Monthly Archives: December 2015

John Sowinski: Compact is a #BadDealforFlorida

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the newly signed gambling compact between Florida Gov. Scott and the Seminole Tribe. The scrutiny of this massive $3 billion piece of gambling expansion legislation will continue to build as more sources dissect the material, but the following guest article by the President of No Casinos provides an instruction to many of the opposition’s criticisms:

When state lawmakers approved the original 2010 gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe, they promised Florida residents it would serve as a firewall against the further expansion of gambling. The proposed renewal of the compact is a complete violation of that trust.

In fact, the renegotiated compact will lead to the largest gambling
expansion in state history, taking South Florida in the direction of Las Vegas and Atlantic City while creating pressure to build casinos in the rest of the state.

As negotiated, the compact would allow the tribe to add more games in more locations and convert its facilities into full-scale Vegas-style
casinos. It also would allow for two nontribal slots casinos, including
an expansion into Palm Beach. Those would be added to a market that industry experts say already is oversaturated with pari-mutuel casinos.

Carving out special deals for gambling operators in Palm Beach and
Miami-Dade counties only will create demands for casino expansion in other parts of the state, from the Panhandle to Tampa Bay to Southwest Florida. Judging by reactions to the compact from some legislators and lobbyists, that process already has begun. History has demonstrated numerous times that gambling can’t be expanded, even a little, without it leading to more gambling than promised: It’s called gambling creep.

Even the notoriously pro-gambling *South Florida Sun-Sentinel*
recognizes this deal will expand gambling. Its recent editorial calls
the compact, “a coup for gambling lobbyists,” and notes that, “There is no denying that the agreement continues the gambling-creep that has affected Florida since voters cleared the way for the lottery in 1986 and racinos with slot machines in 2004.”

This compact threatens our family-friendly tourism brand, the most
successful in the world. The compact promotes a business model that
invites crime, addiction, government corruption and other social ills — costing the state far more than the revenue it produces.

We also have seen again and again the consequences when governments become dependent on gambling revenues. As that revenue flattens out or even declines, states respond with even more gambling or other concessions such as tax cuts or bailouts. One *newspaper story* said it best, “Every state that has allowed casinos to come in as a salve for their budgetary woes still have their budgetary woes.”

Florida is experiencing a strong economic resurgence and is diversifying its economy. It has abundant budget surpluses and is among the most financially stable states in the nation. We didn’t achieve that because of gambling and we won’t be a better state for allowing gambling to expand. That all begs the question: Why are we doing this?

This compact is a bad deal for Florida’s residents, businesses and
economy. We encourage Florida legislators to side with Florida voters who have consistently and overwhelmingly rejected this path for our state.

John Sowinski is president of NoCasinos.org.

 

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

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Brief Look at Crime 12/14 – 12/20

U.S. Levies First Money Laundering Penalty On Card Club

The U.S. Department of Treasury on Thursday imposed its first penalty against a card club, signaling it’s targeting smaller gambling operations by ordering a California club to pay $650,000 for anti-money laundering compliance failures. Card clubs are gambling houses where games are limited to those involving cards, and the players face each other rather than the house. In California, they’re regulated by the state’s gambling control commission. “Just because they’re not a multi-billion dollar casino, doesn’t mean they still can’t follow” anti-money laundering rules, said Micah Willbrand, an anti-money laundering and financial crimes expert at NICE Actimize, which makes products to help financial institutions comply with regulations.

Feds announce dog fighting charges in 4 states

federal and state investigation into dog fighting and gambling has resulted in the arrest of 12 people from Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas. U.S. Attorney George Beck said Monday the 12 are charged with conducting an illegal gambling business and multiple dog fighting charges, including promoting dog fights. Additional defendants are being sought. Federal and state officers served search warrants Friday in simultaneous raids in Alabama and Georgia. They seized 367 pit bulls in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. They also seized more than $500,000 in cash. The Humane Society of the United States and the ASPCA are caring for the animals at undisclosed locations.

Former charity chief ordered to repay $90,000 she stole

The previous government director of a Philadelphia nonprofit that helps the needy has been ordered to pay again $90,000 that prosecutors say she stole for private use. Rodnell Griffin, 68, used ATM playing cards to withdraw cash 500 occasions from Searching Park Neighborhood Advisory Committee’s checking account, together with 10 situations at ATM machines inside SugarHouse On line casino, based on a federal indictment filed in April. Griffin pleaded responsible in August, and a decide on Tuesday ordered her to make restitution. Her lawyer, Geoffrey Johnson, stated she wouldn’t attraction the decide’s order, which additionally requires her to finish 600 hours of group service and serve at some point in jail.

Former Macquarie Bank manager convicted jail over $1.2 million fraud to feed gambling addiction

A former manager who defrauded Macquarie Bank of $1.2 million has avoided prison. Michael Roth was sentenced to two years in jail for two fraud offences in the New South Wales District court on Friday. He will serve the sentence in the community under strict supervision under an intensive correction order. The court heard Roth, 45, took the money from the company’s leasing arm over almost a decade to fund an alcohol and gambling addiction. “He got caught up with a senior manager who would drink and gamble at lunch time and the behaviour was allowed to continue because they were making the company so much money, ” she said. “A pattern emerged whereby the offender would work in the mornings then drink and gamble with other Macquarie Bank staff. “There were times when he would stay awake all night and gamble.”

Illegal Sports Betting Raids in 5 US States

 

Hitting the news is Illegal sports betting in the United States resulting in 25 arrests. These arrests were a result of two venues and their ability to launder money from gambling. Over the course of the gambling ring’s span in business they netted approximately ten million dollars. Federal Bureau agents began their “investigation and sting” by locating and establishing key elements and people in the gambling venue. Wiretaps were set up and several states fell into their hands. South Carolina, Florida, Los Angeles, and Chicago were a few of the surprising areas that the wire taps led the feds to investigate. Over 360 people were betting and calling to make bets during the wiretaps.

One surprising individual in all of this is the Assistant United States Attorney Josh Mellor. He set up a betting and gambling operation inside his own condo in San Diego, Ca. David Stroj, also a bookie, was established to be part of the Philadelphia mafia. The FBI soon learns that Stroj was earning almost $2 million dollars each 30 days. The sports bets and card games were definitely assisting Stroj in padding his pockets. Other Casinos that show up in the investigation are the Palomar Card Club and the Seven Mile. Each of these venues was ordered by the Gambling Chief to close their doors on Wednesday.

Feds Say Former Police Credit Union VP Embezzled Funds For Two Decades

When a retired Houston police officer dies or changes addresses, his or her pension check is most likely returned to the Houston Police Federal Credit Union, a federally insured credit union responsible for, among other things, the majority of accounts held by the Houston Police Officers’ Union. And it happens more often than you might think: The state of Texas alone accounts for more than $2 billion in unclaimed funds, according to the state Comptroller’s Office. But sometimes that money can slip through the cracks, and that’s how, according to a police union official, former credit union Vice President Cheryl Vickers got her hands on roughly $1.25 million over the span of nearly two decades. The police union itself is no stranger to embezzlement. In 2011, a former member was sentenced to 20 years in state prison for stealing more than $650,000 in union funds to feed a gambling addiction and pay off credit card debt, according to reports at the time. The member used checks to pay his bills, forging the carbon copy beneath the check with the name of legitimate charities, Hunt said.

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


$3 billon Seminole Gambling Compact Signed by Gov Scott Moves on to the Florida Legislature

Casino Watch Focus has reported  on the ongoing negotiations of the Seminole tribe and the Florida Legislature to come to terms on a new gambling compact for the state. It appears after many months of such negotiations, Florida Gov. Scott and the Seminoles have reached a $3 billion gambling deal.   In general, because of the exclusivity granted to the Seminoles for various gambling activities, its been viewed as a means of preventing the expansion of gambling in the state. However, as was previously reportedthat negotiations appeared to headed in the direction of leaving exclusive control with the Seminoles, but allow them to expand gambling and build even more casinos. Now, as Tampa Bay Times is reporting, a new compact has been agreed to that does expand gambling, but not all controlled exclusively by the Seminoles.

After months of negotiations, Gov. *Rick Scott* quietly signed a compact with the Seminole Tribe late Monday that will generate nearly $3 billion in added revenue to the state over seven years in exchange for the exclusive right to operate blackjack and add craps and roulette. The tribe previously wanted to open a new casino on its Fort Pierce lands but that was not allowed in this agreement.

[T]he measure also opens the door to expanded gaming, especially in South Florida where the Malaysian company, Genting, has said it wants to build a full casino resort on Biscayne Bay on the site of the former Miami Herald building. Under the compact, the tribe would continue to make payments even in the face of increased competition from a new Miami or Broward slots casino. The Fontainebleau in Miami Beach is also likely to compete for the slots license.

This is simply the first step in the process as the compact must now be approved by the Florida Legislature. There seems to already be a lot of concern about the fate of the compact as the Florida House and Senate are typically split on gambling issues. The Sunshine State News explains:

Far from a sure bet, Gov. Rick Scott’s $3.1 billion gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida is getting a tepid response from some legislative leaders, virtually guaranteeing that the proposal could require major changes to win enough support for passage. The agreement, signed by Scott and tribal Chairman James Billie on Monday, equates to a major expansion of gambling in Florida, bringing to the state craps and roulette for Seminole casinos and opening the door for slots and blackjack in areas where a previous agreement prohibited the games.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli on Tuesday said legislative approval, required for the pact to take effect, would be a “heavy lift.” “I suspect that this compact is DOA,” said Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. “Because there are so many issues in it that different people are going to find problems with.”

The Miami lawyer also called Monday’s agreement a framework for future discussions. “There’s still a lot to get this in a position for the Legislature to make a decision,” Diaz said. “This bill sets parameters, but it doesn’t define them.” Lawmakers in 2010 sued then-Gov. Charlie Crist for entering an agreement with the Seminoles without their approval, and the Florida Supreme Court decided that such a deal requires ratification by the Legislature. Any deal between the tribe and the state also requires approval from the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees Indian gaming.

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


Brief Look at Crime 12/07 – 12/13

Plainville Woman Admits Stealing From Farmington Co.

Plainville woman pleaded guilty this week to embezzling $247,000 from her employer in Farmington. Kathleen Williams, 64, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a single count of second-degree larceny. She admitted to writing 188 company checks to herself between 2011 and 2014 when she worked as an accountant for Sarjac Partners LLC, a property management company. Williams’ thefts were discovered when she was on leave from the company for a medical issue, prosecutor Rick Rubino told Hartford Superior Court Judge Carl E. Taylor.Williams admitted to police that she stole money and said she used it for household expenses and her mortgage. Farmington police also learned that Williams lost $274,405 at the Mohegan Sun casino between 2012 and 2014, according to the warrant for her arrest.

Ex-teachers’ union official gets house arrest in $180K theft

The former treasurer of a suburban Pittsburgh teachers’ union will spend a year on house arrest and must repay $180,000 he stole from the organization. Maritz confessed to keeping members’ dues and to stealing the money by writing 157 checks to himself since June 2010. Maritz acknowledged being a pathological gambler who blew the money at casinos and on lottery tickets. Maritz has taken a sabbatical from his job, and the district says it can’t otherwise comment on his employment status.

Ex-treasurer for Fraternal Order of Police repays $306,000 

Federal prosecutors say a former Tulsa police officer who once served as treasurer of state and local Fraternal Order of Police chapters has paid more than $306,000 in restitution and fines since her guilty plea earlier this year. Lorna Jean Vanlandingham pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud and was sentenced in June to 33 months in prison. Federal prosecutors in Tulsa said Tuesday that Vanlandingham has repaid $306,577.24. According to court records, Vanlandingham admitted embezzling money from the state and Tulsa chapters of the Fraternal Order of the Police. During her sentencing, she apologized for her actions and blamed a gambling addiction.

US Attorney in Florida indicts BetOnline payment processing ring

Federal authorities in Florida have indicted three men for illegally
processing financial transactions with international online gambling
sites, including Panama-based *BetOnline. In an indictment filed in July but which only recently surfaced online, the US Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division accused *David Stewart*, *Jason Neiman* and *Tom Freeborn *of wire and bank fraud, illegal money transmitting, money laundering and conspiracy for their dealings with a number of online gambling sites based outside the US. The conspirators are believed to have processed $4.2m in payments between January 2013 and November 2014 for a number of online sports betting, casino and poker sites, but BetOnline was the only site specifically identified in the indictment.

Gary man charged in attempted shooting of casino security guard: police

A 33-year-old Gary man is being held without bail on felony charges stemming from an incident Monday at Majestic Star Casinos. Jessie Small, of 359 Fillmore St., was charged Wednesday with intimidation, criminal recklessness and pointing a firearm, court records show. A security guard at the casino told Detective Sgt. William Fazekas that Small pointed a handgun “six inches from his face” and pulled the trigger, but the semiautomatic didn’t fire, according to court documents. As the guard attempted to speak the man later identified as Small, Small became loud, balled up his fist and said, “I’m going to kill you and everyone in the casino,” the affidavit states. Small then allegedly removed a handgun from the waistband of his face and pointed it at the guard. When the gun didn’t fire, the guard tackled Small, handcuffed him and called police.

Accountant stole $100K from 100-year-old woman

Authorities say a suburban Philadelphia accountant stole over $100,000 from her 100-year-old client to support a gambling habit. Jeanne Swain, of Yardley, faces charges including theft and receiving stolen property. The 58-year-old’s son alerted authorities after spotting checks that seemed suspicious, including some written to Parx Casino in Bensalem. She’s accused of writing $116,667.33 in unauthorized checks. Prosecutors say the money went to her rent, her ex-husband’s rent and insurance. The district attorney says Swain’s accounts showed she lost nearly $300,000 from gambling over five years.

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


Florida Lawmakers Decision to Ban Card Games Upsets Pari-Mutuel Industry

Casino Watch Focus has reported reported on the ongoing negotiations between the State of Florida and the Seminole Nation in regard to a gambling compact. The recent compact has been in existence for five years and grants exclusive rights to table games, like Black Jack, at the Seminole’s casinos in exchange for tax money to the state. A few years back legislators approved certain card games for pari-mutuels that seemed to be a clever way around the compact, but that none-the-less were upsetting to the Seminoles. As the two parties are nearing the final negotiations of a new compact, it would appear the Seminoles have made the point clear to legislators that those card games need to be removed. As the The Suncoast News explains, legislators are now proposing those games be banned:

Cardroom operators are outraged over a proposal by state gambling regulators to do away with a lucrative type of card games, which regulators have decided are illegal after approving them for three years. The uproar focuses on what are known as “designated-player card games,” which include a hybrid of three-card poker and resemble casino-style card games but are played among the gamblers instead of against the house, which pari-mutuel operators contend makes them legal.

The Seminoles contend that the designated-player card games violate the tribe’s rights to exclusivity. It gave the tribe exclusive rights to operate blackjack and other banked card games at most of its casinos. The proposed prohibition on the card games comes as the state and the Seminole Tribe renegotiate a deal that was inked five years ago but expired this summer. 

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


Brief Look at Crime 11/23 – 12/06

Brooklyn Eyeglass Merchant and 2 Others Are Charged in $3.4 Million Loan Fraud 

The owner of two Brooklyn eyeglass stores applied for and received more than $3.4 million in fraudulent loans, then spent much of the money shopping for his girlfriend at Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman, paying rent on a Manhattan condominium and financing trips to Atlantic City casinos, prosecutors said on Wednesday. The charges against the merchant, Maksim Grinberg, who operates D&M Optical and 9th Street Vision out of the same building at Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, were laid out in a 148-count indictment filed by the Brooklyn district attorney’s office and unsealed in State Supreme Court.

Gambler accused of ripping off $200K from Rebels member

A GAMBLER is accused of ripping off a Rebels outlaw motorcycle gang member of $200,000 after the men shared jail time. Surveyor Justin Sheehan, 39, was arrested at his Calliope home by Gladstone police yesterday and charged with three counts of fraud. “His partner tells us he has an out of control gambling addiction and documents show he continues to gamble despite being unemployed,” Sgt Stevens said. Sgt Stevens said Sheehan may fail to appear and was likely to continue offending to support his gambling. “While no threats have been made against him, police are aware of links to the motorcycle gang which has a previous propensity toward violence,” Sgt Stevens said.

Ex-sheriff’s dept. worker accused of embezzlement 

A former Berrien County Sheriff’s Department employee has been charged after allegedly embezzling some $75,000 from the agency. JoAnn Roberts was charged Tuesday with embezzlement between $50,000 and $100,000. If convicted, the 66-year-old from Buchanan faces up to 15 years in prison. She resigned from her position with the sheriff’s department in November. Roberts had been a jail population manager with the sheriff’s department since 1998, according to a release from the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office. In recent years, part of her job was to get money collected from people using electronic tethers ready for deposit with the county treasurer. Authorities say they think she stole more than $75,000 from the department. Much of the money, they say, appears to have been gambled away.

Bookkeeper who stole almost $700G gets state prison 

A former bookkeeper for a Collingdale welding business was sentenced to three to six years in a state correctional facility Tuesday for stealing approximately $696,000 to feed his gambling addiction. “This all happened because of gambling,” said Jeffrey McElwee, 54, of the 500 block of Corinthian Avenue in Essington. “When Harrah’s Casino opened up in Chester, I got started gambling and it seemed like overnight I became a gambling addict and it completely changed my personality.” McElwee issued 399 checks to himself in that 13-year period totaling $574,447.19, according to investigators. He also made 257 unauthorized ATM withdrawals totaling $122,184.50 between May 2011 and January 2015.

Jury selected in case of company treasurer who embezzled almost $800K.

Jurors were selected Monday in the trial of a Lakeland woman accused of stealing more than $770,000 from an air conditioning company. Judy Hulcher, 58, faces one count of grand theft of more than $100,000 and four counts of money laundering of more than $20,000 from Payne Air Conditioning & Heating in Lakeland, where she had worked for nearly 15 years. She was arrested in mid December 2013 and released from the Polk County Jail on $65,000 bail on Jan. 18, 2014. Toward told Ojeda in July that Hulcher never did anything to conceal the money or hide it. Instead she used much of the money to purchase Florida Lottery tickets to satiate a gambling addiction, Toward said after the hearing. Ojeda denied Toward’s motion.

Gambling Darling Paysafe Confirms 7.8 Million Customers Hit In Epic Old Hacks

Earlier this month, FORBES revealed two databases had been leaked from major gambling payment providers Neteller and Moneybookers (now called Skrill), affecting 4.5 million and 3.6 million customers respectively. Personal information — including answers to secret password recovery questions, addresses, telephone numbers and birth dates — were found in the databases. Unaware that hackers had made off with so much data, the owner of both Neteller and Moneybookers, Optimal Payments (now called Paysafe Group), kicked off a fresh investigation. Today, the newly-branded Paysafe Group confirmed in a London Stock Exchange announcement those figures were a little higher than the reality, saying information related to 3.6 million Neteller accounts and 4.2 million Skrill users were leaked. Both related to 2009 and 2010 attacks previously detailed by FORBES. The Neteller attack involved an exploit of a vulnerability in the Joomla content management system, whilst the Moneybookers breach saw a virtual private network (VPN), designed to provide secure access to the firm’s network, hacked and a transaction database accessed.

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


Florida Supreme Court to Decide Controversial Gambling Expansion Case

Casino Watch Focus has reported that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi asked an appellate court to reconsider their 2-1 ruling on a slot machine case that would have huge gambling expansion implications. The case at hand involved a slot machine referendum that was passed by the Gadsden voters to authorized gambling machines, but in an area of Florida where the Legislature had not approved. The case seemed to be fairly clear-cut as the law requires more than local approval to expand gambling. The court asked the Supreme Court to take up the case. Now a local Miami CBS affiliate is reporting the Court has taken jurisdiction of the case:

 

The Florida Supreme Court will decide whether a Gadsden County racetrack should be allowed to have slot machines without the express permission of the Legislature, in a case with widespread implications for gambling throughout the state.

The Supreme Court’s ruling will likely affect gambling operations in Gadsden and at least five other counties — Brevard, Hamilton, Lee, Palm Beach and Washington — where voters have also approved referendums authorizing slots at local pari-mutuels.

In Tuesday’s order, the Supreme Court gave Gretna Racing’s lawyers until Dec. 21 to file initial briefs in the case. The state must file its response within 20 days, and Gretna has another 20 days after that to reply. Tuesday’s order also said the court would schedule oral arguments separately.

In the October ruling, Makar wrote that Bondi’s interpretation of the law was “spot on.” “The alternative view, which would restructure the statute and change its meaning to allow slot machines to be deployed on a statewide basis without any clear authority to do so, is inconsistent with principles of statutory and constitutional construction, legislative intent, and the history of laws prohibiting slot machines in the state of Florida,” he wrote.

Not only does the law seem to be on the Attorney Generals side, but so is the group No Casinos, as this decision could clearly lead to a tremendous amount of unintended gambling expansion throughout Florida. An ABC affiliate explains: 

The anti-gambling group No Casinos Inc. filed a motion on Friday to file a friend-of-the court brief. In its motion to the court, No Casinos addressed its concerns for the potential consequences for the outcome of the case.

“The movant (No Casinos) is concerned that if this expansion of gambling devices is allowed (and by logical extension, allowed for similar facilities in other counties), that will lead to proliferation of such devices, and will generally encourage casino-type gambling, contrary to the public interest and contrary to the law, as the movant will advocate,” the motion said.

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