Monthly Archives: April 2012

Florida Mega Resort Casinos to Appear on 2014 Ballot – Voters Beware

Casino Watch Focus reported that the legislation being pushed by the Genting Group and others to legalize mega-resort casinos died in the legislature during this years session. The leadership in Florida was strong and outspoken against expanded gambling.  They were representative of their constituents as well as a voice of economic and social reason.  Now, The Miami Herald is reporting that the casinos will attempt to go circumvent the legislature and go directly before Florida voters:

After failing to persuade the Florida Legislature to pass a bill to open South Florida to mega resort casinos, gambling interests have taken the first steps to bring the issue directly to voters in 2014.

A political committee under the name of “New Jobs and Revenues for Florida” was created April 10 with the purpose of promoting a “statewide constitutional initiative re gaming.

The only group so far that has expressed an interest in conducting a petition drive to bypass lawmakers and go directly to voters is the Genting Group, the Malaysian-based conglomerate that has kept a low profile since a House committee knocked its chances off the legislative agenda in mid-session.

The petition process will take some time and Florida residents can have a big impact in stopping the measure before it gets off the ground.  The group behind this initiative petition will need to gather a significant amount of votes.  The Miami Herald explains:

The petition process requires that the organization get petitions signed by eight percent of the voters in the last presidential election to put the constitutional amendment on the ballot. The proposal must then be approved by 60 percent of the voters.

That’s a heavy lift, especially since statewide polls showed that while support was high for the casino measure in South Florida, there was less than 60 percent support in every other region of the state. Meanwhile, voters have blocked attempts to authorize casino gambling three other times when casino initiatives were on the ballot in 1978, 1986 and in 1994.

The pari-mutuel industry won approval to bring slot machines to eight race tracks, dog tracks and jai alai frontons only after telling voters the new gambling venues would be limited to Miami Dade and Broward.

This is a critical time for people to step up and make their voices heard.  Missouri knows all too well that the casino industry will spend millions of dollars to orchestrate a deceptive and slick campaign offering false promises in exchange for expanded gambling. Once the public is deceived, they will back peddle on their promises, and instead deliver heart-ache and torment to vulnerable Florida families.  However, The Miami Harold points to a group that is steadfast in its opposition:

No Casinos, the anti-gambling group backed by Disney and Miami auto magnate Norman Braman, is ready to oppose the initiative campaign, said John Sowinski, director of the group.

“Our sense is that legislators weren’t fooled by the slick sales pitch and Florida voters won’t be fooled by it either,’’ he said. “If Genting, or whoever this committee is, filed an amendment to expanding gambling in Florida, we will put together a committee to oppose it and our sense is it will be a similar outcome.”     

Please join No Casinos in your opposition to expanded gambling and help end this petition before the industry has an opportunity to deceive the people.

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


A Brief Look at Crime 04/16 – 4/22

Texas Cockfight Murder: 3 Shot To Death At La Blanca Ranch, Sheriff Says

Masked gunmen opened fire during an illegal cockfight at a Texas ranch near the border with Mexico early Thursday, leaving three people dead and eight wounded, authorities said. People attending the cockfight ran into the brush when shots rang out shortly after midnight at the rural property near La Blanca, about 15 miles northeast of McAllen. Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino said officers are hunting for the gunmen.  Detectives and crime scene technicians picked over the site. The ground was littered with beer cans and cups near the low corrugated metal pavilion with wooden bleachers where the cockfights took place. Cockfights showcase battles between birds that have been fitted with sharp metal blades or curved spikes on their legs. Spectators gamble on which bird will be victorious in the sometimes hour-long fights that end when one or both of the birds are dead or maimed. The last state to ban cockfighting was Louisiana, in 1998.

 Father mowed down and killed on Christmas Eve by gambling addict

A gambling addict who mowed down and killed a father-of-three while racing to a casino has been jailed for more than three years. Peter Chen’s car struck pedestrian Ray Tutton with such force that he was tossed through the air like a ‘bin bag’ and landed more than 30metres away. Chen, 40, had been doing up to 60mph in a 30mph zone and was rushing back to a casino, having had to return home to get more money during a night of gambling. Mr Tutton, 46, and his wife Liz, 47, were walking home from a night out at a pub in Poole, Dorset, when the collision happened in the early hours of Christmas Eve last year.

Man who bankrupted Seattle children’s charity faces prison

The former treasurer of a children’s charity who raided the fund to supplement his already ample earnings could face nearly three years in federal prison. Set to be sentenced Monday morning in U.S. District Court, Randall Morrison, 50, admitted to stealing $142,000 from the Ronald McDonald House Holiday Cruise fund. Morrison served as treasurer of the charity, which paid for holiday events for children and families receiving services through Ronald McDonald House; he was not affiliated with the larger charity, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Western Washington & Alaska. Morrison’s thefts left the smaller holiday charity crippled and largely unable to continue its mission. “The heartlessness of his acts is indescribable,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Masada told the court. Morrison claims he was driven to steal due to gambling debts he’d accrued while struggling to cope with his wife’s health problems.

 Kan. woman pleads to $470K theft from employer

Prosecutors plan to seek prison time for a Topeka woman who pleaded no contest to stealing more than $470,000 from her former employer. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 53-year-old Diane Brandenburg is scheduled for sentencing July 6 in Shawnee County District Court. Her lawyer plans to ask for probation. Brandenburg pleaded no contest Monday to three felony counts stemming from her thefts from a North Topeka sheet metal company where she worked as the business manager. Several other counts were dropped, but both sides agreed that Brandenburg will pay $470,000 in restitution. Prosecutors said that from early 2008 to mid-April 2009, Brandenburg wrote hundreds of company checks to herself but entered them in a computer as payments to vendors. She used the money for gambling.

Former head of police sergeants group pleads guilty to looting $1 million

A former head of the Chicago police sergeants’ union pleaded guilty today to looting more than $1 million in union dues to pay for steak dinners, gambling trips to Las Vegas and a second residence in the city’s Sauganash neighborhood.  John Pallohusky, 56, pleaded guilty to one count of theft, a Class 1 felony punishable by anywhere from probation to 15 years in prison, according to Tandra Simonton, a spokeswoman for the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.  Pallohusky entered his plea “blind,” meaning there is no agreement with prosecutors on his sentence, Simonton said.  Criminal Courts Judge Diane Cannon is scheduled to sentence him on June 1. Pallohusky, who was a 21-year veteran of the force at the time of his 2009 arrest, was accused of writing checks from the Chicago Police Sergeants’ Association to himself and depositing them into his personal accounts. He was also accused of using association credit cards for personal use.

 Hospitality worker admits embezzlement

A former employee of the South Carolina Hospitality Association has admitted she embezzled nearly $500,000 from the group whose director killed himself earlier this year, according to federal court documents. Under a plea agreement with prosecutors signed last month, Rachel Duncan plans to plead guilty next week to federal charges of wire fraud and tax evasion. She faces up to 23 years in prison and $350,000 in fines when she is sentenced. According to prosecutors, the association’s former accounting director took more than $480,000 from the group from 2006 until February of this year, using much of the money for online gambling.

 Newark man charged with stealing $165K by copying checks from Harrah’s casino

Newark man has been indicted on charges he stole $165,000 from Harrah’s Resort and Casino in Atlantic City by making copies of checks and cashing them as well as the originals, the state Attorney General’s Office said today. Terry Dilligard II, 35, allegedly used a color copier or computer scanner to print duplicates of nine checks he received at the casino when he redeemed casino chips, the office said in a news release. The 10-count indictment, handed up Tuesday in Superior Court in Mercer County, charges Dilligard with theft by deception and forgery, the release said. If convicted of the most serious charges, Dilligard faces a maximum 10 years in state prison.

 VFW post’s ex-treasurer pleads not guilty to stealing $300,000 from group

The former treasurer of a Massachusetts Veterans of Foreign Wars post has been released on personal recognizance after pleading not guilty to stealing more than $300,000 from the organization. George Robertson was arraigned Wednesday in Middlesex Superior Court on charges of larceny and false use of the name of a benevolent organization. Prosecutors say the 65-year-old Robertson stole the money from Lynn Post 507 for his personal use, including gambling. Authorities say the Vietnam-era Navy veteran began to steal from the VFW in November 2010 after the group was forced to sell its headquarters because of financial trouble.

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


Is the NFL selling out on gambling?

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on the NFL’s anti-gambling position. The organization doesn’t like gambling on its sport because they know from other sports the propensity for corruption, game fixing and the devastating trail that can be left behind in gambling’s wake. When Delaware legalized single game betting on NFL games, the League vocally opposed the practice.  The NFL even investigated Terrell Owens, Santa Moss and 23 other players for their business investment in a casino, which violated their gambling operation policies.  So imagine the surprise of so many when the NFL announced they would start cashing in and allowing casino’s to advertise with the NFL.  The St. Louis Post Dispatch explains:

The NFL will allow teams to accept advertisements for casinos and other state-licensed gambling-related establishments during the next two seasons. Those ads can appear only in game programs, on local radio broadcasts and in the upper bowl and inner concourses of stadiums. The league told the 32 clubs on Thursday that the change in policy will allow such advertising on a limited basis from casinos in their markets.

The League claims to be steadfast in their opposition to gambling on their games, yet they seem to be fine with accepting the money of gambling institutions and in turn, promoting the practices that, at their core, the NLF disagrees with.  If the NFL is willing to prevent its players from investing in casino operations, then it appears to be incredibly hypocritical for them to accept a casino’s advertisement dollars, while using the extraordinary NFL brand to promote them.  Fox Charlotte breaks down the message this policy change communicates:

“I think the first message is, they are out to make as much money as they can in advertising,” said ESPN 730 radio announcer Bill Rosinski. As the former voice of the Panthers, Rosinski is quite familiar with the NFL’s policy on gambling. He says the league works hard to keep its coaches, players and management away from the betting industry. Revenue from gambling ads could bring in an extra $4 to $6 million a year for teams.

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


A Brief Look at Crime 04/09 – 4/15

Suspect arrested after mutilated body found inside Mississippi casino, authorities say

Mississippi authorities responded early Thursday morning to the Hollywood Casino in Tunica and found an irate white male and mutilated body of a white female inside a hotel room, authorities said. Security at the casino called the Tunica County Sheriff’s Office at 5:52 a.m. reporting screams from a hotel room and when police arrived they were met by a combative man, Bettye Hale, the executive assistant to the sheriff, told FoxNews.com. The suspect, from Collierville, Tenn., was promptly tasered and rushed to nearby Baptist DeSoto Hospital, Hale said. Authorities have not released the names of the victim or the suspect because the families have yet to be informed of the incident. Hale said the couple may have had a history of domestic violence.

 Lawyer in hot water over paralegal’s theft

A Hamilton, Ont., lawyer who worked with former paralegal Shellee Spinks is facing sanction after a Law Society of Upper Canada hearing panel found him guilty of professional misconduct stemming from Spinks’ theft of $893,000 from his trust account. Michael Puskas, according to facts admitted at a hearing on March 30, provided Spinks with pass code information connected to his Teraview account, administrative access, and unsupervised use of an old trust account used for mortgage transactions at his Hamilton law firm between 2002 and 2008. Spinks then used Puskas’ pass code and letterhead and forged his signature to transfer money from the old trust account to her personal bank account to feed an extensive gambling habit without the lawyer’s knowledge.

 Georgia police arrest 18 in illegal gambling raids

Law officers seized more than $100,000 in cash and assets and arrested 18 during illegal gambling raids in Clayton County, Ga. Local authorities said Wednesday that a six-week investigation was launched after they received numerous complaints from businesses concerned about suspicious traffic around eight stores. An undercover officer said calls also were received from relatives saying that loved ones spent money on gambling machines, which are illegal in Georgia. The businesses being investigated had back rooms with gambling machines that would produce vouchers that players could redeem for cash and other items, officials claimed Wednesday.

 Accountant Steals Money to Fund Online Gambling Habit

A British accountant, responsible for keeping the books for a south English town council, has been exposed stealing well over 300,000 GBP ($500,000) from the taxpayers as the latest casino gambling news report. The man has carried out 17 fraudulent transactions to fund his voracious online blackjack playing. The gambler started small, first by stealing in the neighborhood of 2,000 GBP. Soon after his losing black jack strategies led to bigger fraud. At one time, the bookkeeper withdrew as much as 55,000 GBP ($85,000) in a single transaction.

 17 charged in gambling raid on Gunbarrel Road, one man shot

Several well-known Chattanoogans were cited with illegal gambling Thursday night and one man was shot after a raid on Gunbarrel Road, police say. Four suspects were arrested on gambling and drug-related charges, while 13 others were given citations for illegal gambling and released, said Chattanooga police spokesman Officer Nathan Hartwig. The raid took place about 10 p.m. Thursday at ATC Healthcare at 1618 Gunbarrel Road, he said. When the officers entered the building, 32 year-old Clifford Billups ran out the back door and pointed a handgun at the officers, Hartwig said. One of the officers shot Billups, who was taken to Erlanger hospital for a minor injury, he said. Officers conducted a search of the building and vehicles and found gambling paraphernalia, marijuana and pills, Hartwig said. About $26,000 also was seized, he said.

Fraudster must pay $750,000 in compo

A South Coast mother who ripped off more than $1.1 million from her employer has been ordered to pay compensation to her victims. Diane Felkin was sentenced last month to a minimum 2 years’ jail for the fraud, which she claimed was committed to feed her son’s crippling gambling addiction. Yesterday, Judge Paul Conlon formally directed the 61-year-old pay $750,000 compensation to her former employers – the maximum amount available under the court’s jurisdiction. Making the order, Judge Conlon noted Felkin still owed the one-time owners of Batemans Bay Motors around $915,000, despite already repaying them $200,000.

 Employee’s gambling to blame for missing money and suicide

A handwritten letter penned by a prominent hospitality executive before he killed himself blames his organization’s former accountant for transferring the group’s money through her personal checking account to offshore accounts to pay for online gambling. The letter is the last known communication from Sponseller, who was found dead Feb. 28 in a storage room off the underground parking garage of the Lady Street office building where he worked. He had been reported missing 10 days earlier by his family. A handwriting analysis conducted by the State Law Enforcement Division confirmed Sponseller wrote the letter, said Richland County Coroner Gary Watts, who investigated the cause of death.

The letter sheds more light onto a secret federal investigation tied to the association’s missing money, the woman accused of taking it and her relationship with her boss. It is Sponseller’s version of the story, and it accuses Duncan of abusing his trust to spend association money on online casino games that gambling experts say are illegal, addictive and impossible to win. The S.C. Hospitality Association, a trade group that represents the state’s hotels and restaurants, has reported that an audit of its financial records found $480,000 missing between 2009 and 2012. Sponseller was the group’s executive director and lobbyist.

The letter, which was not addressed to anyone, never states any intention of committing suicide, but it makes it clear that Sponseller regarded Duncan’s revelations as a crushing disappointment. “After working so hard to build the association over the past 21½ years, I am ashamed that I let this happen on my watch,” Sponseller wrote.

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


Zynga to face legal challenges if they leave Facebook and pursue online gambling

Casino Watch Focus reported that online social media giant Facebook was looking into online gambling.  Their partnerships with other developers like Zynga has provided an infrastructure for dealing with payments that could translate to real money gambling.  Casino Watch Focus then reported that developer Zynga was seriously considering entering the online gambling arena as well given they have a similar infrastructure and already offer free versions of gambling games like Poker.  Now, a online legal source is reporting that such a move will be met with serious legal hurdles:

Zynga Inc. is thinking about making a big bet on gambling, a step that analysts say could help end its dependence on Facebook Inc. It certainly won’t end its dependence on legal counsel. The technology may be simple, but lawyers say the company probably isn’t prepared for the intricate maze of regulations it will have to navigate to cash in on the action. Add to that the exhaustive financial and background checks Zynga executives and some shareholders might have to endure, and the company’s legal department is facing a huge undertaking.

I think they may be underestimating the difficulties they are going to face,” said Whittier Law School professor I. Nelson Rose, an expert on gambling law. “I know even European gaming operators are always surprised when they find out how invasive the U.S. regulators are in trying to find out everything.”

And if and when Zynga does start offering online gambling, dealing with compliance related to issues such as money laundering will have to become a top priority for its legal department, and that will likely mean hiring more in-house counsel. Many regulated gaming companies have substantial internal legal departments, Dayanim said. But whatever route Zynga decides to take, it will be new territory for all involved. “We haven’t seen a situation anywhere where a social gaming company has moved into the gambling space,” Dayanim said. “I can’t think of any company that has done it.”

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


A Brief Look at Crime 04/02 – 4/08

Murder/suicide came after man lost $200,000 at casinos

The 55-year-old man who is believed to have murdered his 50-year-old partner before turning a knife on himself, lost nearly $200,000 in a little more than a day before their bodies were discovered by police in a Richmond, B.C. hotel room more than a year ago. A coroner’s report obtained by The Richmond Review sheds new light on what factors may have precipitated the murder/suicide at the Hampton Inn on Jan. 8, 2011. The report details the investigation into the deaths of Chin Yao Hu and his female companion, Miao Zhen Chen, with whom he frequently gambled at local casinos. According to the report, Hu borrowed $200,000 from a famly member on the afternoon of Jan. 6, promising to repay the money in two days and letting the family member know he was planning to gamble. “That same family member received a call from Mr. Hu around midnight on the 7th of January, advising that he had lost approximately $100,000 of the money he had borrowed,” the report said.

 Gambling addiction leads to 72 fraud charges

A woman who stole more than $200,000 from her employer did it to feed a gambling addiction, police allege. From February 2009 to May 2010, Wendy Colleen James, of Gavin Way, Lake Haven stole a total of $215,042.60 from her employer – Marlborough Medical Service Pty, which trades as Good Health Green Hills.  James, 54, pleaded guilty to 72 charges of obtaining money by deception while working as practice manager for the Maitland doctor surgery. The theft was uncovered by an accountant who was hired by the company director to examine its accounts. During interviews with the investigating officer James admitted guilt and showed remorse for her actions.

‘Hanged suspect had gambling addiction’

THE 50-year old man who killed himself last Tuesday as police were close to arresting him on suspicion of carrying out two armed robberies reportedly left a suicide note to his father confessing his gambling addiction, it emerged yesterday. According to yesterday’s Politis, the man left a note before hanging himself, calling on his father to look after his children. The 50-year-old reportedly told his father that due to his gambling addiction, he had amassed huge debts that he could not pay off. The man is believed to have carried out two armed bank robberies in Nicosia, one at gunpoint, the other with a knife — on December 2 and January 29 – getting away with some €10,500.  He wore sunglasses and a leather jacket during the robberies, making no other effort to cover his face. 

 Local priest sentenced to prison time

A local priest has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from a parishioner. The victim put him on a pedestal as high as the ceiling.  But he didn’t deserve to be there.  Michael Angeloni is accused of stealing more than $300,000 from a parishioner and from collection plates. The state argued the punishment must fit the crime-a massive betrayal of community trust.  And that’s why Superior Court Judge Diane Streett sentenced Angeloni to 10 years behind bars, suspended after one year.  Angeloni admits he has a severe gambling addiction and has lost almost everything because of it.  The money he stole from his 86-year-old victim was meant to save his home from a sheriff’s sale, but instead was wasted, gambling at Delaware Park.  

 Former York Symphony Orchestra employee pleads guilty to stealing $200,000

The York Symphony Orchestra’s former office manager pleaded guilty this morning to stealing more than $200,000 from the organization to support her gambling addiction. Phyllis Ann Shoff, 55, pleaded guilty to charges of theft by deception and access-device fraud.  With an audit of the orchestra’s funds under way, York City Police charged Shoff in August with taking roughly $58,000 during a four-year period. Police filed additional charges Dec. 6, citing another almost $150,000 that was taken and stating that the thefts began in 2004. In an interview with Follmer on Aug. 11,  Shoff “admitted that she had stolen money belonging to the YSO, saying only that she had a gambling problem and she didn’t realize the extent of her problem,” according to charging documents.

 Bookmaker Pleads Guilty To Money Laundering

A man accused of running a large-scale, illegal sports betting operation pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in New Haven Monday to one count of money laundering. Federal prosecutors said that, between 2006 and 2009, Paul J. Graziano, 45, of Burlington, ran an extensive illegal gambling business in which other bookmakers, with their own networks of customers, reported to him. Investigators, who are withholding many details of the operation, said Graziano used two Internet betting websites in his operation and paid commissions to bookmakers who worked for him, to cover their losses or to reward them for finding new customers. Between 2006 and 2009, federal authorities said Graziano was responsible for the deposit of 26 checks worth more than $500,000 into accounts he controlled. The money represented payments for gambling losses, prosecutors said.

 Credit union employee stole $250,000

30-year-old Central City woman is suspected of stealing more than $250,000 from a Black Hawk credit union.  Autumn Rene Guillot, who worked for the  Credit Union of the Rockies,   allegedly stole the money a little at a time by taking cash from a vault and altering ledgers, according to a Gilpin  County District Attorney’s Office media release. Guillot was one of two employees at the small branch office. Bank officials became suspicious in November 2011 when an unannounced spot audit uncovered discrepancies in the ledger. Guillot was a regular gambler at Gilpin County casinos, according to an  arrest affidavit, and she lost big —  $73,000 —  in 2011.

 Former Chief Financial Officer of Irvine Technical Firm Arrested Upon Entering the U.S. for Embezzling $16 Million from Employer

A former chief finanancial officer for an Irvine-based company was ordered to be returned to California after being arrested for embezzling approximately $16 million from his employer, announced Steven Martinez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office; and André Birotte, Jr, the United States Attorney in Los Angeles. The complaint further alleges that Ibrahim telephonically contacted company executives after the fraud was discovered. At that time, Ibrahim acknowledged that he made the unauthorized transfers and that the money was spent on gambling and personal expenses. Ibrahim advised that he was prepared to return a portion of the money if company executives did not report him to law enforcement and did not sue him for the money.

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


NCAA March Madness tops Super Bowl in gambling

Casino Watch Focus reported that the Super Bowl is know as the largest gambling sports event pointing to over $8 billion in gambling each year since 2007.  This year the estimate gambling amount grew to over $10 billion.  Casino Watch Focus also reported that NCAA March Madness would result in billions of dollars lost in gambling and work place productiveity as millions of people followed the Tournament from 68 teams to the eventual final Champion Kentucky Wildcats.  Apparently, the gambling on the NCAA Championship tournament has now passed the Super Bowl as the number one sports gambling sporting event.  The USA Today explains:

March Madness is beating out Super Bowl as the biggest sports betting bonanza of the year, according to sports gambling experts in Las Vegas. Super Bowl traditionally ranks as the No. 1 event for sports bettors. But bracket betting fever continues to grow. March Madness is now No. 1, says Jay Kornegay, manager of the LVH Race and Sports Superbook in Sin City.

Nevada doesn’t break out NCAA basketball betting vs. NBA betting. But the state’s legalized sports books typically see a $100 million jump in total basketball betting every March, Streshley says. In 2011, gamblers wagered $256.6 million on college/pro basketball in March vs. $114.3 million in February. With the Big Dance wrapped over by early April, the basketball handle for that month then dropped back to $78.2 million.

Of course, the money bet legally on March Madness is peanuts to the amount wagered illegally through offshore sports books, street corner bookies and office bracket pools. Over $12 billion total will be on 2012 March Madness compared to $10 billion for the 2012 Super Bowl, estimates RJ Bell of Pregame.com.

If you know someone who has become snared in the sports gambling net, please utilize one of any gambling addition resources.  A recent Casino Watch Focus article points to a new online site to help combat NCAA gambling.  Check it out at www.CollegeGambling.org.

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