UPDATE: Florida Court Rules Player Banked Card Rooms are Illegal

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the newly recognized issue of “player-banked” card games and specifically, how they clearly violate the exclusive agreement Florida has with the Seminole Tribe. About four years ago, gambling regulators authorized these player-banked games because they were playing against themselves, not the house. After closer examination, it became clear that the player wasn’t really a player and they games really were typical card games that are only allowed in tribal casinos. The issue was raised and now a judge has ruled the games are definitely illegal. Florida Politics reports:

Her order found that the games were too similar to blackjack, which is only offered at casinos run by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Pari-mutuels, or horse and dog tracks, can and do offer card games in which people play against each other and not the “house.” These are known as “designated-player games.”

Regulators said card rooms offering such games were flouting state law by allowing third-party companies to buy their way into the games, using a worker to act as a virtual bank. Each designated player is “required to bring a minimum of $30,000 to each table, and takes no active role in the game,” Van Wyk’s order says. “(M)ysteriously, the same number of designated players walk through the door each morning as the designated-player tables (at) Jacksonville open.”

Van Wyk agreed the setup amounted to a sham, saying the “games cannot be allowed to continue to operate in the current manner.” But she ruled against the state’s contention that the paid designated players needed to have occupational licenses.

Regulators agreed “they essentially did nothing other than occupy a seat,” according to their filing. But they also said even if the “work” performed was negligible, they still needed to be licensed.

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A Brief Look at Crime 8/15-8/21

Suspects sought in Monday shooting that left 1 dead, 3 injured

Austin police on Wednesday released descriptions of a man and a woman they think carried out a fatal shooting Monday night at a suspected illegal gambling room in North Austin in which one woman died and three others were injured. Evidence from the shooting suggests the woman who was killed was the proprietor of a gaming room in the 900 block of Wagon Trail near Kramer Lane and Lamar Boulevard, according to police. On top of the homicide investigation, Austin police have also opened an organized crime investigation into the operations at the gaming room. Investigators executed a search warrant on the property this week, seizing evidence into the possible illegal gambling that took place there, Sgt. Kevin Covington said.

 

 

 

Most of client funds stolen by ex-Sandusky lawyer Karl Rominger reimbursed to victims  

Though the Carlisle attorney who pleaded guilty to bilking numerous clients to feed a gambling addiction won’t be sentenced until Thursday, more than $500,000 has already been reimbursed to his victims. That makes up most of the client funds that Karl Rominger, 43, was charged with misusing. The reimbursed funds have come from a state program that protects clients from such thefts. Rominger is set for sentencing at 9 a.m. Thursday in Cumberland County Court on one count of theft by deception and 18 counts of misappropriation of entrusted funds. Rominger was a prominent area attorney who took on many high-profile cases, including being part of the defense team in the Jerry Sandusky child-sex case.

Man leaves casino, robs bank, returns to casino, police say

Kerry Johnson told Charleston Police that he got to the Mardi Gras Casino in Nitro around 10 a.m. Tuesday and was there for more than six hours, until around 4:30 p.m. But sometime around 3 p.m., police say, Johnson got up from the blackjack table, put down a $25 chip to hold his spot, and left the casino. That’s when, police say, Johnson went to City National Bank in the South Hills neighborhood of Charleston, handed the tellers a note saying he had a bomb and a weapon, and robbed the bank. Then Johnson went back to the casino, got his spot back at the blackjack table, and kept gambling, police say. Johnson, 52, of Charleston, was arraigned Wednesday afternoon and charged with felony bank robbery. He faces 10 to 20 years in prison if convicted and is being held pending a $50,000 cash bond. “Reminds me of that song,” Kanawha Magistrate Ward Harshbarger told Johnson at the arraignment, chuckling. “What were you thinking?”

Ex-CEO gets prison after Vegas gambling binge

Federal prosecutors say the former president and chief executive officer of an Alabama steel company has been sentenced to six years in prison for gambling away money during his company’s bankruptcy case. The U.S. Department of Justice said 51-year-old Kennon Whaley had been convicted by a federal jury of two counts of concealment of bankruptcy assets. Prosecutors say the crimes happened when his company, Montgomery-based Southeastern Stud & Components, was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. Prosecutors say evidence at his trial showed that during the bankruptcy process, Whaley redirected a $260,000 insurance payment intended for the company in 2010 to pay off a personal gambling debt. They say that in 2010, Whaley had traveled to the Wynn Las Vegas Casino, racking up a $100,000 gambling debt during a four-day trip. 

Reputed Mobster ‘Skinny Joe’ Due in Court Friday After Massive Sweep 

The flamboyant alleged head of the Philadelphia mob is scheduled to be in a Florida court Friday to determine whether he should be held without bond and sent to New York City to face racketeering charges. Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino, 54, is scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate judge in West Palm Beach on charges that he was part of a health care fraud scheme in which conspirators got corrupt doctors to bill insurers for unnecessary and excessive prescriptions for expensive compound creams in exchange for kickbacks.members of an East Coast crime syndicate who were charged last week with racketeering and various crimes including extortion, loansharking, casino-style gambling, sports gambling, credit card fraud and health care fraud. Federal prosecutors say the syndicate operated in New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Florida, and New Jersey. Merlino served nearly 12 years in prison for racketeering before being released in 2011. He went back to prison in 2014 for three months for violating his parole by socializing with Philadelphia mobster John “Johnny Chang” Ciancaglini at a Florida cigar bar.

2 shot to death outside North Las Vegas casino 

Police in North Las Vegas are investigating a shooting that left two people dead outside the Silver Nugget casino. Officers had responded to reports of a shooting in the casino parking lot early Sunday to find two men suffering from gunshot wounds. The victims died at the scene. Police have not yet released details on what led to the shooting. No arrests have been made. The incident comes after an officer fatally shot a Silver Nugget security guard after the guard beat a fellow casino employee to death in May.

British Tennis Player May Have Been Poisoned by Gambling Syndicate 

A British tennis player who fell ill in the lead-up to her quarter final match at the Wimbledon Girls’ Singles Tennis Championships last month may have been deliberately poisoned. Gabriella Taylor, 18, who is ranked 381 in the world, was struck down by a mysterious and ultimately life-threatening illness just 45 minutes into her match against the USA’s Kayla Day. Taylor spent four days in intensive care, before doctors diagnosed a rare strain of Leptospirosis, a disease most commonly transmitted through rat urine. The bacteria is so rare in the UK, in fact, that police are treating it as highly suspicious and have launched a criminal investigation. One theory they’re investigating is that Taylor was poisoned by a gambling syndicate in a deliberate attempt to sabotage the match; another is that the culprit is a rival player or coach. “What happened to Gabriella has opened our eyes to a world we did not know existed,” said her mother. “In the past we have been very naïve, but from now on we will be extra careful and make sure we know exactly what she eats and drinks when she is on the tour.” Gambling syndicates have been known to sabotage sporting events in the past, perhaps most notably in 1997 when an Asian betting syndicate cut the power to the floodlights at two high profile English Premier League soccer games.

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


New York Fantasy Sports Legislation Might Be Subject to Lawsuits Seeking to Stop Expanded Sports Gambling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing developments in the Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) industry. These daily fantasy games are essentially taking the skill based game of fantasy sports that typically lasts and entire season and boiling it down to a daily gambling activity which lacks the same skill based approach as typical fantasy games. The industry was called out for being a very obvious form of illegal sports gambling at both the state and national level. Feeling the pressure, the industry has at temped to self regulate to have the appearance of safeguards for players and they have spend tons of time and money in lobbying efforts to legalize their gambling product. Each state has, however, chosen to regulate the industry in a different way, and some have defined DFS as games of skill, thus making it immune to gambling laws. One of the newest states to enter the debate is New York, and they may be facing lawsuits. The Buffalo News reports: 

A national anti-gambling group may sue to try to reverse a new law legalizing daily fantasy sports contests in New York State.

“We believe in improving the lives of New Yorkers, and part of that mission is to repeal the state’s predatory gambling policies, and litigation is part of that effort,” said Les Bernal, national director of the Washington, D.C.–based Stop Predatory Gambling.

Critics of the new law, signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo two weeks ago, say the Legislature needed to go through a lengthy constitutional amendment process to legalize a new form of gambling. Instead, the bill’s sponsors relied on a statutory change that declared the fantasy sports contests to be “games of skill” instead of illegal games of chance.

The anti-gambling group Stop Predatory Gambling, isn’t the only organization that has an interest is stopping this form of gambling. There have been talks of local casino companies bringing suit. Additionally, the new legislation may very well violate the state’s exclusivity agreements with tribal groups in New York. Stop Predatory Gambling has been clear, however, that they wont partner with such groups and they have their own, more altruistic reasons for trying to protect the citizens of New York. The Buffalo News continues:

Where the money to fund the litigation by the national anti-gambling group would come from is not certain, but Bernal said his group would not partner, directly or indirectly, with any casino companies that also opposed the June legislation.

Bernal pointed to a May Siena College poll that found 45 percent of New Yorkers opposed daily fantasy sports and 37 percent supported it.

“There is no single act of New York State government that creates more inequality of opportunity than its sponsorship of predatory gambling,” Bernal said. “And now what state government is trying to do is force predatory gambling into every home and smart phone in the state as a result of a push by very powerful gambling interests.” 

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A Brief Look at Crime 8/08-8/14

Gambling addict bludgeoned his estranged wife to death

A JEALOUS husband has been jailed for life after killing his wife in a vicious hammer attack. Gambling addict Paul Abbott bludgeoned wife Jacqueline at least 16 times following a row over tickets to an Elvis tribute act. The couple had split last year after almost 30 years together, when Abbott broke a promise to curb his betting when he blew £11,000 in a casino binge. Abbott, 57, confronted Jacqueline at the family home in Netherton, West Mids, on the afternoon of 11 December after hearing she was planning a night out with a friend to see an Elvis impersonator. It is thought a fight broke out between the pair in a bedroom when he was told she’d sold his ticket on eBay. Abbott − described as controlling by friends and relatives and someone with a history of domestic violence − struck his wife across the head with a hammer and delivered what proved to be fatal blows in the back garden after following her downstairs as she desperately tried to flee.

Former Lexington pharmacy owner gets prison for million dollar theft from charity

A former Lexington pharmacy owner accused of stealing $1.1 million from a charity that helps with patients’ medication costs has been sentenced to six years and three months in prison. Adam K. Sloan agreed as part of his guilty plea to pay $815,168 to the charity, representing the amount he was charged with stealing minus more than $313,000 from his bank accounts that the government seized, according to court records. The charity helps people pay out-of-pocket costs for medicine. Sloan applied for funding for patients without their knowledge, then took the money Good Days provided, according to a court record. The patients Sloan fraudulently enrolled did not receive the medication for which Good Days authorized funding, according to Sloan’s plea agreement. In letters to Reeves, relatives and friends described Sloan as a bright, hard-working man who was raised in a Christian home and started his business with a desire to help people, but took a disastrous turn because of alcohol abuse and a gambling problem.

E-Sports Gambling Site Took $13.2 Million in Bets Post-Crackdown

Two weeks after game-maker Valve tried to stop a rapidly growing form of unregulated gambling on professional video gaming, the most popular gambling sites are still taking millions of dollars worth of bets. On the biggest betting hub, CSGOLounge, gamblers have wagered more than $13.2 million worth of virtual goods since July 13, when Valve said it would stop websites from allowing its products to be used as currency. The average amount of money bet on each game is down about 25 percent, according to gambling monitor Genius Sports. Valve’s cease-and-desist letter said the sites are violating the company’s terms of service by using its software to facilitate betting and must stop by Friday, July 29. The announcement sent ripples through this dark corner of the e-sports world. Bettors, many of whom are teenagers, were on pace to wager $7.4 billion on these sites this year — 12 times as much as estimated e-sports betting at regulated sports books, according to Eilers & Krejcik Gaming and Narus Advisors.

Ex-exec of Arkansas firm gets 18 months for stealing nearly $1M

A judgment filed Tuesday in federal court in Little Rock shows that John Calloway, former president of Wilson-Bennett Technology Inc. in Cabot, has been sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to repay the company $774,756.14 that he admitted stealing between 2008 and 2012. Calloway pleaded guilty Dec. 15 to wire fraud, admitting that from September 2011 through September 2012, he took advantage of his access to the company’s bank accounts and payroll system to use company funds to pay off a $250,643 credit-card bill for a business owned by him and his wife called Gym Star Gymnastics. Court documents show the credit card had been used for personal and business expenses. Marshall also ordered Calloway to participate in a gambling-addiction treatment program, stay out of casinos and refrain from betting on sports or playing any games of chance if money is involved. Calloway also was ordered to participate in mental health counseling.

Mohegan Sun cocktail waitress to plead guilty to role in players’ card scheme 

A former Mohegan Sun cocktail waitress will plead guilty to charges she conspired with two others in a players’ club card scheme that defrauded the casino of more than $420,000. Rochelle Poszeluznyj, 38, of Kingston, agreed to enter the plea on one felony count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to a plea agreement filed Saturday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Poszeluznyj faced several dozen charges in county court, including 174 felonies. Poszeluznyj, according to a criminal information filed Saturday in conjunction with the plea agreement, secured players’ club card pin numbers from patrons and provided them to frequent gambler Mark Helztel, who had “an ongoing personal relationship” with Poszeluznyj. Heltzel, 51, of Dallas, then gave the stolen information to former casino Vice President of Player Development Robert Pellegrini, 50, of Fairview Township, who duplicated the cards and loaded them with free play credits, according to prosecutors. Helztel then gambled with the fraudulent free play, winning $422,147 in a little under a year. The trio split the winnings, prosecutors say.

Former Browns player Reggie Rucker sentenced to 21 months in prison

Former Cleveland Browns player Reggie Rucker was sentenced Wednesday to 21 months in prison for using charitable donations to help pay his gambling debt and personal expenses. Prosecutors said Rucker stole more than $110,000 in charitable donations to anti-violence groups he led. The 68-year-old pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges of wire fraud and making false statements to law enforcement. Rucker served as executive director of Amer-I-Can, a non-profit in Shaker Heights, and president of Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance(CPA), an organization dedicated to resolve conflicts in Cleveland. According to records, Rucker withdrew $48,000 at casino ATMs in Tampa, Las Vegas, and Cleveland from the Amer-I-Can bank account from 2011 to 2015. He also allegedly paid gambling debts he incurred at a Las Vegas casino totaling $65,000 using money donated to Amer-I-Can and CPA.

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


New Jersey Loses Another Sports-Betting Legalization Attempt

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the on going attempts of the state of New Jersey to legalize sports betting. Las Vegas is the only place where sports betting is a legally allowed activity. Several times, and in various ways, New Jersey has attempted to pass legislation or has pushed forth enforcement regulations to allow sports betting. They have consistently been opposed by professional sports organizations such as the NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB. The NCAA also joined efforts to prevent expansion of sports gambling as did the Federal Government. An online source is now explaining that they have lost yet another appeal:

 New Jersey has lost again before an appeals court in its attempt to circumvent a federal ban on sports betting. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled against New Jersey’s sports betting plan in a rare “en banc” session where all 12 of the circuit’s judges heard arguments on New Jersey’s appeal. In a 10 to 2 decision the court ruled that the state’s 2014 sports betting law violated the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. The 1992 law prohibits sports betting in all but four states—most notably Nevada—that had forms of sports betting before the law went into effect.

In this latest attempt, the state wrote a law that would have allowed sports betting at its casinos and racetracks without any state regulation. The plan emerged from previous court opinions that hinted that unregulated sports betting might circumvent the federal ban. But the Third Circuit’s overwhelming rejection of that argument likely means an end to New Jersey’s hopes of instituting sports betting.

“We now hold that the District Court correctly ruled that because PASPA, by its terms, prohibits states from authorizing by law sports gambling, and because the 2014 Law does exactly that, the 2014 Law violates federal law,” Judge Marjorie Rendell wrote in the court’s majority opinion.

Unfortunately, the issue may not actually be over. Two sources have advocated taking the issue a step further. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told a sports ratio show that he thinks the issue should be taken up by the Supreme Court. Additionally, the American Gaming Association (AFA) thinks Congress should repeal the existing law and give each state the right to regulate sports betting as they seem fit.

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A Brief Look at Crime 8/01-8/07

Man gets 26-year prison term for Tacoma casino slaying

A man accused of killing a driver he argued with outside a Tacoma casino has been sentenced to 26 years in prison. The News Tribune reports that Jeremy Schlenker, of Toppenish, was sentenced Monday after pleading guilty to murder for Brandon Williams March 2015 death. Court documents say Schlenker blocked Williams’ car from backing out of a parking space. Authorities say Schlenker exchanged words with Williams before pistol whipping and shooting him. Schlenker’s attorney argued Monday that her client suffers from paranoia and believed he was going to get shot the night he killed Williams. Schlenker said in court that he “made a bad mistake” and said he felt for the victim’s family, because he’d lost friends to “meaningless, senseless violence.”

Ex-banana importer gets prison for retirement fund theft

A former banana importer already serving a dozen years in prison for distributing drugs was sentenced on Monday to another seven years for stealing $750,000 from his employees’ retirement fund. U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer called 48-year-old Thomas Hoey Jr.’s conduct “appalling and utterly without excuse or justification” as he pronounced the sentence, saying Hoey will have to serve the majority of the new prison term only after completing the sentence he received last year in the drug case. “At every turn, you put your interests in satisfying your appetites first,” the judge said. “You rationalize your conduct to this day.” Hoey, who prosecutors say referred to himself as Mr. Big and as the Banana King, was convicted at trial and apologized to his ex-employees at sentencing. “I never intended to cheat my employees,” he said. He called his actions a mistake that “ruined my life, my family and my business.” Prosecutors said the Garden City resident lived lavishly, enjoying extensive travel and casino trips.

3-year prison sentence for Honolulu gambling, bribery 

A man who operated illegal game rooms in Honolulu’s Chinatown and Kalihi neighborhoods must spend about three years in federal prison. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Hawaii announced Delvin Phuong Pham’s sentence on Thursday. He’s also known as Kevin Pham. His sentence also includes forfeiting more than $96,000 and 14 gambling machines. Pham’s game rooms allowed patrons to gamble using slot machines, video game machines and card tables. Prosecutors say he made $10,000 to $28,000 weekly from his illegal gambling business. Prosecutors say he paid more than $7,000 in bribes to Honolulu police officers pretending to accept money in exchange for protecting him from law enforcement.

Funeral held for man found shot to death inside car after leaving casino

Alex Eichmann’s funeral was held Thursday, nearly 10 days after he was shot and killed inside his Corvette. Relatives said Eichmann was a good person, and they are urging anyone who knows anything about his death to please come forward. “It’s been devastating to our family. We loved Alex so much,” Eichmann’s brother, Eric, said. Choking back tears, Eric Eichmann looked back on his brother’s life. “He was such a kind soul and for the life of us, we just can’t figure out who would want to do this to him and why,” Eichmann said. The family came together Thursday at St. Vincent Catholic Church in targate to honor the life of the 48-year-old who was shot in the parking lot of a McDonald’s July 11. Before Alex Eichmann went to the McDonald’s, his brother said that he went to the Isle Casino, where people knew him well. “He would try to go once or twice a week if he could,” Eric Eichmann said. Detectives won’t say whether someone might have followed him from the casino to the McDonald’s — a route Eichmann generally took — but his family isn’t ruling anything out.

Woman who stole $330K from employer for gambling habit gets 5 years in prison

A Pennsylvania woman who stole more than $330,000 from her Bridgewater employer to feed a gambling habit was sentenced Friday to five years in prison. Younja Devine (Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office) Younja Devine, a.k.a. Jaimie Devine, 53, was convicted of second-degree theft and two counts of third-degree forgery. Devine must also pay $10,000 in restitution. She apologized to her former employer and her family for her actions before being led away in handcuffs. Between September 2013 and January 2015, Devine stole more than $330,000 from Bridgewater Community Services, which operates two senior citizen housing complexes, Centerbridge I and Centerbridge II. Devine, in her position as resident manager for the properties, deposited the money from fraudulent checks into her personal account. Devine, a citizen of South Korea, used the names of active vendors for Bridgewater Community Services and submitted fraudulent invoices in the vendors names, authorities have said. After making a check out to a vendor for the fake invoice she would alter the check to make it to a consulting company she owned, authorities have said.

NYPD Busts $15 Million Pot and Illegal Gambling Ring Based in Little Italy  

The owner of a bakery in Little Italy and about two dozen others with alleged ties to the Mafia were arrested this week for running a $15 million pot, prescription pill, and gambling ring across the country. The ringleaders of the scheme, Richard Sinde, 51 — who is currently serving prison time upstate for crimes associated with the Bonanno family — and John Kelly, 52, supervised the cannabis-running conspiracy, coordinating the collection, distribution, and shipment to sellers, prosecutors say. Parisi, along with co-defendants Frank Galesi, 50, Carl Muraco, 52, and Stephen Gallo, 64, was also charged in a separate indictment for running an illegal gambling website generating over a million dollars in revenue, according to records connected to bets placed through the site. Officials say they seized over six hundred pounds of marijuana, some six hundred oxycodone pills, and eleven handguns as part of the operation.

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Local Florida Initiative Petition Concerning Treatment of Greyhounds will make Upcoming Ballot

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the struggling greyhound tracks in Florida. The racing industry mainly stays in business to allow their facilities to operate slot machines, where their real profits stem. There have been numerous reports of ill treatment of the dogs and it’s the industry has been actively attempting to pass legislation that allows for gambling at their facilities without actually requiring dog races, a process referred to as decoupling. Decoupling efforts haven’t been successful so far, so the greyhound races are still a necessity. Given the issues with the treatment of the animals, a group has done the work to put together an initiative petition to require additional safeguards of the dogs. The Orlando Sentinel reports: 

Greyhound racing gets a full vetting today by Seminole County commissioners. At a public hearing in Sanford, commissioners will focus on the racing and the county powers over it.

Animal-welfare advocates grabbed the county’s attention last month when they plopped down a petition with enough signatures for a Nov. 8 ballot referendum. Their Greyhound Protection Act would ask Seminole County voters if the dog-track owner should be required to disclose greyhound injuries and the race dogs be licensed by the county. It also would require the kennel club to report on what happens to the dogs after their racing careers are over.

With the Seminole backdrop, as WFTV reported earlier this year, “Nationally, and across Florida, greyhound racing is not nearly as popular as it once was. … At … tracks across the state, the dogs run so the tracks can keep their gambling licenses for simulcast and poker.” 

In an op-ed piece ran by the Orlando Sentinel, one of the individuals who helped gather signature for the petition outline the issues facing the dogs and what the ballot initiative strives to protect them from:

I cannot describe the sense of achievement we both felt when our all-volunteer campaign announced it had collected 14,000 signatures, more than enough to advance to the November ballot. It’s important, because there are serious animal-welfare problems at Sanford Orlando Kennel Club, as revealed through Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation records and industry documents.

In my opinion, Sanford Orlando Kennel Club is a low-end track where dogs go when they cannot compete elsewhere. It uses roughly 700 greyhounds, and these dogs race every five days on average. The rest of the time, greyhounds endure lives of confinement, kept in a warehouse-style kennel compound, in stacked metal cages, for up to 23 hours per day.

According to state records, 28 greyhounds have died at the track since May 2013. For example, on April 20, a 2-year-old dog named Queen Jewel died after she fell and suffered an open fracture. Young dogs like Queen Jewel are dying needlessly for a gambling enterprise that is failing economically. Betting peaked at Sanford Orlando in 1988, and since then has dropped by 69 percent.

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