Update: Florida Supreme Court to Decide if Deceptive Greyhound Amendment will make it on the Ballot

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the greyhound amendment that was initially headed to the November ballot in Florida. The amendment’s language is very confusing and doesn’t explain well enough what it really does. The issue isn’t as simple as banning greyhound racing. It’s a more complex issue known as decoupling, and it will effectively leave stand alone mini-casinos in the wake. Its been explained why that would be a far worse situation for Florida families. The Amendment was immediately challenged and the bench judge said a full trial wouldn’t be need, and it was a legal issue that could be ruled on quickly. As outlined by Florida PoliticsCircuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled against the Amendment:

The association challenged the amendment, saying its ballot title and summary would mislead voters. Circuit Judge *Karen* *Gievers* already has agreed in a harshly-worded ruling, striking the measure earlier this month and calling it “outright ‘trickeration.’ ”

She said Amendment 13’s title and summary were “clearly and conclusively defective,” a legal standard developed by the Supreme Court to justify keeping proposed amendments off the ballot.

Despite this ruling, Attorney General Pam Bondi decided to appeal the case to the Florida Supreme Court. The Court heard arguments yesterday, but didn’t give much of an indication how they are leaning on the issue. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice, Major B. Harding, argued against it to the Court and explained the many issues wrong with the amendment, including the argument made during at the appellate level that outlined how this issue belongs in the legislature, not as a constitutional amendment which is reserved for fundamental values. Florida Politics continues:  

The Florida Supreme Court will now consider whether general election voters will get to see a constitutional amendment ending live greyhound racing. Lawyers for the state and the Florida Greyhound Association gave argument Wednesday before the state’s seven justices. As usual, the court offered no clue when it might rule.

Major B. Harding, a retired Supreme Court justice who represents the Greyhound Association, had previously argued the title and summary don’t disclose that “humane treatment of animals would become a fundamental value of the people of Florida.”

When Justice Peggy Quince suggested some voters may be interested in getting rid of dog racing but not in saying animal welfare is a “fundamental value,” [Deputy Solicitor General Jordan] Pratt said a title and summary don’t have to allude to the policy behind an amendment.

Harding later told the justices a vote for Amendment 13 would “constitutionally disconnect” dog racing from other gaming; slot machines in South Florida are provided for in another amendment.

He said the language also doesn’t make clear to voters that the amendment’s passage would create “freestanding casinos” because other gambling activities would not be affected. “Why would you include such a significant statement … and not disclose it?” Harding said. “It’s misleading and it’s inappropriate.”

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A Brief Look at Crime 08/20 – 08/26

Police arrest man wanted for stabbing Bronx woman to death with screwdriver a month after killing his lottery winner uncle

A Bronx ex-con already wanted in the June murder of his lottery-winning uncle was busted for the lethal screwdriver stabbing of a Bronx secretary inside her company’s office, police said. Outraged family and friends of victim Wanda Rios, 45, said the arrest of suspect Idris Abdul-Muhaymin on murder charges did nothing to ease their heartbreak about Wednesday’s killing. “He’s a sick person,” said Rios’ neighbor Yali Tores, 37, about the alleged killer. “They should have caught him earlier so he couldn’t do this to somebody else. I’m still in shock.” Police, without providing any details, said the suspect knew Wanda Rios. The accused killer knew his earlier victim, too, cops said: His 73-year-old uncle Owen Dillard, stabbed to death inside a Mott Haven apartment on June 11. Dillard had just hit the lottery for $10,000 before the killing, while his nephew was deep in the hole with gambling debts, police said. It was unclear where Abdul-Muhaymin, identified two weeks ago as a suspect in the Diillard death, spent the month between the two murders.

Gambling debt drove man to murder his sister-in-law

Gambling debts and “onerous” payday loans lead a Standard man to murder his sister-in-law, fracture her skull, and bury her in a shallow grave, a prosecutor told the jury Wednesday in opening arguments in Putnam County Court. Clifford A. Andersen Jr., 68, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and concealment of a homicidal death, accused of killing Deborah Dewey, 62, of Ladd. He’s being held on $1.5 million bond and faces 20 to 60 years or more in prison, with no possibility of parole. Among that evidence: Video of Andersen entering a store to buy manure found at the grave, and of him at the truck stop where Dewey’s car was found. Photos of her blood on the door, carpet and the floor beneath the carpet of the home where investigators say she was killed, and her blood on the wheel of a carpet cleaner a witness saw him carrying into the home. Dewey had a history of withdrawals of several thousand dollars in the years before her death, money, Elward said, that was given to Andersen to pay his increasing gambling debts and “onerous payday loans.”

‘Bagman’ gets five years in prison for role in American Senior Communities scheme

Steven Ganote, described by prosecutors as the “bagman” behind a lucrative nursing home fraud scheme, was sentenced Monday to five years in prison. And Josh Burkhart, brother of the former American Senior Communities CEO who orchestrated the scheme, was sentenced to four months in prison for his role. Ganote and Burkhart pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to helping illegally obtain what prosecutors said was $19 million. The money came from overcharges and kickbacks from a variety of high-volume vendors for the state’s largest nursing home chain. Most of the payments were from government Medicare and Medicaid funds. Ganote pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail, wire and health care fraud; conspiracy to violate the anti-kickback statute; and money laundering. Prosecutors said Ganote caused a loss of $8 million while living a lavish lifestyle, flying on private jets, gambling in Las Vegas, renovating a vacation home in Florida and buying watches, diamonds and gold bars.

Warnings ignored: Investigator fired after raising concerns about casino money laundering 

A pile of $20 bills – some $600,000 — that was stacked higher than the casino cashier. It’s the surreal scene that stays with Joe Schalk from his time as the senior director of investigations at B.C.’s gambling regulator, GPEB. “She disappeared behind these bills to the point where all you could see was her eyes and forehead. It was a huge mountain of cash,” Schalk recalled. And reports of suspicious cash transactions were mounting too – ballooning more than 20 times to 2014, when Schalk’s team was estimating it would crest over $200 million in a single year. Schalk and his team were tasked with tracking this likely dirty money. They believed it was an international scheme. The gamblers, they believed, could be dupes, but the source of the money was likely criminal operations with reach around the globe. “The gambler receives the cash money from loan sharks, who receive the money from what I believe is criminal sources. The gambler loses the cash money gambling at the casino and ultimately repays his debt in the foreign jurisdiction,” wrote Schalk’s colleague in 2013.

That assessment was “precisely correct,” according to the recent report by Dr. Peter German, which examined money laundering in B.C. casinos, exploring its links to the drug trade, criminal gangs and even Lower Mainland real estate. But at the time, Schalk said no one seemed to be listening, even as the reports of suspicious money piled up. “Exponentially it kept growing. Huge numbers. It became more frustrating because less and less people were listening. And nobody was doing anything about it,” he said. In December 2014, he and his colleague were brought into an office, dismissed without cause, and walked out of the building. Schalk says it’s clear a message was being sent. “I think the noise that was being made needed to be quieted,” he said. The German report also concluded that the firings were disruptive to GPEB’s attempts to stop money laundering.

Poker Pro Ali Fazeli Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud in Sports Ticket Resale Scam 

Fazeli was facing two felony counts of wire fraud after being accused of scamming investors out of $6.2 million. Fazeli has claimed that he would use that money to buy and sell tickets to high value sporting events like the Super Bowl and World Cup, turning a profit in the process. But while the money was wired to Fazeli’s ticket brokerage, Summit Entertainment Group, most of those funds were never used to speculate on tickets. Instead, Fazeli was alleged to have used the money to gamble at Las Vegas casinos as well as to pay off gambling debts. Fazeli would be arrested in February following an FBI investigation, and was indicted in March. In the plea agreement, Fazeli reportedly admitted to transferring approximately $1.8 million to the Aria, where he used at least some of those funds to buy into high roller poker tournaments in 2016. Fazeli was a regular in the Aria’s high roller series throughout 2016, cashing at least 10 times in events with buy-ins of at least $25,000 during that year. Those wins make up the majority of his $2.2 million in lifetime tournament earnings.

Online Betting Reveals Possible Doubles Match-Fixing at Wimbledon

Officials at Pinnacle Sports flagged an early-round men’s doubles match at Wimbledon for suspicious betting patterns, something that could be an indicator that the match was fixed. While unusual gambling behavior around a match would never be considered conclusive evidence that the integrity of a contest had been compromised, it is an initial signal that can provoke further investigation. The questionable wagering happened around the first-round men’s doubles match between the Spanish pair of David Marrero and Fernando Verdasco, and their opponents, Joao Sousa and Leonardo Mayer. According to a report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Pinnacle began noticing a problem in the hour before the match began. A series of bets came in from accounts that had previously gambled on other suspicious matches, prompting the bookmaker to flag the match. “We followed our strict protocol when it comes [to] match-fixingalerts by notifying the authorities on site at Wimbledon andreducing our market offering immediately,” Pinnacle sports integritymanager Sam Gomersall told ABC. While ABC declined to identify the specific match for what the organization said were legal reasons, Pinnacle confirmed to other media outlets, including /The New York Times/, that it was the first-round match involving Marrero and Verdasco that drew their attention.

Experts say that tennis is a sport that is particularly vulnerable to match-fixing, particularly at the lower levels of the sport. With tens of thousands of matches every year and very little prize money on lower-level tours, players may be tempted to throw matches or give away individual points, games, or sets. The numbers appear to bear that out. From 2015 through 2017, operators and regulators passed along 779 alerts to the TIU. Typically, the vast majority of these alerts come from Challenger and Futures competitions.

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McDonald’s Come Under Fire for Super Mario Slot Machine Toy

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on underage gambling and risk factors for children exposed to gambling. The NFL came under fire for marketing fantasy football to minors, and they decided to end those efforts. More recently, its been loot boxes in video games that have been so widely discussed. As many have explained, it’s a game mechanic with virtually no difference from gambling, with on legislator outright calling Battlefield II a “Star Wars Themed Online Casino.” Where as Mickey Mouse, the second most recognizable character in the world under Disney was under fire (as they own the Star Wars brand and had to intervene in the loot box situation), its now the world most recognizable character, Nintendo’s Mario, that’s in news.   McDonalds made a slot machine toy of Mario in a line of Nintendo themed happy meal toys, and its been called inappropriate by the National Council on Problem Gambling and others. An online source explains: 

Today, Jennifer Kruse, Executive Director of the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG), joined the National Council on Problem Gambling by calling upon the toy manufacturer giant, Nintendo® of America, and the fast food industry leader, McDonald’s®, to stop marketing their Slot Machine Super Mario™ toy from McDonald’s® Happy Meals®.

“We were shocked when we noted the slot machine toy in a Happy Meal® here in Florida. Nintendo® and McDonald’s® need to be attentive to the messages their products are promoting among children,” said Kruse. Youngsters are very impressionable and despite the restrictions to gamble among minors, research reveals that adolescents are involved in gambling activities and are at higher risk for developing gambling problems than their adult counterparts.”

“Just because you cannot easily ‘see’ a hazard, does not mean it doesn’t exist. Had the Super Mario™ Happy Meal® toy highlighted a bottle of beer or bloodshot eyes, or had the fantasy character smoking a cigarette, government and others would be up in arms. Unfortunately, we can no longer afford a double standard when research confirms that problem gambling is a growing public health issue, in general, and especially among adolescents, that demands attention now,” concluded Kruse. 

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A Brief Look at Crime 08/13 – 08/19

Turtle Lake woman pleads guilty to wire fraud after embezzling more than $818,000 from Rice Lake church 

Deborah Marcellus, 63, of Turtle Lake pleaded guilty on Monday, July 2, in U.S. District Court in Madison to wire fraud and filing a false income tax return, charges that stem from her embezzlement of more than $818,000 from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Rice Lake. Marcellus served as the director of development for St. Joseph’s Church and so was responsible for handling all financial and accounting matters for the church. She began using computer software to generate checks to herself from multiple bank accounts belonging to the church. Marcellus forged the name of church leaders on the signature lines of the checks and then deposited them into her personal bank account. Between 2011 and April 2017, Marcellus generated 201 fraudulent checks from church bank accounts for a total of $818,604.06. Bank records demonstrated that Marcellus used the embezzled money for a large variety of personal expenses, including excessive gambling.

Gambler husband embezzled £150k from sick wife in coma and squandered cash gambling

A CALLOUS husband who embezzled £150,000 from the sick wife he cared for and squandered cash at ARCADES is behind bars. Bernard Houston, 53, started spending wife Peggy’s money when she suffered a brain aneurysm – weeks after they married. When her concerned family questioned the deterioration in her quality of life and changes to her appearance they were told the money was “none of their business”. Eventually Peggy’s family discovered credit card and loan applications, as well as bank statements in her name that he had “concealed” where she couldn’t reach them. When questioned by police he initially denied taking any money then admitted that he had “gambled away” the cash on gaming machines at amusement arcades.

Dotty’s slot casino chain settles discrimination suit for $3.5M 

The company that operates the Dotty’s casino chain in Nevada and Montana has agreed to pay $3.5 million to settle a disability discrimination suit, lawyers for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced Wednesday. The EEOC filed the lawsuit earlier this year accusing the Las Vegas-based Nevada Restaurant Services Inc. of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Commission lawyers said the slot machine operator illegally fired or forced employees to quit because they were considered disabled, had a record of disability or were associated with someone with a disability. In addition to the monetary relief that includes back pay for wrongly terminated workers, the company agreed to conduct new ADA training and submit regular reports to the government verifying compliance with the settlement over the next 3.5 years. Wendy Martin, local director of the EEOC’s Las Vegas office, said the suit was filed as part of the commission’s continuing “quest to identify and eradicate systemic disability discrimination.”

Lawyer gets 3 years prison for stealing millions in medical pot scam to pay off gambling debts

A Huntington Woods attorney was sentenced to three years in prison Tuesday for cheating investors out of millions of dollars by pretending he was investing their money in medical marijuana when he was really blowing it on gambling. In the end, U.S. District Judge David Lawson concluded Robert Gross, 49, deserved 36 months for his crime, for which he will also pay $3.6 million in restitution to his victims under the terms of his plea deal. In December, Gross pleaded guilty to fraud in U.S. District Court, admitting he ran a years-long scheme that duped numerous investors, including several of his law practice clients. According to court records, Gross convinced people to give him money for investments, claiming the funds would be used for a medical marijuana business and equipment lien repayment. Instead, prosecutors said, Gross used the money to pay down gambling markers and obtain new gambling credit at a casino in Las Vegas.

400,000 British teens lured into under-aged gambling through video games

More than 400,000 British teenagers have been lured into under-aged casino-style gambling through their video gaming, an investigation has revealed. The children, aged 13 to 18, have been able to gamble winnings from their video gaming on websites where they can bet them for cash on roulette wheel spins or other games of chance. The online gambling, which is illegal for under 18s, has been made possible by the creation of virtual items called “skins”, modified weapons or costumes that players can win or buy in video games. Giles Milton, Parent Zone’s head of content, said its investigation showed gaming firms were not doing enough to stop it: “It is gambling and children should not be gambling online. Parents need to understand what their children are doing with their money.” There are concerns the trade in skins – of which there are 6bn in circulation worth an estimated £10bn – could itself be fuelling the rise in addictive gaming among teenagers.

Woman convicted in $530K embezzlement case charged with tax evasion

A Middletown woman who served jail time for embezzling $530,000 from two former employers is facing new federal charges of tax evasion. A criminal information filed July 5 in U.S. district court alleges Fabian evaded paying $45,100 in federal income taxes. Fabian in 2016 pleaded guilty in Dauphin County Court to 76 counts of forgery, theft and related charges. She admitted she stole money from two insurance companies by forging company checks and depositing the money into her own account. She told investigators her gambling addiction fueled the thefts. Fabian was ordered to serve 11.5 to 23 months in prison, 20 years probation, and to pay restitution.

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Military Personnel to be Screened for Problem Gambling under new Trump Directive

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the concerns of gambling in the military. The Department of Defense actually operates gambling facilities where service personnel gamble on slot machines. A few years ago Sen. Elizabeth Warren pushed an amendment to study the issues of problem gambling saying, “If the military is going to operate gambling facilities that bring in tens of millions of dollars in revenue, it also needs to ensure there is adequate prevention, treatment, and financial counseling available for service members struggling with gambling addictions.” She explained that over 36,000 service members fit the definition of problem gamblers. Now the Trump Administration has passed an initiative to screen for problem gambling during service member’s medical examinations. An online source explains: 

Members of America’s armed forces will now have to undergo screening for gambling addiction thanks to a new provision contained within the *National Defence Authorisation Act* that was signed into law by *President Trump* this week.

Section 733 of the House Armed Services Committee Report 115-874 requires the Department of Defence (DoD) to incorporate medical screening questions specific to gambling disorder in the next annual periodic health assessment conducted by the Department as well as in the Health Related Behaviours Surveys of Active-Duty and reserve component service members.

NCPG executive director *Keith Whyte* said: “Previous DoD surveys have found active duty personnel are two to three times more likely to have gambling problems than civilians. Better detection of gambling problems improves overall health and reduces social costs. Undetected gambling addiction exacerbates substance use disorders, depression and suicidal behaviour.”

He added: “NCPG strongly believes military personnel need and deserve effective gambling addiction prevention, education, treatment, enforcement, research, responsible gaming and recovery services. With the provision requiring members of the Armed Forces to be screened for gambling addiction, championed by Senator Elizabeth Warren, we take a vital step to improving the lives of service members and their families.

 

 

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A Brief Look at Crime 08/06 – 08/12

6-year sentence for woman who embezzled $4.3 million 

A New Freedom, Pa. woman says gambling addiction is why she embezzled $4.3 million while working at the Susquehanna Valley Surgical Center in Harrisburg. Donna Marie Wozniak, age 57, pleaded guilty to embezzlement and tax evasion in August 2017. She had worked as the business manager at the surgical center from 2000 until she was fired in 2014. Now she is serving a 71-month sentence. A forensic audit found Wozniak had written company checks to herself and then manipulated accounting software to cover her tracks. When confronted, she confessed to the thefts. The IRS charged Wozniak with tax evasion because she did not report the illicit income.

Gambling addict teacher stole £100k to blow on Las Vegas holiday

A former Solihull teacher stole £100,000 of tax repayments to spend on online gambling, a holiday to Las Vegas and Leeds Utd football matches. Blaine Wakeman, 26, lied about purchases and financial losses from his two companies that provided children’s sports coaching to fraudulently claim VAT repayments. The Leeds Utd supporter has now been handed a suspended 21-month prison sentence following an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Facebook pictures show Wakeman previously enjoying a luxury holiday to the gambling capital of the world – Las Vegas. He posed for pictures outside Caesars Palace and during a trip to the Grand Canyon. A probe discovered Wakeman had used the cash, totalling £100,000, to fund an online gambling habit. Richard Young, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Wakeman knew what he was doing was wrong. “He was abusing the tax system to fund a lifestyle he couldn’t legitimately afford.” He added: “Tax fraud is not a victimless crime. It affects us all by depriving the public services of vital funding.

Admitted gambling addict gets prison for embezzling $400K from OKC company

An admitted gambling addict has been sentenced to 19 months in federal prison for embezzling nearly $400,000 from an Oklahoma City company. “It’s not the gambling or the money that’s going to make me happy,” Frederick Boone Price told an Oklahoma City federal judge during his sentencing Thursday. “I know what’s important now.” Price wiped tears from his eyes. “I never thought I’d be in this situation,” he said. “I am truly apologetic.” U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot told Price that his gambling addiction doesn’t justify his criminal conduct. The judge ordered Price to pay $393,316 in restitution. Price, 33, of Weatherford, pleaded guilty to wire fraud last year. Defense attorney Julia Summers said Price’s actions were driven by his gambling addiction.

Former Service Container Co. controller gets 2 years for embezzlement

Prosecutors charged Weber in January in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Wisconsin with one count of fraud. He also reached a plea agreement at that time and entered a guilty plea in February. According to court documents, Weber used his position to embezzle $592,006.53 through unauthorized credit card purchases, debit card transactions, check payments, insurance premiums and an unauthorized bonus. Weber used company credit cards for online and in-person gambling and personal expenses at stores and restaurants. To hide his activities, he wrote out-of-sequence checks and impersonated company owner Bob Hamilton to secure loans to pay off the debts. “The effects of Mr. Weber’s actions were felt most by the Hamilton family—especially Bob and Molly—but they were also felt by other employees (who lost their jobs) and vendors who no longer had a reliable trade partner.”

Online gambling addict stole every penny of his grandmother’s £430,000 life savings

A man addicted to online gambling stole his frail grandmother’s entire £430,000 life savings to fund his habit, a court heard. Darren Gledhill, 30, set up online banking for Sandra Gledhill and then betrayed her trust by ruthlessly plundering the funds over three years. She moved into a care home suffering from dementia during this time and the crimes only came to light when she was found to be more than £40,000 in arrears for payment of her fees. Mrs Gledhill was in her 70s when she died in January, leaving her three children with no inheritance because of her only grandson’s crimes. Yesterday Gledhill, a manager with Sainsbury’s, was jailed for 28 months at Bradford Crown Court after pleading guilty to theft.

Bookmaker 32Red fined £2m for encouraging problem gambling

The gambling watchdog has fined 32Red £2m after it found the bookmaker offered bonuses to problem gamblers. 32Red, which was sold to Swedish gambling company Kindred last year for £175.6m, admitted to a string of failures following an investigation by the Gambling Commission. Between November 2014 and April 2017 a customer was able to deposit £758,000 with 32Red but social responsibility and anti-money laundering checks were not performed. And in at least 22 incidents, the probe found 32Red failed to identify customers were problem gamblers and offered them free bonuses to keep them wagering bets.

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Possible New Miami Gambling Expansion Plan Faces Regulatory Roadblock

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many efforts to expand gambling in Florida. There have been several attempts at passing Vegas-style resort casinos, but those failed. Other gambling expansion attempts include slots, card games and jai alai. Now most recently, gambling expansion efforts are being made in Miami. Magic City Casino is seeking to open a jai alai fronton and poker room in the Edgewater neighborhood. The proposal was seen as controversial by many citing concerns that it would lead to even more gambling expansion. Now in response, city planners are using zoning regulations to halt the immediate expansion so the process can be open to feedback from the community. An online source explains: 

City commissioners voted 4-0 on Thursday to authorize Miami City Manager Emilio Gonzalez and the planning department to begin working on amendments to the Miami 21 zoning code that would define what gambling facilities are and where such facilities can be located in the city. It would also require four out of five commissioners to vote in favor of any future pari-mutuels, casinos, or card rooms.

Commissioner Ken Russell proposed the legislation after learning that the state’s division of pari-mutuel wagering recently awarded a permit to West Flagler Associates, the entity that owns Magic City Casino. West Flagler would lease the property from Crescent Heights and would also include a restaurant and poker room.

Several prominent businessmen and developers, including Jorge Perez, Craig Robins and Norman Braman, have come out against the new gambling facility.

Russell said the city does not have a mechanism in place that requires gambling facilities to go through a public process that would vet any proposed development or give the city the ability to reject the location of a new casino, pari-mutuel or card room. He said adding the regulations ensures residents have a role in deciding whether they want gambling facilities in their neighborhood.

 

 

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