Florida Legislature Approves Seminole Gambling Compact, Legalizing Mobile Sports Betting, and Many in Florida aren’t Happy

Casino Watch Focus has reported closely followed the recent advancement of the Seminole Gambling Compact and its inclusion of mobile sports betting.  The issue at stake is the legislator attempting to expand gamblining in violation of the Florida constitution, which requires a vote of the people to approve new gambling.  With the writing on the wall, many have made their positions known and now its all but official, as the Compact has passed the legislature and simply needs Gov. DeSantis’ signature, which will be forthcoming.  Not all believe it will pass, and many are speaking out.  The Orlando Sentinel’s Editorial Board outlined the opposition position:

The Florida Legislature just passed a gambling law they /know/ has a good chance of being struck down in court, or at least the sports betting part of the law that got the most attention.

You don’t have to believe us. Take it from state Rep. Randy Fine, who led the House Select Committee on Gaming and said this about sports betting after the bill passed: “Me personally, I don’t think it’s going to survive.”

The reason Fine made such an extraordinary concession on the House floor is because of the high likelihood that, under Florida’s constitution, sports betting needs to be approved by Florida’s voters, not elected legislators.

He didn’t say it, but there’s also a decent chance the bill’s legalization of craps and roulette games at Florida’s existing casinos also will be challenged in court and found unconstitutional. Same for the part that lays the groundwork for transferring gambling licenses from race tracks to other locations.

The problem in this case is that both sides seemed to ignore the clear language of the Florida Constitution, with some clearly just moving the bill along assuming that the courts would take care of the issue.  The lack of serious debate around the constitutionality of the issue has also brought the ire of those who believe the will of the constitution and the people shouldn’t be disregarded in such a cavalier manner.  The Editorial Board continues:

In 2018, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment — by a remarkable 71.5% margin — that gave voters the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in the State of Florida.” That means putting the question of additional gambling in front of the voters and letting /them/ say yes or no.

The language of that amendment clearly states the referendum requirement applies to what’s known as Class III gambling, and sports betting is defined under federal law as Class III gambling. So are craps and roulette. So, these things need voter approval to become part of Florida’s gambling landscape.

That single, central issue should have been a hotly debated point of this week’s three-day special session to approve a new gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe. In an astonishing display of bipartisan disregard for the will of Florida’s voters, the House passed gambling expansion Wednesday by an overwhelming vote of 97-17 with loads of Democrats jumping on the Republican-led bandwagon. Tuesday’s Senate vote was even more lopsided: 38-1. The lone no vote came from Pinellas County Republican Jeff Brandes.

Is it any wonder the public is so cynical about politics? Were voters really not clear in 2018 about what they wanted? What the governor and Legislature have done is cooked up a deal they know is constitutionally suspect, and now the courts will have to clean up the mess they’ve made.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 05/17 – 05/23

Oneida Casino shooting: Suspect, 2 others dead 

A gunman killed two people at a Wisconsin casino restaurant and seriously wounded a third before he was killed by police late Saturday, in what authorities said appeared to be a targeted attack. Brown County Sheriff’s Lt. Kevin Pawlak said investigators believe the gunman was seeking a specific person he was angry at. “He was targeting a specific victim who was not there, but he decided to still shoot some of the victim’s friends or co-workers, it appears,” Pawlak said. Pawlak wasn’t sure if the shooter was a former employee of the restaurant, but said “it appears there’s some relationship that had to do with employment.” “Whether or not they all worked there, we’re still working on,” he said. The wounded person was being treated at a Milwaukee hospital, Pawlak said. The attack happened around 7:30 p.m. at the Oneida Casino, operated by the Oneida Nation on the western side of Green Bay, with the casino tweeting that an active shooter was on the scene. Neither the gunman nor the shooting victims were immediately identified. Brown County Sheriff’s Office said they are witholding names of the victims and the suspect until all next of kin can be notified. The office is planning a Monday morning press conference. Jawad Yatim, a witness, said he saw at least two people shot.

High Profile Gambler Receives Prison Sentence over $9.6M Fraud

Rob Gorodetsky, once a high-profile gambler who drove expensive cars and was betting thousands on sports is now facing more than two years in prison. During a Thursday hearing in the *Dirksen Federal Courthouse*, Judge *Elaine Bucklo* sentenced the man to 28 months in prison over wire fraud. Charges against the 28-year-old Gorodetsky were filed last year in January. Prosecutors *accused him of scamming one investor with $9.6 million* between 2014 and 2018. Once the charges were filed, it was not long before Gorodetsky pleaded guilty. With that in mind, the investor’s name was not publicly revealed but the court’s filing described him as an eye doctor from New Jersey, who happened to be the father of one of Gorodetsky’s girlfriends. Before hearing his sentence, *Gorodetsky apologized for his actions*. He said that he cannot make this right regardless of what he says or does. Although Judge Bucklo acknowledged that Gorodetsky is really young, she stressed that *he was involved in a “massive, massive fraud”*.

Norwich man admits embezzling more than $680,000 from Farmington nonprofit; used money for cruises, casino gambling

A Norwich man admitted to embezzling over $680,000, over the course of seven years, from a Farmington-based nonprofit he was the president and chief executive officer of, federal prosecutors said.  From 2013 to 2020, Michael Meakem, 59, embezzled at least $683,202 from the Center for Financial Training, they said. He took the money from the nonprofit’s credit card and bank accounts then “used the funds on personal expenses, including alimony payments, meals, cruises, other vacations, and gambling at Connecticut’s casinos,” investigators said. Meakem was the president and chief executive officer for the organization that provided resources and education to people in the financial services industry. He pled guilty to wire fraud in federal court in New Haven Friday and faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

LAPD veteran, 2 others accused of running high-dollar Super Bowl betting operation

A Los Angeles police officer and two other men who allegedly orchestrated an illegal gambling operation in which participants placed high-dollar bets on the outcome of the Super Bowl pleaded not guilty Thursday to bookmaking charges. Robert Felix — a 13-year Los Angeles Police Department veteran who was last assigned to the LAPD Transit Services Division — was assigned to his home with no police powers while the investigation continues, the LAPD announced earlier this month. Felix, 50, is charged along with co-defendants Francisco Martin Del Campo, 52, and Gabriel Martin Del Campo, 50. The charges stem from an extensive investigation by the LAPD’s Special Operations Division in partnership with the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Gambling Control and the California Alcoholic Beverage Control, according to the LAPD.

Knightswood crime: Two suspects accused of stealing £110k from OAP and daughter

The charge states that they were given it on the pretence that they were to purchase essential groceries and power cards for them. It is alleged the pair used Margaret’s PIN to withdraw money from accounts. It is stated Gaughan and McDowall used the cards and money to purchase and make payments for their own benefit. Alcohol, gaming purchases, holidays, mobile phones, gambling and other unknown items were allegedly bought. The charge states that these items were not permitted by Margaret and were not for the purposes of providing them groceries or power cards. A total of £110,007.86 was allegedly embezzled by Gaughan and McDowall. The pair pleaded not guilty at Glasgow Sheriff Court to a single embezzlement charge.

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

Sports Betting in Florida via Seminole Compact to be Challenged in Court upon Passage, but can a Challenge Survive the Politics of the Deal?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the efforts to pass a new Seminole gambling compact in Florida and on the various attempts to legalize sports betting.  Now, the new Seminole compact has become the avenue for sports betting and if ratified by the Florida legislature in a special session, would become legal in the state.  Should that happen, legal challenges are essentially guaranteed.  The issue at hand is that sports betting would not simply be offered on Seminole property, which could be argued isn’t Florida proper and thus not under the recently passed Amendment 3 which requires all new gambling to be approved by a vote of the people, but instead all over the state via mobile gambling.  At that point it’s fairly clear that the gambling is happening in Florida and thus subject to a vote of the people prior to becoming low.  As previously explained, the State believes that because the servers for the mobile gambling are on tribal lands, its not in Florida.  However, as previously reported, a federal lawsuit regarding a similar issue in California concluded that gambling must be legal both where it originates and where the person gambling is located.  No Casinos, who released an ad campaign reminding everyone of the law, outlines why they plan to bring a legal challenge and why its argument is backed by various laws.  An online source explains:

No Casinos argues the arrangement runs counter to a couple of federal laws.

The Federal Wire Act holds, Sowinski said, “that a telephonic or electronic or online transaction of any sort occurs in two places: the place where the person originating the transaction is and the place where the person receiving the transaction is. It has to be legal in both of those places in order to be a legal transaction. That includes gambling, as well.”

Meanwhile, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act holds that tribes can’t offer games not otherwise legal within a state. The compact would legalize sports betting on the Seminole land, Sowinski acknowledged, but he insisted allowing play statewide implicates Amendment 3 and would require a statewide referendum.

“The Legislature doesn’t have the authority to authorize that today within the state, and therefore, according to federal law, they can’t negotiate to put that on the tribal land,” Sowinski said.

The concern, of course, is that the language that allows for negotiations of a gambling compact in the first place, supersedes the provisions in those particular laws.  If that part of the argument does produce a court ruling that pushes that provision to the people for a vote, it’s believed that the case would be appealed, and then the local and national politics of the deal come into play.  If that’s the case, the federal precedent established in the federal case in CA requiring that the gambling in question must take place where both parties have the legal ability to do so, might not be much help in the end.  The source concludes:

Even if a trial judge buys the No Casino argument, the state could appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which is packed with Donald Trump appointees (including two DeSantis had earlier placed on the Florida Supreme Court but whom Trump promoted), will certainly overrule, Jarvis predicted.

“And the U.S. Supreme Court, of course, is a Trump-appointed court. Trump has made it clear that he wants this deal. DeSantis has made it clear that he wants this deal.”

Federal agencies too, including the Department of the Interior (DOI), headed by Native American Deb Haaland, and its Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), also are going to accept the deal, he predicts.

The California case set federal precedent and the newly passed Florida Amendment 3 to the constitution shows clear intent by the voters to want to approve new gambling in the state, which would clearly include mobile sports betting.  Most believe the compact will get ratified, so time will tell how the legal challenges will shake out.  

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

A Brief Look at Crime 05/10 – 05/16

Ocean County Man Admits Operating an Illegal Lottery and Filing False Tax Return

An Ocean County, New Jersey man today admitted operating an illegal lottery and failing to pay more than $65,000 in federal taxes on his earnings from the scheme, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced. Between 2014 and 2019, O’Neill managed an illegal lottery in Hudson County that was based on the New Jersey Lottery Commission’s Pick Six. Participants in the illegal lottery paid a $20 entry fee and selected six numbers between 1 and 49. The first participant in the illegal lottery to have all six of their numbers selected in the official Pick Six drawing won a cash prize.   For each drawing of the illegal lottery, O’Neill collected entry fees and participants’ numbers and entered the numbers into ledgers, which included identifying information for each participant and the numbers each participant had selected. O’Neill monitored the numbers selected in the official Pick Six and, when there was a winner of the illegal lottery, caused the winning participant to be paid in cash.

According to the ledgers, each drawing of the illegal lottery included up to 8,000 participants and the cash prize for each drawing often exceeded $100,000. In exchange for operating and managing the illegal lottery, O’Neill kept for himself 10 percent of the winnings from each drawing. O’Neill admitted that he failed to account for approximately $250,000 in cash winnings from the illegal lottery on tax returns he filed with the IRS between 2014 and 2018, causing him to underpay his federal incomes taxes by $65,674.

‘I stole €1.75 million to fuel my gambling addiction’

A former gambler has revealed that he stole vast sums of money in order to fuel his gambling obsession. Tony O’Reilly started gambling with just a £1 bet, but he was soon hooked. His habit quickly spiralled out of control and he was stealing from his workplace to gamble. He said that gambling meant that “everything from the outside looked really, really good, but simmering underneath was this addiction that was growing.”

O’Reilly, who lives in Ireland, shared how he gambled away €6,000 that ought to have been saved for his wedding. When he couldn’t recover the money, his fiancée’s father offered to pay instead. But he didn’t change his behaviour and continued betting while on honeymoon. “Before I knew it, I had lost €1,000. Then the chase element came in and there was €2,000 gone.” Soon, all the money the couple had been gifted was gone.

Tony continued to hide his gambling debts from his wife, and when they found they were expecting a baby, he began to steal. As a postal branch manager, he had access to significant amounts of money, and within a couple of weeks, he had stolen almost €300,000. He continued to steal, increasing the total taken from his employers to €900,000, and continuing to lose it. In a desperate attempt to “fix the situation”, he placed 31 bets on one day in an attempt to double the €462,000 that remained. Instead he lost the entire sum. By the end, Tony had stolen €1.75 million, and when it became clear he would be caught, he ran away. Even then he continued gambling from his hotel room. When the police caught him, he said he found it was actually a relief because he no longer had to hide his addiction.

Shooting Near New Hampshire DraftKings Sportsbook Leads to Life-Threatening Wounds

A man was hospitalized after being shot outside of Manchester, N.H.’s DraftKings Sportsbook brick-and-mortar location. He suffered “life-threatening injuries” in the Monday night incident, police reveal. At about 9:15 pm, multiple shots were fired during the altercation. The wounded man was transported to Elliot Hospital for treatment. It is an acute care hospital in Manchester. Details on his condition were not immediately available from the hospital on Wednesday. His name was not released by police. During a search of the crime scene, police said they located a firearm and several spent casings.

In February, a gun-associated threat took place at the sports betting location, according to the /New Hampshire Union Leader/ newspaper. It is unclear if the two incidents are connected. In the Feb. 23 incident, Samuel Paulino, 22, allegedly aimed a firearm at a patron. He also allegedly threatened to shoot the man, identified as Keagan Hall, 21, if he didn’t get into a car, the newspaper reported based on police statements. Faced with the danger, Hall made his way back inside the sportsbook. A fight ensued involving four suspects. Eventually, the four people left and then drove away in two cars.*

Eighth arrest made in probe into Kentucky drug trafficking, gambling ring

Authorities have announced an eighth arrest in to a multiyear investigation into a gambling and drug ring. Kirby Wilcox, 54, is alleged to have established or maintained a criminal syndicate in regard to a role he played with George Fisher. Wilcox also faces three counts of drug trafficking charges. The years long investigation has lead to the arrest of six others facing various charges for illegal gambling, organized crime and drug trafficking. The investigation began on July 12, 2019, when Fisher, 48, was arrested and charged with gambling in the first degree, trafficking in a first-degree controlled substance and engaging in organized crime.

Video gambling operator pays $75,000 in settlement as Illinois Gaming Board drops attempt to revoke license

A video gambling operator has agreed to pay $75,000 to the Illinois Gaming Board as part of a settlement approved Wednesday that will end a bid to revoke his license over allegations he offered a $5 million “illegal inducement” to the owner of a chain of gambling parlors. Rick Heidner’s Gold Rush Gaming agreed in the unanimously approved settlement to pay $45,000 to reimburse the board for “administrative and investigative costs,” along with a $30,000 fine for “unprofessional conduct.” The disciplinary case centered on text messages Heidner, Gold Rush’s founder and secretary, sent to Gary Leff, whose company owned the Stella’s and Shelby’s chain of gambling cafes. That chain was being purchased by Dan Fischer, who told Heidner he was replacing Gold Rush’s gambling machines with devices from his preferred supplier. Heidner faced the loss of machines at 44 locations that accounted for nearly a quarter of his company’s gambling revenue, according to both Heidner and Gaming Board records.

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

‘No Casino’ Group’s New Ad Campaign Reminds Politicians and the Florida Public who gets the Final vote in Sports Betting – Pointing out one of the biggest issues with the new Seminole Compact

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to solidify a new Seminole Compact.  The agreement addressed many exclusivity deals that help regulate and prevent gambling expansion in Florida.  However, many have seen this as an opportunity to include sports betting, which while giving exclusive rights to the Seminole Casinos, would also be a new form of gambling and one that the Florida constitution expressly requires a vote of the people to become law.  The state is trying to circumvent the constitution, but No Casino group has released an ad campaign to remind them of the law.  Florida Politics reports:

No Casinos is launching a new statewide ad campaign to warn Floridians about the new Seminole Compact, which opens sports betting the group says illegally expands gambling in violation of the Florida Constitution.

The Orlando-based anti-gambling group argues the deal between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis late last month and could be finalized during a Special Legislative Session starting May 17, lets “politicians and gambling lobbyists, instead of voters, authorize a massive expansion of gambling” in the Sunshine State. “Not politicians. Not lobbyists. You,” the ad leads off. “That’s the law. But gambling lobbyists want politicians to break it.”

No Casinos specifically cite the Amendment 3 constitutional mandate passed in 2018 by 72% of Florida voters. The amendment gives Floridians “the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in the State of Florida.”

The sports betting provision isn’t limited to the casinos either, but instead allows for mobile gambling all over the state.  This is the very type of gambling expansion that No Casinos contends the Florida constitution is designed to prevent without the express approval of voters.  Florida Politics explains:

Despite that explicit provision, the group says an expansion of sports betting could turn every cellphone into a “slot machine.”

“Their plan: Casinos. Sports betting. Even slot machines on cell phones,” the ad continues. “It’ll be like ‘internet cafes’ all over again.” The only thing missing? Your approval,” the ad concludes with a call to action. “Voter approval of gambling is the law. Tell your legislator: Don’t break it.”

“Voters were crystal clear that they wanted the final say on gambling expansion in Florida, and we’re letting them know that this proposed compact is a blatant violation of the constitution and the will of the people,” No Casinos President John Sowinski said in a statement. The ad — titled “People, Not Politicians” — will run both online and on cable TV in key markets statewide.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 05/03 – 05/09

Arizona Tribal Casino Parking Garage Site of Deadly Shooting

An unnamed man was killed Thursday in the Gila River Hotels & Casinos – Wild Horse Pass parking garage. The fatal shooting is the latest violent incident in numerous gaming property garages or parking lots nationwide. Gila River police officers were reportedly on the second floor of the garage when they heard gunshots, according to azfamily.com, an Arizona news site. That was at about 2 am. Within seconds, the cops ran to the third level. They found a man on the floor. He had suffered several gunshot wounds, according to KPNX, a local TV station. Before emergency workers could transport the victim to a hospital, he died while in the garage, police said. The suspected shooter was also allegedly trying to wound a woman who was near the injured man. Officers exchanged gunfire with the alleged assailant.  No one was wounded during the exchange of bullets. The woman was able to run from the area. She was not injured. The suspect also tried to run from the crime site. But police were able to capture him after a short chase, KPNX said.

Dozens of Illegal Gaming Parlors Raided in San Diego

Law enforcement officers in California raided dozens of illegal gambling dens in San Diego Wednesday, capping a years-long investigation that has resulted in nearly 50 people facing federal gambling, gun and drug charges, authorities said. More than 450 officers, led by an FBI task force, fanned out in East San Diego in morning raids on two dozen locations that ended with 35 arrests, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office. A total of 47 people are charged in a series of federal indictments unsealed Wednesday. Some were accused of selling methamphetamine to gamblers. During a two-year investigation, authorities seized more than 12 pounds of meth, 640 gambling machines, 44 guns and more than $260,000 in cash, authorities said.

Authorities raided what they say were illegal gambling parlors inside apartments, outbuildings, small businesses and strip malls that took in thousands of dollars a day. Authorities said they have been associated with violence and drug sales, some of it linked to gangs. “According to court records, it is common for employees to hand out small amounts of methamphetamine and ‘comp’ customers to keep them playing and coming back for more,” the U.S. attorney’s office statement Said. “It’s rare to have a patron who does not use or sell methamphetamine inside these locations,” the statement said.

South Florida doctor ordered to stay away from her children following arrest at Hard Rock Hote

There are disturbing new details about a local doctor who was arrested at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. According to Seminole police, the woman left her children alone in her car while she went inside to gamble. Dr. Marieny Elena Guimera-Revelo is listed as an internal medicine doctor at Cano Health in Pembroke Pines. It’s a senior care center located about 15 minutes away from the casino. Guimera-Revelo faced a judge Tuesday and was told she can’t have any contact with her children. Police said those children, ages three and 11, were locked inside a car outside the casino. The children had been in the car for about an hour before police found them. They said she barely paid attention to what was going on and was spotted on surveillance cameras playing poker at a table. How her alleged judgment affects her employment remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the legal battle for her kids is just getting started.

Fayetteville woman accused of defrauding governments, businesses of more than $3 million

A Fayetteville woman was arrested by federal marshals last week and charged in a scheme that defrauded the Department of Defense, state of North Carolina and private businesses, among others, of more than $3 million. According to court documents, from 2005 to 2020, Stephanie Dianna Elliott, used more than 16 aliases, a dozen fraudulent business entities and 26 bank and credit union accounts to obtain more than 1,000 federal defense contracts valued at more than $2.2 million. According to the allegations in the indictment, Elliott defrauded the Department of Defense by obtaining contract payments after falsely certifying that she had shipped supplies to the U.S. military, when, in fact, the goods were not shipped. It is alleged that Elliott and/or businesses under her control were debarred from federal contracting on four occasions. Elliott allegedly circumvented the terms of her debarments by using aliases and various business names to continue bidding on federal contracts. The indictment also alleges that Elliott executed fraud schemes by winning contracts to deliver food products and other goods then defrauding third-party vendors by inducing them to deliver the goods without paying them what was due.

After the sandbag company sent the bags to Louisiana, Elliott allegedly only paid $400,000 on $1.48 million owed to the sandbag company. With the remaining $500,000, she allegedly purchased cars for family members, paid off restitution in a Durham County deferred-prosecution embezzlement and fraud case, and took at least six trips to Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Las Vegas, Nevada, spending thousands on flights, hotels, gambling and restaurants.

Man’s arrest after shooting at Win-River Casino marks second county shooting in two days

Law enforcement officials have arrested one person in connection to a report of a possible gunshot victim near Win-River Casino on Monday afternoon. Officials were dispatched to the casino around 3:15 p.m. after a caller reported a gunshot near the RV parking area. A man was seen on the ground after the gunshot, according to scanner communications. Casino security told police a suspect left on foot. Sheriff’s officials identified the suspect as Michael Cain, 71, of Redding and went to his home off Clear Creek Road, gaining permission to enter and attempting to clear the house around 3:40 p.m., according to scanner communications. However, deputies found neither Cain nor the car he was believed to be driving at the home, according to Tim Mapes, a sheriff’s office spokesman. A short time later, sheriff’s deputies were told Cain was at a shopping center off Westside Road in Redding, Mapes said. He said deputies arrested Cain outside the Round Table Pizza at the shopping center and took him in for questioning. Mapes said he did not know whether Cain and the shooting victim knew each other and what led to the shooting.He said the shooting victim was taken to a Redding hospital and is expected to recover from his wounds. Monday’s shooting was the second Shasta County shooting in two days.

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

Missouri Legislature Shuts Down Massive Gambling Expansion Bills, but Illegal Gambling Machines remain Status Quo

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many efforts to expand gambling in Missouri and the efforts to shut down and remove all the illegal slot machines that have popped up in the state.  Various bills were introduced in both the Missouri House and Senate that address items from legalizing sports gambling to actually legalizing these slot machines outside of regulated casinos.  One bill, however, was trying to make them expressly illegal, although any slot machine outside of the casino is already illegal, and it’s really more of allowing the proper regulating bodies the ability to enforce.  For those hoping to keep gambling from expanding in Missouri, the state legislature coming to a close with none of those bills passing is positive news.  However, there are those upset that the opportunity to more definitely shut those machines down this year has also come to an end.  The key takeaway is that the current laws clearly make the machines illegal, and individual Missouri jurisdictions are free to continue to prosecute at will.  Additionally, attempts to simply “regulate” those machines, and thus allow them to become legal, have also been hindered.  An online source reports all the expanded gambling that was prevented:

The Missouri Senate has defeated a three-pronged effort to expand gambling in Missouri while suppressing unregulated devices that offer cash prizes to players.

The bill debated Tuesday would have:

• Authorized up to 10,000 video game terminals in bars and truck stops as well as fraternal and veterans’ organizations. No location could have more than five machines.

• Allowed the Missouri Gaming Commission to license the state’s 13 casinos to offer sports wagering.

• Revised laws on illegal gambling to remove any uncertainty about the legality of what are called “gray market” machines.

The vote that defeated the bill may have been the last chance this legislative session to address the proliferation of devices that some prosecutors have attacked as illegal and that others have refused to file charges over.

Illegal slot machines will continue to persist in Missouri until more action is taken.  Even though the law does allow for prosecutions, most locations simply haven’t enforced the law.  Most retailers think the machines are legal and it will likely take future legislation to help end the problem for good.  The source concludes:

Of the 190 probable cause statements – requests for charges based on a particular set of facts – sent to prosecutors by Missouri State Highway Patrol investigators in 2019 and 2020, only 26 cases alleging illegal ngambling, including eight felony charges, were filed.

“Our experts, and the Highway Patrol, would say that it functions as a slot machine,” [Prosecuting Attorney Shiante McMahon]  said. “That meets the burden under the statute that it is an unlawful gambling machine.”

The legislation to remove any ambiguities in state law is a top priority of Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan. The machines arrive with stickers on them declaring they do not violate state gambling laws, and convenience store owners are reaping large profits.

Hoskins’ bill would have given retailers 10 days to remove the machines once they are notified that they are operating illegal gambling devices. Schatz said he thinks that would be enough to persuade most retailers to remove the machines. “I think a lot of these store owners have been sold a bill of goods,” Schatz said.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 04/26 – 05/02

Illegal Gambling Device Central In PA Murder As Calls For Regulation Grow Louder

An illegal gambling device at a Northeast Pennsylvania convenience store in Hazelton was connected to a clerk’s murder on Dec. 12, 2020. Video poker devices, classified as slot machines, are only legal in PA casinos. Meanwhile, how many illegal gambling devices are in play beyond PA casinos’ walls is impossible to track. But those machines now clearly outnumber legal machines. Regulated casino slot and video poker machines number 24,000. Truck stop video gaming terminals, or VGTs account for another 240 machines.

Peter Shelly of the casino industry group Pennsylvanians Against Illegal Gambling (PAIG) said, “Illegal gambling is getting out of hand, and we are seeing the results around the state: more crime.” Shelly continued:  “The shooting in Hazleton was horrific and the (Luzerne County)  District Attorney made it very clear that the defendant robbed that store because of that illegal machine. He had played the illegal machine and knew they kept cash behind the counter.”

The NJ Sports Betting Regulator Just Fine DraftKings

DraftKings is getting an invoice in penalty from the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) over self-exclusion failings. The sportsbook has been ordered to pay a $10,000 civil penalty for sending “promotional mailings” to 11 self-excluded individuals, the DGE announced Wednesday. That’s in violation of New Jersey sports betting regulations, specifically N.J.A.C. 13:69G-2.4(b)1. The order was dated March 18, although only made public this week. What did DraftKings say? DraftKings acknowledged the error in a statement.

Violence Continues as Man Stabbed in Fight at Las Vegas Strip Casino

Police late Thursday continued to investigate an early morning stabbing at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. One man was stabbed during a fight involving several males at the luxury hotel-casino on the resort corridor. The Cosmopolitan towers over the older Jockey Club on the west side of the Strip, just south of the Bellagio Las Vegas. The stabbing at the Cosmopolitan is one of several violent incidents on or near the Strip since the beginning of the year.

In January, a man was shot outside the Venetian Resort on the east side of the Strip. The Venetian is located where the now-demolished Sands hotel-casino once stood. Also in January, Metro was called early one morning to the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino parking lot. The Rio is just west of the Strip, behind Caesars Palace. Police discovered a man in the Rio parking lot, suffering from several gunshot wounds. The man was hospitalized in critical condition. After multiple surgeries, he has survived, the newspaper reported. One man was arrested in the incident.

In February, a man was hospitalized after being stabbed in the neck in a domestic dispute near Grand Bazaar Shops. A woman was taken into custody. The shops are at the front of Bally’s Las Vegas Hotel and Casino on the east side of the Strip. “An argument ensued that turned physical when the male assaulted the female,” Metro Lt. David Gordon said at the time. In another recent violent incident, a 57-year-old retired Connecticut State Police Trooper died after a man punched him in a fight near the Strip and Flamingo Road. A suspect was arrested a short time later.

Engineer embezzled £80,000 from employer to fund out-of-control gambling problem

An engineer has been jailed after embezzling more than £80,000 from his employer to fund his gambling addiction. Darren Morrison took advantage of his role within InnServe Ltd, a firm  that specialises in beer and soft drinks dispense systems, and deliberately over-ordered parts and equipment, which he then sold as scrap metal. The 45-year-old over-ordered stock worth more than £80,000 between April 23 2017 and April 23 2019, and sold it for less than £13,500 to finance his addiction to gambling.

Doctor Accused of Gambling in Hard Rock Casino While Her Kids Sat Alone in Car

A South Florida doctor is facing charges after authorities say she left her two kids alone in a running car while she was gambling in the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood. Marieny Elena Guimera-Revelo, 43, was arrested by Seminole Police Sunday on two counts of child neglect without great bodily harm, Broward County jail records showed. Guimera-Revelo appeared in bond court Monday, where prosecutors said she allegedly left the two children unattended in a running car with the doors locked for about an hour. “The court just has a lot of concerns for the wellbeing and safety of these children, that they could have easily been taken by somebody with a running car, with the keys in the car,” Blackmon said. Guimera-Revelo’s attorney said she has no arrest record and has been practicing general medicine for the past six years. Blackmon ordered Guimera-Revelo held on $10,000 bond on each count, and ordered her not to have contact with her children.

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

New Florida Seminole Gambling Compact Reached, but the Inclusion of Sports Betting is Sure to Elicit Legal Challenges

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the years long attempts and finalizing a new gambling agreement between Florida and the Seminole Nation.  It would appear the long awaited agreement has finally been reached, but it will still need to be ratified in a special legislative session before it becomes law.  The Orlando Fox Affiliate reports:

Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe finalized a 30-year gambling agreement on Friday, inking a deal that would deliver at least $2.5 billion to Florida over the next five years in exchange for giving the tribe control over statewide sports betting. Tribal leaders, including Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr., joined DeSantis in his Tallahassee office for a ceremonial signing of the deal, known as a “compact.”

“We truly believe that this is the best deal for everybody. It’s not in favor of the tribe or the state. It’s in favor of both parties, because this is a long-lasting team,” Osceola said. DeSantis noted Friday that the agreement, which requires approval by the Legislature, would allow the state to capitalize on online sport betting.

Although many are pleased to finally see a new compact agreement reached, those who oppose see the compact as a legislative overreach, as it expands gambling without a vote of the people. Florida Voters overwhelmingly passed an amendment that requires all gambling expansion in Florida to be approved by the voters.  Fox continues:   

But John Sowinski, the campaign manager of the political committee behind the amendment, said sports betting and several other provisions in the proposed compact, which would allow the Seminoles to add craps and roulette to their current casino operations, run afoul of the Constitution.

The amendment, which was approved by 71 percent of Florida voters, “requires voter approval for any new casino gambling,” Sowinski said Friday in a prepared statement.

“That includes sports gambling, player designated games, craps, roulette, moving slot machine permits, and any other form of Class III gambling,” he said, referring to federal law classifications of tribal gaming. “The proposed compact violates the letter and spirit of Amendment 3. We call on the governor and our legislators to honor the will of the people, who demanded that any new casino gambling authorization occur at the ballot box, not behind closed doors in Tallahassee.”

Gov. DeSantis said he is willing to vicariously defend the agreement, claiming that this gambling is not in Florida, as Amendment 3 covers, but the sovereign land of the Seminole Tribe.  The agreement also allows for mobile gambling, which would clearly take place by people off the reservation and on actual public land.  Gov. DeSantis claims that because the servers are on tribal land, there is no violation.  However, a similar case was heard in CA and it could hurt that very argument.  An online source explains:

They would also have to argue that statewide mobile betting, accessible to gamblers outside the Seminole reservations, does not constitute gambling expansion in the state because servers are located on Seminole land.

This potentially conflicts with a 2016 federal court ruling against the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel When, in 2014, the Nation launched an online bingo site in California on the grounds that bets were being processed on its territory, they were swiftly sued by the State of California and the federal government. Ultimately, the court ruled “a bet must be legal both where it is initiated and where it is received.”

It may never come to that. While the bill has the backing it needs in the Senate, support is less assured in the House, which has become a graveyard for gambling expansion bills in recent years.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 04/19 – 04/25

Chicago police officer pleads guilty in sports gambling case that involved Casey Urlacher

A Chicago police officer pleaded guilty Monday to his role in a multi-million dollar gambling ring in the case that led to January’s pardon of Mettawa Mayor Casey Urlacher by then-President Donald Trump. Nicholas Stella, 43, pleaded guilty to conspiring to conduct an illegal gambling business. He is the fifth defendant in the case to plead guilty, and the fourth since Trump pardoned Urlacher, the brother of Chicago Bears great Brian Urlacher. A CPD spokesperson said Monday that Stella’s status with the department was “inactive.”

Back in January, U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall ordered Stella into the downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center after prosecutors alleged that he “violently assaulted his girlfriend” during an incident at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Rosemont. Kendall set Stella’s sentencing hearing for June 22. A February 2020**indictment filed against Stella, Vincent “Uncle Mick” DelGiudice, Casey Urlacher and seven others alleged that Stella was among the agents recruited by DelGiudice, who has since admitted running a gambling ring around Chicago from 2016 until 2019.

Suspect had an axe when he chased woman at QC casino

A 43-year-old East Moline man was behind bars Monday after police say he had an axe when he chased a woman at a casino. Jeromy Anderson faces a felony charge of going armed with intent, along with misdemeanor charges of carrying a weapon, disorderly conduct and domestic abuse – assault with intent or weapon. Shortly after 8 a.m. Easter Sunday, officers were called to Rhythm City Casino, 7077 Elmore Ave., Davenport, for a disturbance involving a man chasing a woman with an axe. “During the course of an altercation (with the woman) he retrieved an axe from a vehicle and chased her while brandishing the axe overhead in a threatening manner,” police said in the arrest affidavit. The victim was afraid of serious injury, police said. The incident happened in both the parking lot and inside the casino and multiple people saw it. Additionally, it was recorded on surveillance cameras.

Crooked accountant stole over £700,000 from Leeds business and spent it all on casinos and online gambling

Jamal Haider was jailed for 40 months over the offending which was carried out while he was entrusted to look after the finances at Wortley-based MechTronic Ltd. Leeds Crown Court heard Haider used “ingenious”methods to hide his offending over a nine-month period during 2016. Camille Morland, prosecuting, said Haider falsified invoices from suppliers then arranged for payments to be made from his employer’s bank account into his own account and the account of his friend. All of the stolen funds were later transferred to him. The defendant then altered payment spreadsheets to hide the deception. The court heard Haider stole a total of £744,508 before the offending came to light. An investigation was launched after HMRC contacted the company over an unpaid VAT bill for £52,000. Ms Morland said further investigation revealed Haider was spending large amounts on online gambling. A company director provided a victim statement to the court describing how the offending had put a strain on the business. Shufqat Khan, mitigating, said: “Almost every penny he was obtaining through this offending was gambled away.

Fraudster in Old Man Disguise Stole $125,000 in Casino Scam, Pleads Guilty

A Michigan man who donned prosthetic “old man” facemasks while bilking casino customers out of more than $125,000 has pleaded guilty to wire fraud and identity fraud in a federal court in Detroit. John Christopher Colletti, 56, wore a variety of latex and silicone masks while withdrawing gamblers’ money from kiosks at casinos in Michigan and Kansas between April 26, 2019, and March 12, 2020. According to prosecutors, Colletti used personal information bought from hackers online including names, driver’s license numbers, and the last four digits of Social Security Numbers. He used this to access accounts belonging to VIP Preferred program customers at the kiosks. VIP Preferred is an e-wallet for cashless wagering owned by fintech giant Global Payments. It also allows a customer to withdraw their funds in cash at the Global Payments kiosks.

Engineer embezzled £80,000 from employer to fund out-of-control gambling problem

An engineer has been jailed after embezzling more than £80,000 from his employer to fund his gambling addiction. Darren Morrison took advantage of his role within InnServe Ltd, a firm that specialises in beer and soft drinks dispense systems, and deliberately over-ordered parts and equipment, which he then sold as scrap metal. The 45-year-old over-ordered stock worth more than £80,000 between April 23 2017 and April 23 2019, and sold it for less than £13,500 to finance his addiction to gambling.

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

GUEST ARTICLE: As States Like Missouri Deals with a Surge of Illegal Gaming Machines, the American Gaming Association Outlines the Numerous Problems they Create

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing developments of illegal slot machines that have popped up all over Missouri.  These illegal gambling machines, however, have found their way into many states and pose tremendous harm.  So much so that the American Gaming Association has issued a Nationwide statement condemning them.  Below is a portion of their press release  and the full white paper can be accessed HERE:

On Monday, the American Gaming Association (AGA) released a white paper highlighting the dangers of unregulated, illegal gambling machines proliferating across the U.S. These illegal gambling machines are not subjected to meaningful testing, licensing or regulatory standards and are often tied to criminal activity, including money laundering, drug trafficking and violent crime.

Highlights of the white paper, Skilled at Deception: How Unregulated Gaming Machines Endanger Consumers and Dilute Investments in Local Economies, include:

  • Illegal gambling machines do not undergo the same stringent regulatory requirements the legal gaming industry meets, including a licensing process, game testing and reporting and responsible gaming – nor are they monitored to ensure fair play for customers. Unregulated machine operators also lack training in responsible gaming, potentially luring children and those with problem gambling behaviors to use these machines.
  • Recent raids of illegal gaming machines have been tied to drug trafficking, gang activity, violence and have also been linked to several major organized crime families.

To combat the spread of illegal machines, the report recommends:

  • Law enforcement and policymakers need to prioritize robust enforcement of laws to root out illegal and unregulated gaming machines.
  • States and communities must not authorize these machines and continue to erode regulations and permit unnecessary consumer risk.
  • Businesses should actively remove illegal and unregulated games on their properties.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 04/12 – 04/18

Man charged in fatal shooting at Motor City Casino

A 27-year-old Detroit man has been charged in connection with the fatal shooting of another man at Motor City Casino, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said Wednesday. Nicholas White of Detroit is charged with first-degree murder and felony firearm in the early Monday slaying of Kermit McCants, 25, of Clinton Township. The shooting occurred around 1:48 a.m. on the second level of the Motor City Casino parking structure. White is accused of shooting McCants after the two men argued and then fled in his car. Police found McCants suffering from several gunshot wounds. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Former Ohio County Sheriff Gets 3 Years Prison for Theft

A former Ohio county sheriff who rose to prominence for the investigation of the execution-style slayings of eight family members was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday for theft in office and other charges. The former Pike County sheriff was originally indicted on 18 counts that included racketeering. He pleaded guilty in September to two counts of theft in office, one count of tampering with evidence and one count of conflict of interest. Reader was accused of taking loans from sheriff’s office employees and a vendor and stealing more than $14,000 in seized drug money from evidence envelopes to fund his gambling habit. He later returned most of the money to the evidence envelopes, authorities said.

Man Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement from Pentagon Law Enforcement Union 

A Quantico man pleaded guilty today to wire fraud in connection with a scheme to embezzle over $380,000 from his former union, which represented federal law enforcement officers at the Pentagon. “The defendant routinely embezzled money that belonged to a federal law enforcement union to fund his personal expenditures while vacationing in the Dominican Republic and to pay for his personal gambling at a casino,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “EDVA will continue to hold accountable those who steal and siphon off critical funds from our law enforcement partners. “As alleged, for years Arthur Penn stole money from funds intended to benefit his fellow law enforcement colleagues and used the money for his own personal benefit and entertainment,” said James A. Dawson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office Criminal Division. “The FBI and our partners are dedicated to rooting out this type of opportunistic corruption and fraud, and ensuring those who commit these crimes are brought to justice.”

Dog fights in car trunks? It’s a trend, and N.J. could soon make it a felony

A cruel trend that skirts dog fighting laws would be made a felony in New Jersey under a bill now on the governor’s desk. The bill (S975 would criminalize trunk fighting, which involves locking dogs in the trunk of a car or van and playing loud music or provoking them in another way to get aggressive and fight, and driving around until no noises are coming from the trunk. The disturbing trend began in Florida. The measure passed overwhelmingly in the state Senate and with no votes in the Assembly more than one year after it was introduced by Assemblyman Ron Dancer, R-Ocean.

If Gov. Phil Murphy signs the bill, trunk fighting would become a third-degree animal cruelty felony charge in New Jersey, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $15,000. “Pitting two animals against each other in a fight to the death or money is sickening enough. Now these criminals have gone mobile,” said Dancer, primary sponsor of the bill. “They have taken their gambling rings on the road in order to avoid raids by law enforcement.”

Woman Accused of Leaving Child Inside Vehicle While She Was Gambling

Tiffany Greene, 34, of Joliet was arrested by the Minooka Police Department for endangering the life or health of a child around 9 p.m. on Friday, July 10th. Minooka Police Chief Justin Meyer said officers were called to the Pilot Travel Center in Minooka where they saw a 9-year-old child in the passenger seat of a running vehicle. After an investigation, officers allegedly found the mother of the child, Greene inside the gas station playing the slot machines. Meyer said the Joliet woman was allegedly inside the gas station while the child was outside in the running vehicle for about 40 minutes. Greene was arrested and charged with endangering the life or health of a child and transported to the Minooka Police Department where she was released on an I-bond.

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

Proposed Florida Legislation Seeks to Expand Gambling Through Various Decoupling Efforts

Casino Watch Focus has reported on various efforts to expand gambling in Florida through a process known as decoupling.  Currently most gambling in Florida is either through tribal casinos or allowed at facilities that complement live horse and dog racing.  Decoupling occurs when those two items no longer need be paired in order for the gambling to be legalized.  A facility could get a gambling permit for slot machines, but not need to have the dog or horse racing.  Florida voters passed an Amendment that made live greyhound racing illegal.  Those facilities have other gambling on-site and the issue of whether they can be decoupled has been contemplated.  A new set of bills have been introduced that seeks to decouple the greyhound industry but also expand gambling through decoupling other gambling activities as well.  Florida Politics explains:

The House Commerce Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would decouple casino gambling permits not just from dog racing tracks that are out of business but from jai alai frontons and harness racing tracks as well.

PCB 21-05, introduced by Republican Rep. Chris Latvala, is one of three gaming-related proposed committee bills introduced Wednesday in the Commerce Committee. Chair Rep. *Blaise Ingoglia* advised they were being floated only as just-in-case measures, should the Legislature take up gambling in this Session. Another bill, PCB 21-03, would create a Florida Gaming Control Commission and give it broad oversight and enforcement authority over Florida gaming. A third bill, PCB 21-04, would exempt some of the commission’s records from public records. 

Those two bills flew through the Commerce Committee with little discussion and no opposition. PCB 21-05 drew heated debate. It deals with the aftermath of Florida voter approval of a greyhound racing ban in 2018. Those dog tracks are closed or closing, but some still have game rooms. But Florida law says those game rooms must be coupled with pari-mutuel operations, and the racing is gone. The bill would decouple greyhound track companies’ casinos from the race tracks. Yet the bill extends the same decoupling to jai alai frontons, which nearly are gone in Florida, and to harness racing tracks, which supports the quarter horse community.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 04/05 – 04/11

PokerStars owes KY $1.3 billion. The state is reaching for first $100 million.

The state of Kentucky is pursuing part of the $1.3 billion owed it by an online poker company that ran what the Kentucky Supreme Court has described as “an illegal internet gambling criminal syndicate,” Gov. Andy Beshear’s office said Thursday. Lawyers for the state are filing a motion in Franklin Circuit Court to collect $100 million in bonds posted five years ago by PokerStars after it lost a huge judgment and began a lengthy appeal, said Beshear spokesman Crystal Staley. The Supreme Court on Thursday made its judgment final by refusing to rehear the gambling case, which it decided in the state’s favor in December. The high court said Kentucky’s Justice and Public Safety Cabinet legally was entitled to collect damages on behalf of about 34,000 Kentuckians who lost more than $290 million on PokerStars’ website from 2006 to 2011. Wagering on online poker is illegal in Kentucky. State law allows lawsuits to recover money lost to such gambling.

Waynesboro men admit participation in illegal gambling operation

Two Waynesboro, Ga. men and a Greenwood, S.C., man have admitted to federal charges for participating in a longtime illegal gambling operation. “These men participated in an illegal gambling operation for at least a decade in the Waynesboro area, eventually funneling business through a foreign-based website,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Estes. “But even that offshore venture wouldn’t keep them out of the reach of diligent law enforcement professionals who turned the tables on this illicit operation.” Guilty pleas include prison time and $650,000 in forfeiture and restitution.

As described in court documents and testimony, Mobley operated as a “bookie” for an illegal sports betting operation for at least the past 10 years in Burke County, at first collecting bets and paying out winnings himself, and later through a sports betting website operated from Costa Rica. “No matter how hard these defendants tried to hide their illegal operation, their greed ultimately caught up with them,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “FBI agents will pursue criminal activity that violates our Constitution, no matter where an investigation takes them, and along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office will hold them accountable.”

Montana Man Found Guilty in October 2019 Strangulation Death

A Montana man was found guilty Monday in the strangling death of a woman who gave him a ride home from a casino where she worked in October 2019. Yellowstone County jurors deliberated for about two hours before finding Diego Hernandez of Laurel guilty of deliberate homicide in the death of Lori Bray, 57. Bray was last seen giving Hernandez, 24, a ride home after her shift at the Cedar Ridge Casino in Laurel early on Oct. 1, 2019. Bray’s car was found abandoned north of Laurel and her naked body was found in a ravine about three miles (five kilometers) away, investigators said. Bray’s purse, cellphone and clothing were found in the car. Her wallet had been emptied of cash. DNA under her fingernails matched a sample obtained from Hernandez, who had scratches on his face, prosecutors said.

NW Indiana Casino Fined $100K for Underage Patron Incidents

A northwest Indiana casino has been fined $100,000 by state regulators after an 18-year-old man with a fraudulent Pennsylvania identification was repeatedly allowed to enter the casino’s gaming floor to play blackjack and place sports bets. The Indiana Gaming Commission imposed the fine Tuesday against Horseshoe Casino. Records show the young man’s ID failed to be confirmed as authentic by the Hammond casino’s electronic Veridocs system a total of 40 times after being scanned by 18 different security officers on 10 different days. But on each occasion, security officers still let the man into the casino, where he even obtained a Caesars Rewards players club card, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported.

California Department of Justice Secures $5.3 Million Settlement from Artichoke Joe’s Casino (CA)

The California Department of Justice (DOJ) today announced a settlement in which Artichoke Joe’s Casino in San Bruno agreed to pay a penalty of $5.3 million for misleading gambling regulators and violating the Bank Secrecy Act, a federal law intended to combat money laundering. The casino is a 51-table cardroom with the eighth largest gross gambling revenue in the state. After the cardroom failed to timely or accurately report an investigation by the federal Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), DOJ’s Bureau of Gambling Control (Bureau) initiated a license disciplinary proceeding against the casino and its owners. Today’s settlement includes the largest agreed-upon penalty in the history of California gambling regulation. 

Under California’s Gambling Control Act of 1998, casinos are required to make timely, full, and true disclosure to gambling regulators. The Bureau determined that Artichoke Joe’s Casino was in violation of the law, when it failed to accurately report, reveal, or disclose in a timely manner that FinCEN or any other federal agency was examining the casino with respect to the Bank Secrecy Act and that the casino and FinCEN were in negotiations that could result in the casino’s admission of Bank Secrecy Act violations. Both the failures to disclose and the admitted violations of the Bank Secrecy Act breached the casino’s duties and responsibilities under the Gambling Control Act. As a result of the settlement secured by DOJ related to this case, the casino and its owners will pay a penalty of $5.3 million, reimburse the Bureau for costs associated with the case, and complete a required 36-month compliance period. Artichoke Joe’s ability to hold its state gambling license will be contingent upon meeting the terms of the settlement throughout the entire 36 months.

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

As UK legislators look to update the Gambling Act 2005, a new Study Shows Loot Boxes Lead to Problem Gambling and Should be Regulated Accordingly

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing awareness of just how addictive gambling-esque loot boxes are to children and adults who play video games.  This gaming mechanic has emerged as a highly addictive form of gambling that more and more jurisdictions are acknowledging.  As recently reported,  the UK is open to the possible regulation of loot boxes as its reviewing and updating their main regulatory backbone, theGambling Act 2005.  As those review efforts are coming to a close, a new report draws a clear link between loot boxes and problem gambling. The Guardian reports: 

Analysis revives calls for in-game rewards to be classed as betting products to protect children. Loot boxes, video game features used by nearly 40% of children, have clear links to problem gambling, according to a study that has reignited calls for them to be regulated as betting products.

Researchers analysed 13 studies into the behaviour of gamers who spend on loot boxes which allow players to spend money on randomised in-game rewards that can aid players’ progress or enhance the appearance of characters, without knowing what they will get. All but one of the studies showed a clear correlation between the use of loot boxes and problem gambling behaviour, under the commonly-used Problem Gambling  Severity Index (PGSI) measure.

They were “structurally and psychologically akin” to gambling, the report found, yet are used by nearly half of children who play video games. Approximately 5% of loot box users generate half of the £700m that video games companies make from them each year and about a third of that group are problem gamblers, the report says.

This group contends that this analysis should be heavily considered by lawmakers when deciding which gambling regulations can best help the public.  The Guardian continues:

GambleAware, the leading gambling charity that commissioned the report,

also backed tighter regulation. “[…] We are increasingly concerned that gambling is now part of everyday life for children and young people,” said the chief executive Zoë Osmond. “GambleAware funded this research to highlight concerns around loot boxes and problem gambling, ahead of the upcoming Gambling Act review.

Researchers from the Universities of Plymouth and Wolverhampton, who wrote the report, called for clear labelling and age-rating for loot boxes, as well as disclosure of odds, tools to limit spending voluntarily and prices in real currency.

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