Monthly Archives: May 2010

UPDATE: Missouri Gaming Commission expects to award casino license by Sept. 1st

Casino Watch Focus has been reporting on the new license situation and recently reported that as many as 15 different groups expressed interest in submitting proposals to the Missouri Gaming Commission for consideration.  Now the South Eastern Missourian is reporting more details of the process, including a goal of September to determine the new license holder:

Awarding the only available Missouri casino license will likely be a quick process that is over by Sept. 1, Missouri Gaming Commission executive director Gene McNary said Tuesday to a room full of companies and communities interested in the license.

In a meeting that lasted a little more than 50 minutes, McNary explained the process the commission will follow and said the first deadline will be for an economic analysis each prospective applicant must submit detailing what a casino would do for the community in any particular location. That economic analysis will be due July 15.

McNary then asked each prospective casino developer how long it would take to develop a full application. When Joe Arum of St. Louis Capital Partners LLC said it would take 90 to 120 days beyond the July 15 date, McNary said that was too much time.

Asked how long the commission would spend considering the applications once they’re received, McNary said he expects the license to be awarded by Sept. 1.

The Gaming Commission indicated that once local economic reports had been filed, they would be reviewed by the state.  The South Eastern Missourian continued:

The economic analysis questionnaire that each prospective casino developer must fill out will include information ranging from the expected investment in land and construction to the number of slot machines and gaming tables to the number of people who will be employed.

That information, McNary said, will be combined with economic analyses provided by existing casinos. It will then be turned over to the Missouri Department of Economic Development, which will analyze the reports and develop models for the effect on communities, employment and state revenue.

The considerations will include whether the casino will add to state revenue or steal customers from existing casinos. The economic analysis done by the Department of Economic Development will be a key factor in deciding that.

“We want to know what proposal would be in the best interest of Missouri, and that is the bottom line,” McNary said.

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


A Brief Look at Crime 5/17-5/23

Korean found dead in La Union beach resort

A Korean was found dead inside a rented room in a beach resort in La Union province early Friday. Radio dzXL reported Heon Chang, 45, was found hanging inside the room at the resort in Poro village in San Fernando, La Union. The Korean was rushed to a nearby hospital but was declared dead on arrival. Police said their initial investigation indicated the victim may have committed suicide due to P127,000 in unpaid bills at the resort, and P300,000 in losses at the casino.

ST. LOUIS > EX-WORKER GETS 21-MONTH SENTENCE FOR EMBEZZLING

Robin Stockstrum, 40, of St. Charles, the former office manager of a Troy, Mo., car dealership, was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison Friday for embezzling $247,000. Stockstrum used cash belonging to Jim Trenary Chevrolet for car payments for herself and relatives, as well as using the company credit cards for personal use. At the sentencing hearing, general manager Jack Gonzales said that while the business has now recovered, “It really put the dealership in peril.” Stockstrum’s lawyer, John M. Lynch, said that Stockstrum suffered from a gambling addiction. Stockstrum waived indictment and pleaded guilty to a felony wire fraud charge in January. In addition to the 21-month sentence, she was ordered to repay the money.

NJ indictment accuses 34 reputed Lucchese crime family members, associates of racketeering

Thirty-four alleged members and associates of the New York-based Lucchese crime family — including two high-ranking leaders — have been indicted in New Jersey. The indictment announced Friday by New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow includes first-degree charges of racketeering, conspiracy and money laundering. The indictments stem from an investigation into an illegal gambling operation that handled billions of dollars in wagers, primarily on sporting events, and relied on extortion and violence to collect debts, authorities said.

Former manager of Ark. waste district admits fraud

The former executive director of the Upper Southwest Solid Waste Management District has admitted taking more than $756,000 from the district. Joe Ball II pleaded guilty Thursday to three federal mail fraud charges in federal court in Texarkana, Ark. Ball began to cry as he told U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes he took money from the district for more than 10 years to support “a horrible gambling addiction.” Ball’s attorney says the gambling took place at Oaklawn Park horse racing track in Hot Springs. Ball faces up to 20 years in prison when he’s sentenced following a pre-sentencing report that’s expected to take six to eight weeks.

Former TJ Employee Admits To Stealing Money

A former employee of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology pleaded guilty May 6 to stealing more than $279,000 in funds intended to support functions like student athletics, clubs, prom and graduation parties  Susan Thanh Litwin worked as a financial technician at Jefferson for a little over three years. She acknowledged taking money in chunks ranging from $2,500 to $35,000 from various school accounts during the period of March 1, 2008 to Jan. 25, 2010. According to the press release, Litwin used some of the funds to support a gambling habit, pay off a mortgage on her Woodbridge home and cover extensive personal debt.

Sunset District Accountant Sentenced For Defrauding Investors Of $34 Million

An accountant who had an office in San Francisco’s Sunset District was sentenced in federal court today to 20 years in prison for defrauding 292 middle-class investors of at least $34.5 million. The prison term given to Roberto Heckscher, 55, of San Mateo, by U.S. District Judge Susan Illston was the maximum allowed by law for a mail fraud count to which he pleaded guilty in October. Illston said, “I find this was the worst kind of fraud because the people who came to Mr. Heckscher relied on him and were totally deceived. “This isn’t just investment fraud but a loss of retirement and life savings. That makes it particularly cruel,” the judge said.

Evelyn Fahnbulleh, who said she was introduced to Heckscher by a neighbor and lost her life savings of $187,000, said, “I’m destitute, penniless, without a cash reserve.” Prosecutors charged Heckscher spent an unknown but substantial amount of the investors’ money in a “secret, second, sordid life of gambling in the casinos of Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe and Atlantic City.” Defense attorney James Reilly claimed that Heckscher spent no more than 10 percent of the lost investments on gambling. But Daniel Irving of Chico, who said he lost $1.7 million, said he accompanied Heckscher on lavish gambling trips to Las Vegas. “He was gambling bigtime. He lived another lifestyle” there, Irving said.

Murder trial underway in St. Charles for man accused of stabbing ex-girlfriend

A man accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend with a screwdriver is on trial in St. Charles today. St. Charles CountyProsecutor Jack Banas began his opening statement with words he said Taylor uttered before stabbing Mallow 22 times with the screwdriver: “You ripped my freaking heart out.”

Mallow, whose husband had died in a hunting accident several years earlier, began dating Taylor in September 2005. They had an on-again, off-again relationship, Banas said.   She invited him to move in with her sometime early in 2007, family members said, but that arrangement lasted a only a couple of months. Taylor was not working, they said, and Mallow kicked him out of the house. Banas said Taylor told police he had a gambling problem.

Banas said Taylor confessed to officers that he stabbed Mallow and told them he had taken her jewelry. Taylor put the jewelry in a plastic bag and tossed it out the window of his truck near Highway 40 and Highway 94, he said. Investigators found the jewelry where Taylor told them it would be, Banas said.

Memphis lawyer disbarred over children’s trust fund theft

A Bartlett lawyer suspended in March after he was charged with stealing thousands of dollars from a children’s trust fund now has been disbarred. James M. Hoots was arrested in February. He was charged with felony theft of property for allegedly stealing some $76,000 and gambling it away at the Tunica casinos. The Tennessee Supreme Court announced Tuesday that Hoots has consented to disbarment because he cannot successfully defend himself on a complaint of misappropriation of funds.

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


Missouri expands gambling through bingo

Last year Casino Watch Focus reported that the Missouri legislature passed a new bingo gambling bill, but Gov. Nixon vetoed it.  At the end of this year’s legislative session, the politicians are trying to expand gambling again, but this time they are not pulling any funds away from education – Gov Nixon’s primary reason for vetoing the bill.  The News Tribune reports the details:

Missouri lawmakers have passed a bill intended to boost the business of Missouri bingo halls.

Legislation sent to the governor Wednesday would allow bingo parlors to open earlier, close later and offer games twice a week instead of just once. It also lets bingo operators spend up to 10 percent of their receipts on advertising. The limit is now 2 percent.

Supporters say the measure is meant to help bingo halls compete with casinos and other forms of entertainment. In the past 15 years, the number of organizations licensed to run regularly scheduled bingo games has fallen by more than half.

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


A Brief Look at Crime 5/10-5/16

Suburban father admits to slaying family

A man from Greve slashed the throats of his wife and two daughters before trying to commit suicide. A 50-year-old father has been remanded to custody for four weeks after murdering his wife and two daughters at the weekend, shocking the close-knit community in the Copenhagen suburb of Greve. On Friday afternoon police were called to an accident outside the town of Holbæk after the man had driven his car at full speed into a parked truck. The man had suffered a number of injuries but survived. However, rescuers also made the grim discovery of the body of his 12-year-old daughter with her throat slit in the car.

Police found the murder weapon, a hobby knife, in the vehicle. According to Ekstra Bladet newspaper, the daughter also had injuries consistent with attempts to defend herself. According to the prosecutor, the man listed stress, depression and gambling as some of the reasons for his actions.

Online Gambling Exec Stabbed Wife To Death

The CEO and founder of an online gambling social network is accused of murdering his estranged wife after reading a text sent by her lover.  Olga Pleguezuelos was found dead in her Northwest London home last year and a trial is now ongoing. Mark Campbell, 53, reportedly attacked the woman while she lay sleeping.  Campbell is the proprietor of Gem Lifestyles, a website which looks to bring individuals together in a virtual casino-themed world. The prosecution argued that Pleguezuelos woke up during the attack and tried to fight off her husband.   Campbell eventually stabbed his wife to death.  He had slit his own wrists prior to calling an ambulance, according to prosecutors. 

Police search for elderly murder

Police are searching for the suspect involved in the murder of a South Florida elderly man. He was found dead inside his home around 10:25 a.m., Friday. His granddaughter was checking on him when she found his body in the home. “I just found my grandfather deceased in his house, and oh God,” said [his granddaughter] with tears in her eyes.

Broward County detectives have not released any information on [his] murder, but want to speak to a young neighbor that has not been seen for several days. “As we go door-to-door canvassing the area, we are getting something from the people here in the community. He was very loved, respected,” said officer Veda Coleman-Wright of the Broward Sheriff’s Office.  According to neighbors, [he] loved to bet at the Pompano Casino Park, where they say he won a large amount of cash last week.

Two Individuals Plead Guilty To Conspiring To Traffic Counterfeit Slot Machines and Computer Programs

Rodolfo Rodriguez Cabrera, 43, a Cuban national, and Henry Mantilla, 35, of Cape Coral, Fla., pleaded guilty today in front of U.S. District Court Judge Philip M. Pro in Las Vegas to one count of conspiracy to produce and sell counterfeit International Game Technology (IGT) video gaming machines, commonly known as slot machines, and counterfeit IGT computer programs.

Post office worker stole more than £20k from a Leicestershire branch

A Post Office worker stole more than £20,000 from his employer to fund a gambling addiction. Anvish Pabari, 24, operated a four-month scam, pocketing cash from bogus postage refunds. At Leicester Crown Court, he pleaded guilty to the theft of £20,902, from Shepshed’s sub-post office.He was given a 32-week jail sentence, suspended for two years, and was ordered to do 180 hours of unpaid work.

$1 million theft and no jail time

A St. Clair County man who pleaded guilty to stealing more than $1 million from a Falkville company must make his first $50,000 restitution payment Monday. Paler imposed a 20-year reverse split sentence on Bowers, placing him on probation for five years. During that time Bowers must repay a large portion of the $1,113,431 he admitted to stealing from Freedom Axle Inc., located on Buster Road in Falkville, according to  the district attorney’s office. Authorities said Bowers made wire transfers from the company’s bank account to his personal account. One official said Bowers said he had a gambling problem and used the money to gamble online.

Employee stole to fund pokies

A Whangamata office worker who stole more than $166,000 from her employer used the money to fund a poker machine habit and pay off her credit cards. Linda Anne Allan, 60, appeared briefly in the Hamilton District Court yesterday and admitted stealing the money from a Whangamata building company. Allan pleaded guilty to one charge of theft by a person in a special relationship and one of obtaining by deception.

Chelan Masons regain footing after former treasurer stole funds

Nearly a year after someone began stealing money from its bank accounts, the Masonic Lodge of Chelan is just starting to get back on its feet. The fraternal organization was forced to suspend all of its community charitable programs, including student scholarships, a bikes-for-books reading program and even a planned Christmas party for 350 elementary students last December because its money was gone. The group also had to delay paying contractors for a remodel of its lodge that was under way when the money disappeared.

The Lodge’s former treasurer, Harry P. Himmelhaver, 57, of Brewster, pleaded guilty April 26 in Chelan County Superior Court to five counts of forgery for stealing from the organization’s bank accounts. He was sentenced to six months in jail. He has repaid $37,000 as part of an agreed settlement with the Masons. But Word said he is believed to have taken as much as $70,000. In a statement to Chelan County sheriff’s investigators last October, Himmelhaver admitted to taking money from the accounts and said he used it to gamble at Mill Bay Casino in Manson and the Okanogan Bingo Casino in Okanogan, court documents state.

Disbarred lawyer admits stealing $650K

A disbarred Dennis lawyer admitted Friday that he stole $650,000 from a client to feed his gambling habit. John “Jack” Roberts Jr., 59, pleaded guilty in Barnstable Superior Court to one count of larceny over $250 by a single scheme. Once a respected real estate attorney, baseball coach and town volunteer, he used his client’s money to fuel an obsession with online poker, according to court records. Prosecutors alleged that Roberts stole $650,000 from Middleboro resident Norman Sasville – wiring the bulk of it to gambling Web sites.

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


15 Groups are interested in the final remaining Missouri gaming license

Casino Watch Focus reported that with The President Casino closing, its gaming license would be available for a new company or casino to operate along the Missouri or Mississippi rivers.  There are three key areas for possible development, the Sugar Creek area in Kansas City, the Chain of Rocks area in St Louis, and Gape Girardeau.  The St Louis Post dispatch is reporting that 15 deferent groups have expressed interest in obtaining the casino license and they range from real estate developers, gambling companies and local governments:


— St. Louis businessman Jim Koman, a part owner of the Casino Queen who through a separate company called Casino Celebration holds a site just south of the Chain of Rocks bridge, where he would put a $125 million riverboat casino.

— Attorney Brad Lakin, who leads North County Development LLC, which has won rezoning approval to put a casino complex on 350 acres south of the Columbia River Bottoms.

— Creve Coeur-based Isle of Capri Casinos, which didn’t specify a site and appears to be eyeing at least two. It was the only large casino company to raise its hand.

— West Alton Partners LLC, a group that tried unsuccessfully to put a riverboat in that small north St. Louis County town in 1996.

— Blue Sky Development, which owns a casino in Indiana and is interested in an unspecified site in the city of St. Louis.

— Three separate groups that are eying Cape Girardeau, including one led by Joe Uram, former chief financial officer of Argosy Gaming.

— Coastal Capital Management LLC, a New York-based casino developer run by Kenneth Shea, who led gambling operations for Carl Icahn’s Icahn Capital hedge fund.

— Ingenus Management, a Minnesota-based casino consultancy company, which is trying to win a license in Ottumwa, Iowa.

— The city of Sugar Creek, Mo., near Kansas City, which narrowly lost out on a new casino in 2008 when voters capped licenses at the current 13.

This is an early step in the process, but there is clear interest in each of the major Missouri area.  The Kansas City and St Louis markets would be best equipped to absorb the social and economic impacts of a new city over an area such as Cape Girardeau.  With the Missouri legislative session coming to an end, it seems highly unlikely that any legislation will be proposed to lower the number of casinos from 13 down to 12.

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


A Brief Look at Crime 5/3-5/9

St. Charles police arrest woman in Ameristar Casino theft

Police have arrested a woman suspected of swiping a bankroll from a man’s shirt pocket last week at the Ameristar Casino. Trenette Ryland, 34, of the 1300 block of Summergate Parkway in St. Charles County, has been charged with felony stealing.  Police say Ryland yanked $5,366 from a 66-year-old man’s pocket while they were standing near a set of elevators one morning last week at the casino.  Detectives went to her home last Thursday looking for her and spoke to her boyfriend, police said. Ryland later turned herself in at the St. Charles police station.

12,000 pokie players contemplate suicide each year: Oz study

Melbourne,  May  2: More than 12,000  people  in  Victoria contemplate  suicide each year due to their problems  with  poker machine gambling, a 12-month study suggests.  The  study, which consisted of 15,000 Victorians, found that  the prevalence  of  problem gambling in Victoria was the  worst  Down Under, reports News.com.au. ‘A Study of Gambling in Victoria Problem Gambling’ from a  Public Health Perspective was commissioned by the Department of Justice. The research found that more than 27 per cent of problem gamblers and 6 per cent of moderate risk gamblers admitted to  considering taking their own lives.

Deserted boy found at casino

Police were called to SkyCity casino yesterday after a child was found abandoned while his grandparents played bingo. The boy was waiting outside the main gaming room on the casino’s third floor. The Problem Gambling Foundation said the incident provided “very, very sad” evidence of the industry’s impact on families. Police communications inspector Matt Sillars said police attended but had not made any immediate arrests. SkyCity security management at first denied a neglected child had been found. However, SkyCity general counsel Peter Tracey later confirmed security staff found a 10-year-old boy about 10.30am. Tracey said the grandparents were playing bingo on the main gaming floor. He said occasionally people left their children unattended while gambling but they got the message that such behaviour was unacceptable.

Tougher charges against priest accused of stealing $300,000

The potential penalty a Catholic priest faces if found guilty of theft has increased as a result of DuPage County prosecutors being allowed to alter the wording of criminal charges against him. The Rev. John Regan, 46, who served at St. Walter’s Parish in Roselle from 2006 to 2008, is accused of stealing more than $300,000 from parishioners. Regan, who has been treated for a gambling problem, allegedly took cash and checks meant as church offerings and put them into his own bank account, said State’s Attorney Joseph Birkett. Regan paid off personal credit cards and made ATM cash withdrawals at riverboat casinos, Birkett said.

Multiple Casino Robberies Occur Around USA Over Past Week

Casino robberies are not exactly uncommon occurrences, and they seem to occur almost in strings, despite distance. Three significant events have occurred, including two casino hold ups and the robbing of a patron. In San Diego, the Lucky Lady Casino was not so lucky. Three armed assailants had entered the casino at about 9:20 in the morning, and remained in the building for under a minute. The men had escaped on foot, and police are currently searching for the would be robbers. These thieves failed to capture any money during their attempted heist.

On the other side of the nation, a casino had been robbed near Niagara Falls. The Seneca Niagara Casino was robbed by a white male. The male, who is reported to be in his 30’s, had entered the casino’s card room, walked to the cashier’s cage, and demanded a sum of $15,000 dollars under the pretext that he was carrying a weapon. The cashier complied with the burglar, though no weapon was seen.

The third robbery that took place in a casino is one with a slightly humorous ending. Police of Reno, Nevada had arrested three residents who had concocted a scheme to rob guests of the Circus Casino. Police stated that a woman had enticed a male guest up to her room. Upon arrival, two men emerged from the scene and robbed the guest at gun point. The suspects had reportedly brought the victim to the gaming floor in order to tap into his bank account. The casino’s astute security had been signaled that something was awry and subsequently aided in the apprehension of the would be thieves.

Gambino Crime Figure Commits Suicide

81-year old Gambino crime soldier, Anthony Anastasio, fatally shot himself this weekend, just days before he was set to serve a 2 ½ year prison term. Anastasio was convicted for racketeering , arson, and extortion. He was set to surrender himself to authorities on May 10 to begin the prison term. “It was a sudden death and his family is in mourning,” Anastasio’s lawyer, Paul Bergman, said, declining further comment. Police say they found a suicide note allegedly written by Anastasio, a .22-caliber handgun and two shell casings. The Fed’s have continued their aggressive attack against the Gambino crime family in New York. New indictments were handed down for 14 Gambino family members and associates on a variety of charges two weeks ago. The rash of charges in the indictments include extortion , wire fraud , illegal gambling , loansharking , narcotics trafficking, jury tampering , and sex trafficking of minors.

Former T.J. High official pleads guilty to embezzlement

A former financial officer at the region’s top science and technology magnet school pleaded guilty Thursday morning in U.S. District Court in Alexandria to embezzling money from student activities and sports accounts.  Susan Thanh Litwin, 37, who resigned in March after 18 years with the Fairfax County school system, withdrew $279,000 in student funds from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, using most of it to play blackjack in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, court records show.  “She has a gambling addiction,” said her attorney, Gregory Beckwith. Litwin, of Woodbridge, relinquished ownership of a house in Florida on Thursday morning and has plans to forfeit her retirement savings from the school system, worth about $60,000.

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


UPDATE: FL Gov. Charlie Crist makes $1 billion Seminole gambling deal official

Casino Watch Focus reported that the Florida government passed a deal with the Seminole Indians despite major opposition.  Now, the Miami Herald is reporting that the deal has been made official with Gov. Crist’s signature:

With little fanfare, Gov. Charlie Crist on Wednesday signed the bill ratifying the $1 billion Seminole gambling compact with the state and lowering the tax rate on South Florida parimutuels.

The law gives the Seminole Tribe exclusive rights to operate Vegas-style slot machines outside of South Florida for 20 years, and allows the tribe to operate house-banked card games such as blackjack and baccarat at five of its seven facilities for five years. In exchange, the state will receive $435 million this year and at least $1 billion over the next five years.

The bill also opens the door to no-limit poker at parimutuel card rooms, and extends poker hours from 12 to 18 hours Monday through Friday and 24 hours a day on the weekends.

The U.S. Department of Interior must sign off on the ratified compact within 45 days.

With little to no chance of the Department of Interior rejecting the compact, Florida families are in more danger than ever from the impacts of gambling.

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