Monthly Archives: January 2017

Florida Legislature and Gambling Industry Brace for Massive Gambling Expansion Bill introduced in the Florida Senate

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing gambling issues in Florida. The most recent gambling issues have centered around the Seminole Tribe Gambling Compact  and exclusivity of table gamesand gambling venues right to expand gamblingMost of these issues are intertwined, but almost all gambling expansion requires the approval of the Florida legislature and each session these issues are up for debate. This year is no different so it should come as no surprise that a new gambling bill has been proposed for the upcoming session. The scope and size of the bill however, is rather surprising. An online source summarizes the details:

A comprehensive bill to reform gambling in the US state of Florida has been introduced. Saying he wants to avoid the arguments that have hampered previous efforts, Bill Galvano, president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States, has launched a bill that offers “something for everyone.”

Galvano introduced Senate Bill 8 two months before the legislature convenes, saying he wants to give all sides time to compromise. The bill would allow major slots expansion, allow blackjack in South Florida pari-mutuel card rooms, deal with daily fantasy sports and offer a new gaming compact to the Seminole Indians.

The specifics of the bill will be expanded upon as session nears, but the direction of the bill pointing firmly in the direction of massive expansion, will surely catch the eye of everyone involved, including the Florida House who seems to prefer less gambling, especially in light of the complexities involved with the Seminole Compact.   The source continues:

The bill’s fate looks uncertain with the House preferring a contraction of gaming and the Seminoles saying a loss of gambling exclusivity would mean an end of their compact, thus an end of payments to the state. 

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A Brief Look at Crime 01/16 – 01/22

Western Union Slammed For Aiding Crooks, Agrees To Pay $586 Million

Money transfer giant Western Union has agreed to pay $586 million in connection with its failure to prevent criminals from moving ill-gotten money using its platform, according to federal authorities. In a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission on Thursday, authorities describe insufficient or poorly enforced policies that resulted in the funneling of hundreds of millions of dollars in proceeds from illegal gambling, fraud and drug and human trafficking. Western Union admitted to criminal violations including its willful failure to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program and aiding and abetting wire fraud. “Western Union owes a responsibility to American consumers to guard against fraud, but instead the company looked the other way, and its system facilitated scammers and rip-offs,” says FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez. Authorities say that employees allowed or aided and abetted fraudsters in processing illicit proceeds and that the company knew about it. However, rather than firing them, Western Union allowed the employees to continue working for the company and even paid them bonuses.

Mom is out gambling as 11 children die in house fire

Virginia Williams, then in her late 20s, was out gambling 20 years ago when 11 of her children died in a house fire. She’s had six more children since, and some of them say she’s abused them. She was imprisoned for abuse. Periodically, the state has intervened in the children’s behalf, but the family remains racked by problems. Some blame Williams, who has a mental disorder and gambling addiction. Some blame the state. Some blame both. Williams, a compulsive gambler, abused and neglected her second family much as she did her first, her children and court records allege. The state of Illinois knew this was happening but left the children vulnerable again and again. Again there were danger signs, and again the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the juvenile court and other agencies stepped in. But their efforts, those familiar with the case say, were inconsistent and ineffective. Two of these children are so damaged psychologically they may be dangerous to others, concludes one psychologist after reviewing information provided by the Post-Dispatch. The story of the two sets of Williams children, and how history came to repeat itself so grimly, is an entwined tale of a dysfunctional mother and a broken system that, far too often, failed to protect its most vulnerable children.

Las Vegas Sands paying $7M to settle corrupt practices probe

Billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s casino company is paying almost $7 million to U.S. authorities to end a more than five-year corrupt practices investigation of the firm’s former relationship with a consultant in Macao and China, company and federal officials said Thursday. With the agreement, Las Vegas Sands Corp. resolved twin probes of more than $60 million paid to an unnamed agent retained in 2006 to acquire a Chinese basketball team, plus other business dealings that include a Beijing real estate deal to promote casinos on the Cotai Strip of Macao, U.S. Justice Department and FBI officials said. The $6.96 million penalty was in addition to a $9 million civil payment the company made in April to settle a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation that found some payments to the consultant weren’t properly authorized or documented, the government said.

Woman who stole from her Mankato employer ordered to pay $124,000 restitution

A St. Peter woman who allegedly stole from her Mankato employer must pay restitution and spend a decade on probation. Vanessa Wynn Kuder, 42, was convicted Tuesday of felony theft by swindle. Two other felony charges were dismissed in a plea deal. She was ordered to pay $124,000 in restitution and serve 10 years probation with conditions including she must undergo psychological and gambling addiction evaluations. Kuder worked as an accounts payable manager for a property management company. She made unauthorized charges on her company credit card and then forged company checks and made unauthorized money transfers to pay off the credit card in 2015 and early 2016, according to the criminal complaint.

Man dies months after being hit with beer mug; death ruled a homicide

A 51-year-old man who was hit in the head with a beer mug in November has died, and the island’s medical examiner has ruled the death a homicide. An autopsy performed Thursday confirmed the man died from a skull fracture and brain damage, according to Dr. Aurelio Espinola, chief medical examiner. A magistrate’s complaint states Nakamura was gambling with a man named Henry on Nov. 9 at the Slurp n Burp Bar in Harmon, when Henry decided he wanted to stop. Nakamura allegedly tried to get Henry to continue to gamble, at which point Arriola confronted Nakamura, telling him to leave Henry alone, documents state. Arriola told authorities Henry is his friend.

Genovese family mobsters busted for offshore gambling ring

More than a dozen reputed members of New York’s infamous Genovese crime family have been arrested on a slew of charges stemming from a bust dubbed “Operation Shark Bait.” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office says the 13 mobsters indicted Thursday were part of a lucrative illegal offshore gambling ring that also trapped victims in loan schemes. The defendants allegedly ran the multimillion-dollar gambling operation through a wire room in Costa Rica that handled wagers on college and professional sports. Schneiderman says the group’s loansharking business charged “outrageous” interest rates on loans that were impossible to repay. Investigators captured much of the suspects’ alleged illegal interactions through intercepted conversations. Two mobsters were also charged with evading state taxes for selling more than 30,000 illegal cigarettes in New York.

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

 


Florida Legislator Attempts to Exempt Daily Fantasy Sports Industry from Gambling Regulations

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing path of newest gambling fad, daily fantasy sports (DFS). Many jurisdictions are viewing these daily contests as simple gambling given there isn’t the same skill level involved in playing with one drafted fantasy team over the course of a season and instead players pick a new team of players, most often with the ability to pick the exact same player, each day. Others have tried to pass legislation to call them games of skill and thus not gambling. Florida is a key jurisdiction given the major companies involved, DraftKings and FanDuel have corporate offices located in the state. Florida has sought to address the issue legislatively over the past two years, but with no true outcome. This session seems to be no different as a new Bill has been introduced that seeks to make DFS legal by exempting them from regulation. An online gambling site reports:

Florida state Rep. Jason Brodeur recently filed HB149, which would declare daily fantasy sports is a game of skill, not luck, thereby removing it from oversight by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which oversees parimutuels, poker, slots and other gambling.

Last year state Senator Joe Negron and state Reps. Matt Gaetz and Ritch Workman filed similar bills. The House Business & Professional Subcommittee passed Gaetz’s and Workman’s bill to allow and regulate DFS in Florida, but it died because lawmakers considered blackjack and fantasy sports to be gambling expansions.

Florida gaming lawyer Daniel Wallach pointed out, “In Florida it is illegal to bet or wager on both games of chance and contests of skill. So calling it a ‘contest of skill’ does not insulate the games under Florida law because wagering in those types of contests is also illegal. In my view, DFS would probably be considered ‘gambling’ under Florida’s broad test.” As a result, Wallach said, Brodeur’s bill is “a straight-up decriminalization measure that comes at a potentially heavy cost for consumers, with no regulatory oversight, and, even worse, no regulations unlike in other states.”

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


A Brief Look at Crime 01/09 – 01/15

1 employee dead, 1 hurt in shooting at Oklahoma casino

Authorities say one person is dead and another is injured after a shooting involving two employees at an Oklahoma casino. The shooting happened Tuesday morning at the Grand Casino Hotel & Resort in Shawnee, about 35 miles southeast of Oklahoma City. The casino is run by the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. The tribe’s police chief, James Collard, says the shooting occurred in an administrative area and not on the casino’s floor. He says no other employees or casino visitors were at risk. Citizen Potawatomi Nation spokeswoman Jennifer Bell says the casino is secure and that the tribe is working with tribal, federal and state law enforcement in the investigation.

Former tribal leaders indicted on charges they looted $6 million from Corning’s Rolling Hills Casino

Three former officials of the tribe that owns the Rolling Hills Casino in Corning were indicted Thursday on charges they embezzled at least $6 million from the tribal coffers and used the money to purchase cars, international junkets, gold coins and landscaping for their homes with such features as koi ponds and a putting green. The 69-count indictment by a federal grand jury in Sacramento alleges that John Crosby, the tribe’s onetime economic development director; Ines Crosby, his mother and the former tribal administrator; and Leslie Lohse, Ines Crosby’s sister and the former tribal treasurer, engaged in a sweeping conspiracy to loot the tribal bank accounts, then lied to FBI agents investigating the matter. The indictment follows years of controversy involving the tribal government and the casino. Warring factions in the tribe at various times engaged in an armed standoff outside the casino, went to court over control of the casino and endured a cyberattack that destroyed computer records – one that the indictment blames on the three defendants. The dispute also included a lawsuit claiming wrongdoing under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act that named the defendants and more than a dozen others.

Second man to stand trial in $1.2 million swindle of elderly woman

A Nevada man accused of assisting a Joplin man in bilking almost $1.2 million out of an elderly woman has been ordered bound over for trial. Buller is accused of assisting Eric S. Davis, 40, of Joplin, in deceiving an elderly Nevada woman into selling all her stock in a major oil company and giving the cash to Davis to help him get out of legal trouble that they convinced her he was facing in a court in Kansas City. An examination of her living trust account at a bank by an investigator with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services determined that between January 2011 and February 2012, the woman made 16 cash withdrawals totaling almost $1.2 million in amounts ranging from $20,000 to $95,000. Eric Davis purportedly told an investigator that he was a regular patron at a casino in Oklahoma and “may have gambled away” all the money he received from an elderly woman.

Hawaiian Gardens Casino Part of Money Laundering Probe: Could Lose License

A Los Angeles area casino, the Hawaiian Gardens Casino, may lose its gambling license following accusations made by the California Bureau of Gambling Control that executives of the property failed to comply with federal anti-money laundering laws. The Gardens Casino has already admitted to deficiencies in its ability to obey the federal law, according to state and federal officials. “In view of that nondisclosure and admitted violations of federal and state laws, respondents continued licensure undermines the public trust that licensed gambling does not endanger the public health, safety and welfare,” the accusation reads. A hearing on this matter is yet to be scheduled and, as such, the casino will be allowed to remain open.

1.5M accounts exposed after eSports org balks at hacker’s ransom demand

The eSports Entertainment Association (ESEA)confirmed today that an unidentified malefactor breached ESEA servers last year, then published a trove of ESEA user data online this month after their attempts to ransom the data were rebuffed. This is significant because of the size of the breach: ESEA is one of the largest /Counter-Strike /communities in the world, [who recently came under illegal gambling allegations], and a representative of ESL (Electronic Sports League, the parent company of ESEA since 2015) told CSO today that roughly 1.5 million accounts had been exposed by the afore-mentioned data leak. (It’s also something you should know about if you happen to have ever created an ESEA account!) Devs who oversee their own vaults of player data may be curious to read ESEA’s timeline of how the whole thing played out: it all started when a “threat actor” reportedly contacted the company in late December asking for a bounty of $100,000, or else they would publish a parcel of info that encompassed both player data and ESEA tech data.

Tampa lawyer accused of bilking nearly $1 Million from clients’ trust accounts

As the I-Team uncovered, a local attorney is now under suspension by the Florida Bar, after bank records show he spent nearly a million dollars of clients’ money at casinos, gun stores and fancy restaurants. The Florida Bar subpoenaed hundreds of pages of bank records related to that case, which appear to show Clark transferred money from his client’s trust accounts into his own bank account. They show Clark spent more than $518,000 at the Hard Rock Casino, $13,000 at bars and liquor stores, $21,000 at gun stores and $17,000 on meals at a casino steakhouse. Clark also paid for vacations in the Bahamas, London, Paris and Amsterdam. The Florida Supreme Court issued an emergency suspension of Clark’s law license, which went into effect last month. After multiple attempts to locate Clark, we found him working on his BMW at his South Tampa home, which is under foreclosure.

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


Trump’s Attorney General Nominee Likely to Overturn Obama’s Wire Act Interpretation Making Online Gambling Illegal Again

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing evolution of online gambling on a federal level. Prior to the Obama Administration, online gambling was illegal. However, the Obama Administration took a stance on online gambling through an alternate interpretation of the Wire Act, which legalized online gambling. Now that there has been a change of power, it looks like online gambling could be made illegal again as originally intended by Congress. In addition to actual legislation that was introduced on Capitol Hill, it now seems like the Trump Administrations official stance on the Wire Act interpretation could become the new law should his pick for Attorney General be affirmed. An online source explains:

When the Department of Justice issued a memorandum in 2011 in which it limited the 1961 Wire Act to include just sports betting, the online gambling industry rejoiced. It opened up doors to legal and regulated online gambling industries in several states, with others expressing interest to do so and are now in the process of changing their own laws.

However, certain comments by Attorney General nominee, Jeff Sessions, made this week have caused rumblings of concern among igaming proponents.

In response, Sessions said that he had been “shocked” by the DOJ’s change of heart and that he found the move to be “unusual”. “I did oppose [the 2011 DOJ opinion] when it happened, and it seemed to me to be unusual,” Sessions said. He also replied regarding the opinion: “I would revisit it or make a decision about it based on careful study. I haven’t gone that far to give you an opinion today.”

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A Brief Look at Crime 01/02-01/08

Arrest made in casino hit-run death, Coconut Creek police say

Police announced the arrest of a 25-year-old woman Tuesday night in connection with the hit-and-run death of a man in the driveway of the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek. “I have to return to New Jersey…and I really wanted an arrest before I had to go,” Edelstein’s sister, Sheryl DiDomenico, said Tuesday night about 30 minutes after police called and informed her of the arrest. “I understand accidents, but I cannot comprehend how somebody could hit someone and just leave them lying there. It’s horrible.” By 11 p.m. the same day Edelstein was hit, police had located a gray 2003 Toyota Corolla described by witnesses. The car was at an address in North Lauderdale, police said. Edelstein wasn’t a drinker but he frequented a small casino bar where he would order coffee and chat with friends. He used the Seminole Casino as his social club, a Hollywood friend, Karen Tarte, told the Sun Sentinel.

Dad says quit gambling for New Year after son’s suicide over debts

A dad whose son hanged himself over his gambling debts has urged people who bet large amounts of money to give it up in the New Year. John Myers, 57, from Huyton, said the Christmas period was difficult for his family without his son Ryan, who committed suicide aged 27 after losing thousands of pounds on fixed-odds machines in 2014. He said the costs of the festive season made it tough for cash-strapped gambling addicts too, but were also a good opportunity for them to acknowledge their problems and seek help. He revealed that he discovered after Ryan’s death that his son, a carpenter, once took out a payday loan to buy presents after running out of cash. An inquest ruled that Ryan took his own life, after he left a tragic Facebook message apologising for letting people down. John Myers, who started a petition for tougher gambling laws, said: “This time of year is a really hard time for gamblers, because of all the pressures of Christmas. It should be a wake-up call if you have kids and family, and have no money to pay for them, to seek help for their sake at least

$2.5M seized from Southfield gambler’s luggage was scam proceeds

In a sensational case that’s unfolding in U.S. District Court in Detroit, the federal government says it has uncovered a scheme involving a professional gambler from Southfield and two cohorts who allegedly scammed investors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars to bankroll gambling sprees in Las Vegas. Prosecutors say 50-year-old Brian Benderoff of Southfield and his two unnamed associates pulled off this scheme until they arrived at Detroit Metro Airport in June with more than $2.5 million in their luggage — most of it cash. According to that 2008 lawsuit, Benderoff allegedly conned a travel agent out of more than $600,000 in loans — promising to pay it back, but instead gambling it all away. According to the lawsuit, Benderoff had high-roller status at Bally’s Park Place, Caesars and Tropicana — all of which bought him first-class airline tickets through a travel agency that operated out of Caesars Hotel and Casino. Given Benderoff’s status, the travel agent agreed to cash Benderoff’s personal checks when he showed up at the office looking for money to cover his gambling losses. According to the lawsuit, Benderoff wrote the travel agent four checks totaling almost $300,000. In return, the agent gave Benderoff American Express travelers checks. But all of Benderoff’s checks bounced, the lawsuit said.

Gambler owes Bloomfield Hills doctor $2.6 million

A Southfield gambler whose cash-stuffed luggage landed him on the federal government’s radar this month has another legal headache to deal with: A doctor who claims the same man stiffed him out of $2.6 million. According to a lawsuit filed in Oakland County Circuit Court, Bloomfield Hills physician Sheldon Gonte loaned $2.6 million in 2015 to 50-year-old Brian Benderoff of Southfield to support Benderoff’s various business investments. But Benderoff never paid the money back, even though he signed several promissory notes vowing to do so, the lawsuit claims. According to the lawsuit, Gonte loaned the money to Benderoff because Benderoff’s business partner was the doctor’s brother, who had initially borrowed more than $2 million from their parents to support his business. But the parents never got their money back, the lawsuit claims, so the doctor loaned the pair money to make sure his parents wouldn’t get stiffed. According to the lawsuit, the parents never got repaid; neither did Gonte.

Arson suspect killed by Reno police drove into 2 officers

Sparks police say a robbery and arson suspect fatally shot by Reno police on Dec. 21 knocked two officers down with his car in a Reno casino parking lot before they opened fire. Sparks Police Lt. Mike Keating said Thursday 38-year-old Raymond Salaiz refused orders to exit his vehicle, started it as they tried to remove the keys and quickly backed up. Keating says Salaiz dragged one officer a short distance and knocked both down before exiting the lot at the Gold Dust West Casino and colliding with another vehicle. He died that night at a Reno hospital.

Woman Jailed for Stealing $427K from Thompson Auto in Doylestown to Play Bingo

The former office manager of the Thompson Organization in Doylestown was sent Thursday to the Bucks County Correctional Facility for stealing more than $427,000 from her employer over a 10-year period. She blamed an addiction to high-end bingo games for the thefts. Investigators found no evidence that she spent the stolen money on anything but bingo, which Lutz attended at volunteer fire companies or other charitable organizations several times each week. Lutz pleaded guilty on November 7 to a long list of felony theft-related charges. She admitted that from February 2006 to January 2016, she consistently stole money from her employer by a variety of means, and then altered computer records to cover her tracks.

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


New Jersey Petitions Supreme Court to Allow their Overturned Attempt at Legalizing Sports Betting in NJ

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts of New Jersey to legalize sports betting in their state. Its been long the case that sports betting has been limited to Las Vegas as they were grandfathered into legislation that prevented states from allowing sports betting. Time & time again New Jersey has attempted a new way to legalize sports betting and time & time again their attempts have been shot down by the courts. There last was a 2014 law that was also halted by the courts. They are taking the final step with this attempt by making an appear to the Supreme Court. The Times Union explains:  

After an initial 2012 law allowing sports gambling in New Jersey was struck down in court, Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law in 2014 that repealed prohibitions against sports gambling at casinos and racetracks.

That tactic — repealing prohibitions instead of approving gambling — was seen as a way to get around the federal law by not having sports gambling officially authorized by the state.

But that also met defeat at the hands of a federal judge in New Jersey and a federal appeals court in Philadelphia.

In this week’s brief, the state argued the federal government, while able to regulate citizens directly, may not “require the states to govern by Congress’ instruction.”

Put differently, the appeals court’s ruling invalidating New Jersey’s 2014 law violates the Constitution by “authorizing a federal court injunction mandating that a State reinstate prohibitions it has chosen to repeal,” attorneys representing the state wrote.

The Supreme Court is expected to either pick up the case or reject hearing it, thus affirming the lower courts ruling that the law is illegal, within a month.

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