Monthly Archives: March 2016

Florida Supreme Court accepts ‘No Casinos’ Friend-of-the-Court Brief on Explosive Gambling Expansion Case

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing Grenta Slot Machine case that carries tremendous weight and impact on the expanding gambling scene in Florida. The issue at hand involves a voter approved initiative in Gadsden County to allow for slot machines at Gretna Racing track. The problem is that Florida state law makes slot machine operation illegal in Florida except those area where they are expressly and specifically made legal by the legislature. Gadsden County is not an area where slot machines are allowed and it would take either a statewide vote to expand gambling jurisdictions or specific legislation that opens up new parts of the state. The case has worked its way to the Florida Supreme Court and it has severe implications for gambling expansion state wide. The Bradenton Herald explains: 

Instead of lawmakers deciding the future of expanded gambling, that decision will now be made by the courts in pending lawsuits before the Florida Supreme Court and a federal judge. The court could conclude lawmakers have no authority to authorize slot machines outside of Miami-Dade and Broward counties without statewide voter approval, thereby neutering the Legislature’s influence. It could say only the Legislature can decide where to put new games. Or a third option — the most explosive of all and the one the plaintiffs are hoping for — could open the door to unprecedented expansion of slot machines if the court rules Palm Beach and Gadsden counties could seek permits to install slots machines because local voters have approved it.

“It could become a free-for-all for slot machines across the state,” said state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, the House’s chief negotiator who spent the last six months trying to work out a compact with the governor and the tribe, as well as a gaming bill that suited the Senate and the diverse interests of the pari-mutuel industry. “If that happens, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. The pari-mutuels across the state will argue they have some vested right to slot machines, and they will fight tooth and nail to make sure their legislators are not voting against them.

Lots of support has been provided to those looking to uphold the very plain and clear language of the law that says these types of slot machine expansion initiatives are simply illegal.  Opponents see this as a clear cut case and to ensure all aspects of the cases implications are understood by The Court, No Casinos has been able to submit a friend-of-the-court brief to the Florida Supreme Court. The Herald continues:

The court also on Friday allowed in a friend-of-the-court brief from No Casinos, an anti-gambling expansion group. Gretna Racing’s attorneys had asked for that brief to be tossed out.

“We are pleased that the Court denied the motion of gambling interests who wanted to silence the arguments laid out in our brief,” said No Casinos President *John Sowinski *in a prepared statement. “Now the Court will get a full picture of this critical issue.

“This case is about much more than interpreting a statute,” he said. “This case is about adhering to a principle thoughtfully and deliberately placed in Florida’s constitution to give the people of our state the ultimate authority to decide whether or not to expand gambling in Florida.”

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

 

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A Brief Look at Crime 03/14 – 03/20

Man, 33, charged with murder in shooting at illegal gambling room near San Antonio

A second man accused of shooting a man in the head at a mobile home turned game room in January turned himself in to the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday. Looking at images investigators obtained from surveillance footage of the robbery, Ivarra said “That’s me,” as he placed his initials next to the picture and wrote ME below it. Ivarra said he went in with the intention of robbing the place, not to kill someone, and admitted to taking a purse during the incident. He said he had a handgun with him during the robbery and pawned it the following morning, according to investigators. Deputies found Nunez dead inside of the game room where they determined the shooting was part of an attempted robbery. Authorities released images of the two men shortly after and received tips leading to Salazar’s arrest.

Offshore Gambling Site Laundered $2 Million in Amazon Gift Cards

The operators of an offshore gambling website used Amazon gift cards to launder nearly $2 million over the past few years, a Department of Homeland Security investigator alleged in a recent application for a seizure warrant filed in the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia. The filing alleges that the Costa Rica-based gambling site, 5Dimes, instructed U.S. customers to use Amazon gift cards to fund their 5Dimes sports betting, in an effort to skirt the U.S. financial system. The feds say 5Dimes also paid out winnings to U.S. customers in Amazon gift cards, or in merchandise they picked out on Amazon.com. The Homeland Security warrant application makes the case to seize a total of $159,000 spread among 15 Amazon accounts believed to be tied to 5Dimes. Over the years, the Amazon accounts, which bear names such as GC Lover and Blue Iguana, have held nearly $1.9 million in funds combined. Amazon has shut down the GC Lover account, according to the filing.

Moore woman sentenced to nearly four years for embezzlement 

An Oklahoma woman who embezzled more than $900,000 from an oilfield pipe inspection company has been sentenced to nearly four years in prison. Naomi D. Walker was sentenced Friday and was also ordered to pay $1.2 million in restitution to Star Pipe Service Inc. and the IRS. Walker confessed that she used her position of banking and corporate check writing responsibilities to embezzle the money and also used the corporate credit card for her personal benefit. A court document alleged that Walker used the company’s credit card to make unauthorized purchases at retail stores and for utility and cable company services. Walker’s defense attorney says her client had used some of the embezzled money to fuel a gambling problem.

Feds say ‘large-scale’ meth dealer gambled millions at Downstream Casino

Prosecutors say the man at the center of a large-scale Springfield meth distribution ring was a high roller at a nearby casino. Patrick Brigaudin, 54, is one of four men charged last week with conspiracy to distribute large amounts of drugs after authorities allegedly found 12 pounds of meth and 6 and a half pounds of heroin in his garage. In court filings asking that Brigaudin be held without bond, federal prosecutors say Brigaudin is a flight risk because between January 2009 and April 2015 he put more than $10 million into slot machines at Downstream Casino in Quapaw, Oklahoma. Court documents say he withdrew about $8.4 million from the slot machines.Ortiz-Corrales and Brigaudin allegedly went to Springfield banks and deposited large sums of cash in quantities just beneath what would trigger mandatory reporting requirements from the banks. Diaz, court documents say, crossed the US-Mexico border at border control checkpoints at least nine times in the previous 10 months.

Ex-Oklahoma state senator sentenced to 37 months for fraud 

A former Oklahoma state senator who admitted stealing $1.8 million from the nonprofit agency where he worked is heading to prison for 37 months. He subsequently pleaded guilty to five counts of wire fraud and one count of subscribing to a false tax return and his lawyer said the ex-senator completed two months’ of inpatient treatment for a gambling addiction. Brinkley faced 20 years on each fraud count and three years on the tax charge. U.S. District Judge Claire Eagan entered a restitution order last month. The former Republican state senator from Owasso was president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau in Tulsa from 1999 to 2011, then its chief operating officer until last year.

Florida man faces up to 20 years’ prison for lottery scam

A South Florida man is facing up to 20 years in prison for operating a phony lottery scam that cheated victims out of at least $500,000. Sentencing is set for May 31 in Fort Lauderdale federal court for 26-year-old Delroy Drummond. He pleaded guilty recently to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud. Court documents show that Drummond and others would contact elderly people around the U.S. to falsely tell them they had won a lottery prize worth millions of dollars. But they were also told they first had to pay thousands of dollars in taxes and fees before they could collect. Prosecutors say Drummond had victims send him cash in packages and through wire transfers. The $500,000 was stolen from multiple victims between April and December 2015.

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


Illegal March Madness Betting expected to be twice that of Super Bowl 50

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing risks of gambling on the NCAA College Basketball Tournament. Each year more and more people view the event as a gambling activity, much like the Super Bowl. As another Selection Sunday puts the framework in place for this year’s tournament, its important to understand the dangers represented in the illegal gambling that follows. First and foremost, most of the gambling that takes place amounts to illegal gambling. A USAtody article points to reports of online pools that take an entry fee and award cash and prizes. These pools may seem harmless but FBI spokesman Ross Rice explained that, ‘“There could be a violation if there’s a payout and if the operators take a cut.” Second, the amount of people involved and the sum of money being gambled will be enormous. Forbes explains:

The trade group that represents [the] $240 billion U.S. casino industry estimates that Americans will wager $9.2 billion on March Madness this year, up from $9 billion last year. According to the AGA, that staggering number includes wagers through office pools, Nevada sports books, illicit offshore sites and illegal bookies. To place that $9.2 billion estimate in perspective, the AGA claimed that an estimated $4.1 billion was illegally wagered on Super Bowl 50.

So, how much betting is going on legally compared to illegally? More than you might think. According to the AGA, of the estimated $9.2 billion that will be bet this year in office pools, side wagers, and in casinos, only about $262 million will be bet legally at Nevada sports books.

Think about that. If $262 million flows through Nevada sports books, that means $8.938 billion is being bet elsewhere. According to the AGA, the total illegal sports betting market in the United States grew to $148.8 billion in 2015.

In terms of cost to employers, the Charlotte Observer points to a Chicago-based survey which says as much as $1.7 billion will be lost by employers in productivity, which breaks down to $109 million lost for every 10 minutes spent following the tournament. They believe there will be over 37 million workers participating in pools with 1.5 million watching games and results online from their desks.

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


A Brief Look at Crime 03/07 – 03/13

Man fatally shot former co-worker at Reno casino

Officials say they have arrested the former casino cook accused of fatally shooting a co-worker as the two had a snack at a sleepy downtown Reno, Nev., casino. The shooting at Siri’s Casino happened just before midnight Sunday. Casino owner Jeff Siri said the two men had been cooks at a nearby sister property, although neither was on the job during the confrontation. Grayson is a former employee who stopped coming to work a few days ago, he said. Siri said he was told by witnesses that the men were eating at a snack bar toward the back of the casino with at least one other person, who was walking away as the shooting happened. “The employee that got shot pushed (the shooter) with his cane, and that’s when he pulled the gun out, within seconds. It was really fast,” Siri said.

Man arrested, accused of fatal shooting in illegal game room 

A man accused of ambushing an illegal gambling hall and killing someone inside is now in custody. The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office says that on January 27, 46-year-old Ramon Salazar Jr. fatally shot a man several times in a mobile home that was converted into an eight liner game room in the southwest part of the county. They say Salazar Jr. and another masked man got away but they were able to capture the two on surveillance video. After releasing the footage, tips poured in from the public. “The Sheriff’s Office would really like to thank the public, because this is obviously a very dangerous individual that otherwise would be on the streets right now,” said Rosanne Hughes, a BCSO spokesperson. Salazar Jr. will be facing a capital murder charge. Hughes said more arrests are expected.

Imprisoned ex-Nevada judge banned from returning to bench 

An imprisoned former Las Vegas-area family court judge has been banned from ever returning to the bench. The Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline declared Tuesday that it was closing a “sad chapter in the history of the Nevada judiciary” with its order banishing the longtime ex-judge, Steven Jones. The Las Vegas Sun reports he eight-page order branded Jones a liar and a thief and said he manipulated the legal system. Jones is now in a federal prison in Taft, California. He pleaded guilty in late 2014 to federal fraud charges and was sentenced to 26 months and ordered to pay $2.9 million in restitution to dozens of victims in a water rights investment scheme. Prosecutors said Jones and others spent the money on gambling and their own living expenses.

Home health care provider pleads guilty to $856K tax evasion 

A Basehor, Kan., business owner pleaded guilty Wednesday to failing to pay more than $856,000 in federal taxes. Elizabeth Lucero owned Sunshine Home Health Care, which employed about 65 employees and served 1,400 patients. Between 2007 and 2011, the company withheld payments from employee’s paychecks for federal income taxes, Medicare and Social Security. However, the home health care provider failed to make the necessary payments to the Internal Revenue Service. According to court documents, Lucero ignored her accountant’s advice and used the company to pay for hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal expenses, including gambling at casinos and buying a $50,000 Cadillac Escalade. Lucero will pay a restitution of $856,784. She faces up to five years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.

Boca Raton man who bilked $3M, spent it at casinos is sentenced to prison

 

A Boca Raton man who admitted he bilked about $3 million from investors and spent large amounts of the money gambling at casinos was sentenced Wednesday to 61/2 years in federal prison. Timothy R. Clancy, 46, who was a licensed securities broker and a financial adviser, pleaded guilty to mail fraud last year in federal court in West Palm Beach. The defense said Clancy was depressed and addicted to alcohol, drugs and gambling for many years. They said he repeatedly sought treatment. They said he diverted a “significant portion” of the money he took from about 20 investors and blew it at casinos. The defense said he “voluntarily signed a ban excluding himself from all South Florida casinos operated by the Seminole Indian Tribe” in November 2013, in addition to going into rehab several times.

Police look for answers in death of grandmother who was fatally struck by casino tour bus 

Detectives were asking for the public’s help in identifying the driver of a tour bus involved in a hit-and-run that killed an 85-year-old woman near Koreatown. The Valiente family is uneasy. It has been nearly two months since its matriarch, 85-year-old Encarnacion Valiente, was fatally run down near Koreatown by a tour bus filled with passengers returning from Morongo Casino. After hitting the grandmother, the driver never stopped, instead continuing his journey and dropping off passengers nearly two miles away. “We just want justice. Even if he is guilty or not, just come forward,” her daughter-in-law Mirna Valiente said Thursday. “It was life. It was [a] person who was killed.”

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


Dangerous Decoupling Efforts fail to Advance as Seminole Gambling Compact Dies during this years Florida Legislative Session

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to renew the long standing Seminole Gambling Compact that offers various exclusive rights to the Seminole Indians in exchange for specific payments to the state. That compact expired and a new compact was negotiated between Florida Gov. Scott and the Seminole Tribe. Unfortunately, the compact was not a simple extension of the existing agreement, but instead represented massive gambling expansion. One of the biggest areas of expanded gambling represented in this legislation was a decoupling effort. Many reports have outlined the dangers of decoupling but the Compact and any new gambling expansion efforts added into that compact needs to be ratified by the Florida Legislature. Luckily for those working hard to protect Florida’s families from the dangers of expanded gambling, these expansion efforts will not pass in the current legislative session. An online source explains:

You won’t see craps or roulette in Florida casinos for at least another year after state lawmakers were unable to pass gaming legislation during the 2016 session, which ends on Friday.

[T]he legislature still had to sign off on the agreement, or at least pass alternative legislation for the Seminoles and Scott to consider. Instead, they allowed the deal between Scott and the tribe to die.

The original Seminole Compact represented a balance in allowing some gambling, while still limiting the overall impact to Florida families through exclusivity agreements. Had the compact been a simple extension, the compact might have been passed. However, too many special interests tried to use the compact as a way to expand gambling all over the state. Not only has this approach been showed to go against the will of voters in Florida, but its also the approach that prevented any sensible regulation from passing.   Florida Politics Online explains:

*Barry Richard*, who represents the Seminole Tribe of Florida,**blamed the apparent Tuesday morning collapse of the 2016 gambling bills on lawmakers bending over backward to appease the state’s dog and horse racing concerns [decoupling].

Meantime, legislators added language allowing, among many other things, slot machines in five new counties — Brevard, Gadsden, Lee, Palm Beach and Washington — and permitting a form of poker known as “designated player games” at all pari-mutuels, something state gambling regulators now say is illegal. Provisions like those turned the deal on its head, Richard said.

These gambling expansion issues may not be moving forward in this legislative session, but a special session can still be called and the compact could be debated again. Stay informed on the ongoing dangers of these gambling expansion issues and be vigilant in letting your elected representatives know that you stand with Florida families by limiting gambling expansion in the state.

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


A Brief Look at Crime 02/29 – 03/06

Refused gambling money, man sets wife ablaze 

Outraged at being refused money for a game of gambling, a man from an Etah village poured kerosene and set his wife on fire at their residence on the intervening night of Friday and Saturday. The man, identified as 26-year-old Sittu who is a resident of Mohala Banjara of Sarai Aghat in Etah district, was nabbed by local residents when he tried to kill his daughter and flee. Their neighbours rescued the daughter. The victim, identified as 25-year-old Suman, has suffered 80% burn injuries and is in a critical condition. Speaking to TOI, station in-charge of Naya Gaon, Suresh Singh said: “The accused (Sittu) is an alcoholic and gambler. On Friday night, he lost nearly Rs 8,000 while playing poker, after which he went to Suman and asked her to lend him some money, so that he could win back the money he had lost that night.” “On refusing to pay, Sittu assaulted Suman, he then dragged her out of their home and poured kerosene and set her ablaze. According to local residents, he even tried to kill his six-month-old daughter, who was saved by their neighbours,” the police officer said.

Woman’s body found at bottom of Vegas hotel laundry chute 

Police are investigating the death of a woman whose body was found over the weekend at the bottom of a laundry chute at the tallest hotel-casino in downtown Las Vegas. Officer Michael Rodriguez said Monday homicide detectives were summoned early Sunday after the woman was found dead at the D Las Vegas on Fremont Street. Rodriguez says the case is being investigated as a suspicious death. The woman’s name and how she died weren’t immediately made public. The 34-story D Las Vegas has almost 640 rooms. It was known for many years as Fitzgeralds.

Man Charged With Stabbing Miami Cop in The Face at Casino 

A man accused of stabbing a Miami police officer in the face at the Magic City Casino pleaded not guilty to a second-degree murder charge Friday. Jose Carvajal-Lopez was in court Friday to enter the plea in the Jan. 21 incident. He’s expected back in court Monday and his trial could begin as early as May. Witnesses said Carvajal-Lopez attacked the officer and stabbed him in the face, forcing the cop to fire his gun once and sending Carvajal-Lopez to the hospital. The officer was also hospitalized.

Man sentenced to 21 months in prison for stealing over $1 million from foundation

A 43-year-old man was sentenced to 21 months in prison for stealing over $1 million from a Washington private charitable foundation where he once worked. According to a Department of Justice release, Byron Fogan worked as an executive director of the Oasis Foundation, and pled guilty last November to one count of money laundering involving the laundering of $220,000 of proceeds in an embezzlement scheme. Fogan will have three years of supervised release, and has to pay $223,568 as compensation to the Oasis Foundation and a penalty financial judgment of $223,568. Fogan illegally obtained over $1 million from the foundation from Jan. 2011 to May 2013, and spent the money at casinos, according to the release. The release says Fogan had seven illegal transactions over $10,000 which added up to over $200,000.

Hastings lawyer pleads guilty in $1.4M scam

A Hastings-on-Hudson lawyer has pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a scam to bilk clients out of more than $1.4 million, officials said. Michael Lippman pleaded guilty on Monday to felony counts of second-degree grand larceny, second-degree criminal tax fraud and first-degree scheme to defraud, the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office said. Lippman, a former Yonkers resident, stole money that had been intended for various purposes, including transferring property and estate planning for clients. His attorney, Murray Richman, said in September that his client had a severe gambling problem that ruined his life. Richman said at the time that Lippman was broke and sleeping in his office. Authorities had also accused Lippman of failing to pay more than $50,000 in taxes to the state.

Bingo owners indicted on fraud, gambling charges 

The owners of Racetrack Bingo in Fort Walton Beach have been charged by federal authorities with conspiracy to commit fraud, illegal gambling and the theft of millions of dollars from local charities. The indictment states the Masinos conspired to obtain approximately $5.8 million in “criminally derived property” by defrauding a coalition of charities through exorbitant rent and fees for the use of their bingo hall. “Larry L. Masino and Dixie L. Masino operated Racetrack Bingo Inc. in violation of the bingo statute in order to gain profit for themselves and their children,” the indictment reads. The Masinos also were indicted individually on numerous money laundering charges. Larry Masino faces 18 counts of depositing profits obtained through illegal activities into a “profit distribution” account that benefited him, Dixie and their three children. The total he deposited was $661,610, according to the indictment.

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


Nonprofit Groups Expose the NFL’s Strategy to use Fantasy Sports to Addict Kids to Gambling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the National Football League’s (NFL) position on sports gambling. They have long held to the belief that keeping the NFL a very far distance from gambling is in the league’s best interest. Recently that position has come into question with the NFL’s interest in Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS). This new form of gambling has taken most of the country by storm and state after state are either calling it illegal gambling or passing legislation to heavily regulate the industry. As is often the case, those with business and gambling interests make attempts to build a gambling base in people as early as possible. It would appear, according to several Nonprofit groups, that the NFL is taking a similar approach and marketing fantasy sports to kids. ESPN explains this controversial situation: 

Nonprofit groups are calling on the National Football League to stop offering fantasy sports competitions to children because they’re concerned the games could lead some young sports fans down the path of gambling addiction.

In letters being sent to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday, the National Council on Problem Gambling and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood complain the NFL “aggressively marketed” a fantasy sports game on “NFL Rush,” its website and smartphone app for children, as well as on SIkids.com, Sports Illustrated’s website for children, and through an elementary school curriculum based on the contest.

The weekly “NFL Rush Fantasy” games ran throughout the football season and were open to children ages 6 to 12. Each week, an Xbox One console and Madden NFL 2016 video game was awarded to the contest’s top performer.

The two contest participants with the highest number of points at the end of the 17-week promotion also won a $5,000 check, which the league called a “scholarship,” plus a four-night trip to Hawaii to attend the Jan. 31 Pro Bowl game with up to two guests.

The NFL would claim that these are harmless games, that don’t amount to daily fantasy sports or gambling and simply offer a scholarship to help with education. The child advocacy groups believe otherwise. The New York Post provides their rationale:

Keith Whyte, executive director of the Washington, DC-based National Council on Problem Gambling, wrote in his letter to Goodell that the contests “may encourage children to spend excessive amounts of time trying to win these prizes, thus planting the seeds of addiction.”

Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a Boston-based group that opposes child-targeted marketing, called the league’s fantasy sports-based curriculum “particularly egregious.”

‘Whether or not it constitutes daily fantasy sports, there is the bigger issue that it indoctrinates young children into a potentially harmful and addictive behavior’ – David Monahan of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

“NFL Rush Fantasy–Learn, Play, Score!” was a math and language arts program that required students to sign up for the NFL’s fantasy football game in order to access lesson materials and complete assignments.

“Educators should not be called upon to assist the NFL in promoting an activity which is potentially harmful and addictive when engaged in by children,” Golin wrote to Goodell.

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