Monthly Archives: January 2013

Super Bowl gambling, harmless fun or addictive behavior?

Super Bowl XLVII brings the big game back to New Orleans for the first time in over 10 years and in the post Hurricane Katrina era. Super Bowl 47 also brings headlines of two brothers facing off for the first time in Super Bowl history being dubbed the HarBowl, after the respective coaches’ last name Harbaugh. Millions of people will engage in this social event and spend time at parties across the country.  However, Super Bowl Sunday is also one of the largest social gambling events in the nation. The Morning Sentinel points to the 2007 Super Bowl as having an estimated $8 billion in wagers placed on its outcome. This flashy, center-stage event brings out several “social” gamblers, some of whom consider placing little bets here and there, and on unusual outcomes, known as prop bets.  These prop bets are generally for some ridiculous situations.  Yahoo Sports provides various examples:

Times “Harbaugh” will be said during game: over/under 21.5.  Length of postgame handshake/hug between Harbaugh brothers: over/under 7.5 seconds. Times Jack Harbaugh shown during game: over/under 2.5. How long will it take Alicia Keys to sing National Anthem: over/under 2 minutes, 15 seconds.  Will Alicia Keys be booed? Yes is +500 (bet $100 to win $500).  Will Alicia Keys mess up the lyrics? Yes is +170. Will Jay-Z join Beyonce on stage during halftime show? Yes is +110. Will Beyonce’s hair be straight, not curly? Yes is +110.

Obviously these Super Bowl bets range from straightforward to ridiculous, but are they just for fun or harmful? The Morning Sentinel article reported that Guy Cousins, acting director of Maine Office of Substance Abuse, estimates that 3 to 5 percent of those who participate in wagering will become problem gamblers. Another expert mentioned, Lee Thompson, president of the Maine Council on Problem Gambling explained, “We’ve seen an increase in the calls from Maine to the Nation Council on Problem Gambling hotline, from eight calls a month in 2003 to over 100 a month in 2006.”

It appears that the glitzy glam of the Super Bowl attracts people to make social wagers, a harmless bit of fun in their mind. But the dollar amount waged on the Super Bowl climbs each year, as does the number of problem gamblers.

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

 


A Brief Look at Crime 01/21 – 01/27

Game room robberies on the rise

Since April of 2012, Houston police say they have investigated more than 40 game room robberies. Game rooms are prime targets because most of them operate illegally paying out cash to customers and sometimes because of the illegal gambling that goes unreported. HPD’s Major Offenders Division is investigating many of these robberies including two that occurred last October in the 1300 block of Bellaire. Investigators are hoping one of our viewers can help. The department provided two surveillance videos from the two game room robberies. At least three suspects were involved in the crimes. They drove what appears to be a four-door Honda Civic with a bumper that had not been painted. The bumper sticks out and detectives want to know if you have seen this vehicle. Over the past few years, many customers have not only been robbed, but assaulted. In some instances there were deaths.

 International crime ring stole millions from Medicare, laundered through casinos

An elaborate, international health-care fraud ring that stole millions from taxpayers started to come unraveled when an Ohio gynecologist called investigators after receiving insurance payments for male patients. Ultimately, two California men went to federal prison in May as purported ringleaders of the operation, but not before making off with more than $13 million in Medicare payments for nonexistent medical services in a case that illustrates a common health-care fraud scheme. An elaborate, international health-care fraud ring that stole millions from taxpayers started to come unraveled when an Ohio gynecologist called investigators after receiving insurance payments for male patients. Ultimately, two California men went to federal prison in May as purported ringleaders of the operation, but not before making off with more than $13 million in Medicare payments for nonexistent medical services in a case that illustrates a common health-care fraud scheme. Then they laundered the money, according to court records, setting up fake businesses to do so. They also deposited cash into casino accounts and withdrew it as gambling chips.

 Woman charged in double stabbing at Reno casino

Reno police have arrested a woman accused of stabbing two other women in a Reno casino. Police say 26-year-old Vanessa Hernandez-Duenas argued with the two women before stabbing them shortly before 5:30 a.m. Monday at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa. One woman was stabbed in the lower back and the other in her side. The second victim is six months pregnant but police say no one’s life is threatened by the injuries. The suspect was caught on security video surveillance and was located within several blocks of the casino on South Virginia Street. She was booked on suspicion of two counts of battery with a deadly weapon.

 Palm Beach Gardens man pleads guilty to kidnapping plot 

Former New Jersey attorney Michael Melillo faces life in prison having pleaded guilty today to masterminding the kidnapping of a wealthy BallenIsles businessman in May. Wearing navy blue jail scrubs with his hands and legs restrained, the man who charmed philanthropists and bragged about his art and wine collections pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit kidnapping after calmly discussing his background with U.S. District Judge Daniel Hurley. Melillo, who graduated from Seton Hall law school and moved to Palm Beach Gardens roughly 10 years ago to run a family-owned debt consolidation business, assured Hurley he did.

However, despite his law degree and the years he spent representing people in personal injury lawsuits, the 50-year-old in May was duped by federal agents into believing they were criminals for hire instead of experienced G-men who were reeling him in. In a series of meetings and telephone conversations, the undercover agents convinced Melillo they would kidnap his nemesis and hold him for $20 million in ransom. Facing foreclosure and other financial problems, he said he wanted the money for his 3-year-old son. He also said he was seeking revenge, Waters said. He blamed his intended target for $100,000 in gambling losses.

 Pennsylvania bookkeeper gets year in jail for theft, forgery

Mt. Pleasant, PA, bookkeeper will spend nearly one year in jail after she was sentenced Tuesday for embezzling more than $400,000 from a Greensburg accounting firm to buy scratch-off lottery tickets. Joyce M. Markiewics, 47, pleaded guilty to theft and forgery charges for writing 97 bogus paychecks over a four-year period that started in 2006 while she worked at Wilder & Co. According to court records, Markiewics used her husband’s name to create a fake employee who was routinely paid with company checks. She used the stolen money to pay for her gambling habit, she told the judge. Markiewics claimed she was addicted to scratch-off Pennsylvania Lottery tickets, according to court records.

 Gas bar manager stole over $400,000

The former manager of a north-end gas bar, who defrauded the owner of between $400,000 and $500,000 to fund his addiction to online gambling, will be sentenced March 28.  Christopher Homenuk, 41, of Brantford, pleaded guilty in Ontario Court on Wednesday to two counts of fraud over $5,000. He had no prior record. A pre-sentence report was ordered. Between January 2004 and July 2012, Homenuk skimmed between $400,000 and $500,000 in cash from the Brantwood Park Road gas bar, one of several independent stations owned by Davis Fuels Inc. When questioned by police, Homenuk confessed his crime and said that about 70% of the missing money had gone to his gambling debts, while the rest was used to provide him with a “carefree” life. Homenuk told police that he got involved in online gambling and, despite being “really bad at it,” he continued. The deeper he got in, the worse it became, he told police.

 Former Drilling Controller Pleads Guilty to $5.4M Theft

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The former controller of a natural gas drilling company pleaded guilty Wednesday to helping the company’s former chief operating officer steal more than $5.4 million from the western Pennsylvania business — including $557,000 she kept for herself. Cheryl Diane Brooks, 43, of Clymer, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and three counts each of mail fraud and tax fraud and will return for sentencing May 31 before a federal judge in Pittsburgh. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Melucci told the judge the thefts began when Brooks wrote a check for Falcon Drilling LLC’s former chief operating officer to help him cover a gambling debt in 2004. Federal prosecutors calculated the total loss to Falcon at $5.4 million when Brooks was charged in December, but on Wednesday Melucci said nearly $10 million has now been discovered missing from the company.

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


NFL, MLB, NHL and NCAA Joined by Federal Government in Lawsuit Against New Jersey Sports Betting Legislation

Casino Watch Focus reported that all virtually all the major sports organizations joined together in a lawsuit to stop a recently passed law in New Jersey.  Its certainly not the first time the NFL or others have sought to defeat sports betting gambling expansion, but in an interesting turn of events, the Federal Government is now entering the discussion.  The Chicago Tribune reports:

In papers filed in a New Jersey federal court on Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice said it wants to defend the constitutionality of a federal law that restricts sports gambling.

New Jersey’s law, signed last year by Governor Chris Christie, would allow sports betting at the state’s racetracks and at Atlantic City casinos. It would allow the racetracks and casinos to apply for licenses and open gambling operations for amateur and professional sports.

A slew of leagues, including the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League, sued the state in August, saying the law would violate the federal restrictions on sports betting.

 New Jersey attempted to have the suit thrown out, but the motion was denied.  The same judge has also officially ruled that the government can intervene and present oral arguments.

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

 


A Brief Look at Crime 01/14 – 01/20

Palms to pay $1 million fine to settle drug, prostitution complaint

The parent company of the Palms has agreed to pay a $1 million fine to settle a 17-count complaint by the Nevada Gaming Control Board resulting from a failure to prevent illegal activity, including drug sales and prostitution, at clubs on the property. FP Holdings L.P. also agreed to pay $78,000 to cover the cost of the control board’s investigation. “We are deeply concerned and disappointed about the matters outlined in the complaint as they are not consistent with the values of our company,” the Palms said Friday in a statement. “We are resolved to address these problems comprehensively and decisively.” The Nevada Gaming Commission must approve the settlement. The violations contained in the 21-page complaint made public Friday were gathered during a joint undercover investigation by the board and Las Vegas police.

 2 shot, 1 killed in NE Atlanta shopping plaza

After receiving a call about illegal gambling in the area, Atlanta police heard gunshots and found one man dead and another injured Monday night. Officers said they found nearly two dozen bullet shell casings at the North Plaza Shopping Center on North Avenue. “It appears that at least 20 shots were fired and people were fleeing. We don’t know if the victims were the intended targets at the time,” Lt. Paul Guerrucci of the Atlanta Police Department said. Two men in their 20s were shot. “They ran a short distance. One collapsed on Boulevard and the other collapsed on North Avenue,” Guerrucci said. Police said one of the men died on the way to Atlanta Medical Center and the other is in critical condition.

 Flowers stole $250,000 from Brisbane dog track and blew it all on the pokies

The Brisbane District Court heard on Tuesday that Flowers mainly stole from cash floats at the racing club, which she topped up with money from a club bank account. The court heard she fudged account records to hide her fraud and falsified documents to present to the club committee at its monthly meetings.  Her stealing was detected in March 2012 when the club’s CEO stumbled upon a number of anomalies. The court heard Flowers made full admissions, telling police she had taken the money to feed her gambling addiction. Her barrister, Peter Nolan, acknowledged the dog track was not a suitable place of employment for a gambling addict and said his client intended to return to a career in graphic design when she was released from prison.

 Miami officer relieved of duty in corruption probe

Another Miami police officer has been relieved of duty as part of an ongoing probe of suspected corruption rooted at the police department’s Model City substation, sources said. On Tuesday, officer Angel Mercado, 29, was relieved of duty with pay while the investigation continues. Mercado is at least the seventh officer to resign or be relieved of duty in the wake of the probe, which focuses on a group of officers suspected of providing off-the-books protection for a Liberty City gambling house. Arrests are expected in the next few weeks from the investigation, which is being led by the FBI and the Internal Affairs Unit of the Miami Police Department.

 Online Gambling Pioneer Sentenced to Three Years Probation

Bill Scott, the founder of once powerful World Wide Tele Sports, has been sentenced to three years of probation for violating the US Wire Act and money laundering.  Scott also had to forfeit $6,786,934.65 from various US bank accounts.  Scott, once among the biggest shareholders in online gambling software company Cryptologic, surrendered to US authorities back in September.  He had been indicted twice back in 1998 for violating US gambling laws.  For nearly 15 years, Scott remained on the lam, living primarily in the Caribbean island nation of St. Marten. 20 other individuals were indicted in connection with a massive probe into offshore gambling back in 1998.  At least one individual ended up serving a one night sentence after returning to the US.  Many others received light probation sentences.

 Dad sells kids to pay off his debts

A lorry driver deep in gambling debts sold three of his children to pay off his creditors. The children’s mother, Liew Kim Yow, 27, said the 25-year-old man, whom she referred to as her “boyfriend” because they were not legally married, had suggested in September that his mother take care of their two sons, aged one and three and their five-year-old daughter, while they went to Singapore to work. Department head Datuk Seri Michael Chong urged those who had “adopted” the children to contact his office immediately. “As there were no court orders for these adoptions, they are not legal. If the adoptive parents’ refuse to come forward, we will bring them to court,” he said. He said that if the children’s father was found to have “sold” them, he could be charged with human trafficking.

 Feds: Tenn. woman stole $300K in VA grants

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Federal prosecutors charged a woman in Nashville with taking money from Veterans Affairs grants that she said was to be used for housing for homeless veterans, and they are seeking reimbursement of over $300,000. Birdie Anderson operated Next Stage Inc., a nonprofit that claimed to provide training, outreach and housing for homeless veterans. Anderson received grants from the VA to provide housing and other support for homeless veterans, but prosecutors claim she made false statements and kept some of the money intended for veterans. The affidavit said a review of her bank account and the charity’s bank accounts said checks were written and debit cards were used at various gambling casinos in Mississippi and Indiana. During the search, investigators seized several documents and files relating to Anderson and her charity, as well as several casino player cards and lottery tickets.

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

 


After Failed Federal Attempts, Online Poker Efforts to Shift from National to State Platforms

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the numerous attempts to legalize online poker, including a recent report explaining that Senator Harry Reid’s latest, yearly-attempt to legalize online poker at the national level, had failed again.  After so many failed attempts at the federal level, it looks like the new goal of the online poker lobbyists will be to focus on passing State legislations. An online source explains:

Ever since the movement for legalized online poker grew out of the threat from the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act six years ago, the poker lobby’s focus has been to obtain regulation at the federal level. This focus will change in 2013 as the future of online poker in the U.S. moves to a state-by-state basis.

The proposal last year from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and now former Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) would have regulated Internet poker while prohibiting other forms of online gambling to get support from liberals and conservatives. This proposal was the best chance for legislation at the federal level. Reid’s office claims there might still be an opportunity to pass the bill this year, but passage will be difficult without Kyl in office to deliver Republican support. Poker lobbyists aren’t going to completely abandon Capitol Hill, but it’s become clear that their focus is better placed elsewhere.

For those looking to protect families from the dangers of easy access and unsecured online gambling, it would be wise to be wary of local lobbyist efforts, as they have indicated a great deal of money and resources will be spent to win on a these smaller battlegrounds.  The online source continues:

With the PPA’s focus moving to the states, expect to see more grassroots campaigns at the state level in 2013. “We certainly could mimic some of the things we’ve done at the federal level in terms of fly-ins, paid advertisements, letters to the editor, op-eds and media placements in a variety of papers throughout the states from a poker players perspective,” Pappas said. “There are a number of ways to ramp up the grassroots and activity, and we’re considering all of those.”

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

 

 


A Brief Look at Crime 01/07 – 01/13

Woman dies from gunshot wound in apartment fight

A young woman was killed Saturday evening in an apparent confrontation at a Jacksonville apartment, police said. The unidentified woman, believed to be in her 20s, was shot, said Sgt. Shawn Coarsey of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office homicide unit.  The call came about 7:05 p.m. at an apartment in the 2400 block of East Lincoln Court. “Sounds like they were gambling, maybe rolling dice,” Coarsey said. There were several people in the apartment at the time, he said. A confrontation occurred and the woman was shot. Police do not know if she was the intended target or not. The victim was transported to a local hospital, where she died, Coarsey said.

Woman sentenced to 10 years in embezzlement case

A 60-year-old woman from Laurel was sentenced to serve 10 years in prison Friday for employee embezzlement that totaled more than $350,000. Brenda Taylor Wilson, originally of Salisbury, entered an Alford plea Nov. 14 as part of a plea agreement reached in the chambers of Wicomico County Circuit Court Judge W. Newton Jackson III. Jackson sentenced Wilson to 20 years in prison, with all but 10 suspended, as well as three years of supervised probation. Additionally, she was ordered to pay restitution of the stolen funds in excess of $350,000. Wilson was charged with stealing more than $180,000 from Richard J. “Dicky” Smith Jr. of Salisbury and Kimmerly Messick of Ocean City, as well as $150,000 from BRF Inc. and $21,000 from Chesapeake Airways, both formerly based in Salisbury.  The prosecution claimed she stole the money to gamble. “The court documents seem to speak for themselves, which is why she entered the Alford plea,” said Tamika Fulton, Wilson’s court appointed defense attorney.

 Multifest Executive Director to repay $435,000 in embezzlement plea

Multifest Executive Director Susan Stark, 55, pleaded guilty to tax fraud charges Friday in U.S. Federal Court. Stark admitted that she stole more than $300,000 from Multi Cultural Festival of WV, Inc, the organization that runs Multifest. The money was written in small checks to herself and family members for gambling expenses, according to court records. The money was not reported to the Internal Revenue Service as income. “Obviously $300,000 is a substantial amount of money to any company, but it’s especially significant to a small business or charity,” said US Attorney Booth Goodwin in a news release about the plea. ” Starks admitted that beginning in or about 2005 and continuing until 2010, she embezzled approximately $306,000 from MultiFest. She also admitted additional unreported taxable income of approximately $200,000.  

 Debtors’ Prison In Las Vegas

The recent arrest of retired NFL star Joey Porter in Bakersfield, Calif., spotlights the casino industry’s disturbing partnership with law enforcement.   Porter was arrested for an unpaid $70,000 gambling debt to the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.. This follows other high-profile instances where casinos have used the threat of imprisonment to force monetary payments, a stark contrast to the traditional American civil justice system.  Ostensibly, the bad check unit of Las Vegas’ Clark County District Attorney’s Office functions as a collection agency for the casinos. The unit prosecutes gamblers who do not pay their markers, which are loans from the casinos in Vegas parlance, and they even charge a 10 percent commission on their collections.   The law may strike one as unconstitutional, if not un-American at the very least, as it defies the American tradition of bankruptcy laws, rather than debtors’ prisons.

 Ex-Conn. casino tribe chairman charged with theft

The former chairman of the tribe that runs one of the world’s largest casinos and his brother, the tribe’s treasurer, have been charged with stealing a combined $800,000 from their Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, federal prosecutors in Connecticut said Friday. The indictments returned by a federal grand jury in Hartford follow a lengthy FBI investigation at the tribe’s tiny reservation in rural southeastern Connecticut, where it owns and operates Foxwoods Resort Casino. The former chairman, Michael Thomas, 44, is accused of stealing more than $100,000 between 2007 and 2009 during his tenure as leader of the tribal council, a position he was ousted from over his handling of the tribe’s finances. His brother, treasurer Steven Thomas, 38, allegedly stole more than $700,000 between 2005 and 2008 when he was assistant director of the tribe’s natural resources department.

 Gambler left suicide note

A man with a gambling habit hanged himself leaving a note saying he was broke and felt he had no future, an inquest heard yesterday. Norfolk Coroner William Armstrong said lessons could be learned from the tragic suicide of Alan Tidy if, as a result, other people with gambling and debt problems sought the help available to them. His friend, Peter Pearman, said he went to look for Mr Tidy on September 8 because he had not been heard from and was not answering his mobile phone. He went to Mr Tidy’s usual betting shop and then to his home, where he lived alone. He knocked on the doors but received no answer. Everything inside seemed to be in order but on looking through the bedroom window he saw Mr Tidy hanging. Mr Armstrong read part of a note left by Mr Tidy saying: “I’m sorry if I have let you down.  I can’t go on any more. I’m broke. There is no future any more. God bless you all.” He said it appeared from the evidence that Mr Tidy was gambling regularly, lost money, got into financial difficulties and was suffering from anxiety.

 Three Bookies Sentenced to Five Years in Prison:  One Shot His Wife

Three men have been sentenced for their role in a Columbia gambling ring authorities say is connected to a double murder suspect. U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles says Lanny Ray Gunter was sentenced Tuesday to five months in prison and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine. Harry Benenhaley and Ronald Dale Spence were each sentenced to five years probation. The men pleaded guilty in October to running a gambling operation, taking in thousands of dollars on any given day. They were charged as a result of an investigation of another alleged sports bookie. Authorities say Brett Parker needed money and shot his wife, Tammy, and Bryan Capnerhurst – another alleged bookie – in the couple’s home in April to make it look like self-defense. Parker is still awaiting trial.

 FIFA bans 41 players due to match-fixing

The 41 had already been banned for life by the Korea Football Association following the scandal which erupted in 2011 and involved matches played the previous year. The scandal led the South Korean government to threaten to wind up the K-League if action was not taken.  Ten other players involved in match-fixing were given worldwide bans by FIFA in June while in March, South Korea’s volleyball association banned 11 players for life in a bid to curb corruption in domestic sport. FIFA said that a reprieve had been offered to 21 players who turned themselves in during the voluntary reporting period and expressed “grave regret” about their involvement in match-fixing. The players would have to undergo a probation period of between two and five years, including periods of community service ranging from 200 to 500 hours.

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


Has CBS Sports Entered into the New Form of Online Gambling?

Casino Watch Focus reported the emergence of a new type of online gambling known as “penny auctions.”  Penny actions are predicated on an online auction system similar to eBay, but the hook is that each time you bid it cost you money. That money is non-refundable and the price of the item only increases when a new person bids.  You could by a $500 iPad for $25 dollars, but everyone who bid loses their money.  People are gambling a few dollars at a time to win something of much greater value.  It flew under the radar because it had the appearance of something innocuous, in this case an auction for everyday items.  Much can be said for a new form of gambling stemming from Fantasy Football.  This new type of gambling involves short-duration contest, where people compete against each other for cash in what is essentially just games of chance.  As Forbes explains, CBS Sports has entered this realm and its risky, illegal potential is certain to be examined:

Earlier this week,  CBS Sports launched Playoff Challenge — a new, play-for-cash “fantasy football” game that involves projecting NFL player performance during this year’s playoffs and Super Bowl. With this launch, CBS becomes the first public company to move into the riskiest fringe of the fantasy sports marketplace — hosting cash-based, ‘short duration’ fantasy contests.

The ‘short duration’ fantasy market emerged in the United States  in 2009 when start-up companies such as Fan Duel and Draft Street decided to launch daily and weekly player-pick’em contests despite their legal risk.

‘Short duration’ fantasy games differ from traditional games in several respects.  Most notably, the length of ‘short duration’ games is condensed — leaving contestants with less time to compensate for a single bad day.  In addition, most ‘short duration’ games allow multiple league members to ‘own’ the same player.  This feature renders many traditional aspects of fantasy sports, such as trading players and free agency, obsolete. The unique features of ‘short duration’ fantasy games make them more susceptible to legal challenge under some state gambling laws.  For example, in many states, courts will find play-for-cash fantasy games to be illegal if they are found to involve more chance than skill.

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