Monthly Archives: June 2017

Guest Article: Gambling Lobbyist Finally Admits it – Casinos Prey on Customers

John Sowinski, President of NoCasinos.org, in Orlando, Florida, provides a guest article about a topic that most understand, but few realistically factor in when gambling expansion issues come up. Many tend to focus on the initial economic benefit of casinos and make empty promises about how money taxed from gambling will be put to use in the educational system. Many are simply looking for a different night of entertainment and never think about the consequences so many face so they can spend a night at the casino. But in a revealing article published in Florida Politics, we see the truth of the casino industry on display – that they prey on their customers and make losers of those around them: 

Marc Dunbar is one of Florida’s best-known gambling advocates. When it comes to pushing for more and bigger casinos, he wears the hats of a lawyer, lobbyist and investor. And so, call it a Freudian slip or just a moment of candor, it was interesting to hear someone from the inside let us all in on how the industry views its customers – as prey.

This came out in a recent interview with the /News Service of Florida/. In it, Dunbar discussed the state’s longstanding rejection of Vegas-style resort casinos — something the industry has sought in this state for decades.

Because of that prohibition, he said, “you arguably have the kind of gambling that you don’t want to have, the kind that preys primarily on your constituents, as opposed to the tourists.’’

It’s an interesting argument to make to state lawmakers – fleece the tourists to spare your voters. Perhaps it would be an argument some might buy if there was any validity to it. But it’s a fake choice.

Before getting into that, however, let’s deal with the part of Dunbar’s statement that is accurate.

Casinos do indeed prey on customers. And the most effective method they have for doing so is with high-tech, digital slot machines. Researchers have documented that these machines create a fast-paced, immersive environment in which gamblers lose track of time and losses.

A professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology documented the phenomenon in the book, “Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas.”

These machines entrap those prone to become problem gamblers, who in turn represent a significant slice of casino revenues. This is why pari-mutuels throughout Florida are pushing so hard to get slot machines.

So, Dunbar’s comparison of customers to prey is appropriate. Where he runs afoul of both research and reality is the premise that bigger and splashier casinos will target tourists instead of locals. 

The complete article can be found HERE

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


A Brief Look at Crime 06/19 – 06/25

Russian Gang Hacked Slot Machines and Plotted Over Stolen Sweets, U.S. Says

There were the usual accouterments of an organized crime prosecution: an illegal poker house and cases of stolen cigarettes, the authorities said. But there was also a scheme to defraud casinos with a hacking device that predicted the behavior of particular models of electronic slot machines. And a plot for a woman to seduce men, drug them with chloroform and then rob them. There was even a large shipment of stolen sweets: 10,000 pounds of chocolate confections that two defendants were overheard discussing on a court-ordered wiretap in March, according to a federal indictment. The authorities offered few details about the slot-machine scheme. In January, they said, Mr. Shulaya was overheard in a phone call discussing the testing of devices that would predict slot-machine behavior; in another call, he was told about the reconnaissance of a casino that featured a particular model of slot machine that would be susceptible to the device.

Shooting victim fends off would-be robbers after leaving Larry Flynt’s Lucky Lady casino

Would-be robbers apparently followed a man from Larry Flynt’s Lucky Lady Casino in Gardena, purposely bumped his car from behind as he drove away and shot him four times in an unsuccessful attempt to steal his winnings, police said Wednesday. The victim survived, but the assailants escaped, police said. “Luckily, it just grazed his head,” Gardena police Lt. Steve Prendergast said. The attempted robbery and shooting — caught on security video — occurred outside a Chevron service station at Rosecrans and Vermont avenue about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, shortly after the victim left the casino across the street. According to police, the victim won a large sum of money at the casino. As he drove away, the men bumped his car from behind at the intersection. Not realizing the bump was intentional, the victim pulled into the service station and got out of his car to exchange information. Two men got out of the other car and tried to rob him. The victim, however, resisted the crime and struggled with the men. During the fracas, the victim was shot four times, police said.

Brooklyn Grandmother Robbed Of $100K In Casino Earnings

On Saturday morning, two men posing as Jehovah’s Witnesses tricked a 76-year-old Brooklyn woman into letting them into her apartment, then fled with her briefcase containing $100,000 in casino winnings, according to a spokesperson with the NYPD. The thieves first knocked on Yvonne Reeder’s home in East New York just before 10 a.m., police said, and were allowed in after convincing the elderly woman that they were religious door-knockers. Once inside, police say Reeder told them one man pushed her to the ground, while the other went straight to the bedroom to take a briefcase filled with money and a Samsung tablet. Reeder said that she was scared during the robbery, but did not sustain any injuries. “They pushed me over by the wall,” she told the Post.

Kentucky cockfighting pit destroyed, property owners sentenced

A photo released by federal prosecutors in Abingdon, Virginia gave us a glimpse inside an illegal cockfighting venue that operated for more than 30 years. The Big Blue Sportsman’s Club in McDowell, Kentucky had 5,000 members. It housed an 8,000 square-foot facility that featured arena-style seating, multiple fighting pits and a restaurant. The building sat on property owned by Shirley Ray Slone, 73, and Vernon Kelly Slone, 69. Prosecutors said the two men started the club in 1977. They gave up day-to-day operations in the early 1990’s and chose to lease the facility to others for a cut of the entrance fees. The Slones were paid $3 for each person who attended a cockfight. In 2014, the Big Blue Sportsman’s Club was the site of a law enforcement raid. Several people were arrested on federal charges related to cockfighting, gambling, and narcotics trafficking.

Montana woman sentenced to prison for health care fraud

A Montana woman has been sentenced to five years in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $460,000 in restitution and back taxes for lying about her family income to obtain Medicaid benefits, creating false claims for treatment at her father’s physical therapy practice and pocketing the payments, the U.S. attorney’s office said. U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon sentenced Elizabeth Jones Powell of East Helena on Tuesday. She pleaded guilty to health care fraud and tax evasion. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to dismiss 17 other felony counts, including money laundering. Powell, 52, performed office duties and insurance billing for her father’s physical therapy practice in Helena. Prosecutors say from 2009 to 2013 Powell made $584,000 in false insurance claims resulting in actual losses of nearly $421,000 to Medicaid and other insurers. Investigators found that Powell spent at least $32,000 on gambling, court records said.

St. Paul Park man steals a quarter of a million dollars from vulnerable relative

A St. Paul Park man was charged with felony financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. Gregg Wilwert, 38, stole over $250,000 from the victim he had power of attorney for while living in a senior living facility, according to a criminal complaint filed June 8 in Washington County District Court. The Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center reported financial abuse that began last September and ended May 31. Using $80,000 of the stolen funds, Wilwert purchased a hot tub, snowmobiles and snowmobiling gear, a refrigerator, new TVs and furniture, a trip to Florida, diamond jewelry, garage renovations, a tractor and frequent casino visits. About a week before the financial exploitation charge was filed, Wilwert was charged May 30 with first-degree criminal sexual conduct in a separate case. He posted $125,000 bond on those charges and has been out of jail since that time.

Former Winnebago Tribal Council member pleads guilty to casino theft

A former Winnebago Tribal Council member — one of nine indicted last summer in an alleged conspiracy to steal from the tribe’s casino — has pleaded guilty. Last July, a federal grand jury indicted nine former Winnebago council members, charging each with conspiracy, theft and misapplication of funds belonging to an Indian gaming establishment, and wire fraud. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the remaining charge, though the U.S. Attorney’s Office has recommended he be sentenced to five years of probation and be ordered to repay any funds he obtained illegally from the casino. The distributions to defendants were paid through the use of casino gift certificates and pre-paid debit cards paid for by the casino. The total amount of gift certificates issued to the defendants in 2013 and 2014 was $87,000. The total amount loaded to the debit cards of the defendants in 2013 and 2014 was $240,500.

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


New Jersey’s Efforts to have the Supreme Court hear it’s Sports Betting Case have been seriously Undermined by Current Administration

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many failed attempts by New Jersey to legalize sports betting in its state. There most recent legislative attempt was shut down by the court and they have appealed the case to the Supreme Court. Major opposition have been seen from the NCAA, NFL, NHL, MLB and the federal government. The most recent communication to the Supreme Court is another blow to New Jersey’s sports betting hopes and once that might be difficult to overcome. An online political source reports the details: 

When the U.S. Supreme Court in January delayed a decision on whether consider allowing sports betting in New Jersey, justices said they first wanted to hear what President Donald Trump ‘s administration had to say.

The administration finally weighed in, and its message was not what the state wanted to hear: Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey B. Wall said New Jersey didn’t have a case.

The state’s effort to get around the federal ban on sports betting by repealing state laws prohibiting such wagering and allowing to proceed without regulation “is no different than a positive enactment authorizing such gambling,” Wall wrote in a 24-page brief.

The Supreme Court can still choose to hear the case, but the odds don’t seem to be in New Jersey’s favor. ESPN reports why the recommendation to the Supreme Court to not accept the case is so detrimental to New Jersey:

The United States Solicitor General’s office filed a brief on Wednesday recommending that the Supreme Court decline to review New Jersey’s latest effort to offer legal sports betting. The Supreme Court, which in January asked the Department of Justice for its view on the case, is expected to decide whether to accept New Jersey’s appeal by the end of June. According to a 2009 academic study the Supreme Court follows the recommendation of the Solicitor General 79.6 percent of the time. 

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


A Brief Look at Crime 06/12 – 06/18

Kitchener man jailed for brazen ATM crime spree 

It was a brazen crime spree that cost businesses more than $1 million. Over two months in 2016, under cover of darkness, an organized group of thieves stole trucks from local dealerships and smashed them through windows of a string of businesses, many in Kitchener. They chained ATMs to the back of the truck, dragged out the cash machines and took all the money. Total cost of the crimes was pegged at $1.4 million, but only $72,490 of this was cash stolen from ATMs. The largest loss was $870,000 in stolen vehicles, followed by $387,120 in damage caused, and $114,300 in cash and property stolen during break-ins. Epstein said Nguyen’s role was minimal, but he was a “full, willing participant in the crime.” Nguyen was a gambling addict who turned to crime to pay off his losses at the poker table. The judge said he’s satisfied Nguyen’s addiction played a role in the crimes.

Dozens dead after gunman torches Philippine casino

A masked gunman set fire to a gaming room at a casino in the Philippine capital on Friday, igniting a toxic blaze that killed 37 people, authorities said, but they insisted it was not a terrorist attack. The victims suffocated inside one of the main gambling venues of the upscale Resorts World Manila, while dozens of other people were injured in a panicked crush to escape, police said. The gunman committed suicide inside a hotel room by burning himself about five hours after storming the casino with an M4 assault rifle and a bottle of petrol that he used to start the fire, police chief Ronald Dela Rosa said. Dela Rosa and other police chiefs insisted the assailant was not carrying out a terrorist attack, pointing out he did not shoot anyone, and said it appeared to be a bizarre robbery attempt by a “deranged” man.However 37 people died from inhaling smoke from a fire that spread quickly because of flammable carpet on the gaming room floors, local police chief Tomas Apolinario told AFP.

FBI Arrests Lucchese Mobsters for Gambling Offences, Fraud and Murder

According to a court filing on May 31, 19 mafia-type figures were arrested in a New York City charged with a host of crimes. Many of those taken in by the FBI’s Organized Crime Task Force and members of the NYPD were linked to the infamous Lucchese family. Known as one of the five crime families that control New York City’s underworld, the Lucchese family has shared a close relationship with high profile mobsters over the years, including the Gambinos. As outlined in the indictments, this life of crime has led a rap sheet that now reads like something from a Hollywood movie. As well as nicknames such as Paulie Roast Beef and Spanish Carmine, the 30-page court document lists crimes such as racketeering, wire fraud, possession of a weapon, gambling, narcotics and murder. Members of the family are no strangers to the long arm of the law. In fact, two of the crime syndicate’s bosses, Joseph DiNapoli and Matthew Madonna, pleaded guilty and received prison sentences back in 2016 for running an illegal gambling operation and racketeering.

Store manager with ‘gambling addiction’ is jailed for theft

A shop manager who stole close to £150,000 to fund a gambling addiction was jailed for ten months. Ownership of the business was transferred and on 23 July last year, an operations manager “noticed an anomaly of £600,” said Mr Murphy but he added that further investigations revealed no money had bee lodged that month at all and that according to sale figures, “about £144,000 was unaccounted for.” McAllen’s father told the s managers “all of the money had gone to the bookies.” Mr Murphy told the court that both the staff and owner at Tommy French bookmakers were spoken to betting slips revealed how a massive £629,846 had gone through the betting shop between stakes and w including stakes of more than £100,000 in a single day.

Patco Electric employee allegedly embezzles $160,000

Bond was set and a preliminary court date scheduled Thursday for Rhonda Laminack, a former Patco Electric employee, who allegedly stole over $160,000 from the company over a period of three years. According to the report, Duncan Police interviewed Laminack on May 4, where she allegedly admitted that she had taken money from Patco without the company’s knowledge. Laminack allegedly claimed the amount she had taken was closer to $140,000; and had been used to fund her gambling problem, help a child without work, and assist with a sick family member. Laminack told police that she had attempted to contact Patterson to make arrangements to return the money. According to the affidavit, during a follow up interview between Duncan Police and Patterson; Patterson told police that Laminack had been fired the previous day, and that upon her firing, Laminack had allegedly told Patterson that she would repay the money if he would not file charges.

Former office manager stole $430,000 from Sheboygan firm

A former office manager at Sheboygan-based *Beaudry Electric Motors* has pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $430,000 from the company over a two-year period. Lynette Lomibao entered a guilty plea in the U.S District Court for Eastern Wisconsin earlier this month to charges of wire fraud and making false statements to the IRS. Lomibao began embezzling from the company, which specializes in electrical motor repair and rebuilding, in August 2011 by creating false vendor bills for fictitious services or items, according to her plea agreement. She would then pay the bills by transferring money from the company’s U.S. Bank account to personal checking accounts she held at Sheboygan Area Credit Union, Guaranty Bank and Wells Fargo Bank. The funds were used to buy furniture, take trips, pay bills and for gambling at Oneida Casino, according to court documents.

Washington state man who served time for fraud in 2007 gets charged again

A Washington man who once served time in prison for defrauding his neighbor out of about $800,000 has been arrested again — this time along with his wife, after authorities said they tricked investors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more. Prosecutors said the Hongs lied about their investment credentials and failed to disclose Hong’s 2007 fraud conviction as they solicited millions of dollars in purported investments, largely from members of religious organizations, since 2011. One California church invested $1 million and lost about $300,000 on a single trade, authorities said, and the Hongs withdrew about $150,000 of it as “advisor fees.” “About the only positive thing I can find (to say) about Mr. Hong is that he may have a gambling problem,” U.S. District Judge James L. Robart said during that sentencing hearing.

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


Tribal Casino being pushed in Missouri has Immediate Opposition

Casino Watch Focus has reported that in Missouri, there is a cap of 13 casinos and they must be on the Missouri or Mississippi rivers. The laws have augmented over the years, but initially Missouri only allowed 2 hour river boat gambling tours. Now the casinos are full fledged casinos, not traditional paddle boats, although the still technically float on the rivers as water is pumped in under the buildings. There have been some efforts to expand gambling by attempting to amend the Missouri Constitution to allow casinos in the Branson area, but all efforts have been quickly squelched. Most recently, a trade off was made when voters removed the original $500 loss limit in exchange for a cap on the number of casinos at 13. Now, it appears new efforts have emerged in an effort to get a new form of gambling authorized in Missouri, tribal gambling. An editorial originally published in the Kansas City Star demonstrates how the Osage Nation has laid the ground work to get Gubernatorial approval for tribal gambling in Missouri:

Last December, the Osage Nation of Oklahoma wrote two checks to the Committee for a New Missouri, the dark money nonprofit set up to help pay for Gov. Eric Greitens’ January inauguration. The donations — first revealed by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch — totaled $52,700.

The tribe wanted a good relationship with the incoming governor, its leader said. Oh, and Osage Nation operates seven gaming casinos in Oklahoma and just might be interested in building another facility in Missouri.That facility would need the approval of Missouri’s governor. Under existing federal law, he must conclude a casino would be “in the best interest of the Indian tribe and its members” for the application to move forward.

The story clearly demonstrates why it’s so important to know where political money is coming from.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens said he would support the casino if it was both good for the Osage tribe and Missourian. Rep. Jason Steelville also expressed a desire to support a new casino. However, not everyone shares those sentiments and opposition to a new casino in Missouri has already emerged. The Missouri Times explains: 

Don Hinkle, the public policy advisor for the influential Missouri Baptist Convention, editor of The Pathway, and one of the state’s most vocal evangelicals, says that the Missouri Baptist Convention would strongly oppose a casino because of the detrimental effects they believe gambling has on a society.

“Gambling is a form of economic predation. They’re predators. It benefits international corporations while opposing the lower class, the very people we need to be helping here in Missouri. Allowing casinos to prey on them is not good economics, it’s not good business, and it’s not good for Missouri. Every Missourian ought to stand up and call this out for what it is. It’s wrong, and we don’t need it in Missouri. Missouri has a great economy with great people who are willing to work.”

Hinkle says that Greitens’ response in which he said he would support it if it were good for Missouri should be taken with a grain of salt. “That’s a mighty big caveat, and I’d tend to give the governor some slack here. It doesn’t sound to me like he’s committed to it,” he said. 

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


A Brief Look at Crime 06/05 – 06/11

Val Verde illegal cockfighting ring bust largest in US history

The largest illegal cockfighting ring bust was conducted in northern Los Angeles County on Monday, according to authorities.Most of the birds recovered from the property, which officials said was in a large remote area in a canyon, were commonly used for cockfighting. Approximately 100 deputies raided the property and found mobile cockfighting rings, syringes, steroids and “slasher” weapons, which were strapped to a rooster’s claws during a fight. “The knife-style of fighting are particularly bloody,” Eric Sakach with the Humane Society of the United States said. “The bird is being repeatedly stabbed to the chest area. It’s not unusual to hear a bird to start to vomit up or regurgitate blood. Detectives said their investigation was ongoing and more arrests were anticipated in the future. Authorities said cockfighting was closely associated with Mexican drug cartels and could lead to more crimes such as illegal gambling and the sale of illegal drugs and weapons.

St. Louis robbery victim pulls gun, shoots robber in butt

A man pumping gas Wednesday morning turned the tables on a would-be robber. Police say the man was at the Phillips 66 station at 4500 North Broadway at about 7 a.m. A dark-colored car pulled up and a man jumped out of the passenger seat. He tried to rob the victim. But the victim has his own gun and pulled it on the would-be robber, shooting him in the buttocks. Freeman said the suspect, a man in his 20s, was stable. His accomplice, the driver, got away. Police say the duo is suspected in a holdup an hour earlier at Hollywood Casino in Maryland Heights. In that robbery, two men drove into the parking garage in a dark-colored car. One of them approached a man who was leaving the casino and tried to rob him at gunpoint in a parking garage, police say. But the victim in that case had just lost big at the casino. “They tried to rob him but he was broke. He literally had $2,” Maryland Heights Police Officer Mark Fedak.

Financial Supervisor addicted to Online Gambling jailed for stealing £680,000

Anjna Aggarwal, a financial supervisor has been jailed for stealing £680,000 from her bosses’. She used the money to feed her online gambling addiction. She pleaded guilty to fraud, false accounting, and money laundering. As a result, she received a four-year jail sentence. 37-year-old Aggarwal began her scheme in 2014 while working for Alpha LSG, an airline catering company. She secretly stole £680,000 from her bosses’ while she worked as a financial supervisor for them. The fraudster created 12 separate bank accounts to store the money and would often switch them around. Prosecutor Lisa Brookes explained how Aggarwal carried out her scheme. She said: “She created false documents and invoices and 83% of the false transactions was for British Airways in which she falsified documents and payment requirements.” The financial supervisor used the money to participate in online casinos. The steady flow of money even earned her a ‘VIP’ status on these gambling websites.

2 Cherry Hill men admit $2.5 million Medicaid fraud in Camden

Two men have admitted in federal court to Medicaid fraud totaling $2.5 million while working at a nonprofit that provides mental health services to Camden’s poorest residents, prosecutors said Friday. Cesar Tavera, 53, of Cherry Hill, embezzled more than $1.5 million while serving as executive director of Nueva Vida Behavioral Health Center of New Jersey and spent the money on his family and himself, including gambling sprees at SugarHouse Casino. In 2015 alone, Tavera withdrew $35,000 from the nonprofit’s bank account while at the casino. Tavera pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court in Camden to conspiracy to commit health-care fraud and embezzling from a health-care program. Tavera and Ayala, also of Cherry Hill, routinely submitted false billings to Medicaid for services not rendered, prosecutors said. Tavera also billed for therapy sessions provided by unqualified individuals, including himself.

79-year-old woman sentenced for embezzling $1.2 million from employer, using it to gamble

Annie Carbullido didn’t just steal $1.2 million from the family-owned travel agency where she worked for nearly 15 years. The 79-year-old gambling addict deprived Bernard Wraith and his wife of the ability to retire the way they hoped, Wraith said. “I’m in my 70s. It’s doubtful that my wife and I will ever recover,” Wraith said in court Thursday. The Wraiths own the Travel Faire agency, and setting aside money to enjoy old age had been their plan. Carbullido stole the money over the course of her employment at the Omaha-based travel agency and blew it at casinos, investigators have said. On Thursday, District Court Judge Leigh Ann Retelsdorf sentenced Carbullido to five to seven years in prison. Carbullido apologized to her own children, saying she had “disgraced” them. She also apologized to her former employers. “I really did not mean to cause any harm,” she said, adding that, if possible, she would like to get another job and pay them back. “I am really sorry, and I beg their forgiveness,” she said.

Leader of Iowa School Meals Group Embezzled for Years

The former executive director of an Iowa nonprofit that promotes healthy, affordable school meals allegedly embezzled at least $169,000 over a 5-year period. A state audit report released Thursday says Norma LaMantia admitted to depositing checks meant for the School Nutrition Association of Iowa in personal bank accounts. LaMantia told auditors and a Davenport police detective last month that the money helped pay her personal expenses and support her addiction to casino gambling. The checks came from school districts and food companies to pay fees associated with association events.

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


New Federal Sports Gambling Bill Emerges in Congressional Committee

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many attempts of New Jersey to legalize sports betting. The reason all of their attempts have failed is because federal law prevents states from allowing sports betting under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, the Wire Act, the Illegal Gambling Business Act and most recently, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. A new federal bill, if passed, would remove federal bans on certain gambling and allow the states to regulate them as they please, thus effectively legalizing sports betting for New Jersey and others if they so choose. An online source breaks down the Gaming Accountability and Modernization Enhancement Act (GAME Act):

The US Congress may consider a gambling bill that would annul a *federal gambling ban*. This, on the other hand, would allow the country to make any form of gambling legal and regulate it. 

[I]f the GAME Act is enacted, it would annul the 1992 federal law and would allow every state to separately add sports betting and online gaming to the gambling operations that are legal there. As explained above, *customer protection rules*, as well as rules about *taxation and regulations* are also implemented in the proposed piece of legislation.

Stakeholders are also allowed to give their feedback for the GAME Act. As it has already became clear, the American Gaming Association backed the legal expansion of sports betting operations. Other organizations, such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) do not support the bill. 

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