Monthly Archives: February 2014

States Outsource Casino Policing to Private Firms

##For Immediate Release Feb 22 2014

NoCasinos.org

LAS VEGAS — When Springfield, Mass. needed to choose who would build its first casino, the city hired an outside adviser to help with the process.

The consulting firm Shefsky & Froelich recommended that the deal go to MGM Resorts International. At the same time, the consulting firm was also working as a registered lobbyist in Illinois for MGM Resorts.

The arrangement highlights an often-overlooked trend as more cities and states embrace legalized gambling around the country: Private companies are being hired to write regulations and vet casinos, even as the same firms work the other side of the fence, helping casinos enter new markets and sometimes lobbying for their interests.

States hoping to make money quickly from legalizing gambling have few options as speedy as outside contractors, which allow them to get casinos up and running without having to hire and train a cadre of staff regulators.

But letting consulting companies with deep ties to the gambling industry decide how casinos are run — and who runs them — is a significant departure from how more established gambling states, including Nevada and New Jersey, do things.

Regulators in states that maintain control over their own rules say the move toward privatization is unnerving.

“How do you vet your consultants? If a lot of these consultants at one time or another have worked for the people that you’re in charge of regulating, at some point, you’re going to have issues with the purity of the investigation,” said Illinois Gaming Board spokesman Gene O’Shea.

Casino opponents are skeptical. John Sowinski, spokesman for the Florida nonprofit No Casinos, says that Spectrum often paints an overly rosy picture of the boon casinos might provide, overshooting tax revenue estimates in studies conducted for Ohio, and calling New Jersey’s Revel project “just the tonic that Atlantic City needs.” (The state-subsidized casino filed for bankruptcy 10 months after opening.)

Sowinski believes states in need of consultants should hire experts and firms with no connection to the casino industry.

“The gambling industry is the one industry that seems to get away with this conflict of interest carte blanche,” he said.

For the Complete Article CLICK HERE

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


Casinos won’t help Florida’s economy

In an open letter to the Miami Herald,Paul Davies and Barbara Whitehead, Institute for American Values, New York, share a empirical perspective from around the country of why Florida doesn’t need more gambling to help its economy:

In the mad scramble for more gambling dollars, Florida’s timing could not be worse. The state’s legislators are contemplating the addition of casinos as declining revenues in other states indicate the gambling boom is over.

States that come late to the party can still milk money from casinos. But the pickings are getting slim as more markets become saturated and the growth cycles get shorter.

Pennsylvania enjoyed steady growth in casino tax revenues for six years before the returns dropped last year. Increased competition from casinos opening in Maryland and Ohio were partly to blame.

In Detroit, casino revenues dropped 4.7 percent last year in part because of competition from Ohio. In Indiana, casino revenues plunged 15 percent over the past six months, hitting an eight-year low. In Wisconsin, the drop in casino revenue there prompted some to say there is a gambling glut.

Colorado, Missouri and New Jersey have all seen sharp declines in casino revenues. Louisiana’s casino revenues were down 4.4 percent in December, including a 16 percent drop in New Orleans. Mississippi’s revenues fell almost 5 percent last year and are down 27 percent since hitting a peak in 2007. Since then the casinos have slashed 8,500 jobs.

A study by the Rockefeller Institute found that casinos do not solve state budget woes, but instead provide unpredictable revenues. That can cause problems for states that become hooked on casinos as a revenue source.

Delaware is a harbinger for other states looking to cash in on casinos. The tiny state was early to the casino game, opening slots parlors at three racetracks starting in 1995. Initially, tax revenues soared and eventually casino gambling accounted for 8 percent of the state’s budget. But as soon as casinos began opening in Pennsylvania in 2006, Delaware’s gambling revenues began to drop. The recent addition of casinos in Maryland has further reduced Delaware’s casino revenue.

In response, Delaware tried to add more gambling options, including legalizing sports betting in 2010 and online gambling in 2012. That did not stop the losses. Last year, the casinos began threatening layoffs unless the state lowered its tax rate, which is 43.5 percent on gross slots revenue.

Rather than reduce taxes, Gov. Jack Markell gave the casinos an $8 million bailout. So the casino industry has gone from generating revenues for the state to receiving a taxpayer subsidy.

The News Journal, Delaware’s main newspaper, had the best solution: “Delaware should start getting out of the gambling business,” the newspaper wrote in an editorial last year. “It is too dependent on what was once the easy money of a state-controlled monopoly.”

Adding casinos in Florida has similar challenges. The state already has lots of gambling, including Indian casinos and Internet cafes, referred to as “convenience casinos.” Given the gambling expansion in other states, the opportunity for growth from out-of-state gamblers is limited.

Here’s the good news: Florida doesn’t have to go down the road of other states that bet on casinos and are now chasing their losses. Instead, the state would be wise to focus on businesses that grow the economic pie rather than fight for a shrinking piece of it.

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


NO Casinos launches parody website against Pro Casino Group

Casino watch focus has reported  on the various means pro casino groups in Florida have attempted to persuade and pass legislation to allow expanded gambling.  They have bought property, paid lobbyist and provided campaign contributions.  They have pushed for subtle expansion, mega casinos and even prepared a ballot initiative to attempt to dupe voters.  Now, they have published a new website in an effort to position expanded gambling in a favorable light.  The Orlando Business Journal’s Richard Bilbao published a great write up on how NO Casinos has issued a great site of their own to refute their claims:

Watch out Anonymous: No Casinos — the Orlando-based anti-gambling advocacy group — is taking website advocacy to a new level.

In response to a pro-gambling website — www.bestforfla.com — that talks about advocating for “integrated resorts” in Florida, the group decided it would be best to address the claims of pro-gambling supporters in kind.

“The latest example of the industry that has no shame being ashamed to utter the name of its own [casinos] product — and the words they want legislators to be on record voting for — is a promotional website they launched a couple of weeks ago. But if you go to their website, http://www.bestforfla.com, there is no mention of casinos or gambling. Lots of pictures of beaches, restaurants and other attractive things that Florida already has,” said a release from No Casinos.

The result? No Casinos launched its own version parody site — www.lessforfla.com — that takes the pro-gambling site to task.

The parody site goes on about the group’s arguments that casinos lead to issues socially and economically including poverty, crime, addiction and bankruptcy. The original pro-gaming site states casinos would result in new visitors, jobs, revenues and more hotels, convention space and other casino-related business.

Being an avid Web surfer, I’ve seen some good Internet trolling, but this is an interesting new strategy to the entire gambling debate.

 

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


Don’t gamble with Florida’s future

Guest Article by John Kindt – University of Illinois professor emeritus. He has testified before Congress and legislatures on business and legal policy issues, particularly gambling.    

 

In 1994, Florida voters rejected a ballot proposal legalizing casinos and accompanying slot machines. The Florida gambling proposal was largely modeled on the Illinois Legislature’s 1990 legalization of casinos.

One of the nation’s first casino jurisdictions, Illinois gambling was imposed top-down on the public despite polls reporting 67 percent of the public opposed to casinos/slots.

Today Florida has its budgetary challenges, but Illinois has the nation’s worst state budget and credit rating — due in large part to $35 billion-$56 billion given away to gambling owners. For two years Illinois did not even fund the pension systems for public employees and has over $105 billion in unfunded liabilities. Illinois also misreported bond offerings from 2005-2009, resulting in the state being cited with pension fraud in 2013 by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
While it took Illinois two decades to arrive at budgetary insolvency, other states that legalize casinos/slots will eventually emulate Illinois. Once states embrace casinos/slots, gambling owners’ agendas and legalized political contributions dominate statewide economic policies, resulting in continued gambling expansions.

In 1994 both Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles and future Gov. Jeb Bush opposed legalizing Florida casinos/slots. Virtually the entire law enforcement community also opposed casinos/slots, as exemplified by a Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) report that emphasized in italics that “it has been clearly demonstrated in other jurisdictions that a significant increase in crime and its consequences accompanies casino gambling.”

This FDLE report concluded in bold print: “FDLE joins a large number of other criminal justice entities in  opposition to any form of legalized casino gambling.” In 2006, the substantial crime increases that accompany new gambling facilities was confirmed in a definitive, nationwide 10-year study published by Harvard and MIT.

Also in 1994, Florida Secretary of Commerce Charles Dusseau reported that the casinos/slots ballot proposal was “an attempt at a hostile takeover of Florida’s $32 billion tourism industry by outside gambling interests.” He emphasized that “a consistent result of the introduction of casino gambling has been the cannibalization of pre-existing tourism industry.”

After 1994, the Florida and Illinois congressional delegations were largely responsible for enacting the 1995-1999 U.S. National Gambling Impact Study Commission, which substantiated these concerns. Annually since 2008, the multivolume 2008-2013 United States International Gaming Report, produced in concert with academics nationwide, has confirmed that Florida’s 1994 leaders were correct to reject casinos/slots.

During this same 1990s timeframe, Warren Buffett coordinated an effort in Omaha, Neb., to defeat a proposed “salvation casino” designed to transform the failing Aksarben racetrack into a casino/slots facility — despite two casinos being located nearby in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Instead, Omaha business and government leaders bulldozed the racetrack and transformed the land into a high-tech office park and an extension of the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO). During the last 20 years this development has attracted $1 billion in stores, restaurants, townhouses and the new 2012 UNO College of Business — ironically, built on the old racetrack grounds.

As re-confirmed in the last few years by definitive academic publications, the socio-economic costs of gambling are well over $3 for every $1 in benefits. These costs were predicted in 1994 by Gov. Chiles’ team of economic experts, as well as in several 1994-1995 academic articles — including the University of Miami Business Law Journal.

To illustrate how gambling philosophies catalyzed the 2008 economic recession, the website for  60 Minutes has an investigative 12-minute report that can be viewed, titled  Financial WMDs.

Floridians should revisit the crime statistics disseminated by Florida’s 1994 bipartisan leadership and then emulate South Carolina and other jurisdictions that have re-criminalized slot machines and/or other gambling facilities.

Governments cannot gamble their way to prosperity.

Illinois casinos/slots have resulted in $35 billion-$56 billion in “giveaways to gambling owners by takeaways from teachers’ pensions.” Florida and other states that embrace gambling owners will eventually gamble away not only their state budgets, but also the public’s health, safety, and welfare.


No Casinos Unveils Big Names From Both Parties Who Oppose Expansion of Gambling in Florida

##For Immediate Release February 14 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–

Florida has a strong bi-partisan tradition of opposing the legalization of casino-style gambling. Floridians have fought the battle against Las  Vegas-style casinos and have won each time. In 1978, 1986 and 1994, Florida voters rejected high-stakes casino gambling. Over the years, an  important part of the No Casinos effort has been enlisting the support  of those who have led the state to show their concern about this issue,  and their opposition to the expansion of gambling.

It’s a cause that has united Democrats, Republicans and Independents  since the 1970s. So in recognition of state leaders who opposed and  continue to oppose the legalization of Las Vegas-style casinos in  Florida, the No Casinos Statesmen’s Council has been launched to  represent the unified, bipartisan view that expanded casino gambling  will be harmful to Florida.

Other current and former statewide office holders are welcome to join  this effort, and the plan is to continue to add to the ranks of the  Council throughout 2014.

Special thanks to those who have already joined the No Casinos  Statesmen’s Council, including:

Senator Bill Nelson
Senator Bob Graham
Governor Jeb Bush
Governor  Wayne Mixon
Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottkamp
Agriculture  Commissioner Adam Putnam
Attorney General Pam Bondi
CFO Jeff  Atwater
CFO Tom Gallagher
Speaker James Harold Thompson
Speaker  Larry Cretul
Speaker Dean Cannon

For more information on the Statesmen’s Council, please visit NoCasinos.org.

Contact:
NoCasinos.org
Michael Joe Murphy, 407-608-5930
murph@nocasinos.org


Brief Look at Crime 02/03 – 02/09

Pa. man charged with stealing $3M from ex-employer

COLLINGDALE, Pa. (AP) — A former councilman in suburban Philadelphia has been arrested on charges he stole nearly $3 million from his former employer to feed an alleged gambling addiction. Former Collingdale borough councilman James Bryan faces multiple theft charges, all third-degree felonies. Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan said Wednesday that Bryan stole the money over the course of 11 years while he worked as a project manager for Wescott Electric in Aston. Investigators said Bryan cashed checks generated for fraudulent invoices and bought copper wire for the company that he’d scrap for cash. Bryan resigned from the Collingdale council last fall amid word that he was the focus of an ongoing investigation. He had been a borough councilman for nearly 20 years.

Pleas set in Pa. gambling case, $1M buried cash

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Guilty pleas are unfolding in a gambling case that involves $1 million buried in the yard of the daughter of a former law-and-order mayor of Philadelphia. Brothers Joseph Mastronardo Jr. and John Mastronardo are charged with using offshore accounts and other means to launder gambling proceeds from a huge sports betting organization. Joseph “Joe Vito” Mastronardo is married to the late Mayor Frank Rizzo’s daughter, Joanna. Sixteen people were indicted after authorities found more than $1 million in cash buried in PVC pipes in the front yard of the couple’s sprawling suburban home. Dennis Cogan, a lead lawyer on the case, confirmed that about a dozen defendants charged with racketeering and gambling have agreed to take part in a “global plea,” requiring that all of them plead guilty. Cogan, who was in the hospital, could not elaborate. The Philadelphia Daily News first reported Wednesday on the arrangement. Details of the plea were not available on the court’s online docket, and a lead prosecutor did not immediately return a message for comment. The brothers earned the nickname of “Gentleman Gamblers” because of their policy toward gamblers who fail to pay up. Instead of resorting to violence, they refuse to let them place more bets, Cogan has said. The indictment unsealed last year alleges that the Mastronardos ran a multi-million-dollar gambling ring with ties to Florida, New Jersey and Costa Rica. At its peak, more than 1,000 active bettors took part, placing online or telephone bets.

Nephew of dying woman stole more than $200,000 for gambling

A 53-year-old man formerly of Wind Gap abused his privileges as power of attorney to skim more than $200,000 from his dying aunt’s estate throughout 2012, according to the Northampton County District Attorney’s Office. Michael Dovyak Jr. stole the money from the accounts of Martha Liero in 2012, a detective with the district attorney’s office said. District Attorney John Morganelli was contacted in July 2013 about the unauthorized withdrawals, court documents state. He lived with her for several years, police said, and became her power of attorney in February 2012. Dovyak, Liero’s nephew, continued in the role until her death in September, police said. The title gave him the authority to make financial decisions for her and her estate. A review of her financial accounts showed he withdrew more than $227,900 from various accounts and spent more than $8,870 in refunds from personal care facilities instead of returning them to Liero, police said. Dovyak stole $236,772 from the estate, according to court documents. Dovyak told police during an interview in November that he used the money for gambling and other purchases, court papers state. He said he no longer had any money left, according to police.

Man Gets A Year In Prison For Running Sports Gambling Ring

STAMFORD, Conn. — A 45-year-old Stamford man was sentenced Wednesday to a year in federal prison for operating an illegal sports gambling business, the U.S. attorney’s office in Connecticut announced.  Stephen Joyce led a lucrative illegal sports bookmaking operation in Stamford that involved at least five other bookmakers, according to court documents.  Authorities conducted a search of Joyce’s residence on July 27, 2011, and recovered extensive gambling records, a laptop computer and other items.  As part of his sentence, Joyce was also forced to forfeit $175,000 and a pay a $3,000 fine.  Joyce pleaded guilty to one count of operating an illegal gambling business on Sept. 24, 2013.  The investigation was conducted by the FBI Fairfield County Organized Crime Task Force, the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, the Stamford Police Department, the Bridgeport Police Department and the Connecticut State Police.

Newcastle Granddad Murdered Over Winning Betting Slips

A win at horseracing led to a savage murder in Newcastle, when heavy drinking celebrations caused a row. A granddad in Newcastle bet a couple of pounds on his favorite horses at one of many William Hill betting shops in the city. Little did he know that he will be later viciously murdered by a pair of drunkards looking to collect his small winnings. Steven Youll was savagely beaten to death by Michael Wait and his accomplice David Smith. The pair then went through the granddad’s pockets to collect the uncashed betting slips. They wasted no time in cashing GBP 178, GBP 72, and GBP 4 horserace betting slips. Apparently, the money was spent on booze shortly after. After a thorough investigation and swift action by the police, the pair was apprehended and later jailed for life. Jurors in the trial couldn’t been told how Wait stole the betting slips from Youll, as the judge ruled this evidence could prejudice the case. However, the murderers were convicted anyway.

Brantford woman to be sentenced in $400,000 fraud

A Brantford woman, who defrauded a local company of at least $400,000 over a period of eight years by making almost daily use of a company-issued credit card, will be sentenced in March. Denise White, 56, pleaded guilty in Ontario Court in October to one count of fraud over $5,000 in connection with her misappropriation of funds at Terra Con Underground Ltd., where she had worked as the sewer contracting firm’s office manager. A sentencing hearing on Monday was adjourned to March 20. White was remanded out of custody. She had no prior criminal record. The Crown asked the court to consider a sentence of two to three years, while the defence suggested a sentence of 12 to 15 months would be appropriate. From 2006 to 2013, White used a company credit card with her name on it for purchases at gas stations, restaurants, department stores and at the casino.

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

 


Florida Gambling Mood Shifts as Casino Mogul Sheldon Adelson Sends Droves of Lobbyists: “Conservatives” Appear to be Buying In

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to expand gambling in Florida, typically with new full-sized, Vegas-sytle gambling casinos.  For the past few years, these efforts have been unsuccessful, despite many different avenues for making expansion a reality. As a new legislative session is soon to quickly move through its short cycle, the mood may be shifting.  The talks even a week ago had signaled that gambling expansion seemed a dead issue.  Then, billionaire casino operator Sheldon Adelson set his sights more firmly on Florida and he sent over a 100 lobbyist to convince lawmakers to expand.  Bloomberg online reports:

To bring Las Vegas-style gambling to Florida, casino operators like Sheldon Adelson are sending more than 100 lobbyists to the state Capitol to battle their biggest adversary: Mickey Mouse.

The clash pits casino operators Genting Bhd. (GENT) and Las Vegas Sands Corp. (LVS) , controlled by billionaire Adelson, against Walt Disney Co. (DIS), which runs theme parks and resorts near Orlando, and may face new competition for convention business. Companies on both sides of the dispute are sending lobbyists and campaign checks to Florida lawmakers, who say they’ll consider expanding gambling this year.

Disney argues gambling would hurt the state.  “The massive expansion of gambling that would come from legalizing mega-casinos would be a bad bet for Florida’s taxpayers, tourism brand and existing businesses,” said Andrea Finger, a Disney spokeswoman, in a statement.

In a legislature controlled by Republicans, many have sought to voice moral opposition to gambling while also keeping the door open to expansion proposals.

The goal is to protect Florida’s “family-friendly” image, said Hart. Disney, which is a top contributor to the Chamber’s political committee and has a seat on the board, has made similar arguments to lawmakers.

So are these new lobbyist efforts actually working?  It would appear so.  The mood has clearly shifted to expanding gambling, Conservative leadership has gone from a position of no expansion, to expansion with various conditions.  The Tampa Bay Times explains:

After years of resistance, the conservative leadership of the Florida House has signaled its willingness to pass legislation that would expand gambling in Florida to include new Las Vegas-style casinos in Miami-Dade and Broward in exchange for a constitutional amendment that requires voters to approve any future games.

“I would be willing to talk about gaming in the State of Florida, even expansion, in return for contraction in some areas and passing a constitutional amendment,” House Speaker Will Weatherford said in an exclusive interview with the Times/Herald on Tuesday.

Because the speaker dictates the agenda and controls which bills get a priority, Weatherford’s statement Tuesday breathes new life into an issue that appeared to be stalled for another year.

It also guarantees that legislators have more time to solicit campaign contributions to their political committees from multinational casino giants as well as the Florida horse tracks, dog tracks and jai alai frontons that want their own casinos.

“The fact this is an issue being discussed by the Legislature at all is a testament to the political influence of the gambling industry,” said John Sowinski, president of the Orlando-based No Casinos.

He said the discussion ignores the findings of Spectrum Gaming Group, which the Legislature paid $400,000 to analyze new gambling’s impact on the Florida economy. It found that gambling would continue to expand and that the state’s economy is so big that casinos would have little state impact.

“Never has so much intellectual energy been spent on an issue for which there is so little public appetite,” Sowinski said.

Its hard to imagine that lawmakers that call themselves conservative and dedicated to serving their constituents can even consider expanding   gambling when they know full well what the consequences will be. They are willing to encourage their friends and neighbors to become losers so the casinos and State can be winners.  This is a terrible trade off and its even more disheartening to see such a swift change in position simply because more money is being thrown at the situation by lobbyists and political campaign contributions. 

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