Monthly Archives: February 2016

Former Florida Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp speaks out against new Decoupling Efforts

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts of the Florida dog racing industry to keep slot machines even though the dog racing industry is clearly failing. As it stands, Greyhound tracks can only offer some gambling games if they are engaged in actual dog racing. The industry knows that dog racing is not longer garnering the business to stay open, but if they close the doors on the dog racing, they are no longer allowed to run the more lucrative gambling side games. Clearly, if greyhound tracks cant profit from races any longer, they should close their doors and hand in their licenses. Unfortunately, track owners feel the need to run at a loss on the trackside, so they can make money from side gambling. Efforts have been made many times to remove the requirement to hold dog or horse racing in order to  keep the gambling games going, an act known as decoupling. Many sources have come forward to explain all the harmful effects from decoupling, and those efforts have succeeded at preventing it. However, the new Seminole Compact debate has opened the door to decoupling this legislative session. Allowing such decoupling will essentially create mini-casinos state wide, and it’s a level of gambling expansion that clearly goes against the will of the people. Former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp took an in depth look at the issue and excerpts are provided below. His complete article can be found HERE

When the current state constitution was approved in 1968 the only approved gambling involved pari-mutuels: dog tracks, horse tracks and jai alai. They had been in operation for decades and considered sporting events you could bet on.

Since the constitution was passed, the voters of Florida have rejected amendments to allow casino gambling three times: in 1978, 1986 and 1994.

When the constitution revision was approved by voters it was never contemplated that racetracks would be converted to casinos. However, that’s what the gambling proposal now moving in the Legislature would do.

The proposal ignores the will of the people of Florida – it ignores history – and it furthers the false argument that pari-mutuels should be able to compete with Seminole Tribe casinos.  Race tracks are not in competition with Seminole casinos any more than the Miami Dolphins or Tampa Bay Bucs are in competition with casinos.

They are very different forms of entertainment.

Track owners argue that they shouldn’t be forced to have dog and horse races at their tracks. Yet that’s precisely what they‘re licensed to do!

The pari-mutuel industry doesn’t operate in the free market: It’s a regulated industry. The tracks have been given the exclusive privilege to operate their tracks for decades. They have been given regional monopolies shielded from competition and have received millions of dollars in tax credits while making billions of dollars in profits.

If they don’t want to have races then they should turn in their licenses.

The Legislature now proposes letting tracks replace racing with slot machines: converting tracks to casinos. That would be the largest expansion of gambling in the history of Florida, all done without the approval of Florida residents through a statewide election.

It’s a clear violation of the Florida Constitution. 

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


A Brief Look at Crime 02/15 – 02/21

Man hangs himself after killing wife over gambling loss

A man was believed to have committed suicide by hanging himself after killing his wife at Taman Mesra Indah, Butterworth near here, Saturday. Seberang Perai Utara district police chief ACP Azmi Adam said R. Maphooh, 34, a Thai national was believed to have been slashed and stabbed by her husband, who is a local, following an argument, in the 4pm incident. Azmi said the argument was believed to have started in a room and ended in a fight outside their house. “The woman died at the scene due to serious injuries after being slashed and stabbed on the neck, body and right thigh. Her body was found in front of the house,” he told a press conference here last night. He added that the argument broke out after the wife found out that her husband had withdrawn RM4,000 of her money from her bank account without her consent and lost it at a gambling table.

Sailor Faces Murder Charges in Military Court for Shooting Best Friend

Austin Greening was convicted of second-degree murder for killing his
best friend in 2013, but he won a new trial and wound up accepting a
plea deal that gave him six months behind bars. But as soon as the Navy petty officer third class was released from prison last fall, he was arrested by military authorities on murder charges — for the same shooting death. It’s uncommon for the military to try a case that’s already been adjudicated in civilian court, but it occasionally happens if military leaders aren’t happy with a trial’s outcome. Double jeopardy, the constitutional prohibition against being tried for the same crime twice, doesn’t apply here because the first charges were in state court, and the new ones are federal. State court records say that shortly after Greening was arrested, he told another inmate in jail that he and Klubert were gambling on a “Madden NFL” football video game and that an argument erupted over the debt. “He told that inmate that he ‘snapped’ during the argument, and the next thing he remembered was the gun going off,” court records say. 

Stealing 550 checks to feed gambling addiction gets Frederick woman 18 months in prison

A Frederick woman caught stealing almost half a million dollars from her employer was sentenced to 18 months in prison Thursday. Jennifer Xanten, 51, pleaded guilty on Oct. 14 in U.S. District Court to charges of mail fraud. She admitted stealing more than 550 checks with a total value of about $426,000 from the mail sent to the rehabilitation center in Rockville where she worked for 15 years, according to court documents. Xanten was responsible for mailing out the company’s invoices. Starting in early 2014, according to court records, she would send invoices to collect payment for services the center performed, intercept incoming check payments and deposit them into her personal bank account. In a position statement regarding sentencing, Xanten said through her attorney that mental health concerns and a gambling addiction played a role in the scheme. She began to visit casinos to get her mind off things, but eventually her gambling got out of control. She was gambling four to five days a week, documents state, spending between $4,000 and $5,000 per visit. As a result of the gambling, she began stealing to “stay afloat,” court records said.

Buffalo man gets 20 years for shooting friend over gambling debt 

A Buffalo man who shot a family friend three times over a gambling debt — telling him “It’s time to die” before firing the final bullet into his face — was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison. In December an Erie County Court jury found James R. Thomas Jr., 28, of Minnesota Avenue found guilty of attempted murder, assault and criminal possession of a weapon in the near-fatal shooting of Leonard Webb on Sept. 1, 2013. At trial, Webb testified that he owed $1,000 to Thomas, whom he knew as “JT,” and that a few months later Thomas confronted him. Webb, 58, testified that, after riding around with Thomas and his uncle one afternoon, Thomas pulled the car over and told Webb, “You and me need to talk about this money.” They got out of the car and walked up the sidewalk, until Webb realized that Thomas had dropped behind him and was reaching into his pants for a gun. As he fled, Thomas shot him in the back, and then in the abdomen. Webb fell to the ground, he said, and as he begged for his life, Thomas told him “It’s time to die,”and he shot him in the face. Despite his injuries Webb was able to reach his cellphone and call 911.

Bookie Pleads Guilty To Arson, Extortion In Shocking Case  

A reputed mob bookmaker faced five years or more in prison Thursday after admitting he jolted a deadbeat gambler with a stun gun and tried to burn down a restaurant in a $190,000 – Insurance fraud. Organized crime investigators have been watching John A. Barile, 52, of East Hartford, since the early 1990s when he was busted for illegal gambling with a who’s who of the Genovese crime family’s western New England branch. On Thursday, Barile pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Hartford to charges of arson, insurance fraud, gambling and extortion. Judge Alvin W. Thompson ordered him back in court for sentencing on May 6. Barile received a $190,000 insurance payout for the restaurant, about $165,000 of which federal prosecutors were able to seize from a bank account he controlled. FBI sources said Barile once worked for Tony Volpe, the Hartford lounge owner who ran Hartford in the 1990’s for the Genovese family. Barile and an associate from Springfield, a 250-pound former professional wrestler known as “Big Pat” Poland, were given 30-month sentences in the 1990s after pleading guilty to a racketeering conspiracy.

1 dead, 2 critical after shooting at casino

Authorities say one person is dead and two are critically injured after a shooting at the Greenetrack casino in Eutaw. Lt. Jeremey Rancher of the Greene County Sheriff’s Office said at a news conference that deputies responded to a call at the casino Saturday afternoon. He declined to go into detail about whether the shooting occurred inside the casino or outside. Rancher says one person was fatally shot and one critically shot. The other person was wounded in the course of the incident but not shot. No further information was available about those involved. The person wounded by a gunshot was able to drive to a nearby gas station, but police say all people involved are accounted for. Rancher says the investigation is ongoing, with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency assisting.

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


Sports Betting Once Again Pursued by New Jersey, This Time with Far Reaching Gambling Expansion Ramifications

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to expand sports gambling in area’s outside of Las Vegas, with New Jersey being the state at the forefront. Over many years they have tried several approaches to pass legislation to allow sports betting, but beyond just the opposition from the major sports leagues like the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL, existing federal law has kept the issue at bay. The last failed attempt was legislation that essentially said New Jersey would simply not enforce the federal law, but that effort was struck down by an federal court. Now, the Third Circuit court has granted a very rare opportunity for the New Jersey law to be reexamined. ESPN explains:

New Jersey has an “incredibly rare” opportunity Wednesday to defeat the nation’s most powerful sports leagues and win the right to offer legal, Las Vegas-style sports betting. An hour long rehearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. ET Wednesday at the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia to determine whether New Jersey’s Sports Wagering Law, signed by

Governor Chris Christie in Oct. 2014, violates a 25-year-old federal law prohibiting state- sponsored sports betting. The NCAA, NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball have sued the governor to prevent it from happening. The leagues have won every step of the way, including in August, when a three-judge panel at the 3rd Circuit ruled against New Jersey in a 2-1 majority decision. But legal authorities say the 3rd Circuit’s granting of a rehearing en banc (in front of all judges) is a sign that Wednesday may be New Jersey’s best shot of the entire saga. Since March 2010, the Third Circuit has granted a rehearing en banc just 19 times.

The impact of this particular case won’t simply impact New Jersey. Many states have interest in sports betting expansion. Additionally, there are potential Daily Fantasy Sport implications as well. ESPN continues:

Legal experts say the decision is extremely close. The outcome will have widespread ramifications in other states. Last week, Pennsylvania passed a resolution asking Congress to repeal PASPA, and several states have considered sports betting bills that would put them in position to offer sports betting should the federal statute be repealed. The ruling also could have an impact on the ongoing legal controversy surrounding daily fantasy sports. Several state attorneys general have stated that daily fantasy is a form of sports gambling. Some states are attempting to pass legislation that creates a licensing scheme for daily fantasy sports. The NBA, NHL and MLB all own equity in daily fantasy sports sites, and 28 NFL teams have advertising deals with daily fantasy companies. “Once daily fantasy sports are deemed to be a type of gambling, then I don’t know how you reconcile that with PASPA,” said Dan Etna, a co-chair of New York firm Herrick’s Sports Law Group, who has tracked the New Jersey case and daily fantasy sports.

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


A Brief Look at Crime 02/08 – 02/14

Alabama man gets life in slaying of high school coach 

A judge sentenced a north Alabama man to life imprisonment Thursday for the slaying of a volunteer high school coach whose body was thrown into the Tennessee River. Evidence during a trial in November showed Rutland was stabbed multiple times and shot. His body was dumped into the river from an old railroad bridge. Williams claimed he killed the man in self-defense after Rutland came to his apartment to collect a gambling debt. A criminal complaint alleged that when Williams said he did not have the money, Rutland threatened to “cut one of his fingers off every time he saw him until he paid him.”

Masked gunmen murder gambling hall manager 

A deadly ambush took the life of a manager of an alleged illegal gambling hall in southwest Bexar County. The killers vanished into the night. The victim was reportedly shot by two gunmen, who then ransacked the business. Deputies said no one else injured. Deputies said the suspects left the gambling hall. They did not disclose if the robbers took anything. The identity of the victim was not immediately available, although deputies said he was in his 30s. The suspects face charges of capital murder. Criminal charges are also pending for those operating the gambling hall inside of the rural mobile home.

 Woman gets seven years for embezzling

A Green Bay woman will spend seven years in prison for stealing $700,000 from the company she worked for. Laurie A. Vandenbush, 56, also must spend 11 years on extended supervision and pay back the money she stole, Brown County Judge Donald Zuidmulder ordered this week. Vandenbush was found guilty of stealing the money while working as office manager of accounting and benefits at CQM Inc, an engineering firm at 2679 Continental Drive, Bellevue. She admitted using the company credit card for personal expenses and gambling over the last several years, according to a criminal complaint. The company’s owner spotted discrepancies in the company’s books and brought in Brown Country Sheriff’s Office investigators in fall 2014.

State says Palm Beach Kennel Club ran illegal card games  

Florida gambling regulators this week accused the Palm Beach Kennel Club and six other pari-mutuels of breaking state law by offering an unsanctioned type of poker game. An attorney for the Kennel Club said Thursday that the track’s card room has offered “designated-player” games for years. State regulators filed administrative complaints against seven gambling facilities with card rooms. The action comes as state lawmakers debate a $3 billion gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe. That deal, announced last month by Gov. Rick Scott, would let the Palm Beach Kennel Club operate 750 slot machines. However, the agreement doesn’t allow slots at other pari-mutuels that covet them. The Seminole Tribe, meanwhile, has sued to stop pari-mutuels from offering the designated-player games, a type of three-card poker that bears a faint resemblance to casino-style poker games.

Man Shot in Back in Casino Pauma Parking Lot 

A man was shot in the back in the parking lot of a casino north of San Diego County early Saturday morning, officials confirmed. The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department (SDSO) said Valley Center Substation patrol deputies were called to Casino Pauma just after 4 a.m. to investigate a reported assault with a deadly weapon. The casino is located at 777 Pauma Reservation Rd., about 60 miles north of downtown San Diego. Casino security officers had called deputies to report that an unknown man was shooting at a woman in the front parking lot of the casino. When deputies arrived at the parking lot, they discovered a man in the lot, suffering from a single gunshot wound to his back. He was taken to Palomar Medical Center. At of 7 a.m. Saturday, the SDSO said the man was listed in critical but stable condition. According to investigators, witnesses at the casino said they heard a single gunshot fired in the parking lot. Witnesses reported seeing a woman flee from the parking into the main casino following the gunfire.

Man admits stealing neighbor’s identity, draining investment funds of $128,420 

Saying he used the money to fuel drug, alcohol and gambling addictions, a Billings man admitted he stole a neighbor’s personal information and used it to drain $128,420 from various investment accounts. Zeth Andrew Hilario, 33, pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court in Billings to three mail fraud counts and one aggravated identity theft count as part of plea deal to dismiss 12 other crimes charged in an indictment. Hilario also used the stolen information to convince Ameriprise Financial to drain another account of the victim’s and to send him the check. Hilario faces a maximum 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the mail fraud count and a mandatory consecutive two years in prison on the aggravated identity theft count.

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


Tampa Bay Times Questions Florida Gambling Expansion without Support of the People

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the progress of a renewed gambling deal between Florida and the Seminole Tribe. The compact has been the primary means of determining what gambling activities are allowed in Florida for some time. The old compact expired and a new compact was pinnedbut with some dangerous gambling expansion provisions. Now the compact is being debated in the Florida legislature as it must be passed before becoming law. There are many that see this gambling expansion being in direct conflict with the will of the Florida voters. The Tampa Bay Times laid out some history and sharp questions to those who seek to ignore the will of the people when crafting new gambling expansion policies. Times Columnist John Romano explains:

[I]t looks to me like the governor and the Legislature are subverting the wishes of voters with these proposed gambling expansions, if not legally, then certainly in spirit. The concept of Florida as Big Neon Casino State has been brought before voters as a constitutional amendment three different times since 1978 and defeated each time. Defeated, actually, with spectacular ease. The closest vote was 68-32 in 1994.

Since then, the state has approached gambling expansion from a different direction. Instead of asking voters for sweeping approval, the state has expanded gambling in small and seemingly inconsequential ways. On its own, each expansion can be seen as logical and (depending on your point of view) relatively harmless. But we’re getting to the point where Florida is looking a lot like the gambling state that voters have repeatedly said they didn’t want…

[T]he governor and the Legislature need to make sure that’s the case before they agree to take Florida down this latest road. Because anything short of a statewide ballot measure feels like cheating…Maybe Florida voters in 2016 have a completely different mind-set than they did in 1978. Or 1986. Or 1994. But the only way we’ll know is by asking. Until then, any further expansion of gambling is just a sneaky way of ignoring what voters have made exceptionally clear. 

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


A Brief Look at Crime 02/01 – 02/07

Cuban national ordered held on $200,000 bond in Miami cop stabbing

A judge has raised the bond for a Cuban national who is accused of stabbing a Miami police officer who was working off duty at the Magic City Casino. Jose Carvajal-Lopez, 28, who remains at Jackson Memorial Hospital after being shot by the officer, has been ordered to be taken into custody and held in lieu of $200,000 bond. Carvajal-Lopez is charged with attempted second-degree murder of a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest with violence. Police said casino staff requested help from officers just before 1 a.m. Thursday to remove a belligerent patron from the premises. During the confrontation, Officer Raul Perez and Carvajal-Lopez ended up wrestling on the floor, police said. According to an arrest report, Carvajal-Lopez appeared to be intoxicated and tried to stab Perez in the face and neck. The officer was stabbed once in the cheek and fired a single shot at Carvajal-Lopez before another officer could subdue the suspect, the report said.

Bookie Tied to Mob Found Dead 2 Days After Brooklyn DA Raids Home

A New Jersey bookie who suffered “panic attacks” over a loan he took from a Gambino crime family associate to help pay for his wife’s cancer treatment was found dead days after the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office searched his home, law enforcement sources said. The body of bookie Patrick Deluise was found with a gunshot wound in a car in Holmdel, N.J., at 2 a.m. Friday, according to sources. The Holmdel Township Police Department declined to comment on Deluise’s death, stating that it was an open investigation. However, sources said his death appears to be a suicide that occurred sometime between Thursday night and Friday morning. Two days before Deluise’s body was found, Brooklyn DA investigators had executed a search warrant on his property — the culmination of a 17-month probe of interstate gambling operations that also involved the Gambino associate, Anthony Vallario, according to court documents obtained by DNA info. Deluise was expected to be indicted on felony charges for running a $10 million gambling ring, according to the court documents, which are connected to a civil forfeiture proceeding.

Drugs, illegal gambling may be linked to pair of Flint slayings, police say

Drugs, illegal gambling may be linked to pair of Flint slayings,police say shortly after 5 p.m., police were called to the 3200 block of N. Saginaw St. where a man was shot in the abdomen. The victim was taken by ambulance to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later. Without going into detail, Tolbert said it’s believed that incident stemmed from an argument over illegal gambling. A man was taken into custody in connection to the case, and charges are pending, according to a news release.

Edmonton fraudster stole nearly $260,000 from the emergency veterinarian clinic

An Edmonton woman who stole nearly $260,000 from the emergency veterinarian clinic she worked at to fuel her gambling addiction was put behind bars on Wednesday. Holly Jean Cardinal, 54, was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to theft over $5,000. Provincial Court Judge Steven Bilodeau ruled it was aggravating that the embezzlement went on for over a year and involved more than a quarter million dollars. Bilodeau called it “jarring” that the thefts continued even after Cardinal was given bail after being charged with defrauding $296,000 from her previous employer. The judge also noted that the thefts resulted in “all types of devastation” at the vet clinic, including causing “sleepless nights and psychological harm” to her bosses. “This was a grave offence with life-changing consequences to many law-abiding members of our community,” said Bilodeau, adding that employee theft is a “prevalent” offence that cannot be allowed to “become popular.”

Man embezzled $3 million from Apollo Oil 

A Winchester man accused of stealing more than $3 million from his former employer was sentenced Wednesday to a little more than four years in prison. Bradley E. Taylor, 38, must also pay back the money he embezzled over a 10-year period from Apollo Oil, a wholesale distributorship in Winchester. “I accept full responsibility for my actions,” Taylor told U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves in federal court in Lexington. As for Apollo, Taylor said he was “sorry for the financial pain and emotional suffering” he caused the company and its employees. Court documents say that Taylor used the money to sustain gambling, drug and alcohol addictions. In open court, Taylor said he had explained all that he had done to his son. “Hopefully, it will be a learning lesson for him,” Taylor said.

Long Island man gets 15 years in prison for $35M fraud 

A Long Island man was sentenced Thursday to 15 years in prison for a $35 million fraud that a judge said wrecked investors’ lives. Mikhail Zemlyansky, 39, was led out of a Manhattan courtroom in shackles after U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken sentenced the Hewlett resident a year after a jury convicted him of racketeering conspiracy and other charges at a month long trial. Prosecutors labeled him a leader in the largest single no-fault car insurance fraud scheme ever prosecuted. And they say two investment fraud schemes caused nearly 300 victims, some of them elderly, to lose about $17 million. In all, multiple frauds that included illegal gambling caused losses of nearly $36 million, prosecutors said.

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


Florida Anti-Gambling Group has Required Signatures to Advance its Ballot Initiative to the Language Review Process

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts of the anti-gambling group, No Casinos, to help protect Florida families from the dangers of expanded gambling. Most recently, No Casinos outlined a diverse strategy for preventing expanded gambling in Florida, including support of an initiative petition by Voters in Charge to require statewide voter approval prior to authorizing gambling expansion. The group was required to collect a certain number of signatures before they would be able to place the amendment on the ballot for a statewide vote. The Tampa Tribune Online is now reporting that the group has enough signatures to take the next step in the petition process:

The anti-gambling group No Casinos! announced today it has collected 100,000 signature s for its Voters in Charge ballot initiative and is submitting them to county election supervisors to be validated for judicial review. State law requires 68,314 valid signatures to trigger a Florida Supreme Court review of the ballot language. “When we launched this petition drive in October, we outlined a plan that called for hitting this goal of collecting enough signatures, that when validated, would result in the total needed for the Supreme Court to review the initiative, and we have achieved that goal,” said John Sowinski, President of No Casinos!

The next step will be to acquire enough signatures to get the initiative on the ballot. State law requires 10% of the voters, or in this case, 683,149 total signatures. The goal is to collect the remaining signatures and place the issue on the 2018 ballot if necessary. The Tampa Tribune explains:

Sowinski said his group would push to get it on the 2018 ballot if the Florida Supreme court allows slots at an Indian Tribe-owned race track in Gretna, 70 miles west of Tallahassee. No Casinos! has filed a friend of the court brief in Gretna Racing LLC v Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations seeking a strict interpretation of Article X, Section 7 of the state’s constitution, and make it clear that “casino gambling can’t be expanded by legislative fiat,” Sowinski said at a press conference last week.

“If the court returns a ruling in the Gretna case that does not give authority over gambling expansion to the people of Florida, we will continue the initiative process and put this amendment on the 2018 ballot,” Sowinski said.

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