 names to a list that already exceeded 900, and one case in particular drew anxious discussion over how casinos handle cases of potential child endangerment.

The board had no hesitation permanently barring 42-year-old Michael Harper of Philadelphia from casinos for having left a 4-year-old and 2-year-old in a car for about a half hour at Rivers Casino Philadelphia while he placed a sports wager last Aug. 2. It was 93 degrees outside at the time and the car windows were cracked about a half-inch, the gaming board’s Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement reported. The casino’s security officers found Harper and had him permanently evicted. However, state police who are stationed at the casino did not arrive before he drove off, nor did local police who may file child neglect charges in such cases, according to the documents presented to the board by its Office of Enforcement Counsel.

1 dead after shooting outside illegal gambling location in Santa Ana: Police 

An investigation is underway following the death of a male victim who was shot outside an illegal gambling operation in Santa Ana, police said Wednesday. Officers found the victim in the 400 block of North Harbor Boulevard after responding to reports of a male down with gunshot wounds around 11 p.m. Tuesday, according to a Santa Ana Police Department news release. He was discovered with an apparent gunshot wound to the upper torso near the north entrance doors of the Cozy Corner Drive-In, the release stated. The victim was rushed to a local hospital where he later died. Authorities have not released his name or age. Investigators determined the shooting occurred outside an illegal gambling location in the 300 block of North Harbor Boulevard, according to police.

Over 70 Sports Betting Accounts In TN Closed Due To Illegal Super Bowl Wagering

The Tennessee Education Lottery said Wednesday that two of the state’s four regulated online sports books saw “illegal” betting activity on the most recently completed Super Bowl. At a meeting of its board of directors, the lottery said that there were “significant anomalies” with two operators. It didn’t say which books. As a result of the activity, 74 sports wagering accounts between the two platforms were permanently closed. “Several” open Super Bowl bets were voided. The lottery said that it wouldn’t provide any more information at this time as the investigation continues. The lottery said that it ended up declining operator requests to offer non-football props on the big game, such as the color of the Gatorade, which some other sports betting states in the U.S. allowed. The lottery didn’t provide any information on what kind of bets were suspicious. The four books handled a combined $15.5 million on the big game, and they paid out $12.6 million in winning bets, keeping the rest as revenue. Through Jan. 31, the books handled $523 million in wagers since the Nov. 1 launch, the lottery said.

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Florida Opens Legislative Session with Sports Gambling Bills, but Can They Pass?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to legalize sports betting in Florida.  Florida not only has championship caliber sports teams in the Buccaneers (2021 Super Bowl Champions), the Lightning (2020 Stanley Cup Champions) and Rays (2020 American League Champions), they also hosted the Super Bowl and were part of the NBA Bubble during the Covid-19 Lockdown.  So it’s no surprise that there are continual interests in legalizing sports betting in the Sunshine State.  The methods seem to change, but the results remain the same, no success. Last year’s legislative session saw attempts without success as well, and this year’s legislative session begins with renewed efforts and possibly some of the largest expanded sports gambling attempts yet.  An online source reports:

When the Florida State Legislature opens Tuesday morning, it will do so with sports wagering  as part of the docke

The latest trio of bills filed by Reps. Chip Lamarca and Anika Omphroy would allow for wagering a pro sports venues across Florida, including NFL stadiums (three), Major League Baseball parks (two), NHL arenas (two), NBA arenas (two), and Major League Soccer stadiums (four), sites that host PGA, LPGA, and PGA of America events, WNBA arenas, National Lacrosse League and Major League Lacrosse sites, and Indoor Football League venues. Besides that, sports betting would be available at tracks offering parimutuel betting (horse and dog), jai lai frontons and tribal casinos.

The legislation envisions in-person wagering at all mentioned sites, as well as statewide mobile wagering, though HB 1317 doesn’t specify how many skins each physical location would be entitled to. That said, if only one skin were allowed, Florida would still have more than 20 skins available, and that’s just counting digital platforms tethered to the pro venues identified in the bill.

The question remains however, will the key issues be addressed or will expanded gambling be held back?  The online source explains:

As lawmakers and the governor look to move forward and create hype about sports betting, the elephant in the room that no one seems to be addressing is Indian Country, which under its compacts has exclusivity for casino gaming. Tribal gaming dates to 1999 in Florida, when the Miccosukee Tribe opened its casino in suburban Miami. But the state’s biggest tribe is the Seminoles, who have six properties including two operated by Hard Rock.

For reasons unrelated to sports betting, the Seminoles in 2019 stopped paying the state $350 million a year from gaming revenue. At the time, the Seminoles claimed their gaming exclusivity was violated by banked card games that were allowed at the state’s racetracks and jai lai frontons. The current compact which was signed on April 7, 2010, allows the Seminoles to withhold payments if the compact is violated.

Before the Seminoles suspended payments in 2019, the tribe had reached a tentative agreement with Sen. Wilton Simpson that would have allowed sports betting at the Seminoles’ casino properties, as well as racetracks and jai alai frontons for an annual payment to the state of $700-$750 million. The deal ultimately collapsed. Then, last January, Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, filed HB 1195, a proposed compact, that would have granted the Seminoles exclusivity for online sports betting. While that bill proposed a more than two-fold step-up in annual payments to $750 million, the legislation never made it out of committee.

The hard truth for lawmakers is this: Until there is a compact, it’s highly unlikely that sports betting will gain a foothold in the legislature.

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A Brief Look at Crime 02/22 – 03/07

Feds charge real estate broker with using millions of investors’ money to play lottery

Federal investigators say Viktor Gjonaj set up a fake title company and raised $26 million from investors by having them make out checks or wire their money to him or the company. They thought they were investing in real estate—but Gjonaj was spending the money on the lotto – as much as a million dollars a week. The feds say Gjonaj’s scheme fell apart in August of 2019 and when the smoke cleared, he had defrauded at least 24 investors of roughly $19 million.  “Honestly I never heard of that before, somebody just giving money to a title company to purchase real estate on their behalf,” said Guy Gailliard, real estate professional. “There are many checks and balances that should come into place, that you should know that this is an actual legitimate sale.” Real estate professionals were stunned hearing about the scheme.

His lawyer Steve Fishman offered this statement: “Victor Gjonaj was a well-respected businessman who, unfortunately, developed a gambling addiction which led him into this situation. His gambling addiction was well known to the state of Michigan, who still allowed him to continue to gamble on the lottery.” “When we talk responsibility, the responsibility will always fall back on the gambler and you know what? It should,” said Michael Burke.”Somebody who took this kind of money, I don’t believe we can lay it off to anybody else, but the gambler.” Burke is the executive director of the Michigan Association on Problem Gambling and is an expert in gambling addiction. “Normally when somebody loses that kind of money, they’ve been doing what we call chasing,” he said. “In other words, they gambled away all of their money and that is gone. And now they’re getting in trouble and they’ve got to get out of it and they go to other sources to get the money. What they want to do is win the money back so they can pay back the people they took the money from.”

Security Guard Shoots Man Dead at Florida Gambling Den

An unidentified man was shot and killed early Saturday morning by a security guard at a Florida gambling den. The incident took place at the Q-Time 777 in Lake City, Florida. Police said a security guard initially responded to a dispute between the man and another individual. After telling the man he needed to exit the premises, he later returned brandishing a handgun. Following shots fired, the security guard shot and killed the man. “At some point, he began shooting multiple shots inside of the business where there were other patrons inside,” explained Columbia County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Steven Khachigan. “At that point, a security guard, who was also armed, engaged the suspect in gunfire.” Though multiple gunshots were fired, no one else was injured in the gambling space. Police say the investigation is ongoing.

Huntly office manager embezzled £210k in fake transactions to fuel gambling addiction

An office  manager broke down in the dock as she was jailed for embezzling £210,000 to feed her gambling addiction. Louise Myles, 42, admitted making 1,061 fraudulent transactions from the property management firm where she worked, over a period of nearly four years. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison at Aberdeen Sheriff Court for stealing from the Huntly-based BMF Group between May 2013 and July 2017. None of the six-figure sum was able to be recovered. Myles’ deception was only discovered when the director of the company, Alexander Morison, found some unpaid bills and noticed others had been paid to an account he didn’t recognise. He was subsequently contacted by the Bank of Scotland and informed “questionable payments” totalling £20,000 had been made. The court heard he confronted Myles about it and she admitted taking the cash, claiming she was suffering from a gambling addiction. She’d handled the firm’s finances and bookkeeping since 2012.

However, the full extent of Myles’ deception was only revealed once bosses chose to terminate her employment. The Bank of Scotland later informed Mr Morison that Myles had made numerous money transfers to her personal account totalling around £210,000. Fiscal depute Colin Nielson said: “It was established the accused had manipulated the hand-written figures on cash ledgers so that the figures matched those on the cash flow statements, thus not rousing the suspicion of Mr Morison.

Aspers is fined £650,000 after damning Gambling Commission investigation found casino failed to look after businessman who killed himself an hour after losing £25,000

A casino has been fined £650,000 after a gambler killed himself after losing £25,000 in a single night on roulette and ‘crack cocaine’ slot machines. An investigation by the Gambling Commission into the death of Huseyin Yaman found that Aspers Casino had failed in its social responsibility to properly monitor the businessman during a night of heavy gambling. Mr Yaman was a VIP guest at the casino and was said to have previously racked up losses of around £100,000. On the night of his death, police had to be called to the casino after he became argumentative with staff and he was escorted from the premises. Apsers bosses had failed to adhere to its social responsibility code to look out for customers whose behaviour might indicate a problem with betting, the Gambling Commission report found.

The commission ruled that they failed to talk with Mr Yaman, who was not named in the report, identified only as Mr X. It said the casino had a ‘misguided assumption that Mr X could afford the level of losses. There were failures in record keeping.’ It said the scale of ‘failures in relation to Mr X were exceptional’ The casino was also criticised over its monitoring of cash purchases by its customers. They failed to make any inquiries of Mr Hassan in September 2017 when he spent £46,000 and £51,000 over two days. They also allowed him to go over the £5,000 limit on three other visits when he played on electronic roulette.

Seattle Bookkeeper Indicted for Swindling More Than $200K From Bike Company

Bicycle Retailer reports that a Seattle bookkeeper was indicted for nine counts of wire fraud, four counts of aggravated identity theft, and one count of destruction of evidence after allegedly embezzling more than $200,000 from a Seattle-area bike company. Prosecutors said the bookkeeper, Joan C. Trower, 50, forged checks from the company’s accounting software to herself and people she knew, among other schemes. The fake checks totaled $188,000. The indictment also said she transferred at least $26,000 to a fake accounting firm she created. All in all, the indictment said the cost to the company was between $200,000 and $300,000, which she used in part to gamble at local casinos. The indictment does not specify which bike company is involved, only that it is “a private company that manufactures and sells high-end mountain bikes and related accessories.”

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Florida Cruise Ship Industry turns to Sports Betting as land based Sports Betting Awaits its Fate.

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various attempts to legalize sports betting in Florida following the landmark Supreme Court Decision that allowed sports betting outside of Las Vegas.  Nothing has passed in Florida, but sports betting bills are poised for the upcoming legislative session, including one bill that is mostly leverage to move forward a new Seminole gambling compact with the state.  Now adding to that pressure is the move by Florida’s cruise ship industry to allow sports betting in international waters.  A local Orlando new source explains:

With states now facing pandemic-impacted budgets, some are looking at expanding gambling as a way to make up the difference. Since 2018, when a federal statute restricting regulated sports betting was ruled unconstitutional, more than a quarter of all states have legalized sports betting in some fashion. Three bills have been filed in Florida to legalize sports wagering. Now cruise lines are looking at the same tool to help them recover from more than a year of no cruises.

Multiple casino games are also available via the Ocean Casino app developed via a partnership with gaming technology firm Miomni. The Ocean Casino app, part of the OCEAN Guest Experience Platform, will now include a sports wagering section.

Like other onboard gambling, it will only be available when in international waters, or, according to Princess, “wherever permitted by Law.” Seeking Alpha’s senior editor,Clark Schultz, believes that sports betting will spread to other cruise lines, including Norwegian and Royal Caribbean. All major cruise lines have onboard Wi-Fi making a move to mobile gaming easy.

It’s still too early to know if Florida Senate Bill 392, which aims to legalize sports wagering in the state, will pass. The legislative session begins March 2.

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A Brief Look at Crime 02/15 – 02/21

Las Vegas Strip: Police Make 1,229 Arrests Through Three-Month Operation

Las Vegas police arrested over 1,200 people during its three month operation against violent crime. Operation Persistent Pressure ran from September 18 to December 20, in response to a rise in violence in September. Crime levels in December were 1.8% higher year on year, but police say they will maintain their efforts. Las Vegas police made 1,229 arrests and confiscated 64 firearms in the Strip area during its three-month operation to stop the rise in crime levels.

Metro Captain Dori Koren said last Tuesday that the rise in crime and violence on the Strip “was resolved to some extent,” as police made “tremendous progress” in dealing with crimes on the tourist corridor. According to Koren, arrests included disorderly conducts, robberies, assaults, batteries, and illegal shootings with 36% people charged for gross misdemeanors or felonies. Violence Began to Rise Significantly in September In a statement issued Friday, Koren declared that violent crime in the Strip area started rising in September, with violent altercations including shootings and aggravated assaults.

Las Vegas Woman Gets Three Years in Federal Prison for Role in Sweepstakes Scam

A 50-year-old Las Vegas woman received a three-year federal prison sentence Wednesday for her role in a $9 million criminal scheme that targeted mostly elderly and other vulnerable victims who received fraudulent mailers claiming they won prizes. In addition to the prison time, Andrea Burrow was also sentenced to three subsequent years of supervised release. The court also ordered her to forfeit $272,000, according to a US Department of Justice release. U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro handed down the sentence in a Nevada federal district court.

Prosecutors sought a nearly five-year prison term. They did so because they claimed her criminal behavior started well before 2010, when this case originated. Court documents also show federal authorities seized more than $237,000 from a Bank of America safety deposit box and her Las Vegas residence in February 2018. The mail scheme sent bogus prize announcements to individuals. The letters claimed victims would receive a large cash prize if they paid a fee, typically between $20 to $30. Burrow, authorities said, opened the mail, sorted the payments, and kept track of those who submitted payments in a database. People who mailed payments were then targeted for additional prize scams.

Feds seek 5-year prison sentence for former sports talk radio host Marty Tirrell

Federal prosecutors are asking a judge to sentence former Des Moines sports talk radio host Marty Tirrell to five years in prison for a pattern of sports ticket scams they say stretches back more than a decade. Tirrell, 60, defrauded investors of more than $1.5 million by claiming to have access to tickets to major sporting events that he could re-sell at a higher rate, promising to split the profits, Acting U.S. Attorney Richard Westphal wrote in a sentencing brief filed Thursday. Westphal is also asking that Tirrell be ordered to pay $1.46 million in restitution to American Express, Wells Fargo, Bank of the West and five individuals identified only by their initials.”The Defendant has been defrauding businesses and individuals with his lies for years, with little to no consequences,” Westphal wrote. “Defendant continued to lie after he was under investigation in this matter, and the Government is concerned he won’t ever stop lying.”

Workers lose Christmas bonuses due to embezzler’s ‘horrible betrayal’ 

A woman whose theft from a small Grand Rapids business cost 45 employees their Christmas bonuses was sent to prison for what a judge called a pattern of “horrible’’ behavior. “It’s just a horrifying thing that you did; this betrayal,’’ Judge Curt Benson told 42-year-old Terry Jo Lamore. Lamore embezzled more than $150,000 from The Screen Print Department, which prints and embroiders T-shirts, jackets and hats in a brick factory on the city’s Northwest Side. The embezzlement came to light just before the pandemic, which served as a double hit for the locally-owned business. “Employees look forward to raises and Christmas bonuses,’’ Human Resources Manager Renee Orr said. “And this year that just didn’t happen with that $150,000 taken from us.’’ It is not new territory for Lamore, who lists an address in Belmont.  She embezzled more than $13,000 from a Kelloggsville Public Schools parent-teacher organization more than a decade ago. Benson said Lamore’s pattern of criminal behavior justifies prison. Investigators determined some of the embezzled funds were used for gambling.

Wattsburg School District’s ex-payroll chief gets 2-13 years for embezzling $320,000 

The defense said addiction and abuse contributed to a former payroll supervisor at the Wattsburg Area School District embezzling $320,000 from the district for more than three years ending when she resigned under pressure in February 2019. Erie County District Attorney Jack Daneri blamed the thefts on a gambling habit. He said the defendant, Rebecca A. Leone, 36, crafted a sophisticated plan to take the money by writing a total of 161 school district checks to herself and then “went out to play the slots at the casino,” referring to Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Summit Township. “She gambled it away,” Daneri said at Leone’s sentencing in Erie County Court on Friday. The prosecution’s points prevailed. Erie County Judge John J. Mead followed Daneri’s recommendation and sentenced Leone to state prison. Mead gave her two to 13 years. “This was not a crime of opportunity, but a systematic looting of the school district,”

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Major Manufacturer of Missouri’s Illegal Gambling Machines Attempts a Lawsuit to Avoid Shutdown and Prosecution

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on the ongoing saga of illegal gambling machines that are operating outside of regulated casinos and in gas stations and convenience stores all over the state.  They have always been illegal as they operate outside of casinos, and despite the collective Missouri leadership taking much longer than needed to declare them illegal, both the court and local prosecutors have established they are not allowed. Legislation has been introduced to make the penalties steep enough to prevent such action as well, but a recent lawsuit by one of the leading manufacturers of these illegal gambling machines, has proven they still plan to fight. The St Louis Post Dispatch reports:

A politically connected company that has flooded Missouri with unregulated slot machines is suing the state, saying it’s devices do not qualify as illegal gambling.

Torch Electronics, a Wildwood firm, and Warrenton Oil, which offers Torch games at its gas stations, are asking a Cole County judge to issue an order stopping the Missouri Highway Patrol from seizing machines as part of a crackdown on illegal gambling. The suit was filed Feb. 5, three days after the Highway Patrol seized three machines from a St. Clair location owned by Warrenton Oil.

The company’s action was met with skepticism in the Missouri Senate, which is debating legislation designed to shut down the proliferation of unregulated slot machines in the state. Senate President Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, called the lawsuit “ironic” coming from a company that is pushing a product considered to be illegal by many, including a Platte County judge. 

“They are flat illegal,” Schatz said. During brief comments on the Senate floor Wednesday, Schatz scoffed at the lawsuit, saying the machines are siphoning money from education programs and veterans because players are not going to the state’s casinos, where profits are taxed and distributed to schools.

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A Brief Look at Crime 02/08 – 02/14

Lawsuit claims Miami homebuilder and a ‘band of thieves’ stole millions from customers

A Miami homebuilder has been sued, accused of stealing millions of dollars from his clients to finance his high-roller lifestyle of weekend gambling stints at the Hard Rock Casino, two Rolls Royces and a Range Rover, and a luxury condo in Brickell. According to a complaint filed in Miami-Dade circuit court late Wednesday, Francisco Mendez, owner of the Miami-based Pioneer Inter-Development real estate developer, overpaid the contractors working on several homes, then demanded they return the extra money to him as a kickback. “There is more of this kind of fraud than people would like to believe,” said John Criste, an attorney at Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton, the firm representing the plaintiffs. “But the fact that it is prevalent doesn’t make it right. In this instance, Mr. Mendez and his cohorts happened to get caught. They got caught because the instances of fraud in this case are egregious.”

San Diego’s hidden gambling problem: Illicit casinos attract gangs, drugs, violence

A task force raid in October found evidence of an illegal gambling parlor, with 16 video gaming machines, drugs, methamphetamine pipes and about $1,700 in cash concealed in drywall, according to an FBI search warrant affidavit. That same night, investigators busted a similar casino blocks away, operating in a unit behind a small house. The businesses are just two examples of a much larger illicit economy that has risen in urban centers and quiet residential neighborhoods throughout California, including San Diego County. Illegal gambling is a misdemeanor under state law. Authorities say these underground parlors operating in the region are closely tied to a more serious criminal element: gangs, drugs and violence.

Homicide, shootings, stabbings, thefts — all have been investigated in and around the sites, according to the FBI affidavits. Methamphetamine often goes hand-in-hand with play at many covert gaming halls and is often sold or supplied by operators on-site, according to court records. The stimulant can keep patrons in front of machines for hours in a hyper-focused and confident state. It also entices them to come back for more. “Illegal gambling dens bring drugs, violence, guns, and other organized criminal activity into San Diego neighborhoods,” said FBI spokeswoman Davene Butler. That violence has grown increasingly conspicuous in the last year.

Fugitive arrested in fatal gambling room shootout at Sycamore Township hotel

A fugitive was arrested Tuesday in what authorities are calling a gambling room shootout that killed two people, including a 15-year-old boy. The U.S. Marshals Service Southern Ohio Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team arrested Jay Harris on an outstanding warrant from Hamilton County for two counts of murder. According to a release from the U.S. Marshals Service, Harris was allegedly involved in a robbery at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Sycamore Township on Nov. 1, 2019. Authorities say the shootout stemmed from a night of gambling inside of a hotel room. That night of gambling included craps and betting on a Madden football video game, officials said, in which thousands of dollars exchanged hands.

Feds hint at expansive evidence as man with mob ties pleads guilty in sports betting case

A federal prosecutor hinted at expansive evidence including “a large number” of recordings as a man with purported mob ties pleaded guilty Wednesday to running an illegal sports gambling operation. Gregory Paloian, of Elmwood Park, also admitted he filed a false 2016 tax return. He entered his plea during a video conference before U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow, and he now faces a likely prison sentence of between two and three years. Kinney said Paloian’s operation involved “five or more people.” He said Paloian had agents who recruited gamblers. And he said they used a website in a foreign country to place bets. The prosecutor also said Paloian filed a 2016 tax return reflecting a negative income of $77,229, when he actually made at least $95,220 that year. Paloian’s plea agreement says he took wagers on professional football, basketball, baseball and hockey games, as well as college sporting events.

Alabama City Clerk Who Stole Money to Gamble Sentenced to Federal Prison

An Alabama woman will spend the next year in federal prison after pleading guilty to stealing more than $400,000 from two cities where she served as clerk. Kim Wright Green, 50, of Loxley, Alabama pleaded guilty a year ago to embezzling $400,030 from the cities of Creola and Prichard. Green was city clerk of Creola from January 2013 to February 2017, and city clerk of Prichard from May 2017 through August of 2019. Green admitted to federal prosecutors that she gambled some of the stolen money at casinos. However, specific casinos were not identified. Alabama does not have commercial casinos with slot machines and table games. But it is home to three tribal casinos owned and operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Wind Creek Montgomery, Atmore, and Wetumpka operate Class II Native American gaming. Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), Class II facilities can offer gaming machines that are based on bingo. Class II casinos are specifically prohibited from operating slot machines and house-banked table games (blackjack, roulette).

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Covid-19 Pandemic Expected to have Dangerously Impacted Super Bowl 54 Betting

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the significant amount of gambling on the Super Bowl each year, and the covid pandemic is expected to impact Super Bowl 54 the most yet. When Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took on the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl, sports betting was legalized in more states than ever, and the unique situation of the pandemic saw an increase in sports betting in general.  So it might not be surprising to learn that even though ratings and viewership were down for this year’s Super Bowl, the amount of gambling was at an all time high.  NBC News reports:

Even as Super Bowl LV’s TV audience declined, the amount of money wagered on the game skyrocketed in some states — especially in New Jersey, where gamblers doubled their action, regulators said.

The lure of a game featuring Bucs quarterback Tom Brady, considered by many to be the greatest of all time, and his heir apparent, Chiefs signal caller Patrick Mahomes, drew many casual bettors, regulators said. “I believe people love great sports no matter of a pandemic,” said Wes Ehrecke, president and CEO of the Iowa Gaming Association. “This epic GOAT-baby GOAT matchup would have been hyped the same, either way,” referring to the acronym for “greatest of all time.”

Gamblers were able to make their first legal Super Bowl bets in Washington, D.C., Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Montana, Tennessee and Virginia. Illinois books accepted a whopping $45.6 million in the state’s first Super Bowl wagers, the Gaming Board reported. Meanwhile, Colorado gamblers placed $31.2 million on Sunday’s game, according to the Department of Revenue.

Gambling of this magnitude is expected to prompt many gambling problems and will impact high-risk problem gamblers the most.  PBS Online explains:

Some 26 million people wagered almost $7 billion dollars on last year’s Super bowl, according to the American Gaming Association. That was a 15 percent increase from the previous year. This year’s figures are expected to go even higher. Zion Market Research predicts that sports betting will increase from $104 billion in 2018 to a whopping $155 million in 2024.

These kinds of escalating figures put high-risk problem gamblers in even greater peril, says Scott Anderson, the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Problem Gambling Treatment Coordinator. He works with the Ohio’s “Before You Bet” Campaign to attempt to identify and help problem gamblers. And, sports gamblers have been identified as one of the largest groups of addicted and potentially addicted gamblers. According to Ohio for Responsible Gambling, 24.4 percent of the at risk/problem gamblers are sports bettors.

Yet, Anderson says, that gambling and gambling situations are difficult to avoid. It is all around us from mobile phone day trading to state supported lotteries. Although problem gambling can be devastating to an individual’s personal, financial and professional life, it can sometimes be difficult to detect in its early stages. If someone is concerned about their gambling or the gambling of a friend or loved one, Anderson suggests that the person visit BeforeYouBet.org

Many think gambling on the Super Bowl is harmless fun, and for some, who do it legally, it could be that simple. However, the consequences for others can be extreme. A Fox News affiliate has reported that Super Bowl night is not only the biggest night for gamblers, but it also sees the most suicides as well. For those that don’t suffer the ultimate fate, they can still lose enough to cause irreparable harm to their finances and family. Fox Now online explains:

“Super Bowl is probably one of the biggest gambling days of the year,” said Gambling Addiction Counselor, Jim Harrison [a gambling counselor in Milwaukee.] He says the wagers placed on the Super Bowl are often not taken as seriously and can be seen as harmless and fun. “In reality it is betting, it is gambling,” said Harrison. Those compulsive gamblers see it as a day to make up for other sports losses this season.

Harrison says it’s not harmless at all for those with an addiction — betting is done with bookies and online and it could bring losses. “If it causes family problems, certainly financial problems,” said Harrison. “I’ve had clients who have literally lost over $300,000 gambling,” said Harrison. The Super Bowl can bring losses to those betting on it all, and it can be tempting to those dealing with gambling addiction.

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A Brief Look at Crime 02/01 – 02/07

Why has Las Vegas experienced a surge in homicides?

There have been 81 murders in Metro Police’s jurisdiction in 2020 to represent a 12.5% increase in comparison to the same time last year. They include: Two teenage brothers gunned down by their drunken father, a boy slain during a fight about video games and two young men killed at illegal house parties. Additionally, two babies were dropped to their death from staircases in separate incidents. And there’s the unsolved case of Lesly Palacio a young woman who went out for a drink with a family friend and never returned home. Her remains were found in a desert area north of Las Vegas.

In what’s already been a volatile and unpredictable year marked by a global pandemic and an eruption of social justice protests, major cities across the U.S. are seeing an uptick in slayings and aggravated assaults. In Las Vegas, police have investigated 1,931 aggravated assaults with a gun, which is about 230 more than last year, according to department figures. At least 10 fights or shootings have happened on the Las Vegas Strip. Additionally, the 21 justified homicides Metro has probed from January to Nov. 7 represent a 133% increase from the nine investigated last year, figures show. Those are killings deemed self-defense. The North Las Vegas Police Department has publicly reported 13 slayings this year, compared to nine last year, while Henderson Police have probed 11, which is two more than 2019. The numbers in Henderson include a recent triple murder in which a man shot four of his downstairs neighbors on Nov. 3.

Dr. William Sousa, professor at UNLV’s Department of Criminal Justice and director of the Center from Crime and Justice Policy, says there could be more than one explanation for the spike in crime. But a common theory being explored is that police departments diverted their resources to manage the social unrest to leave behind certain levels of preventive community policing, he said. Policing is more effective when officers are proactive in the communities they patrol as opposed to having to respond to calls for service, Sousa said. “It shouldn’t be a surprise if mechanisms helping to manage those problems … are no longer there,” Sousa said.

Pennsylvania, New Jersey Casinos Get 16K in Counterfeit Currency, Three Arrests Made 

Several Pennsylvania gaming properties and one in Atlantic City wound up getting fake bills last year, leading to the recent arrest of three suspects, with another person still on the loose. In total, $16,000 worth of 150 fake bills were passed at Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem — now called Wind Creek Bethlehem — as well as Parx Casino, Valley Forge Casino Resort, Harrah’s casinos, and SugarHouse Casino — now Rivers Casino Philadelphia, reported /Lehigh Valley Live.com/, a local online news site. Three of the suspects were shown on casino surveillance cameras allegedly using the altered money at gaming tables, sometimes while playing blackjack, the report said. Also, the inquiry revealed a printing operation in a Philadelphia hotel room. Police claim the printing scheme made $1 bills look like $100 bills. They were bleached and then altered through a printing process. But each of the bills had the same serial number.

Belterra Park sued for more than $2.7M for allegedly withholding video gaming revenues from racehorse owners and trainers

A Cincinnati-area racino is being sued for withholding more than $2.7 million in video lottery gaming revenues from the Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. The association of racehorse owners and trainers filed the federal lawsuit Friday against Belterra Park in U. S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in Columbus.

The suit alleges Belterra, located at 6301 Kellogg Road on the site of the old River Downs racetrack in suburban Anderson Twp., failed to pay the association its full share of video lottery proceeds from 2014 to 2018. According to the complaint, when Ohio legalized video lottery terminals in 2009, it required racinos like Belterra to split revenues between the track, the Ohio Lottery Commission, and the horsemen’s association, which was to receive between 9% and 11% of the proceeds.

Shootout that killed two in 2019 started as robbery of gambling in Sycamore Township hotel room

A shootout inside a Sycamore Township hotel room that killed two people started as a robbery of an illegal gambling night, according to a release from Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney Joseph T. Deters. Taymar Jones, 20, and Ja’Quan Howard, 15 were both killed Nov. 1, 2019, in a shooting at the Hampton Inn and Suites. Gambling on the dice game craps and a Madden video game went on for several hours with thousands of dollars changing hands before the attempted robbery, according to the release. Jones has been accused of being one of three robbers who entered the hotel room with a gun, according to Deters’ release. Howard was inside the room, and caught in the crossfire when the shooting started, according to the release. “This was a shoot-out situation,” Deters said in the release. On Monday, a Hamilton County grand jury indicted three men on murder charges in connection with the shooting deaths.

North Texas Cockfighting Operation Busted: 60 Live Roosters And Hens Recovered, 3 Men Arrested

A search warrant for a property in Hickory Creek Thursday morning, December 10, resulted in the arrest of three men for cockfighting and the recovery of 60 live birds and several deceased ones. It happened around 7:00 a.m. in the 1600 block of Turbeville Road. Lake Dallas Police and the Texas Highway Patrol assisted. Officers found several items typically used in cockfighting operations, including artificial spurs, along with documents indicating betting/gambling on the animals’ lives. Officers also found approximately 40 cages of various sizes, some not big enough for the animals to move around in freely. Many of the birds in cages did not have access to food or water. With the assistance of the Humane Society of North Texas Cruelty Investigations Division, Hickory Creek Police were able to recover 42 roosters and 18 hens.

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New Study Shows Children Exhibit Gambling Addiction Behavior like Stealing from Parents to fund Gambling-esque Loot Box Addiction

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the multifaceted impact loot boxes have in the gambling space.  More and more governments and organizations are recognizing loot boxes as gambling and many links have been observed in studies that examine loot boxes’ impact on the children who are seemingly playing safe video games.  These boxes act like slot machines in that children have to pay to pull the lever, or open a box, chasing after in-game loot.  There seems to be no significant cognitive behavioral difference in the addition of slot machines and loot boxes and in many cases, especially where the gained items can be sold for value, they fit the definition of gambling.  As such, more studies are being conducted and the newest study has some sobering results.  An online source reports:

According to new research by the Gambling Health Alliance, some 15% of young gamers have taken money from their parents without permission to buy loot boxes. An estimated 11% of gamers have used their parents’ credit cards to finalize the transaction, the GHA has reported.

The organization cautions that video games come with pitfalls and in a way resonates with what Scottish MP Ronnie Cowan said earlier this month, urging parents to boycott buying video games that contain loot boxes lest they start showing symptoms of gambling addiction.

The 15% reported by the GHA means that almost one in six young gamers has stolen money from their parents. Worse still, one in ten children, or 9%, have borrowed money they couldn’t repay to buy loot boxes, the research said. Three families had to re-mortgage their homes to cover the purchase of loot boxes, the GHA revealed. Based on the research, one in four respondents or 22% spent over £100 on average during the regular playthrough.

The addiction that follows loot boxes is not substantively different from that of slot machines, so the cognitive mechanics that addict gamers are generally understood. However, researchers want to know what drives the initial desire for children playing these games to start paying for and opening these addictive loot boxes.  Such information can help parents determine which games are safe and which could lead to such devastating addictive behaviors.  The source continues: 

Youngsters also reported that loot boxes interfered with their gaming experience for several reasons outlined by respondents in the survey. Children cited the “pay to win” model which made competitive play impossible. Another reason children cited was the scarcity of valuable items which could be procured through loot boxes. According to the GHA, all of the above made loot boxes increasingly addictive.

GHA Chair Duncan Stephenson has commented on the addictive tendencies among young children, acknowledging that teenagers enjoyed video games and that was perfectly fine. However, Stephenson cautioned the general public about the effects loot boxes can have on young people’s mental and financial well-being.

“Aside from the financial cost our latest survey with gamers suggests that the fixation with loot boxes can lead to classic symptoms of addiction including mood swings, problems sleeping, and impacting on their social life.”-GHA Chair Duncan Stephenson

He cautioned parents to be careful about the risks that loot boxes entail, especially when considering purchases of games that contain loot boxes. Stephenson also noted that these game mechanics will sooner or later be classified as gambling and be removed from games played by individuals who are under 18 years of age. There have been multiple calls for the reclassification of loot boxes already.

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