Missouri Casino Expansion via Lake of the Ozark Bill Dies – Initiative Petition to bypass the Legislators Seems Likely

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many attempts at legalizing casinos near Osage Beach at the Lake of the Ozarks.  The Missouri constitution very clearly limits casino gambling to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, but attempts have been made for over a decade to expand gambling to that part of the state.  New attempts have been made, but those legislative efforts appear to have come to an end, leaving an initiative petition as the new driving effort.  A local new source reports:

Hopes for a casino at the Lake of the Ozarks have been dealt a serious blow. Missouri House Joint Resolution 87, which could have paved the way for a possible gambling boat on the Osage River below Bagnell Dam, has succumbed to the woes of COVID-19.

“It’s dead,” HJR 87 sponsor and proponent Rep. Rocky Miller said this week. “I would have liked for a possible casino to go through the existing proven structure, but I am fairly certain a Ballot Initiative Petition process will begin now.”

In this scenario, a ballot initiative would need to get the required number of signatures to be placed on the ballot, and then the ballot petition would need to win at the polls.  The last ballot initiative that passed was reportedly due, in large part, to the cap of 13 casinos in the state.  Its unclear if there is actual support to amend the constitution once again to allow 14, 15 or even 16 casinos in Missouri.  An online source explains:

Osage River Gambling had already been working on changing Missouri law to bring a casino (or three) to Lake of the Ozarks, via a Citizen’s Initiative Petition (CIP). A CIP would bypass the Missouri legislature and put a constitutional amendment straight to the voters… The CIP would also seek to add three new casino licenses to the current state maximum, bringing it up to 16.

It’s a plan built for high-rollers: the CIP will cost $1 million, the group expects. But they already have the money set aside. They have also polled the ballot language. “It passed easy: 67 percent,” Hand said. That was with the addition of the Osage River and no new licenses, though; investors expect a CIP’s passage to become tougher with the addition of new licenses. Gaming companies with existing Missouri casinos would oppose it.

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


A Brief Look at Crime 05/18 – 05/24

Bookmakers are accused of trying to lure back problem gamblers during coronavirus lockdown with promotions on social media

Bookmakers have been accused of using ‘predatory’ tactics to lure back former gambling addicts during the coronavirus lockdown. With betting shops closed, firms have flooded social media with promotions offering welcome bonuses of up to £1,500. Health professionals, addiction specialists and MPs said people who had kicked their habit were struggling to cope with the targeted adverts, texts and emails. The country’s top mental health official said the deliberate targeting of ex-addicts was ‘shameless’ and ‘below the belt’. And a report by a former detective has accused bookmakers of failing to check whether gamblers are using stolen money. 

The Daily Mail’s Stop the Gambling Predators campaign continues to call for greater protection for addicts. This is vital because the suspension of sports means betting companies are pouring their efforts into advertising online casinos, which are more addictive. Almost one in ten of those who play online slots or use casino and bingo websites are problem gamblers compared to 2.5 per cent of those who place sports bets, according to the most recent analysis by the Gambling Commission. Experts fear that vulnerable gamblers trapped at home are being lured by adverts, which offer free spins and welcome bonuses, on platforms including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Claire Murdoch, NHS mental health director, told The Sunday Times: ‘These tactics are shameless. They are predatory and need to stop.

Phoenix Police Search Suspected Cockfighting Operation Site 

A search of a suspected cockfighting operation resulted in 10 people being given citations and numerous roosters being seized, Phoenix police said Friday. Spectators tried to run off when police animal cruelty investigators and Arizona Humane Society personnel arrived to conduct the search Thursday, police said in a statement. According to police, 203 roosters and two dogs described as being in poor health were seized. Investigators obtained a search warrant as a result of a call reporting possible animal cruelty and gambling., police said. Police said their investigation continued.

Mai Vu Vang Arrested In Georgia After Eluding Arrest For 2 Years For $450,000 Swindle

A Brooklyn Center woman was arrested in Georgia last month after allegedly eluding the authorities for more than two years. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman says 51-year-old Mai Vu Vang was brought back to Minneapolis over the weekend; she faces six counts of theft by swindle for a scam that allegedly stole nearly half a million dollars from the Minnesota Hmong community. Court documents say Vang left for Georgia while an investigation by the Fridley Police Department and Minnesota Commerce Fraud Bureau was still active. In June 2017 she was charged in Clark County with false reporting of a crime and obstruction of law enforcement officers. The Hennepin County attorney filed the theft by swindle charges by warrant in December 2017.

Charges in Hennepin County accuse her of orchestrating a fraud scheme — by convincing people to invest in a ginseng farm she claimed to own near Wausau, Wisconsin. Nine victims lost a total of more than $450,000, according to investigators. They say one couple who new Vang from church “gave her their life savings.” At the same time, according to investigators Mystic Lake Casino records show that Vang spent more than one million dollars at the casino between 2012 and 2014. Investigators say “her buy-in increased each year as she took money from the victims,” from less than $75,000 in 2012 to nearly $665,000 in 2014.

Third murder arrest connected to a Jacksonville August robbery

Rayshawnda Robertson was arrested on murder and robbery charges in connection with the death of Clyde Anthony Hamilton back in August. Jacksonville police announced Thursday that they arrested a third person in connection with an August robbery that turned deadly when a security guard was shot. Rayshawnda Robertson, 21, was arrested Wednesday on charges of murder and armed robbery. Last August, police said, a man and woman tried to rob an internet casino, and during the robbery, someone shot Clyde Anthony Hamilton, a 37-year-old security guard who later died. Police didn’t say if they believed they knew who shot the guard. In Florida, someone who commits a felony can be convicted of murder if anyone dies as a result of that felony. Now, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said a police investigation led them to Robertson as a third suspect. It’s not clear what role Robertson Played. Police already arrested Anthony Craig Ansley, a 23-year-old initially identified as Robertson’s boyfriend, and Dewayne Carson Flowers Jr., 30. Ansley and Flowers were also charged with two other robberies.

11 individuals charged with taking Tribal casino funds, includes former Tribal Council members

The charges relate to wrongdoing first uncovered in a Notice of Violation issued by the National Indian Gaming Commission in April 2019. The NIGC, the federal agency that regulates tribal gaming, alleged that nearly $1.5 million dollars of funds had been taken by individuals at the expense of tribal resources, in violation of the laws and regulations that restrict how casino revenues can be used.

The lawsuits filed in the St. Croix Tribal Court allege the defendants used their connections with Tribal and Casino leadership to request payments from the Tribe’s casinos. In some cases, the Tribe alleges the defendants received thousands of dollars in travel advances without providing documentation that the trip occurred, failed to return unused amounts, and sought reimbursement for the same trips from other tribal programs. In other cases, the Tribe alleges the defendants received payments for various projects that never materialized. The Tribe seeks a return of all unlawful payments, damages, and for the defendants that are members of the St. Croix Tribe, a declaration that they are ineligible to run for Tribal Council in the future.

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


Covid Concerns in Florida are Driving Discussions of Legalized Mobile Sports Betting Via Tribal Gambling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various attempts at legalizing sports betting in Florida.  Most efforts have thus far failed, including attempts during the legislative session to open it at casinos.  Now that the coronavirus has shut down the economy and is keeping people indoors, the focus seems to have shifted to mobile sports betting.  An online source reports:  

The Seminole Tribe is currently in talks with state legislators to draft proposals on regulating mobile sports betting in the Sunshine State. The fallout from COVID-19 has devastated economic activity and led to widespread unemployment across Florida. In an attempt to make up the budget shortfalls, Florida legislators are eyeing out-of-the-box proposals such as regulated online betting activity.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida owns and operates the hugely successful Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. As lawmakers continue to work feverishly on crafting a budget for 2020/2021, unforeseen expenses and the shuttering of non-essential economic activity has ramped up financial pressures on state coffers. According to the New York Times, there are currently over 36,000+ cases of coronavirus in Florida, with 1,378+ deaths, and rising.

This push is viewed as a financial boon for the city looking for quick tax money and a financial windfall for the Seminole Tribe.  The estimates are in the hundreds of millions, but its still unclear if such gambling would actually be legal, given the amendment passed by Florida voters that requires a vote on new gambling expansion.  The online source continues: 

Nonetheless, it has widely been reported that the Seminole Tribe will be paying the $500 million for the first year and the $700 million every year thereafter to the state of Florida for exclusivity vis-a-vis online sports betting services.

Lawmakers hope that legislation permitting mobile sports betting can mitigate the effects of severe budget shortfalls that are currently being experienced. Back in 2018, Florida voters decided by a margin of 71%-29% that they will have the final say on any further gambling expansion a.k.a. /Amendment 3./

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


A Brief Look at Crime 05/11 – 05/17

Pair of masked gunmen rob illegal coronavirus gambling den, kill host

A pair of masked gunmen robbed an illicit coronavirus gambling den in Brooklyn — and fatally shot the host of the party, police sources said Tuesday. Fifteen people were inside at the time — all gathered around a pool table where they were throwing dice and betting money, sources said. The victim, 48-year-old Kenny Mark, tried to put up a fight but was eventually shot in the torso by one of the gunmen, sources added. Meanwhile, the other suspect grabbed cash off the table, sources said. Mark was rushed to Kings County Hospital, where he died. The gunman is apparently known to the victim’s family and was one of the gamblers — but things turned violent when he lost a chunk of money, according to one of the victim’s family members. “A young man lost his money, got mad, went and got a gun, and killed my cousin,” his 60-year-old cousin Darlene Boston told The Post. “They shouldn’t have been playing dice during the pandemic, of course, they shouldn’t be doing that,” she said.

Two Staten Islanders with mob ties seek release from prison due to coronavirus

Eugene “Boobsie” Castelle, a Staten Island man and reputed soldier in the Lucchese organized crime family, and Daniel “Shrek” Capaldo, a Staten Islander and alleged Colombo crime family associate, were both arrested in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Castelle, 60, who is currently seeking appeal on his 2019 conviction for his connection with an illegal gambling operation, recently returned to prison after falling ill with pneumonia, wrote Richard Levitt, his appeal lawyer, in court documents filed Sunday in Manhattan Federal Court. Levitt requested that Castelle, who is currently serving a sentence at Danbury Federal Correctional Institution in Connecticut, be admitted to “bail pending appeal or, in the alternative, at least until the COVID-1 crisis has subsided.” Levitt said, “at least one Danbury staff member has already tested positive for COVID-19 and inevitably others will,” mentioning the spread of the virus in Rikers Island, where some prisoners have been released.

Gaming casino operators arrested

Hertford County Sheriff Dexter Hayes said that Jamil Marwan Yazaji and Rawad Sabra, both of Jacksonville, Florida, were arrested after a search  of The Best, a gaming casino located at 2327 US 13 South, Ahoskie, was found to be in violation of state laws pertaining to those types of businesses. Hayes said five gambling tables (known as ‘fish tables”) were seized upon the execution of the search warrant. Also seized was $90,232 in U.S. currency as well as two pistols, one of which was reported stolen from Jacksonville, Florida.  Both men were charged with one misdemeanor count of illegal gambling, and one felony count each of operating five or more gaming tables and possession of five or more gaming tables.

Caesars Entertainment fined amid crackdown on gambling addiction

A casino company has been fined a record £13m by the Gambling Commission for failures relating to VIP schemes that the regulator is considering banning. Three senior managers at Caesars Entertainment, which has 11 casinos in UK cities and seaside towns, will also lose their licence to run a gambling business. The sanction marks the second time in less than three weeks that the regulator has handed out a record penalty, after Betway was forced to pay out £11.6m  in March. The tougher stance comes as the commission is under pressure, accused of being too weak after a damning report that said it was being outmuscled by the gambling industry and incapable of ensuring vulnerable people were protected.

The regulator found that Caesars was guilty of a series of serious systematic failings in its treatment of VIPs, who are typically offered perks to inspire loyalty because they bet and lose large sums. The failures included allowing a customer to lose £323,000 in a year, despite clear signs of gambling addiction such as playing for five hours on more than 30 occasions. Another customer who was known to have signed up to “self-exclude” from gambling was allowed to start playing again, losing £240,000 over a 13-month period. Another person, a self-employed nanny, told Caesars she had spent her savings and was borrowing from family and using her overdraft to gamble but the company still allowed her to lose £18,000 in a year. A retired postman also lost £15,000 in 44 days without being properly asked for information about the source of his funds.

Rowan Co. business advertised as arcade raided for illegal gambling

A business in Rowan County, that advertised as an arcade was actually an illegal gambling casino, deputies said. Officers executed a search warrant Wednesday at FishZilla Arcade in Salisbury after a two-month investigation. Deputies said the business is accused of committing multiple violations, including allowing customers to bet credits in violations of state law and paying cash for winnings, which is also a state violation. According to authorities, the business has 37 server-based gaming terminals, four fish tables with 38 terminals and a variety of games. Officials said they seized servers connected to the gaming systems, CPUs, printers, a money counter and other evidence related to the gaming Operation. Officers said having more than five machines to gamble money is a felony.

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


Missouri Senate Proposes Gambling Expansion at a Time Many View as Socially Irresponsible

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing gambling expansion issues in Missouri.  The most recent issues have been the illegal gambling machines in places like gas stations and truck stops and those hoping for a new casino at the Lake of the Ozarks.  This specific expansion policy involves increased pull tabs at truck stops, and several Missouri legislators thing the idea is socially irresponsible.  The Columbia Daily Tribune reports:

The Missouri Senate passed its spending plan Tuesday with language allowing the state lottery to install 100 new pull-tab machines throughout the state and open up truck stops to the games for the first Time. Currently, only 500 are allowed and they can only be installed in veteran and fraternal organizations. The pull-tab name refers to the perforated tabs covering slot-machine style symbols on tickets dispensed by the machines. Players pull back the tabs to see if they’ve won a prize.

But a number of lawmakers objected to the idea, calling the expansion morally wrong. Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, said it would be “a direct offense to our low-income people who will divert their money to things like this.” “This bothers me a lot,” he added.

Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, said the same thing and that it would be even worse at a time when people are reeling from the pandemic and the resulting downturn. “With people not thinking as straight as they normally would with all the pressures of the stay-at-home and lack of community and other things that would stabilize a person, I think the impact would be even greater than it would at another time,” he said.

Sen. Eric Burlison, R-Battlefield, added that the idea “disgusted” him. “I’m not a fan of funding our schools through gambling,” he said.

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


A Brief Look at Crime 05/04 – 05/10

PokerStars Founder Pleads Guilty to Illegal Online Gambling

The founder of PokerStars Wednesday to running an illegal online gambling business, nine years after he and other online poker executives were indicted by prosecutors in New York. Isai Scheinberg and 10 other principals at three online gambling companies were charged by federal prosecutors in New York in March 2011 with bank fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling. The other executives have all pleaded guilty and been sentenced. PokerStars agreed in 2012 to pay $731 million to settle the charges with the Justice Department, without admitting wrongdoing. Scheinberg, 73, a dual Canadian and Israeli national, was arrested in Switzerland in June 2019 and was brought to the U.S. in January after  dropping an extradition challenge. He faces as long as five years in prison at sentencing, which has yet to be set.

Suspect in shooting death of Brooklyn man over gambling debt turns himself in, charged with murder

A suspect in the shooting death of a Brooklyn man over a gambling debt turned himself in to police and has been charged with murder, authorities said Tuesday. James Johnson surrendered without a lawyer at the 73rd Precinct station house Monday, cops said. He was charged with murder and gun possession for the slaying of 38-year-old Linton Brown in Brownsville. When questioned, Johnson, 41, said he owed Brown a gambling debt and Brown had repeatedly threatened him and his family while trying to recoup the money, sources said. Johnson has two prior arrests on his record, police sources said, a drug possession bust in 2002 and a gambling rap in 2004.

Bradley Chapman jailed after snatching jewellery and cameras to feed gambling addiction

A PROLIFIC criminal has been jailed after snatching a stash of jewellery and digital cameras to feed his “gambling addiction”. Bradley Chapman, who has 31 previous convictions, smashed through a first-floor bathroom window at a home in Welbeck Road. He rifled through the homeowner’s belongings and drawers stealing a jewellery box, three digital cameras and an assortment of lenses. The 33-year-old who already has five previous convictions for burglary left muddy footprints and even searched the attic while looking for personal items to steal. Now Chapman has been jailed for three years after pleading guilty to one count of domestic burglary. During the trial on March 20, Judge Langley said the victim did not want her victim statement read out in court. He added it was clear there was trauma caused and that Champan’s victim had suffered nightmares and been left feeling anxious.

It’s very underground:’ Dog fighting happening locally, but difficult to track 

Dog fighting is a practice that dates back to ancient times. Now, here in the Valley, it is a practice that is kept secret and hard to track. Dog fighting is where dogs are forced to fight one another, as people watch and place bets. As inhumane as it may seem, it still goes on right here in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties. “Dog fighting is found probably in every area, everywhere in the country. It’s not exclusive to any particular neighborhood, any particular state, city, economic background,” said Mary Louk, board president for Animal Charity. Although it is happening, tracking it is what is difficult.

“They do crazy things with these poor dogs. The fighting dogs, I mean, they’re more victims than anything else. They throw them in the back of trunks, and they have loud music, and they scoot around, you know driving fast, crazy to disorient the dogs. Then, they take them out and they see which ones can fight. Also, they’ll put them in with stallions, they’ll put them in with alligators, to get them to fight they really use and abuse them,” said Sharon McElroy, president of the board of Columbiana County Humane Society.

California, Texas Police Confiscate 172 Gaming Machines in Separate Searches (CA)

California authorities recently seized 125 alleged illegal gambling machines from an unlicensed gaming business operating near Modesto, while separately, Dallas authorities confiscated 47 alleged illegal machines in that Texas city, according to news reports. Among them were many that offered fish games. In their search, California authorities also seized three guns from the Modesto region site. These include: a pistol, shotgun and an AR-15 rifle. Authorities searched the alleged illegal gaming operation after following someone there who was on probation. Police had the gaming operation under watch even before the search took place. When law enforcement officers entered the 2,000 square foot building, they saw 29 people. The suspects were detained and placed in handcuffs. Three were arrested. Police and other officials are continuing to investigate the operation.

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


Court Rules Florida Greyhound Amendment doesn’t Violate 5th Amendment

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various efforts to shut down greyhound racing in Florida.  The direct issue of live dog racing was settled with voter support in favor of a constitutional ban on live races in Florida.  The facilities are still allowed to show simulcast races and they can still operate as mini casinos as the amendment didn’t shut down their existing slot machine offerings.  However, even with that much operating ability under the new law, facility owners challenged the law claiming it violated the 5th Amendment by taking away their property.  That case has now been dismissed by the Florida court.  An online source explains:

A federal judge in Florida has dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the state’s greyhound racing ban on constitutional grounds. Chief US District Judge Mark Walker said in a 55-page ruling this week that the prohibition was a “legitimate exercise in Florida’s police power,” rejecting the plaintiffs’ arguments that the ban represented an illegal “taking of property” without just compensation.

Walker ruled that Florida had used its police powers to prevent “plaintiffs’ property from being used in a particular manner that the State has determined to be contrary to the health, morals, or safety of the community.”

The plaintiffs also argued the amendment had violated their equal protection rights because the State of Florida continued to permit wagering on horse racing. The lawsuit claimed dog racing had been singled out because it was “politically unpopular.” But the judge rejected the equal protection claim because Amendment 13 “does not involve suspect classes such as race, gender, or national origin.”

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