Seminole Tribe Looks to Protect Interests and Limit Gambling by Joining Slot Lawsuit and Aggressively Urging Compact Negotiations with State Legislators

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the recent Florida Appeals Court ruling to allow gambling expansion through voter initiated slot machine licenses. Recently, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi asked the court for a rehearing in the matter. Now, the Seminole Tribe has asked to be included in the lawsuit because they fear such expansion harms the Tribes economic wellbeing. The Naples Herald provides the Tribes rationale for joining the suit:  

The Seminole Tribe of Florida has joined state regulators in their request for a rehearing in a game-changing appellate ruling that opened the door for slot machines at a Gadsden County horse track, along with tracks in at least five other counties.

“Only a few decades ago, the tribe and its citizens were impoverished. Today, the tribe’s successful casinos fund tribal programs including health care, the environment, education, and law enforcement, as well as other benefits for tribal members,” Richard wrote in a 19-page “amicus,” or friend-of-the court, brief. “The tribe’s self-sufficiency, and indeed its economic survival, depends upon the revenues from the businesses it has built up in reliance on the substantial exclusivity that it bargained for, and that the state agreed to, in the compact.” 

In the brief, the Tribe argued the clear intent of the Florida Legislature was being ignored in the appellate ruling. The Naples Harald continues: 

Echoing arguments made by Bondi’s lawyers, who called the 2-1 decision issued on May 29 a “jaw-dropping gambling expansion, Richard wrote that the majority failed to take into account what lawmakers intended when they passed the law and approved the compact. The agreement was “intentionally designed to limit the geographical scope of gaming,” Richard wrote.

“It defies logic to conclude that the Legislature would enact a law with the express purpose of limiting the expansion of gaming in Florida and providing for an increase in revenue that is dependent upon Seminole gaming exclusivity and, in the same bill, authorize the spread of gaming to every county in the state and allow any of 65 counties to unilaterally torpedo the compact, thereby causing the loss of billions of dollars in state revenue,” he wrote.

The state’s request asks that the full appeals court rehear the case, which is known as seeking an “en banc” hearing.

Additionally, the Tribe is seeking negotiations on the Seminole Gambling Compact Renewals. A new Compact is key to the state limiting the expansion of future gambling. The Legislature made some attempt to get the negotiation’s ball rolling, but nothing has materialized. A recent maneuver has been attempted by the Tribe in an effort to begin true negotiations. The Sun-Sentinel explains:

The Seminole Tribe has given the state 30 days to strike a new accord about exclusive rights to operate banked card games and has put the state on notice that tribal casinos don’t have to shut down the games even in the absence of a revamped deal.

Billie sent state leaders a “notice of commencement of compact dispute resolution procedures,” setting in motion a 30-day period for both sides to meet over the banked card games, which include blackjack. The dispute resolution mechanism requested by the tribe is included in a 20-year agreement, inked in 2010, that set out the parameters for the Seminoles’ gambling operations in Florida. 

“It’s my opinion that the tribe is utilizing these arguments and the dispute resolution provision to get into a room with state leaders in order to continue a discussion on the balance of the term of the compact and the operation of banked cards,” said Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano, a Bradenton lawyer who helped craft the original compact. “From a legal strategy standpoint, it’s a good strategy. I disagree with the arguments that they’re making, but it at least gives them a procedural methodology to negotiate with the state.”

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Brief Look at Crime 06/22 – 06/28

Former Sabres player guilty in gambling ring

A former player for the Buffalo Sabres now admits his role in illegal offshore internet gambling websites. Prosecutors say Nathan Paetsch, 28, of Spencerport recruited professional hockey players and others to place bets, which entitled Paetsch to receive a cut of their winnings. Paetsch set up users with accounts, provided them with odds, credit limits and balances, made arrangements to pick up cash payments, and provided bank account information to conceal payments for gambling debts. For his role in the scheme, Paetsch will be sentenced in August to probation, eight months home confinement and 400 hours of community services. He will also have to forfeit $265,000, part of which will cover his interest in his homes in Spencerport and Naples, Florida, as well as a 2011 BMW.

Deputies: Mom left son in car for 8 hours while she went gambling 

A mother is accused of leaving her child in the car for eight hours while she went gambling. We’re told it happened at Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack. Deputies say 34-year-old Nikki Jenkins-Fluitt left her 12-year-old son inside the car while she was inside gambling. She was arrested for endangering the welfare of a child. She was issued an appearance ticket and will be in Farmington Town Court on a later date.

$1M stolen from Masonic group; $240K spent on Grizzlies tickets 

A man accused of stealing from his employer spent $240,000 on Grizzlies tickets in just six months. That is just a fraction of the amount that investigators said Fredrick McWilliams stole from the Masons. According to investigators, the information technology specialist is accused of embezzling over $1 million between November 2014 and April 2015. A police report said that McWilliams wrote himself checks from the United Supreme Council 33 to an unauthorized PayPal account and debit card. He then bought the Grizzlies tickets and used some of the money to gamble.

367 dogs seized, 11 arrested in dog fighting ring

A federal and state investigation into dog fighting and gambling has resulted in the arrest of 12 people from Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas. U.S. Attorney George Beck said Monday the 12 are charged with conducting an illegal gambling business and multiple dog fighting charges, including promoting dog fights. Additional defendants are being sought. Federal and state officers served search warrants Friday in simultaneous raids in Alabama and Georgia. They seized 367 pit bulls in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. They also seized more than $500,000 in cash.

A woman who stole $247K from TCAT to cover gambling debt

A woman convicted of stealing $247,000 from TCAT was sentenced Wednesday afternoon to 90 days in jail, 90 days of house arrest and five years of probation. Pamela Johnson was arrested last April after embezzling roughly $247,000 from TCAT when she wrote and cashed checks to feed her gambling addiction. She pled guilty to felony second-degree grand larceny as part of a plea deal and has paid back about $247,000 in restitution after selling some In a packed courtroom, two TCAT representatives spoke about the impact of Johnson’s actions on the company and the community. “The event shattered our funders, our community and trust in our organization,” said Alice Eccleston, TCAT’s acting general manager. “It will take many years for us to recover.” She said she made a purposeful error during an audit so she would get caught stealing because she could not fight her “compulsive addiction to gambling.”

Four of a family commit suicide due to gambling debts

Pushed by financial crisis, a four-member family, including two children, committed suicide at their home in Karatagi village of Koppal on Sunday. According to police, Nagaraj, 28, and his wife Yanamma, 25, gave poison to their children Soumya, 6, and Ashwin, 3, and then hanged themselves. Nagaraj, a hotel worker, had had taken loan from persons, police said.”It is learnt that he was seeking financial help from neighbours and relatives in recent days. As he could not get any money, he might have taken the extreme step,” said Karatagi Police sub inspector Ningappa NR. Villagers said Nagaraj had lost money in gambling. “He was also involved in minor theft cases in Gangavati taluk,” a villager said.

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


Florida Attorney General Asks Court to Reevaluate Gretna Slot Machine License Case

Casino Watch Focus has reported that Florida Appellate Court ruled 2-1 to allow slot machines in Gadsden. Voters approved a referendum for a slot license but the Attorney Generals office said the county had no authority to issue the license. Many spoke out in opposition, including key Florida lawmakers. The Washington County Times explains:

Galvano, who was instrumental in crafting legislation that accompanied the Seminole compact, railed against the May 29 ruling. He said the statute was intended to allow counties to have slots only if both the Legislature and voters gave them permission to do so.

“The language is very clear. The court decision is simply a misinterpretation of the law. The department has interpreted it correctly. The attorney general’s office has interpreted it correctly. The circuit court has interpreted it correctly and Judge Makar interpreted it correctly. The majority opinion in the recent case was not accurate,” Galvano, a lawyer, said, referring to appeals-court Judge Scott Makar, who wrote a dissenting opinion.

The Court asked the Supreme Court to take up the case and provide the final decision on the matter. However, Pam Bondi, the Florida Attorney General, is asking the court to reconsider the ruling. The Tampa Tribune explains:

Calling it a “monumental change,” Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi today asked an appeals court to reconsider a far-reaching ruling that could lead to slot machines at several dog and horse tracks.

The ruling was decided by a 2-1 margin, but Bondi’s office wants the entire 15-member court to review the case.

If left unchallenged, the decision could have wide impact: Voters in Lee, Brevard and Palm Beach counties as well as the north Florida counties of Hamilton and Washington have approved similar referendums. Slot machines are currently limited to south Florida tracks and casinos run by the Seminole Tribe.

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


Brief Look at Crime 06/15 – 06/21

Operation Rock Bottom leads to 8 arrests for sports betting

The 10-month long investigation focused on Internet off-shore gambling websites and high-interest street loans. Investigators started the operation to crack down on mob operated gambling and loan sharking operations in New Jersey, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania. Investigators have seized illegal gambling records, over $750,000, and computers. The seizures were carried out with multiple warrants issued in Rockland, Bergen County, New Jersey; Fort Lauderdale and Orange County, Florida; Franklin Square, New York; and Matamoras Pennsylvania. All eight have been accused of collecting bets, as well as offering loans with 25 percent interest rates on a weekly or bi-weekly payment basis and pressuring the borrower. The gaming website provided players and sports bettors with a user name and password to place bets on football, basketball and other events, according to Rockland Prosecutor Dominic Crispino.

Bibb Sheriff: Gambling likely cause of Majestic Court Murder

Bibb County Sheriff David Davis says a Thursday night shooting that left a Macon teen dead, may have been a gambling bet gone wrong. 19-year-old andrew Sims was shot in the chest on Majestic Court and taken to the hospital where he later died. Two others were also shot. 32-year-old Demario Shinholster and a 16-year-old boy are listed in stable condition at the Medical Center, Navicent Health. 21-year-old Gabriel Palmer was hit by a car said to have been involved in the incident. “We think it had to do with some illegal business that these individuals were engaged in, some gambling maybe even drugs and so that’s sort of the root cause or foundation of conflict that sort of brought on this shooting last night,” Sheriff Davis says.

Gambler in Toledo Sports Bribery Gets 70-Month Prison Term

A rogue Detroit gambler who bribed players to fix the results of University of Toledo games was sentenced to nearly six years in prison Tuesday for corrupting college sports and committing other crimes. U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith said he would reluctantly accept a sweeping plea deal that capped Ghazi “Gary” Manni’s prison sentence at 70 months. “He was the prime actor in those conspiracies,” the judge said. “The result of his actions was not simply to degrade those sport or athletic events. He also ended up destroying the careers of the people he bribed, the athletes at the University of Toledo and at least one jockey.” Manni, 58, admits bribing players at the Ohio school from 2004 to 2006 to influence the final score, especially in basketball. A court filing lists more than $300,000 in bets, but the government said there were more.

Caesars Interactive Fined $15K For Online Gambling Violation 

New Jersey casino regulators have fined the local Internet gambling arm of Caesars Entertainment $15,000 for soliciting gamblers who signed up for a self-exclusion list that is supposed to prevent them from betting. The state’s Gaming Enforcement Division disclosed the fine Tuesday against Caesars Interactive Entertainment New Jersey. The state charged in April that the company allowed self-excluded gamblers to create Internet gambling accounts and allowed five of them to actually place online bets. It also claimed Caesars sent marketing material to 231 self-excluded gamblers, soliciting their business. The company paid a $10,000 fine for a similar infraction last year.

New Orleans Couple Leaves Disabled Daughter In Hot Car For Hours While Gambling Inside Casino

A New Orleans couple is in hot water for leaving their disabled daughter in a hot, parked car while they gambled inside a casino for hours. According to NOLA.com, Paula Jackson, 62, and William Jackson, 71, were arrested on Sunday, June 13 after her 24-year-old daughter was discovered inside the car. The couple reportedly arrived at the Treasure Chest Casino in Kenner, LA at approximately 9:15. Paula’s daughter was in the backseat of the van. It has been reported that her daughter’s condition is the result of traumatic brain injury. She cannot speak and is completely dependent on caretakers.

Switzerland: 53 possible money-laundering cases in FIFA probe 

Banks in Switzerland have reported 53 possible acts of money-laundering in the investigation of FIFA’s 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests, the country’s attorney-general said Wednesday Michael Lauber said the “suspicious bank relations” were filed to comply with Switzerland’s regulations against money laundering. The federal prosecutor described a “huge and complex” case which targets “criminal mismanagement and money-laundering” in the bidding contests which sent the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.

Council officer defrauds ratepayers to fund $2 million gambling spree at Adelaide Casino

A COUNCIL officer defrauded ratepayers to contribute to a $2 million gambling spree at the Adelaide Casino, a court has heard. * The District Court today heard Bronwyn Jayne Warren, 54, had siphoned the cash and gambled at Skycity Casino while on work trips for Roxby Downs Council. The court heard the total amount gambled the casino, which had set her up with a platinum card, was about $2 million but that was the “total turnover”, which included replaying with her winnings.

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


Florida Gov Signs Law that Aids Enforcement of Internet Café Ban

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing fight in Florida to stop illegal gambling known as internet cafes. They are effectively mini-casinos or slot machine parlors operating in normal, everyday locations and business. Federal and State authorities worked together to bring down a multi-million dollar operation and then the Legislator sent a clear message that these gambling cafes needed shut down. There was criticism that the law was too broad and that even family friendly games, like those at Chuck E. Cheese, were possibly illegal. This lead many law enforcement agencies to allow many internet cafes to continue to operate. Now, CBS Miami is reporting that Florida Gov. Scott has signed new legislation into law that fixes those issues and should lead to better enforcement and more protection for Florida families from internet cafes: 

Two years after state lawmakers effectively shut down Internet cafes across the state, Gov. Rick Scott has signed a bill aimed at making sure that businesses such as Dave & Buster’s and Chuck E. Cheese’s are not inadvertently affected.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, was dubbed the “Family Amusement Games Act” and provides detailed guidelines for the use of amusement games and machines.

Lawmakers said during this spring’s regular legislative session that the bill would provide certainty to businesses such as Dave & Buster’s and Chuck E. Cheese’s. Lawmakers moved quickly in 2013 to pass a measure targeting Internet cafes, which had spread across the state and were accused of allowing computer-based illegal gambling.

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


Brief Look at Crime 06/08 – 06/14

Ventura Man Accused of Stealing $800,000 from Elderly Santa Barbara Woman

A Ventura insurance agent is accused of stealing $800,000 from a 93-year-old Santa Barbara woman after telling her he’d be investing her money for her, according to the Santa Barbara Police Department. Instead, police allege, he used the money for travel, entertainment and gambling. Detective Kristin Shamordola and the California Department of Insurance investigated the case, which found that Mele had taken pre-signed, blank personal checks from the victim with the promise that he was going to use them to make investments on her behalf, Harwood said. “Instead, Mele wrote the checks to himself and deposited the funds into his own personal checking account,” he said, adding that Mele’s bank records showed that he had invested nothing on behalf of the victim, but instead used the money for his own personal expenses, entertainment, gambling, and travel.

One charged in dice game shooting

A Vicksburg man accused of starting a shootout at a home on Buena Vista Drive where an illegal high-stakes dice game was taking place was held without bail Friday. Jonathan Jackson, 27, 207 Starlight Drive, was arrested early Friday morning and charged with shooting into an occupied dwelling, Vicksburg police Capt. Sandra Williams said. At least one other suspect in the shooting was on the lam Friday. No one was wounded in the shooting at 12:55 a.m. May 28 in the 200 block of Buena Vista Drive where the dice game was taking place, Williams has said. There were 11 people — seven men, a woman and three children — were in the home when the gunfight began, police have said.

Woman gets 2 years, 8 months in embezzlement case 

A former controller for a western Pennsylvania drilling company has been sentenced to two years and eight months in prison for her role in a $10 million embezzlement scheme. Prosecutors said 45-year-old Cheryl Brooks of Clymer stole about $557,000 from Falcon Drilling Co. and helped former chief operating officer Larry Winckler steal more than $9 million. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Melucci told the judge the thefts began when Brooks wrote a check for Falcon Drilling LLC’s former chief operating officer to help him cover a gambling debt in 2004. Those thefts escalated and, Melucci said, eventually Brooks began stealing from the company, too, by having the executive endorse forged or otherwise unauthorized company checks to her totaling $557,000 from April 2007 until November 2011.

Police Arrest 8 in Mafia-Linked Sports Betting Operation

Police in suburban New York have arrested eight people in a sports betting operation as investigators crack down on mob-run gambling and loansharking. The Journal News reports authorities said Thursday that the 10-month investigation focused on illegal high-interest street loans and an Internet off-shore gambling website. Investigators seized illegal gambling records, computers and more than $750,000 through warrants in Florida, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Those arrested are accused of collecting bets and pressuring people who borrowed money at interest rates topping 25 percent to make payments.

Gambler indicted, wanted for owing casino $500,000 in losses

A Clark County grand jury has indicted a gambler who claimed he was so drunk he lost $500,000 playing table games at the Downtown Grand casino-hotel in Las Vegas in January 2014. A warrant for Mark Allen Johnston’s arrest was issued Friday after he failed to appear at a preliminary hearing. He was indicted on felony charges of theft and passing bad checks. The indictment indicates he received casino credit via four personal checks totaling $500,000 to the casino. Johnston claimed the casino plied him with drinks. Casinos are barred from allowing visibly drunk customers to gamble. Nevada Gaming Control Board chairman A.G. Burnett says it closed an investigation into Johnston’s claims for lack of evidence.

Woman sentenced to 15 years for embezzlement 

Susan White Garcia, 44, of Newport was sentenced in Craven County Superior Court after pleading guilty to five counts of embezzlement greater than $100,000, according to information from the office of District Attorney Scott Thomas. She was accused at that time of stealing more than $5.3 million from Big Rock Sports LLC over a period of approximately four years. Garcia was employed during that time as an accounts payable supervisor and handled accounts for the company’s subsidiaries, including Henry’s Tackle LLC. She was responsible for obtaining, distributing and paying the company’s credit cards. According to Thomas, she fraudulently used the credit cards for personal purchases, including numerous online gambling purchases, personal trips and household items.

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


UPDATE: Backlash Herd as Florida Courts Rule in Favor of Expanded Slots Gambling Case

Casino Watch Focus has reported that the Florida District Court of Appeals took up a gambling case involving slot machines licenses. The case involved whether to grant a slot machine license to Gretna Gaming. A local referendum was passed in the county to expand gambling though new slot licenses, but the Florida Attorney General’s office said they wouldn’t be issuing the license because the county lacked the authority to issue such a license. The court has ruled in favor of issuing the license, and the ruling has far reaching implications for the entire state. The Florida Times-Union explains:

A Florida appeals court on Friday ordered state regulators to award a license for slot machines to a facility located 25 miles west of Tallahassee. The decision has the potential to once again upend the state’s complicated gambling laws that currently limit slot machines to south Florida tracks and casinos run by the Seminole Tribe.

The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled 2-1 that a state agency should have approved slot machines because voters in Gadsden County approved a referendum authorizing them.

The ruling could have a wide impact because voters in Lee, Brevard and Palm Beach counties as well as the north Florida counties of Hamilton and Washington have approved similar referendums. The judges in their ruling asked the state Supreme Court to make a final decision on the case.

Opposition was heard immediately, and the Florida Supreme Court will likely be the next stop given the controversial and unexpected 2-1 vote by the Appellate court. The Saint Peters Blog reports:

In the wake of Friday afternoon’s surprise 1st District Court of Appeal ruling allowing *Entertainment Creek* in the Gadsden County city of Gretna to move forward in implementing new slot machines, the Orlando-based anti-gambling advocacy group *No Casinos *issued a stern rebuke of the decision.

“Today’s court ruling has far-reaching implications for the people of Florida. When voters narrowly approved a constitutional amendment in 2004, the will of the people was to limit slot machines to existing locations in two Florida counties,” executive director *Paul Seago *said in a written statement.

In a reference to the state’s ongoing negotiation with the *Seminole Tribe of Florida *over their exclusive rights to operate card games, Seago continued: “If this ruling stands, it could negatively impact communities across the state as well as jeopardize compacts in place with Native American tribes, costing the state billions of dollars.”

“We call on the Florida Supreme to review this case and once and for all enforce the limitations on gambling that have been part of the Florida Constitution since 1968,” the statement concluded.

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


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