With Talk of Possible Tribal Casino in Missouri’s Ozarks, Legislators Propose Commercial Casino

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many failed efforts to establish a new Missouri Casino in the Lake of the Ozarks.  The Missouri Constitution only allows for casinos that are along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.  A change to the constitution would be required by a vote of the people to amend that condition.  However, there is the long path of a tribal casino that wouldn’t need to worry about the constitution, but it would have its own set of very lengthy barriers.  That, however, has not stopped the Osage from publicly discussing plans of a new casino, and as such, there are some that want to use that opportunity to push for a new commercially owned casino instead.  An online source explains:

Currently, the state constitution only permits gaming along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. But the Osage Nation has purchased land in Lake Ozark for the purpose of building a casino. The Nation is based in Oklahoma, where it owns and operates seven casinos. But its historical lands once encompassed most of what is now Missouri.

It wants the federal government to take the Lake Ozark land into trust, which partially removes it from the jurisdiction of the state. This would convert the land into the tribe’s sovereign reservation, making gaming possible there under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory  Act.

But a group of local investors have long held ambitions to build their own casino in the area. They’ve formed a political action committee, Osage River Gaming (ORG), which is backing the new bill, filed in the House by State Rep. Ron Hicks (R-St. Charles) earlier this month.

But if this is now a race to build the region’s first casino, it could be an incredibly slow one. Bills proposing gaming expansion are rarely fast-tracked through any state legislature. That means Hicks’ plan to get the question on the ballot in November of this year is ambitious, even if it is ultimately approved by his fellow lawmakers.

Meanwhile, land-in-trust applications are also painstakingly slow. Some can take years. A search of the Federal Register Tuesday did not show any pending applications by the Osage Nation for trust land in Missouri.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 02/14 – 02/20

Nun Who Embezzled $835K From Torrance School To Fund Gambling Habit To Be Sentenced

The retired principal of a Catholic elementary school in Torrance, who as a nun took a vow of poverty, faces sentencing Monday for embezzling more than $835,000 in school funds to support a gambling habit and other personal expenses. Mary Margaret Kreuper, 80, of Los Angeles, pleaded guilty in July to federal wire fraud and money laundering charges. Prosecutors recommend a 24-month prison sentence, three years of supervised release, and restitution. Kreuper acknowledged that for a period of 10 years ending in September 2018, she embezzled $835,339 from St. James Catholic School. As principal — a position she had for nearly 30 years before she retired — Kreuper was responsible for the money the school received to pay for tuition and fees, as well as for charitable donations, according to documents filed in Los Angeles federal court.

Sweepstakes business owner previously warned by officials is charged with over 50 criminal offenses for illegal gaming

The owner of a sweepstakes business in Lexington who was warned by law enforcement that he could be facing criminal charges for operating an illegal electronic gaming facility was arrested on Wednesday after a raid on the business on Winston Road. Albright has been charged, among other things, with felony continuing criminal enterprise, which is described as a continuing series of violations which are “in concert with five or more other persons with respect to whom the person occupies a position of organizer, supervisor or any other position of management, and from which the person obtains substantial income or resources to operating an illegal video game enterprise”, according the arrest report provided by the Davidson County Magistrates office.

Las Vegas casino triggered FBI’s Los Angeles bribery case

As a City Council member, Huizar was what casinos call a “politically exposed person.” He could gamble at the Palazzo only after filing papers showing he was not using public funds. Palazzo dealers kept close watch on Huang and Huizar when they arrived hours later in Parlor 8, a room for high rollers who typically bet with $25,000 and $100,000 chips. What they discovered triggered an FBI investigation that brought to light a sprawling corruption scandal at Los Angeles City Hall. Federal prosecutions so far have put another City Council member in prison and yielded four other felony guilty pleas. 

Huizar is awaiting trial on charges of running an extortion racket that shook down developers of top-tier properties in downtown Los Angeles. The casino chips, prosecutors say, were part of more than $800,000 in bribes that Huang paid the councilman in an attempt to win city approval of a 77-story tower that aimed to be the tallest on the West Coast. It was never built.

Man threatens to explode Las Vegas casino with grenade in his backside

A man is accused of threatening to blow up a Las Vegas casino, telling officers he had a grenade in his body, police said. Brian Gower, 46, faces one count of making threats of conveying false information concerning an act of terrorism after the incident Friday morning. According to police, Gower was arrested at The Strat Hotel and Casino after threatening to “blow the building up,” officers wrote in an arrest report. Police said while they were talking with Gower, he “was saying random things and talking about Joe Rogan and his ex-wife,” the report said. “At one point, Gower stated to [an] officer that he had a grenade in his [backside] and he wanted to [pass gas].” Officers said Gower had previously spoken to hotel security, telling them they had 15 minutes to evacuate the building, or it would explode. Officers did not find any explosives on Gower and took him to the Clark County jail.

Aberdeen man pleads guilty to playing with grant funds from Baltimore nonprofit

An Aberdeen man pleaded guilty on Jan. 20 to federal charges of filing false tax returns and wire fraud after embezzling funds intended for a Baltimore youth nonprofit, according to a press release from the US Department of Justice. Tyrone Sherrod owned a nonprofit organization in Baltimore City that provided after-school and summer education, as well as athletic programs, at a local elementary school from 2015 to 2019. In 2015, Sherrod applied for a grant from the U.S. Department of education to help fund these programs, and received approximately $1.1 million to be paid over three years. Between 2016 and 2018, Sherrod electronically submitted 19 bogus project invoice summaries that detailed payroll records, receipts and budget summaries, according to the Justice Department. These summaries showed a payroll of more than $746,000, while the nonprofit’s actual payroll during this period was closer to $212,000. According to his plea agreement, Sherrod lost much of the grant money because of casino gambling. From 2016 to 2018, his gambling losses were around $547,000. During the same period, Sherrod withdrew $552,405 in cash from a casino’s ATM.

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

Federal Government Plans Appeal of Florida Seminole Compact, Court sets Deadline for Briefs

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to use the Seminole Gambling Compact to expand sports gambling in Florida.  The last compact agreement reached, would have seen online sports betting to those available all over the state.  The Florida constitution prevents such expansion without the vote of the people, but the argument made was that the gambling servers were on tribal land, and thus tribal gambling.  A Federal Judge ruled that such an argument is ridiculous and fiction and invalidated the agreement.  Now the Federal Government has appealed and the court is giving them until March 21st to submit briefs. Florida Politics reports: 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Friday gave lawyers in the case until March 21 to propose a briefing process for the appeal. In that appeal, the U.S. Department of Interior and the Seminole Tribe hope to get the court to reverse the Nov. 22 ruling by U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich that invalidated the Compact. In a summary judgment, Friedrich ruled the U.S. Department of Interior should never have granted federal approval for the deal last August because the gambling expansion appeared to be a violation of Florida’s Constitution.

Unlike in 2021, when the Compact was presented to the Legislature as high priority and with urgency, the agreement’s fate has not been much more than an afterthought in the 2022 Legislative Session currently underway.

Now, the 2022 Session is sure to end with the 2021 Florida Compact still in limbo in a deliberate-moving appeals court. Meanwhile, all the gambling expansions that the Seminole Tribe planned on through the Gambling Compact — most notably its Hard Rock Sportsbook online sports betting service — are shut down.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 02/07 – 02/13

Police raid 2 illegal gambling locations in Summit County, recover cash, guns, drugs

More than a half of a million dollars in cash, along with 11 guns, an AR-15, and 10 pounds of marijuana were found at two illegal gambling sites, said Springfield Township police. Springfield Township Sergeant Eric East said officers, along with Metro SWAT and the Cuyahoga Falls SWAT team, executed multiple search warrants at a home and business in Springfield Township. Sergeant East also said three ballistic vests were also found when the search warrants were executed. Derrick Chatman, 39, of Springfield Township is charged with drug trafficking, weapons under disability and possession of drugs. Chatman is currently locked up in the Summit County Jail. Sergeant East said additional charges are pending.

Georgia trainer gets five years for role in dogfighting and cocaine trafficking ring 

A dogfighting trainer and breeder from Suwanee, Georgia, was sentenced to five years in prison on Wednesday for his role in what prosecutors called a large multistate dogfighting and cocaine trafficking ring. Vernon Vegas, 49, was given the statutory maximum sentencing after pleading guilty last September to conspiracy to participate in an animal fighting venture. U.S. District Judge Tilman E. “Tripp” Self III also sentenced Vegas to three years of supervised release following his imprisonment and ordered him to forfeit $116,819 in seized cash and pay a $10,000 fine. Eleven people, including Vegas, were indicted on federal charges a year ago after a law enforcement investigation into a criminal organization involved in both cocaine distribution and organized dogfighting, which operated across North Georgia, Florida and Alabama from May 2019 until February 2020.

Jockey Mychel Sanchez Suspended After Betting Against Himself in Pennsylvania 

Mychel Sanchez was suspended indefinitely by 1/ST Racing on Friday. That’s after it was reported officials in Pennsylvania suspended the thoroughbred jockey for betting against his mounts. Sanchez was pulled from races on cards for Friday and Saturday at Laurel Park in Maryland. Maryland Racing Commission Executive Director J. Michael Hopkins said he learned stewards in Pennsylvania suspended Sanchez 60 days for betting violations. That’s according to the Paulick Report, a horse racing news site, “You can’t bet against yourself,” Hopkins told the Paulick Report on Friday. In 43 races this year, Sanchez has hit the board 18 times, including nine wins. He’s produced $244,327 in purse earnings for his connections so far this year. Last year, Sanchez won 155 times in 1,008 races. He ran in the top three 46 percent of the time and recorded earnings of $5.7 million.

Focus on Xhaka Yellow Card as Bookmaker Reports $420,000 in Suspicious Bitcoin Bets

At least $420,000 was placed on an Arsenal player receiving a yellow card in the last ten minutes of a game earlier this season via a single bookmaker, according to a report from The Athletic. The suspicious bets prompted the operator to flag the incident to the International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA). As first reported by Casino.org last week, the yellow card in question is believed to be the one midfielder Granit Xhaka picked up in the 85th minute against Leeds when he appeared to time-waste inexplicably over a free kick. The incident jarred because Arsenal were leading 4-1 at the time and there was no strategic reason to waste time. Several gamblers took to Twitter immediately after the game to highlight that around $65,000 had been matched suddenly on the Betfair betting exchange shortly before the booking, plunging the odds from 9/4 to 4/5.

MGM Springfield Police Confrontation Leaves One Man Critically Wounded, Cop Injured 

A 24-year-old Springfield, Mass. man was hospitalized in critical condition early Thursday after getting shot by one or more police officers at the MGM Springfield parking garage overnight. Minutes earlier, he allegedly injured a Springfield police officer with a flare gun. The incident began at about midnight when shell casings were found in the unnamed man’s backpack by casino security guards, MassLive, a regional news site in Massachusetts, reported. The guards prevented him from entering the gaming property.

Then, officers stopped the man outside of the casino. While in an alley, he allegedly fired the flare gun. A Springfield police officer, who is part of the Gaming Enforcement Unit, was injured. The suspect then fled into the casino’s parking garage. He again allegedly fired the flare gun twice at police officers who were pursuing him, according to WGGB, a local TV station. An unknown number of officers then shot the man at about 12:10 am. Springfield police officers immediately provided first aid to the suspect. He was then transported to Baystate Medical Center. He has “serious injuries” and is reportedly in critical condition at the Springfield hospital, police said in a statement.

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

Super Bowl Betting Doubled Prior Year’s Gambling and Brought Dangerous Issues to Problem Gamblers

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on the impact the Super Bowl has on the gambling sphere.  This year might be the most unique yet, as the amount of states that offer legalized sports betting is at an all time high.  An online source explains: 

A record-high 117 million people watched the Los Angeles Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 23-20, to win Super Bowl LVI this past Sunday. But for an unprecedented number of viewers, the focus wasn’t just on football (or even the halftime show and commercials), but on the game’s impact on their wallets.

More than 31 million people are believed to have bet on some aspect of the game, with an estimated $7.6 billion wagered. Both figures are more than double what they were for last year’s Super Bowl.

The expansion of legalized sports betting coincides with the ubiquity of mobile devices, creating unprecedented accessibility to a form of betting that used to be reserved to Las Vegas — or perhaps a visit to a shady bar and the neighborhood bookie. In many states, you don’t need to go to a brick-and-mortar sportsbook to place a bet — you can just reach for your iPhone.

The ease of placing bets is coupled with a deluge of advertising. Companies like FanDuel, MGM and Caesars have spent hundreds of millions of dollars pushing online sports betting in recent years. Sports-betting companies are even able to air commercials during NFL games, as they did during the Super Bowl, after the league not only reversed its long-standing and intense opposition to the practice, but actively partnered with the industry.

Moreover, with unfettered access, those with addictive behavior and gambling problems will be the most at risk.  The source continues: 

Taken together, these factors make modern sports betting particularly risky, says Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), an organization co-founded 50 years ago by Msgr. Joseph Dunne, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

According to NCPG’s research, the rise of sports betting has coincided with a twofold increase in gambling problems in the U.S. between 2018 and 2021. Whyte points out that these risks aren’t evenly distributed throughout the population, but are mainly concentrated among “young, male online sports bettors.”

“This is not simply innocent fun that people use to make their game-day watching experience more exciting,” MCC’s executive director, Jason Adkins, told the local Catholic newspaper. “This is something that could result in significant detriment to those who already have addictive personalities and gambling problems and to their families. We all suffer when that happens.”

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

A Brief Look at Crime 01/30 – 02/06

Former Westlake Bank Teller Sentenced to Prison for Embezzling from Employer

U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Brennan announced that Arin Kumhall, 38, of North Olmsted, Ohio, was sentenced on January 6, 2022, by Judge James S. Gwin to five months in prison, to be followed by five months of home confinement, after Kumhall pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly $73,000 from her employer. According to court documents, Kumhall was employed as a bank teller at a Citizens Bank in Westlake, Ohio.   In addition to traditional teller responsibilities, Kumhall was responsible for ordering, receiving and inputting cash into the bank’s internal reporting system for the branch The FBI obtained and reviewed Kumhall’s personal bank account information and observed an increase in cash deposits and online gambling activity from September 2020 through December 2020.

Man arrested for leaving explosive device at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, authorities say

Rogers County deputies arrested a man Tuesday after they say he brought an explosive device in a bag onto the property of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. Zachary Schmidt told investigators that he knew the device was in the bag he got out of a dumpster near 41st and 129th East Avenue. Schmidt said he got a ride to the casino from some people. He told detectives that he had gotten into an argument with them and they left him at the casino. He said the people who gave him a ride put the bag under some stairs at the casino. Detectives interviewed the people who gave Schmidt a ride and they said the bag belonged to Schmidt. Schmidt told deputies he thought the device was a firework or firecracker.

Oakland Police Shut Down Illegal Gambling Den, Seize Guns and Drugs

Police in Oakland shut down another illegal gambling operation after executing a search warrant Wednesday, seizing firearms including multiple assault rifles and pounds of methamphetamine and pot.Officers seized 10 guns, including four assault rifles with extended magazines, 5.5 pounds of what is suspected to be crystal methamphetamine and 15.5 pounds of marijuana, according to police. The methamphetamine has a street value of $70,000, police said. Officers also seized 12 alleged illegal gambling machines and more than $7,000 in cash. Police said they shut down two other illegal gambling operations in July and October of last year.

Man dies after confrontation with security guard at Seven Mile Casino 

Police are investigating an incident at a Chula Vista casino that led to a man’s death Monday evening. At around 8:45 p.m., Chula Vista Police officers were called to Seven Mile Casino (285 Bay Blvd.) in response to a physical confrontation between a man and a casino security guard. According to police, the altercation at the casino’s main entrance resulted in the man being injured. The injured man, who was believed to be a transient, was rushed to UC San Diego Medical Center where he later died from his injuries. CVPD homicide detectives are looking into the events that led to the confrontation.

Heartless fraudster who plundered £90k from Lanarkshire family business behind bars

A devastated family say they are “hanging on by the skin of our teeth” after a trusted employee stole £90,000 from the business they’d built up over many years of hard work. Crooked bookkeeper Andrea Cochrane, who worked as a company secretary at East Kilbride-based. A Steel & Son Contracts Ltd for more than 30 years, has been sentenced to 28 months in jail. The callous former employee previously admitted scamming thousands from the family business to fund a £700 a day gambling addiction – despite being treated as a friend of the Steel family, and invited to weddings and birthday parties. Cochrane, from Bellshill, was back in Hamilton Sheriff Court this week for sentencing after it was postponed from a hearing last month.

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

Florida Initiative Petition signature deadline hits and Expanded Sports Betting and Casino Efforts Fail

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on the efforts to legalize sports betting in Florida through the Seminole Compact.  Those efforts failed when a Judge struck down the sports betting provisions as crafted and as such, companies like DraftKings and FanDuel invested unprecedented amounts of money in efforts to put the issue on the ballot via initiative petition. Despite the huge financial investment, the time has come and passed to have the required signatures required for getting the issue on the ballot this year.  The same holds true for a possible new Casino, which was also using the initiative petition as the means for expanded gambling. An online source reports:

Two ballot measures in Florida concerning sports betting (sponsored by Florida Education Champions) and additional casinos (sponsored by Florida Voters in Charge) failed to qualify for the 2022 ballot. Each initiative needed 891,589 signatures to be validated by county elections officials by Feb. 1. Florida also has a signature distribution requirement, which requires that signatures equaling at least 8% of the district-wide vote in the last presidential election be collected from at least half (14) of the state’s 27 congressional districts.

From 2016 through 2020, the total cost of successful petition drives to qualify an initiative for the ballot in Florida ranged from $2.8 million to $8.8 million. In 2016, Florida required 683,149 valid signatures. In 2018 and 2020, the valid signature requirement was 766,200.

Florida Education Champions reported $37.2 million in contributions ($22.7 million from DraftKings and $14.48 million from FanDuel) and $36.01 million in expenditures. Florida Education Champions paid $23.8 million to Advanced Micro Targeting for petition gathering services.

Another committee, Florida Voters in Charge, sponsored an initiative concerning casino gaming expansion in Florida. The Division of Elections showed that county elections officials had validated 814,266 signatures submitted by the campaign as of 5:00 p.m. on Feb. 1. The campaign met the distribution requirement in 10 of the 27 congressional districts, short of the 14 districts needed. Florida Voters in Charge reported $51.6 million in contributions, mostly from Las Vegas Sands ($49.6 million), a casino and resort company based in Nevada. Florida Voters in Charge paid $44.9 million to Game Day Strategies for petition gathering and consulting. 

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

A Brief Look at Crime 01/23 – 01/30

Las Vegas Strip Murder Suspects Held Without Bail After Two Fatal Shootings

A pair of men charged in two Las Vegas Strip homicides on Friday remained behind bars this weekend. One New Year’s Eve shooting was at Palace Station Casino. The other was at Fashion Show Mall. Both were in parking garages. The suspects were identified as Jordan Ruby, 18, and Jesani Carter, 20, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Each was charged with murder, and each is expected to appear in court on Tuesday. More charges are likely, Las Vegas Metro Police added in a statement. The two suspects could be linked to other crimes in the region, police suspect. “Detectives are currently reviewing their connection to other events,” Metro police said Saturday about the duo. “These investigations are still ongoing and additional charges will be forthcoming.”

US Virgin Islands Casino Control Commission Member Guilty of Embezzlement

Barnes was convicted by the jury after just six hours of deliberation. She had been charged by the federal government with conspiracy to steal from programs, receiving federal funds in contravention of US laws, receipt of stolen government money, filing false tax returns in violation of Virgin Islands law, and receiving federal funds in violations of US Law. Evidence proved that Barnes colluded with Violet Anne Golden, former VI Casino Control Commission Chair, in a scheme to steal federal and local money, as well as file a false tax return. Evidence revealed that Barnes received a $65,000 contract between April and June 2015. However, it is not clear for what purpose the contract was. Evidence also revealed that Barnes received $568,104 in total, including more than $113,000 in travel, perks and vehicle expenses. Jill Koster, the lead prosecutor in the case, stated that Barnes knew “what was in Golden’s wallet” during opening statements. This was referring to the hundreds and thousands of dollars of taxpayer funds that were said to have been spent at the time of the crimes.

Police Chief: Violence concern with gambling businesses operating illegally

Police have long investigated illegal gambling and 8-liners. In May of 2020 a 45-year-old woman was arrested at Lucky’s Game Room on the same charge and bonded out. And in March this year police issued 20 citations to eight game rooms in the city. By definition, a gaming machine commonly referred to as an “8-Liner,” is any coin-operated contrivance designed solely for amusement if the machine rewards the player exclusively with non-cash merchandise or a representation of value redeemable for those items, that have a wholesale value available from a single play of the device of not more than ten times the amount charged to play or $5, whichever is less.

It’s been said these types of illegal gambling business leads to crime, and police say they are not good for the city. “They have a high probability of getting robbed, because criminals know they are illegally paying out money and so they know there is cash money on site,” PAPD Det. Sadie Guedry said. “When businesses are robbed, this increases the chance of people getting hurt. Where there is illegal gambling, there is more than likely other illegal activity going on.” In addition, senior citizens are being misled, she said, believing these places are like legal casinos.

Gambling addict from Danville gets 8 years in prison for robbing 19 stores in Virginia and North Carolina 

Larry Wayne Inge, whose gambling addiction led him to rob 19 stores across two states in the course of 51 days, was sentenced Wednesday to eight years in prison. Inge testified in Roanoke’s federal court that his crime spree began Dec. 1, 2019, after he had depleted his life savings, maxed out credit cards and spent borrowed money so he could continue to place bets on televised football games. That evening, the 40-year-old from Danville walked into the Valero convenience store on Philpott Road in South Boston, wearing a skull cap and bandana and carrying a blue pillowcase. Keeping one hand in his jacket pocket as if he had a gun, he demanded all the money that was in the cash register. After he had wagered that cash away, he robbed the Food Lion on Philpott Road in Henry County a few weeks later, then the Moore’s Country Store in Lynchburg on Dec. 29. Although Inge was never armed and no one was injured, “he put everyone in danger,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachel Swartz said in asking for a 10-year sentence. Each time he waked into a store, Inge testified, “I realized that what I did, even before I did it, was unacceptable.” But by then, he said, the urge to place bets using an online gaming site was uncontrollable. After the money from one robbery was gone, “the very next day, I would be in the same situation.”

Arizona man gets prison time for casino sex attack on tribal land

A 26-year-old Arizona man who admitted sexually assaulting a woman at a Fort Mojave Indian Reservation resort-casino has been sentenced to eight years and four months in prison. A federal prosecutor said Richard Anthony Hernandez also was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas to 15 years of supervised release after prison. Hernandez’s defense attorney didn’t immediately comment on his client’s behalf. A prosecutor says the woman is Native American. She was hospitalized for multiple face and head injuries and loss of consciousness after the September 2018 attack near near Laughlin and the Colorado River in Nevada. The case was prosecuted in federal court because the crime occurred on tribal land.

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

Legalized Sports Betting in Florida via Initiative Petition takes turn as Fraudulent Signatures are being Alleged

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to legalize sports betting in Florida.  Most recently, a gambling compact between Florida and the Seminoles was shut down by a Federal Judge over the provision to legalize sports betting.  Florida law requires any new gambling to be approved by the voters, and that compact side-stepped the will of the people.  The solution by those pushing for legalized sports betting then, is to bring the issue before the people via initiative petition.  To get on the ballot, a certain amount of signatures is required by a certain deadline and it was very clear that even after millions of dollars had been spent, those pushing the petitions were woefully short of the required signature.  So perhaps it’s not surprising that after an unexpected and sudden surge of signatures as the deadline neared, election supervisors would raise serious fraud concerns.  The Miami-Herald is reporting on what could be one of the largest election fraud attempts ever with these petitions:

Tallahassee Florida could be in the midst of one of the largest cases of election-related fraud in recent history. Across the state, elections supervisors say they have been sent thousands of fraudulent petition forms supporting a constitutional amendment to expand casino gaming in the state. Although the forms are supposed to reflect real Floridians voicing support for a change to the state’s Constitution, many include the names of dead people or the forged signatures of real voters.

The number of suspicious or hard-to-verify petitions has buried county elections supervisors and their staffs trying to sort through them. In one case, Marion County Supervisor of Elections Wesley Wilcox found both his and his wife’s signatures forged on petition forms. 

Adding to the fraudulent claims is the fact that petition gathers are seemingly being paid per signature, which is illegal in Florida.  The Miami-Herald continues: 

Organizers for the Tribe have also alleged in court documents that organizers for Las Vegas Sands have been paying petition circulators based on the number of signatures they collect, which is a first-degree misdemeanor under state law punishable by up to a year in jail. They’ve produced contracts and affidavits from people who worked on the company’s petition drive.

One of those people signed an affidavit stating he was hired to gather signatures, and his contract stated he was paid $450,000 for every 25,000 petitions he submitted, up to $2.7 million. Another person, Larry Laws, was hired by a different company to produce signature-gatherers for the effort. His affidavit states that while the contracts stated that employees would be paid hourly, instead of per signature, petition circulators would also be paid a “bonus” of $2,500 for every 300 signatures, which was not in the contract. 

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

A Brief Look at Crime 01/17 – 01/23

Hilton Former Revenue Manager Arrested in $28M Hotel Room Fraud 

Denny Bhakta used casinos to launder the money that he illegally obtained. He offered investors opportunities that are just too good to pass. He alleged in fake documents that he’s tied to Hilton and United Airlines. Denny Bhakta, who was an ex-Hilton San Diego Bayfront revenue manager, was arrested on Tuesday after allegedly defrauding investors of around $28 million. As the FBI reports, the San Diego man used a discount scheme involving bogus hotel room blocks and laundered the money through well-known casinos in Las Vegas, such as The Cosmopolitan and ARIA, the Department of Justice states in a press release.

In the SEC complaint, the phrase “money laundering” is avoided and instead, it is just stated that the money was used for gambling purposes. Suzanne Turner, FBI Special Agent in Charge, stated that this case will be a warning to all those who intend to participate in these types of activities and noted that the FBI will work with the SEC to make sure that investment fraud is rooted out.

Woman Steals $240K to Fuel Gambling Addiction, Found Guilty of Wire Fraud

A former teacher pleaded guilty to wire fraud last week, announced the Department of Justice in Georgia. The woman embezzled some $240,000 which was used to help recover from gambling losses and fuel her gambling addiction. The investigation uncovered that the woman diverted many contributions from different organizations to her account. Before her job as a teacher, Trice worked as a volunteer campaign coordinator at the UNCF between 2005 and 2017. The investigators found that while at UNCF, she diverted many small contributions to her account. Suspicious of embezzlement, the UNCF ended her relationship with Trice. Investigators uncovered that she had stopped working at the dental office due to similar allegations. “Trenna Trice abused the trust of two non-profits, a small business and many individual citizens when   she chose to steal money intended for others to fund her gambling addiction.”

Former state worker sentenced for embezzling more than $855,000 from environment department

A former state employee has been sentenced to one year in jail and three years of probation for embezzling more than $800,000 from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. While working with EGLE as an environmental quality specialist, Joseph Pettit helped release bond money back to companies that had drilled in or operated a mineral well in Michigan and facilitated transfers of money back to its original owner, according to the Attorney General’s Office. He also created fake vendors and diverted the bond money into his personal bank accounts, according to the AG’s office. Pettit said some of his issues stemmed from a gambling addiction, for which he is now seeking treatment.

Devils Lake eye doctor employee accused of stealing $350k to gamble

The business manager at a Devils Lake eye clinic is facing potential jail time after investigators say she embezzled more than a quarter of a million dollars. According to the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Nancy Weaver took nearly $350,000 in cash deposits from the office of Drs. Krein and Moen over a six-year period starting in 2014. They say she lost almost all of it while gambling at the Spirit Lake Casino. If convicted, Weaver could get up to 20 years in prison.

Innocent New York Townhouse Really a Brothel, Gambling Den, Lawsuit Asserts

A townhouse in the Murray Hill section of New York City is a “den of iniquity”. It has been converted into a members-only club operating 24 hours a day. A lawsuit hopes to have the operations shut down. A townhouse worth nearly $7 million in the Murray Hill neighborhood of New York City has been converted into a club for members only by squatters. The residents of the townhouse host a brothel, poker games and after-hours parties. Now, a lawsuit hopes to get them evicted.

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

Florida Seminole Gaming Compact Court Ruling will be Appealed by Federal Government

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing saga of renewing the Florida Seminole gambling compact and the detrimental decision to attempt to legalize sports betting through its latest draft.  Given the state of Florida doesn’t already have legalized sports betting, attempts to legalize it outside of any tribal casino would face immediate legal scrutiny. That was the case when a Federal Judge struck down the agreement as it attempted to allow anyone in the state to take part in sports gambling claiming it was restricted to tribal land because the computer servers were on tribal land.  The Judge called that argument fiction as its clearly irrelevant where the computers are located and the key factor would be if the gamblers were actually on tribal land or not. Despite the plain language and clear interpretation of the law here, it does appear politics is still attempting to win out.  As Florida Politics is reporting, the Feds are now officially appealing the court’s decision:

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has notified a federal court that she and the Department of Interior intend to appeal the November court decision that struck down internet sports betting and Florida’s 2022 Gaming Compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Haaland filed her notice to appeal the decision Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The actual appeal is set to be filed by Saturday with the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit.

The federal government’s argument would have to convince the Appeals Court that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act gives the Department of Interior authority to approve Florida’s Gaming Compact at a federal level in August, even if the Compact allows bets to be placed outside tribal lands.

The notice itself does not reveal what arguments Haaland and the federal government might be preparing to make.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 01/10 – 12/16

Integrity of Sports Put at Risk by $1.7 Trillion in Illegal Bets, U.N. Says

Criminals are using the wagers to launder money globally. Illicit online operators use cryptocurrencies to hide actions. Illegal betting on sports may approach $1.7 trillion annually and is often used by criminals to launder money, according to a report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The estimate dwarfs the legal sports wagering market, which is about $40 billion, according to the report  released Thursday. The increasing number and types of bets are complicating efforts by law enforcement to squash illegal wagering, as is a proliferation of rogue online operators using cryptocurrencies to disguise who is gambling.

Illegal gambling strips sport of its positive, transformative power, the report said, risking its ability to teach and inspire young people. “In our increasingly globalized world, sport is exposed to complex risks posed by corrupt actors who seek to exploit it   for illicit gain,” Ghada Waly, executive director of the office, said in her introduction to the report.

$3 million in marijuana seized after assault at NC casino 

Police in North Carolina seized around $3 million worth of marijuana Thursday morning following an assault at a casino. According to the Cherokee Indian Police Department, officers were originally called to a domestic violence incident at the Harrah’s   Cherokee Valley River Casino. Police said officers found a man and woman near the entrance to the casino hotel and determined that the man had assaulted the woman. That man, 27-year-old Brandon Thomas Jones of Tennessee, was arrested and charged with assault on a female and possession of methamphetamine and paraphernalia. Officers said that a U-Haul truck with a Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians license plate arrived to pick up the victim. The driver then gave officers consent to search the vehicle, police said. Inside the U-Haul, police said they found over 900 pounds of marijuana, multiple loaded syringes, and two guns.

Online Gambling Spree by Detroit Sergeant Fueled By Prisoner ATM Cards: Prosecutor

A former sergeant for the Detroit Police Department (DPD) who embezzled more than $30,000 after stealing ATM cards meant for inmates in his custody faces up to ten years in prison if convicted. Derek Loranger used the money for online gambling, according to prosecutors. At his arraignment Friday, Loranger pleaded not guilty to one count of embezzlement, one count of using a computer to commit a crime, one count of misconduct in office, and 10 counts of possession of a stolen financial transaction device. According to court documents, the 23-year DPD veteran worked at the Detroit Detention Center. When detainees were brought in, they would surrender cash that would be fed into an ATM. On their release, they would receive an ATM card loaded with the equivalent sum. Loranger is accused of stealing ten of these ATM cards between January and August of 2021 and loading them with cash. He then plowed the money into “multiple” online gambling sites.

Birmingham fraudster stole life savings from retired nurse 

A man posed as a lawyer and claimed to have cancer to defraud a pensioner of almost £250,000. Shahbaz Queshri 30, befriended the retired nurse and claimed he would help her recover lost funds after a bad investment. The money had been to help her disabled son live more independently but Queshri, of Birmingham, then spent up to £50K a day on online gambling sites. He was jailed for five years and four months after admitting fraud. The 78-year-old victim has had to re-mortgage her house and is still having to work after losing a total of £236,955 over an 18-month period, West Midlands Police said. Her family said Queshri, of Olorenshaw Road, had destroyed her retirement and she was suffering from anxiety, sleepless nights and worry.

Ex-Jets wide receiver sentenced to 3 years in prison for COVID relief fraud

A Florida federal court sentenced former Jets wide receiver Josh Bellamy to 37 months in prison on Friday for illegally acquiring $1.2 million in loans meant to help struggling businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Associated Press. Bellamy’s sentencing comes 15 months after he was arrested for his role in a fraud scheme involving 10 other people. The Jets released him a day before his arrest but had no knowledge of Bellamy’s off-field transgressions, per an ESPN report from 2020. Bellamy pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Court records claim Bellamy received a $1.2 million Paycheck Protection Program loan for his company, Drip Entertainment LLC, with falsified documents. He then used the money on items for himself and allegedly spent more than $100,000 of his PPP money at Dior, Gucci and jewelry stores, as well as at least $362,000 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

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

Missouri Sports Teams and Casinos Push Legislation to Make Sports Betting Legal

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many failed attempts at legalizing sports gambling in Missouri.  However, as more and more states and sports teams join the gambling craze, teams that once stood against gambling on their sports are now being seduced by the money and allure.  As such, this year’s joint efforts to push legislation in Missouri are no real surprise.  As being reported by an online sports blog, this unity of teams has now extended to deals with casinos:

Six Missouri pro sports teams and existing casino operators in the state came to an agreement Wednesday to back sports betting legislation that would allow for statewide mobile wagering tethered to existing gaming locations. The agreement is the first of its kind in the U.S., where operators and professional franchises will be walking in lockstep in an effort to get a sports betting bill legalized.

According to an industry source, the MLB St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals, NHL St. Louis Blues, MLS St. Louis City Soccer Club, NFL Kansas City Chiefs, and National Women’s Soccer League Kansas City Current will each be entitled to a skin or mobile platform under the agreement, but not a retail location.

Past attempts have always failed, and it’s possible the group believes it’s the additional gambling expansion legislation of video lottery terminals in the legislation that causes the efforts to die.  As such, they are taking a different approach and only supporting legislation that deals with sports betting in a vacuum.  The online source continues:

Missouri lawmakers have been trying to legalize sports betting nearly since the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018. Sen. Denny Hoskins has been at the leading edge of the charge, though he has traditionally linked video lottery terminals (VLTs) s and sports betting. Ahead of this session, Hoskins filed two bills — one that includes VLTs and one that does not. In both versions, the Missouri Lottery would be the regulator.

As part of the pro team-casino proposal, an industry source said, the coalition agreed to oppose any bill that includes legalized video lottery terminals.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 01/03 – 01/09

San Antonio couple describes Eagle Pass casino shooting chaos 

A San Antonio couple at the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino and Hotel in Eagle Pass when gunshots were fired described the hour they spent terrified and uncertain of what was happening. Sara Almaraz and Rene Juarez captured the moment when a fun casino trip turned into chaos Sunday. “We just heard screaming. When I was running, people were like bumping into me, and then people’s cell phones were falling,” Almaraz said. “We didn’t know if we were running in the right direction. I didn’t even realize I was still recording until we were outside.” 

“The shooter went to the parking garage, which is exactly where we were standing, so we were like, ‘oh shoot.’ And that’s when they were telling everyone to come inside. I think that’s when they realized that he was outside,” Almaraz said. mTheir group moved to multiple locations during the ordeal while even the hotel rooms were evacuated. “There was probably about 500 people. We heard there was groups in the front, the side, the back of the casino, with guards. They did not want to let us leave even to our cars. They said, ‘We don’t know where he’s at,’” Juarez said.

Alleged Gambling Addict Sentenced to Life in Prison for Wife’s New Hampshire Murder

Prosecutors claim Argie was in debt and close to bankruptcy due to his gambling addiction, according to published reports. His family had tried to conduct an intervention with him with the hope of him addressing his behavior, news media reported. Maureen Argie was attempting to divorce him at the time of the homicide. She was also seeking custody of the children and felt threatened by her husband. William Argie’s fellow gambler, James Timbas, claimed that Argie tried to hire him to kill Maureen Argie. It was to appear like a suicide, he said. In return, Timbas would receive part of her $400,000 life insurance policy under the alleged scheme. Timbas refused to take part in the plot.

Insurance Agent Sentenced to 2 Years in Wire Fraud Case

A Snohomish, Washington, insurance agent was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud in the theft of premium payments from clients. Vicki Boser, owner of InsuranceTek, Inc., pleaded guilty in August. At her sentencing Tuesday, she was also ordered to pay $273,137 in restitution to eight companies or insurance brokers she defrauded. Boser used the money to support her gambling habit at area casinos, federal prosecutors said in a press release. At the sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge James L. Robart likened the conduct to a Ponzi scheme saying, “The conduct is classic in terms of embezzling from clients.”

18 people nabbed in statewide gambling scheme, Seminole County sheriff says (FL)

Eighteen people allegedly involved in an illegal countywide casino operation were arrested Wednesday following a months-long investigation into a scheme involving gamblers who were mostly people “living on a fixed income,” Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma told reporters. The charges include racketeering and running an illegal lottery, both felonies, along with keeping a house of gaming and possessing and delivery of gaming machines. All 18 suspects will be charged in connection to establishing and running eight game centers throughout the county.

Photos released by the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office show many of the establishments were located in strip plazas where they “had either no markings at all or a misrepresentation of what the business was,” Lemma said, including a pawn shop and a marketing business. Inside were video games, computers and other equipment that turned the rooms inside the businesses into small casinos.

‘Trusted’ secretary embezzled £90k from construction firm to fund gambling habit 

A “trusted” secretary who embezzled £90,000 from a construction firm to fund her gambling habit is selling her home in order to avoid prison. Andrea Cochrane, 52, worked as a bookkeeper for more than 30 years, but was stealing thousands in order to maintain a £700-a-day gambling addiction. Horrified bosses at A Steel & Son Contractors in East Kilbride, discovered a string of bogus payments and fired her, the Daily Record reports. After an initial payment of £2,500 had been queried, a review discovered £28,000 had been made to an accountancy firm when it should only have been £10,000. Investigations revealed Cochrane had labelled a series of high value transactions as ‘Turner Accountancy’ but had used the details of her own account to pocket the cash. Cochrane, of Bellshill, Lanarkshire, appeared at Hamilton Sheriff Court and admitted embezzling £90,000 between January and July 2019. Sheriff John Speir deferred sentence after being told her family home was going on the market next month. Alan Murray, defending, said: “She should have sought help from someone for her problems but instead turned to drink and gambling.

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

Guest Article:  Murphy v. NCAA – Wrongly decided by the Supreme Court (And Here’s Why)

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on the many failed attempts to legalize sports betting over the past decade as well as the sudden reversal of decades of legal precedent by the Supreme Court that opened the floodgates to legalized gambling all over the country.  The case in question is Murphy v. NCAA and this month’s Illinois Law Review  guest article argues why the case was wrongly decided.  Michael Fagan, Adjunct Professor, Washington University School of Law, St. Louis, MO; Counsel, St. Louis Fusion Center; Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, 2019–2020, and Assistant U.S. Attorney, 1983–2008, brings these and other exemplary credentials to the table when breaking down the case:

This Article argues that the U.S. Supreme Court’s majority opinion striking down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in Murphy v. NCAA1 failed to convincingly establish sufficient cause to upset the Constitution’s allocation to the federal government of protective, supervisory, and prohibitive powers over interstate and foreign commerce. These powers necessarily require an ability to preclude non-federal entities from undercutting national policy. The Murphy majority’s failure is especially evident when the form of interstate commerce addressed by federal legislation involved in that case addressed a historical vice—commercialized gambling, not mere social or charitable gambling—that provably (i) adversely impacts public health and workplace productivity, (ii) increases instances and risks of corruption in government and to historically-treasured national commerce, such as professional and amateur sports, and (iii) employs means that cannot be adequately policed in the Internet era. The Murphy majority opinion relied upon those Justices’ personal perception of what federalism requires. In doing so, they elevated their personal opinions over the plain words of the Federal Constitution. Those Justices, like the commercialized gambling industry, may have disagreed with PASPA on a policy basis but, under the Constitution, the decision to enact such nationally-protective legislation plainly has been assigned to Congress, and PASPA was a proper exercise of that power. Nothing in the words nor implicit in the structure of the Constitution would, sensibly, preclude the federal government from prohibiting any entity, including states (which surrendered aspects of sovereign authority over certain commerce upon choosing to join the national government) from authorizing conduct in interstate or foreign commerce plainly adverse to federal policy. To rule otherwise brings from the grave a structural weakness long thought buried when the inefficient Articles of Confederation were replaced by the present U.S. Constitution.

The full article that expertly breaks down each argument can be found HERE

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