First Case of De Facto Decoupling Granted in Florida

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts of those in the dog racing industry to separate the need to continue to allow races as a requisite for allowing slot machines at their facilities. Florida law stated that slot machines were only allowed in certain counties and racing facilities. The dog and horse racing industries in Florida have been struggling. Few bet on the races, the greyhound industry has come under increased scrutiny for mistreatment or drugging of their animals and its been clear that slot machines are the only real think keeping the doors open. Those involved have been attempting to remove the racing requirement so they can simply offer slot machines instead of closing the tracks down. It now appears that one venue has succeeded at getting permission to decouple. The Miami Herald explains: 

Florida gambling regulators this week gave a Miami dog track permission to ditch greyhound races but keep more lucrative slot machines and card games, in a first-of-its-kind ruling.

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation on Wednesday granted a request from West Flagler Associates, which operates Magic City Casino in Miami, to replace dog races with jai-alai matches, as part of a drawn-out legal dispute over a controversial “summer jai-alai” permit.

It’s the first time a pari-mutuel facility has been allowed to drop dog or horse races and continue operating slots. 

This isn’t the result of new legislation or action taken by gambling administrators, as much as it is an application of an old 1980 law. But it does signal that legislators are willing to consider more wide spread decoupling legislation in future. The Miami Herald continues:

The Magic City decision is rooted in a 1980 Florida law that allows pari-mutuels in Miami-Dade and Broward counties that have the lowest betting handle for two consecutive years to convert to summer jai-alai permits. But if those pari-mutuels do not seek conversion, other facilities can seek the permits. The Miami dog track’s lawyer, John Lockwood, first sought the summer jai-alai permit for Magic City in 2011.

After much legal wrangling, the department’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering denied the track’s request to do away with dog races, launch jai-alai games and keep lucrative slots that the track began operating after voters signed off on the machines in 2004. But the 3rd District Court of Appeal ordered gambling regulators to reconsider the issue.

In a declaratory statement issued Wednesday, state regulators said Florida law gives the track the green light to do away with dog races, as long as the jai-alai matches take place at the same facility where the current greyhound permit is operated.

 The agency’s decision won’t have broad implications but comes as lawmakers consider a push by gambling operators who want to do away with live dog and horse racing while holding onto slots or card rooms.

“It’s pretty clear that the department intends for this to not have any far-reaching effects, but once again, John Lockwood has masterfully used a unique set of circumstances to create a positive outcome for his client,” Scott Ross, a former deputy secretary at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation who is now a lobbyist representing other gambling operators, said in a telephone interview Thursday.

Hopefully this was just legal maneuvering and the skill of a lobbyist with connections, but its best to make your opinion known to local representatives.

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A Brief Look at Crime 07/17 – 07/23

Horrifying moment gambler kills two people just seconds after losing his £20,000 life savings in a casino

Debt-riddled vet Osvaldo Campos Azocar, 42, went on a terrifying rampage after blowing more than £20,000 in the Monticello casino in Santiago, Chile. Osvaldo Campos Azocar is seen pulling out a weapon moments before shooting dead two people In CCTV footage he is seen standing up from a roulette table before pulling out a weapon and shooting a male dealer and a woman. Police said six others, whose names have not been released, are being treated in hospital. “Eight people were injured, two of them lost their lives”, a spokesperson told local media. After the terrifying shooting Campos locked himself in a bathroom for 17 hours amid fears he was holding hostages.

Tipton pleads guilty to rigging computerized lottery drawings

The cyber security expert and brainpower behind a lottery rigging scandal that netted $2 million in illegal winnings from five state lotteries pleaded guilty Thursday to a felony charge of ongoing criminal conduct charge. For the first time in an Iowa courtroom, Eddie Tipton admitted to playing a central role in the rigging scheme after more than two years of adamant denials in the face of mounting evidence against him. Lottery executives have stated that computerized drawings are easier for them to coordinate and are cheaper to operate — although the actual savings of computerized drawings is suspect, especially when accounting for a drop in sales due to lower player confidence. Tipton’s guilty plea will only create more player distrust. “I wrote software that included code that allowed me to technically predict wining numbers and I gave those numbers to other individuals who then won the lottery and shared those winnings with me,” he said.

Gambling addict jailed for stealing more than £200,000 from sick mother

A CARER who fleeced her sick mother out of more than £200,000 to feed her gambling addiction has been locked up for 15 months. ‘Foolish’ Gillian Bates splurged the cash on online gambling sites Jackpot Joy and Foxy Bingo while her late mother Marjorie Lee battled Alzheimer’s disease in a care home. The 69-year-old trembled in the dock, sobbing as Deputy Circuit Judge John Price criticised her for abusing her position after being given a power of attorney. Mrs Lee was moved to an Abingdon care home, where she was expected to live for five years, after receiving her diagnosis aged 86 in January 2014, prosecutor Cathy Olliver said. Her three children decided her house would be sold to pay the approximate £50,000 annual care home costs, with Bates given the power of attorney and selling the property for £243,000. The fraudster, of Malford Road, Oxford, began making a number of transactions from her mother’s account to her own, transferring a total of £277,100. Bates, who has been working as a carer for the elderly for the past 15 years, sat biting her nails in the dock as Mr Khan revealed her family were unaware of her addiction.

Ex-NFL Player Gets 15 Months for Role in Drugs and Gambling Racket

Derek Loville, a former NFL running back and three-time Super Bowl winner, was sentenced to 15 months in prison on Wednesday for dealing ecstasy and oxycodone for a criminal gang. Loville spent nine years in the NFL in the nineties, playing for the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49-ers and the Denver Broncos, winning the Super Bowl with the latter two teams. Hanson was convicted largely on the testimony of professional gambler, Robert J Cipriani, a colorful character who also goes by the name of “Robin Hood 702” because he allegedly gives his winnings to the poor. Cipriani claims he had met Hanson in at the Star Casino in Melbourne and was asked by the latter to launder $2.2 million at the blackjack tables. Hanson told him to play for a while before exchanging his chips into a check. But instead, Cipriani lost the lot and went to the FBI when Hanson demanded his money back. Loville claimed in court this week that he only became aware of the full scale of the operation after Hanson’s arrest and apologized for his actions.

FBI seizes nearly $849,000 in series of Portland raids allegedly tied to illegal gambling

In a series of raids around Portland this spring, the FBI seized nearly $849,000 worth of bank funds, cash and luxury watches which it says are tied to alleged violations of a federal law against running an illegal gambling business. The notice of seizure states the goods were taken “for violation of federal law” and cites a legal provision that allows for the seizure of property used in running illegal gambling businesses. The majority of the feds’ April haul was taken from Mardigan and Nixon, with $500,000 in cash seized from her safety deposit box, more than $104,000 taken from his business bank account, and $143,000 in cash and ten watches valued at more than $19,000 confiscated from their home, according to the forfeiture notice.

Former Hudson Valley Comptroller Charged With Multi-million-Dollar Fraud

A local man, employed by two local companies, is accused of stealing over $2.5 million to fund his gambling and more. The charge comes from an alleged scheme where Cina embezzled over $2.5 million from two Town of Poughkeepsie manufacturing companies where he was comptroller, over the course of at least seven years. One company’s work included a solar-powered ring of lights encircling the top of MetLife Stadium. The other local company molded plastic. Cina had authority to sign checks for the companies and use the companies’ credit cards and ATM cards, officials say. Cina is accused of using the stolen funds to gamble, pay his rent, drive rental cars, dine out, get his car washed, bail out an arrestee and pay a phone charge for an inmate’s call.

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


Florida and the Seminole Tribe finally reach a new Gambling agreement

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing struggle between Florida and the Seminole Tribe to come to an agreement over exclusivity rights in the local gambling landscape. The part of the Seminole Compact that dealt with table games and other exclusivity rights has been in need of a new agreement for some time now, and each new gambling bill that has been suggested seemingly strained the nature of such an agreement. Additionally, earlier iterations of a new compact have included far more gambling expansion proposals than legislators would allow. Now, it appears interested parties have come to an agreement and it reestablishes exclusivity and doesn’t allow an uptick in gambling expansion. The Miami Herald reports:

Blackjack will continue uninterrupted at casinos run by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, parimutuels will be ordered to stop offering controversial competing card games, and the State of Florida will have access to more than $340 million in new money, under a settlement agreement reached late Wednesday between the tribe and state regulators.

Under the agreement, the Seminole Tribe has agreed to continue monthly revenue sharing payments to the state in return for the state’s agreeing to enforce a judge’s ruling that allows it to continue to operate blackjack and other banked card games at its casinos for another 13 years.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation must also enforce a rule that prevents competing casinos and card rooms from operating blackjack and slot machines that mimic the banked card games the tribe is entitled to operate exclusively in Florida.

“The settlement is one of the rare incidents where everybody benefits,” said Barry Richard, attorney for the Seminole Tribe. “Nobody gave up anything. The state has an immediate infusion of money, and the tribe gets to continue its games.” 

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A Brief Look at Crime 07/10 – 07/16

Fake online stores reveal gamblers’ shadow banking system

A network of dummy online stores offering household goods has been used as a front for internet gambling payments, a Reuters examination has found. The seven sites, operated out of Europe, purport to sell items including fabric, DVD cases, maps, gift wrap, mechanical tape, pin badges and flags. In fact, they are fake outlets, part of a multinational system to disguise payments for the $40 billion global online gambling industry, which is illegal in many countries and some U.S. states. The findings raise questions about how e-commerce is policed worldwide. They also underline a strategy which fraud specialists say regulators, card issuers and banks have yet to tackle head-on. That strategy is “transaction laundering” – when one online merchant processes payment card transactions on behalf of another, which can help disguise the true nature of payments. The scheme found by Reuters involved websites which accepted payments for household items from a reporter but did not deliver any products. Instead, staff who answered helpdesk numbers on the sites said the outlets did not sell the product advertised, but that they were used to help process gambling payments, mostly for Americans. Categorising a gambling transaction as a purchase of something else is against the rules of card issuers including Visa and Mastercard, the card companies said in response to Reuters’ findings. “Transaction laundering is serious misconduct – often criminal,” said Dan Frechtling, head of product at G2 Web Services, a financial compliance company which works with leading banks and card issuers. “It violates the merchant’s agreement with its acquirer, allows prohibited goods and services to enter the payment system, and may flout anti-money laundering laws.”

Charming con man embezzled millions from trusting victims

Financial advisor Conrad Eagan was charming and almost like one of the family, according to the relatives of one of his clients who gathered in an Ottawa courtroom Thursday. But it was his nice guy routine that allowed him to swindle approximately $3.45 million from the elderly, pocketing money they had saved through their own hard work and perseverance to sate what one of his victims described as his “uncontrollable greed.” Court heard after Eagan convinced his clients to set up wills that would keep their inheritance in trust and pay out the beneficiaries, only 10 per cent of them invested assets annually. Since Eagan also ensured he was the executor, it gave him access to the estate accounts. Eagan’s lawyer, Oliver Abergel, explained that the fraud was partially the result of his client’s gambling problem. “What I did is inexcusable. It was cruel. People trusted me, I let them down,” said Eagan. “I’m sorry, and it’s not sorry for being caught. I did such a stupid thing.”

Woman stole £150k from vulnerable pensioner and spent it on gambling and holidays

A fraudster left a vulnerable pensioner penniless after fleecing her out of more than £150,000 which she blew on gambling, holidays and jewellery. Heartless Lynn Minrath befriended the woman and then took increasing control over her finances. Prosecutor David Bright said: “This is, in essence, a fraud case, a particularly mean one. “It is the tale of a dishonest younger woman taking financial advantage of a woman in her 70s.” Mr Bright said that in 2014 the pensioner had in excess of £250,000, mainly from the proceeds of the sale of her home in London prior to her moving in with her brother in Rugby. When Mr Bright put to her that she was gambling “thousands of pounds” of the pensioner’s money, she replied: “With her consent, and with her wishes.” She accepted she had carried on until the pensioner’s accounts had been emptied, but denied Mr Bright’s suggestion that she was “a thoroughly dishonest woman”. The court heard that in 2013, Minrath, whose victim has been reimbursed by around £130,000 by her bank, had been jailed for thefts and frauds from people while working as a child minder.

Temecula woman sentenced for stealing, gambling away $565,000

A Temecula woman who stole $565,000 from the Escondido- based concrete business where she worked and gambled the money away at local casinos was sentenced today to six years in state prison. Sheila Jo Jackson, 46, pleaded guilty last month to a half-dozen felony charges, including embezzlement, check forgery and grand theft, filed by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office. Vista Superior Court Judge Michael Washington ordered Jackson to pay restitution to Betz Concrete, where she worked as a business manager. The thefts went back to at least 2012, said Deputy District Attorney Anna Winn. A bank representative contacted the concrete company about suspicious activity on its account and Jackson was arrested late last year, according to police.

Man ran half-dozen illegal gambling rooms in Austin area

Chong Pak, 53, has been arrested in connection to an illegal gambling operation in Austin. Police found nearly $750,000 in cash in Pak’s home after serving a warrant, officials said. Police believe Pak owned six to eight game rooms in the Austin area. Austin police have arrested a man in connection to citywide illegal gambling activities, but the case remains open as they expect to file more charges in the future against others, police said. People who play with these particular machines do not have a “legitimate” chance of winning, police said. These activities are of interest to police because of the related crimes that could occur, such as robberies and violent crimes, police said. Austin police believe there are about 80 illegal gambling operations housed in warehouses, homes and storefronts throughout the Austin area, said Austin police Cmdr. Troy Officer of APD’s organized crime unit.

Ex-casino worker admits role in ‘inside job’ robbery that led to murder of Brink’s guard

Ammar has been locked up since shortly after the Aug. 21, 2011, robbery, an insider job that led to the shooting death of Brink’s guard Alvaro Lopez Ramos. Ramos, 26, was fatally shot while picking up cash from the Calder Race Track and Casino, on the border of Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Jurors found Ammar not guilty of playing a role in the murder but convicted him of robbery, conspiracy and a related firearms offense at his 2012 trial. Four other people who pleaded guilty to their roles in the incident are serving federal prison terms ranging from five years to 50 years. Vladimir Louissaint, 31, of Miami Gardens, who confessed to firing the fatal shots, received the most severe punishment of 50 years. Ammar, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who was a security manager at the casino, remained imprisoned while his appeal was pending. His case is now being handled by U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro.

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


Supreme Court Decides to Hear New Jersey Sports-Betting Case

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts of New Jersey to legalize sports betting. Each attempt has been opposed by the major sports leagues and the NCAA and each attempt has resulted in failure. Their latest attempt is attempt lead to another ruling against them in federal court, so they appealed to the Supreme Court. Many thought the odds of the court picking up the case were long, especially after the Trump Administration’s Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall submitted a brief to the Court siding against the New Jersey law. Such reports don’t always lead to a denial of the Court to pick up the case, but the odds are slim as the Court tends to side with the Solicitor General in nearly 80% of cases. The odds of the law being upheld are still rather small, as every attempt made so far has been shut down by the courts, as Yahoo Sports explains:

On Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court announced it would hear an appeal to reinstate a 2012 New Jersey law that would legalize sports wagering at the state’s casinos and racetracks.

While there is still a long, long way to go, it is as significant of a development in the legalization of sports betting as there’s been in years.

A series of lower courts said the state law, championed by New Jersey governor Chris Christie, was in conflict with the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). That law prohibits sports wagering outside of Nevada and, in limited ways, three other states.

There is certainly no guarantee the Supreme Court will rule in favor of New Jersey; every lower court has sided with the federal government. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals out of Philadelphia ruled 10-2 in favor of the feds. Christie, a former federal prosecutor, knew there would be a considerable legal fight, although he likely never anticipated losing every time.

This case centers around the PASPA, but its possible for New Jersey to lose this case and state level sports gambling to still be made legal in the US. If Congress were to repeal or make changes to the law, then it could open the door to all states. The Washington Post reports: 

And even if New Jersey loses its Supreme Court case, its fight for sports gambling has put the issue in the national spotlight, generating a new conversation about whether a partial ban on sports betting is the best way forward.

Last month, a congressional committee introduced draft legislation that would repeal PASPA and allow states to legalize online gambling, with oversight provided by the Federal Trade Commission. Frank Pallone Jr. (D), the New Jersey congressman who is spearheading the federal legislation, said Tuesday he was cheered by the news out of the Supreme Court.

A number of other states beyond New Jersey also have considered legislation that would legalize the practice.

No date has been set for the one-hour oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court justices, though a timeline for the case appears to be taking shape. Each side will file briefs supporting their arguments over the next few months.

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A Brief Look at Crime 07/03 – 07/09

Minnesota Man Gets 12.5 Years In Prison For Slaying Over Bar Poker Game

A bar poker game gone horribly wrong has resulted in a prison sentence of 12.5 years for one Minnesota man. According to a report from ABC Newspaper, 45-year-old Chad Nelson was sentenced Thursday over the July 2015 shooting that stemmed from a cheating accusation in the free poker tournament. The altercation continued in the parking lot outside Willy’s Bar in Coon Rapids, and when it was over a man by the name of Rayontra McCall was dead. He was 29. Nelson, who was alone that evening, claimed self-defense against McCall and his friends. Nelson said he had stopped by the bar to play some poker after refereeing a youth soccer game. However, the night started to head south when one of McCall’s friends accused Nelson of “cheating him out of two poker chips,” the report said. Nelson said that McCall punched him in the face through the window of his vehicle when Nelson was trying to leave. A witness confirmed that McCall had struck Nelson. This is when Nelson fired two shots outside his car. The victim later died at the hospital.

Absolute Poker Founder Pleads Guilty To Online Gambling Crime

Back in February, the co-founder of Absolute Poker finally returned to the United States to face the years-old charges against him. He will be sentenced in September in New York after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge late last month. Scott Tom, who had been living overseas, will be sentenced Sept. 28, according to a court document. He admitted to “the interstate transmission of gambling information.” He had also been accused of money laundering. “Tom helped Absolute Poker, an unlawful internet gambling business, continue to operate in the United States and accept payments from United States customers without detection by United States law enforcement,” the government said in a court document. Tom will have to forfeit any ill-gotten gains. According to the government, Absolute Poker made some $500 million from Americans during its run. About $60 million worth of player money was lost when the site shut down.

China-linked gang laundered “millions” through BC casinos

Canadian casinos are not having the greatest week, dealing with allegations of money laundering and the unauthorized public release of private customer data. On Tuesday, British Columbia authorities announced the arrest of nine suspects in a widespread criminal enterprise that allegedly laundered millions of dollars through local casinos. Police have yet to indicate which casinos are involved but did say that none of the arrested suspects are casino employees. The criminal gang, which reportedly has links to mainland China and other countries, stands accused of everything from money laundering to extortion to loan sharking to operating its own illegal gambling operations. The arrests followed a lengthy investigation that began in May 2016.

Former casino VP to serve 32 months in jail

Former Mohegan Sun Pocono casino Vice President Robert Pellegrini will spend 32 months in prison for his admitted role in a money-laundering scam that cost the casino more than $420,000. Senior U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo imposed the sentence Friday at the Max Rosenn Federal Courthouse in Wilkes-Barre for conspiracy to commit money laundering. Pellegrini used his executive casino access to make copies of player cards belonging to high-end customers and put free play on the cards, which gambler Mark Heltzel used to play slot machines. A beverage server at the casino, Rochelle Poszeluznyj, collected the card information as she served drinks. At Friday’s sentencing hearing, Ruzzo noted that Pellegrini is an addicted gambler and his working in a casino was equivalent to an alcoholic tending bar, “working in an industry that supports his addiction.” Pellegrini, of Fairview Twp., told Caputo that he attends weekly meetings of Gamblers Anonymous.

Ex bank rep embezzles $1M, gets 3 years in prison

A former rep with First Tennessee Bank is serving a three-year sentence in federal prison for embezzling more than $1 million from bank customers and filing incorrect income tax returns. Kenneth Lynn Miller, a manager of investments and other bank products who many in the community considered a “go-to guy,” defrauded numerous customers to satisfy a gambling addiction that started when he was in college, according to documents filed in federal court in Tennessee. Miller swindled customers by accessing and transferring funds out of their CDs and other accounts over a four-year period beginning in 2012. He pleaded guilty to one count of theft and four counts of tax evasion last year. He targeted his victims, choosing customers who did not review their monthly account statements or whose accounts were inactive, according to court filings. “The defendant’s conduct was methodical, deliberate and persistent,” prosecutors argued in their sentencing memorandum.

Landscaping business doubled as huge cockfighting operation

An unassuming upstate landscaping business was secretly home to a massive cockfighting operation where organizers attached razor blades to the chickens’ legs and staged elaborate showdowns for sickos from around the state, according to a new report. The fowl outfit — which cops raided Saturday — blasted music and sold home-made concessions for gamblers to gobble as they bet on the birds slicing each other to pieces, the Syracuse Post Standard reports. Cops busted 41 people and seized hundreds of roosters, $68,000, seven handguns and three ounces of heroin during the raid in the Herkimer County town of Frankfurt, the culmination of a six-month investigation the state Attorney General’s Office dubbed “Operation Bloodsport,” the paper reports. Samson was one of those arrested, but another man Radhamez “Cesar” Perez, 37, is accused of organizing the sadistic shows and inviting people from all over New York Satet to attend. It was a family operation, authorities claim — his girlfriend sold tickets while his mom cooked the food they sold.

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Florida Judge Changes ruling on Pre-reveal slot machines

Casino Watch Focus has reported on a new waive of machines that could have drastically changed the gambling landscape in Florida. The machines in question are known as pre-reveal machines, and they are basically slot machines that show you the next spin. Initially, a Florida judge ruled that if you know the outcome then its not gambling because the player gets a preview of what result will come up with the spin. This meant that any establishment could offer these slot machines with no regulation or license required. The judge was urged to reexamine what the machines do. Those familiar with the machines operation explained that even though the player knows the move that’s about to come, they are actually placing a bet on what comes after that move. After a closer look, the Miami Herald is reporting that the judge has changed his mind and these types of slot machines will constitute illegal gambling in not approved and state regulated venues:

Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper ruled Monday that the electronic devices, in use in bars, strip malls and convenience stores throughout the state, violate a law banning slot machines outside of approved sites. Cooper held the hearing after Florida gambling regulators and the Seminole Tribe asked him to reconsider a March ruling in which he authorized the games.

Cooper originally sided with the manufacturer and the distributor of the machines, finding that they don’t violate prohibitions against slots because the games include a “preview” feature advising players of the outcome “before the player commits any money to the game by activating the ‘play’ button.”

But on Monday, Cooper said he had erred. “He said he was convinced he had made the wrong decision. He said he made a mistake and he felt these machines were slot machines within the meaning of the statute,” Barry Richard, who represents the Seminole Tribe, told The News Service of Florida after Monday’s hearing.

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