Monthly Archives: August 2017

Florida goes after Pari-Mutuels as it Seeks to Enforce Designated-Player Card Games Ruling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing and developing situation regarding designated player banked card games. This form of card game was offered for four years before its legality was challenged. Last year, however, the court determined the games to be illegal and a violation of the Seminole Compact which outlined exclusive card games at Seminole casinos. As recently reported by Casino Watch Focus that ruling is being challenged in appeals court and is set to be heard next month. In the mean time, swift enforcement has begun to stop these illegal card games. An online source explains:

Florida gambling chiefs have launched legal action against two pari-mutuel venues, the Sarasota Kennel Club and Pensacola Greyhound Racing, for their alleged failure to remove so-called “designated player games” from their premises.

Meanwhile, many of Florida’s other cardrooms and racetracks are bracing themselves for similar action, as the state moves to crack down on the controversial games.

This action is especially important given litigation was dropped by the Seminole’s in exchange for the state agreeing truly enforce the courts ruling. The online source continues:

The case had initially been brought by the State against the Seminoles for their refusal to stop offering banked games once their initial five-year compact expired in 2015. But the tribe countersued over the exclusivity violation, forcing the state into a humiliating retreat. In July, both parties agreed to an end to litigation and the state vowed it would take “aggressive enforcement action” against pari-mutuels that violated the ban on the games it had previously permitted.

Nick Iarossi, a lobbyist for Jacksonville Greyhound Racing, told Sunshine State News that the state’s actions this week show it intends to live up to its word. “They’re going to come in. They’re going to check tape. They’re going to watch games being played live. And if they see anything out of compliance being done, they’re going to issue administrative complaints and fines,” he said. “So everybody is double- and triple-checking to make sure they’re in compliance.” 

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A Brief Look at Crime 08/14 – 08/20

Gambling Addict Bludgeons Man With Hammer, Chopped Up Body Receives 22 Years Prison

An cold-blooded killer who bludgeoned a man with a hammer then chopped his body into pieces after the victim refused to give him a $100 loan to fuel his gambling addiction will now be spending 22 years in prison. David Napier of Calista, Western Australia killed his 70-year-old best friend, Richard Andrews. After the murder last August Napier also stole $2,000 in cash from Mr. Andrews. After the murder, Napier cleaned the property with bleach and sugar soap, and told neighbours he had gone on a holiday to Albany. The 53-year-old was swimming in $20,000 in gambling debts. He had previously borrowed thousands of dollars from Mr Andrews. Justice Bruno Fiannaca said the way Napier desecrated the body was calculated and ghastly, and described his behaviour as monstrous, callously concealed with an elaborate facade. ‘He was always someone who had shown you kindness,’ the judge said. ‘He was your only real friend. ‘You denied him dignity in death and you profited. ‘To ordinary, decent members of the community, your crimes would defy comprehension.’

‘We are coming for you’ says sheriff in wake of internet cafe bust

Sheriff’s Office shut down the Hot Spot Internet Cafe after serving a search warrant Tuesday morning in Ormond Beach. “This place walks like a duck, quacks like a duck (and) swims like a duck,” Sheriff Mike Chitwood said. “It’s a duck. It’s gambling.” Deputies confiscated dozens of games and thousands of dollars in cash. “They are parasites,” Chitwood said. “If you look at who their customers are, their customers are mostly elderly folks on a fixed income.” Chitwood said during a two-month undercover investigation, the Sheriff’s Office tracked $600,000 in just two months, and he believes the money was funneled to North Carolina. “This is a business that’s not regulated,” Chitwood said. “They’re not paying business tax. There’s not a fire marshal — no building code, nothing.” The sheriff said deputies will be serving cease and desist letters to other internet cafe operators in Volusia County. “We are coming for you,” Chitwood said. “The ball is already started. We’re coming out there. We’re going to make an arrest (and) seize your property under those Florida statutes.”

Methadone clinic operator gets prison for health care fraud

A defense attorney and a courtroom full of supporters depicted a woman who ran a methadone clinic for 20 years as a cross between a den mother and an angel of mercy to southwestern Pennsylvania’s growing population of opioid addicts, but a federal prosecutor countered that she was a “greedy” businesswoman who defrauded Medicaid to feed a gambling habit. The judge sentenced Rosalind Sugarmann, 62, to a year and a day in federal prison for her December guilty plea to health care fraud and illegally distributing the drug Suboxone, which can be used to wean addicts off heroin. In doing so, the judge rejected Assistant U.S. Attorney Shaun Sweeney’s request for at least 2 1/2 years in prison and defense attorney Efrem Grail ‘s arguments for probation. Sugarmann’s husband has twice filed for personal bankruptcy and Sugarmann once in recent years. Both also have tax liabilities and “substantial gambling losses” from 2009 to 2013, including more than $2 million in one year, Sweeney told the judge.

Gambler ensnared in Mohegan Sun scheme ‘succumbed to temptation’

Seduced by the bright lights and allure of the new casino in town, Mark Heltzel gave in to temptation, first snubbing his wife and daughters before turning his disregard to the law, court documents filed Monday said. The former skilled financial planner gambled away his home life and ultimately agreed to participate in a criminal scheme that defrauded Mohegan Sun Pocono out of more than $420,000, according to a memorandum filed ahead of Heltzel’s sentencing Friday in federal court. Fannick cited a pre-sentence report that said Heltzel’s alcohol abuse and “self-described gambling addiction” escalated as he began making daily trips to the casino to play blackjack. As Heltzel spent more time at the casino, he was no longer the devoted family man who would sooth Emily’s cold with Chinese noodles, or help Alex recover on the couch with the help of a “Lizzie McGuire” marathon, his wife wrote. “Soon, Mark found a new purpose,” she wrote. “Slowly, as he grew in popularity in this flashy establishment, he waned in popularity at home. Relationships began crumbling around him. Finally, one cold day in January 2016, our lives, already cracked at the seams, simply shattered (when Heltzel was charged).”

Man shot by trooper at St. Louis casino sentenced to prison

A suburban St. Louis man who was shot by a Missouri state trooper in a casino’s garage was sentenced to seven years in prison for charges arising from the confrontation. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports 29-year-old Javon Burton, of Vinita Park, pleaded guilty and was sentenced Wednesday for resisting arrest, possession of a controlled substance and unlawful use of a weapon. Court records say a trooper responding to a call of an assault in November 2015 at the Lumière Place was told someone was driving through the parking garage with a woman on the hood of his car. The records say when the trooper ordered Burton to get out of his car, Burton accelerated toward the trooper, who shot him. A search found methamphetamine and a loaded handgun in Burton’s car.

5 Plead Guilty in Multi-State Dog Fighting Op

According to court documents filed in connection with the cases, from October 2015 through June 1, 2016, the pleading defendants and their co-defendants and associates fought dogs – including to the death – and trafficked in dogs with other dog fighters in Indiana, Illinois, New Mexico, and elsewhere so that those dogs could be used in dog fights. They also maintained fighting dogs and dog fighting equipment such as dog treadmills, intravenous drug bags and lines, “breeding stands” used to immobilize female dogs, and chains weighing up to several pounds per linear foot. Agents found canine blood on the floor, walls, and ceiling of the basement of one defendant’s residence, indicating that the area was likely used as a dog fighting pit. “This office, along with our law enforcement partners and the Humane Society, is working to end this illegal activity and punish those who abuse animals for their own enjoyment.” “The provisions of the Animal Welfare Act were designed to protect animals from being used in illegal fighting ventures, which often entail other forms of criminal activity involving drugs, firearms and gambling,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Bethanne M. Dinkins of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General.

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UPDATE: Florida Decoupling Decision Draws Challenge

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to decouple dog racing from gambling venues, thus allowing them to operate stand alone slot machine gambling parlors. True decoupling efforts have been prevented, but the first approved case of de facto decoupling just happened in Florida. An old 1980 law was instrumental in the Magic City case and lead to the recent decoupling that will allow the facility to supplement actual races with jai alai matches. That ruling, however, is now being challenged, but its unclear if the challenge will be heard. The Miami CBS affiliate reports: 

Hartman and Tyner, Inc., and H&T Gaming, Inc., which run the Broward pari-mutuel, have filed a motion requesting that the Department of Businessand Professional Regulation vacate or reconsider the decision last month related to Magic City Casino in Miami.

The decision by the department’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering would allow Magic City, operated by WestFlagler Associates, to replace dog races with jai alai matches and continue offering lucrative slots. The approval dealt with a long-controversial issue known as a “summer jai alai” permit.

In their motion, attorneys for the Broward pari-mutuel’s operators said, in part, that their effort to intervene in the issue was improperly dismissed by the department. Also, they pointed to a 2004 constitutional amendment that allowed slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward counties and contend that Magic City is only allowed to offer slots in conjunction with a greyhound-racing permit — not a summer jai alai permit.

“As an existing greyhound permit holder and slot machine gaming operator, intervenors (Hartman and Tyner and H&T Gaming) have a right to be heard as to how the constitutional and statutory provisions are being interpreted as it relates to allowing new permits to be used for expanding slot machine operations,” the motion said. “Intervenors assert that slot machine gaming at West Flagler’s facility pursuant to its summer jai alai permit should not be authorized and would be illegal.”

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


A Brief Look at Crime 08/07 – 08/13

Two people arrested in connection to Jacksonville murders

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has announced the murder arrest of two people Wednesday. Police say the first shooting occurred on July 9 at around 9:30 pm. At the time, police were patrolling the area of Monica Drive and discovered a suspicious vehicle in the parking lot. When they approached the vehicle they discovered a 21-year-old Richard Green dead in a car. Homicide detectives responded and during their investigation, they learned Green was shot and killed in what police call a “drug deal gone bad.” As a result of their investigation, 20-year-old Patrick Steadman was arrested in connection with the murder. Police said the second murder happened back on June 4, where they discovered 22-year-old Kenard Hendley suffering from a gunshot wound to the back. Police say the victim was transported to the hospital and later died from his injuries, Police later learned the victim and several other people were inside a home gambling when the shooting occurred. According to police, Anthony Finch got upset that the victim was winning and shot him in the back as he was trying to leave the home.

Charity worker facing jail after admitting she stole £350,000 from British Red Cross to fund online gambling addiction

A CROOKED finance worker embezzled over £350,000 from the British Red Cross – under the guise of sending money to former delegates and staff. Mary Booth was “a trusted and valued” British Red Cross employee for 34 years and initially worked at the charity’s headquarters in London. She earned £45,000-per-year and retired with a full pension and lump sum after working at the charity’s Scottish headquarters in Paisley, Renfrewshire. But the seemingly trustworthy 56-year-old siphoned £359,551.27 from the charity’s accounts, which she paid in to her own bank accounts. She claims she scammed the charity – which helps needy souls across the world – so she could continue to fund her online gambling habit after splitting from her husband. And she is now facing jail and may have to sell her £350,000 home to pay back the money.

Tampa man sentenced to federal prison for embezzling nearly $850,000

A Tampa man has been arrested and sentenced to four years in federal prison after he embezzled nearly $850,000. U.S. District Judge [the suspect] to four years in federal prison for wire fraud. The Court also ordered him to forfeit the $848,136.04, which is traceable to proceeds of the crime and to pay restitution to his victims. According to testimony and court documents, Wheeler, a bookkeeper, embezzled from six different employers over the course of 15 years. He diverted nearly $850,000 from his various employers to bank accounts under his control. He subverted the internal controls of the companies to ultimately direct payments to himself. He also registered a number of fictitious names to conceal the diversions. Wheeler used most of the money for online gambling, a release from the United States Department of Justice stated.

Jeweler accused of $5M fraud scheme, using fake invoices

A Connecticut man has been charged in what federal authorities say is a $5 million fraud scheme using his Rhode Island jewelry store. Gerald Kent 51, of Groton, Connecticut, was ordered detained Thursday on charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Providence. Kent owns Kent Jewelry in Johnston, Rhode Island, which sells jewelry online using flash sale websites, such as Groupon and Zulily. Prosecutors said Kent struck a deal with a firm that buys unpaid invoices at a discount in return for cash, prosecutors said. But Kent sold that company fraudulent invoices, netting himself $3.6 million, they said. Kent’s lawyer would not comment on the charges after the hearing. Kent is scheduled to appear back in court July 26 for a detention hearing. Prosecutors told the federal judge overseeing the case that Kent is a prolific gambler and was arrested Wednesday at Foxwoods casino. They said casino records show Kent has visited Foxwoods 116 times this year alone and has gambled $43 million there during his life.

Trial set for tax collector accused of stealing from town

A Massachusetts town’s former tax collector, indicted nearly four years ago on charges that she stole more than $300,000 of the town’s money to sustain a gambling habit, faces trial this fall. The Telegram & Gazette reports that former Barre tax collector Marcia Langelier is scheduled go on trial Oct. 30. She has pleaded not guilty to charges including larceny and embezzlement. Prosecutors say she stole money from 2005 into 2011 while serving in the elected position. At her 2013 arraignment, prosecutors said she had accrued gambling losses of $350,000. Independent auditors had previously warned town officials that practices in the tax collector’s office could conceal “irregularities.”

Ex-Jazzercise employee sentenced in $1 million embezzlement

The former finance director of Jazzercise was sentenced Tuesday to more than seven years in prison for embezzling what authorities say was upwards of $1 million from the Carlsbad-based company and its owners, possibly to feed a gambling habit. Sherri O. Potts — who spent nearly nine years as the corporate director of finance for the physical-fitness firm — was arrested in Carlsbad in October on 50 theft-related charges, including forgery, fraudulent appropriation and grand theft by an employee. She pleaded guilty in March to one count of grand theft, three counts of forgery and one count of failing to report the stolen money on her tax returns. She also admitted that she stole more than $500,000. Superior Court Judge Michael Washington sentenced the 60-year-old Fallbrook resident to seven years, eight months in prison.

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


Florida Casino Expansion denied in Gambling Permit Case

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the efforts to expand gambling in Florida. The state has an agreement with the Seminole’s to allow tribal casinos in state, but other gambling efforts are more small scale and limited to horse and dog racing as well as various pari-mutual gambling locations. Efforts also took place to bring full-scale, Vegas style casino’s to the area and those too were shut down. That hasn’t stopped outside companies from trying to find new ways into the Florida market. The most recent example involves the sale of a license with the intent to move a facility and expand gambling greatly. The Saint Peters Blog has explained those efforts and how they have been shut down:

State gambling regulators this week shot down a request by a South Florida gambling permit holder who wanted sell the permit and allow the next operator to build on a new location in Broward County.

The *Department of Business and Professional Regulation on Monday said both sales of permits and any relocation of gambling—both time-consuming processes—have to be OK’d by the department’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, which regulates gambling in the state. The decision further cements the state’s control over where and how gambling is offered, particularly after a permit is granted.

The department’s “final order” also is a win for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which asked to intervene in the case. The Seminoles, who operate the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, had said allowing gambling licenses to be moved within a county “would provide out-of-state companies (with) an incentive to (buy) a license, possibly resulting in increased business competition for the Tribe.”

The company has a deal with an unnamed buy who was hoping to build a casino in a new location. The buyer knows it needs to relocate and build a new casino to be profitable, so this likely means the deal is off and there wont be significant new casino gambling expansion facing Florida families. 

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


A Brief Look at Crime 07/31 – 08/06

Woman arrested in May death of 80-year-old Las Vegas man

A 25-year-old woman has been arrested in the death of an 80-year-old man in the west Las Vegas Valley in May.The Metropolitan Police Department said [a suspect] was arrested Thursday on charges of murder, grand larceny auto theft and robbery with a deadly weapon. The victim was previously identified by the Clark County coroner’s office, and his death was classified as a homicide. Normand was found dead by family members inside his condo on May 8 after he failed to show up to work for two days, Metro said. They found Normand dead from unknown causes, police said. Police found video footage from the night before showing Normand and McKinley leaving a Las Vegas casino together. The coroner has not yet released Normand’s cause of death, but police Lt. Dan McGrath said he had been stabbed.

Silicon Valley man sentenced in gambling fraud case

A Santa Clara County man who pleaded no contest to embezzling more than $400,000 from his former high school classmates and gambling the money away in Las Vegas, Monte Carlo and Dubai was sentenced Monday to five years in county jail, prosecutors said. He persuaded his former classmates to allow him to invest their money in shares of Pinterest and Facebook, saying he could get them stakes in the companies before they were publicly available, prosecutors said. Instead of investing the money or using the funds for his business venture, Sagiraju allegedly spent about $424,000 on himself during “lavish blackjack trips to Las Vegas casinos,” prosecutors said. After one of Sagiraju’s victims reported the fraud to the district attorney’s office in November 2014, prosecutors opened an investigation. Sagiraju was arrested in Las Vegas during Super Bowl weekend in early February 2016, prosecutors said. Following his arrest, another business partner told prosecutors that Sagiraju had embezzled nearly $2 million.

Spalding man killed when he stepped in front of a passenger train at Quadring 

A man with gambling debts left notes apologizing for his actions before deliberately stepping into the path of a 75mph, 38-tonne diesel train at Quadring. [He] left “suicide and farewell” notes for family and friends inside his works van on Town Drove before using a foot crossing onto the railway line at about 4.45pm on March 8. South Lincolnshire’s senior coroner Paul Cooper said: “He told friends and family (in the notes) he intended to take his own life and that’s what he did.” East Midlands Ambulance Service paramedics declared life extinct at the scene. Train driver Allan Donald blew the single coach, passenger train’s horn “in a long, constant tone” after spotting Mr Taylor in his bright red coat. His train was one-and-a-half coach lengths away when Mr Taylor walked “deliberately forward” and stood sideways in its path, tensing himself until the impact. Emergency brakes didn’t stop the train until it was three-quarters of a mile down the track.

Wimbledon Tennis Match-Fixing Alerts Triggered by Gambling

Potential match-fixing alerts were triggered at Wimbledon in the second quarter of the year by gambling patterns. Alerts were also triggered for the French Open. The Tennis Integrity Unit said on Wednesday that one match at Roland Garros and three at Wimbledon, two of them in the qualifying tournament and one in the main draw, would be assessed and reviewed, reported Reuters. Alerts are raised in response to unusual betting patterns, which are not in themselves evidence of match-fixing and can be due to a number of other factors, including conditions and player fitness. The integrity unit said 40 of 53 alerts received were for matches played on the lower level men’s ATP Challenger and ITF Futures circuits. Three were on the men’s ATP Tour, one on the women’s WTA Tour and five on the ITF women’s circuit. During the April-June period, 31,281 professional matches were played. The cumulative six-month match alert figure was 83, compared to 121 received for the same period in 2016.

Man admits to using federal loans for gambling debts

NJ.com reports 58-year-old John Cheng, of New Brunswick, pleaded guilty to loan application fraud Wednesday. Cheng faces up to 30 years in prison. Prosecutors say Cheng applied for a $1.75 million federal Small Business Administration loan along with a $2 million commercial loan in order to finance a restaurant in December 2007. Officials say Cheng received more than $2 million in loans in March 2008. Authorities say Cheng spent the money on family members, a tax bill and gambling debts instead of construction for the restaurant. Cheng must pay $2.6 million in restitution.

Absolute Poker’s Scott Tom Accepts $300K Plea Deal

Scott Tom, former Absolute Poker president and Black Friday defendant, apparently has reached a plea deal with US prosecutors that will see him facing minimal jail time, if any at all. Tom stood accused by federal authorities of multiple felonies related to online gambling, and by the poker community of facilitating a major cheating scandal. According to documents reviewed by CalvinAyre.com journalists and revealed publicly earlier this week, on May 31, prosecutors accepted an agreement for Tom to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor charge of being an accessory after the fact in the transmission of gambling information, for which he will pay a $300,000 fine. As one of 11 infamous 11 Black Friday defendants, Tom faced multiple felony charges, including violation of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, conspiracy to violate the UIGEA, and operation of an illegal gambling business. The charges carried a potential sentence of up to 15 years in prison and $750,000 in fines.

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


Florida Court of Appeals to Hear Designated-Player Card Games Case

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the recent rise and fall of designated player banked card games in Florida. This style of card game seeks to avert Florida state gambling laws and for a while, the state wasn’t shutting them down. Once it was brought up that they were illegal forms of gambling and one that also violated the Seminole Compact’s exclusivity agreement, the state had to act. The issue went to court were they ruled illegal. As it might come as no surprise, the decision has now been appealed. An online source reports:

The legal battle related to greatly profitable *designated-player card games* at pari-mutuel facilities across the state of Florida is to be continued soon. It came to the knowledge of Casino Guardian that the matter is scheduled to be heard in September by a local *appeals court*.

The appeal was filed by *Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation*, which is responsible for regulation and monitoring of local gambling venues. The Department is now challenging a ruling issued in 2016 by E. Gary Early, an Administrative Law Judge. In his decision from *August 2016*, Judge Early said that the way the so-called designated-player card games are being operated in a *way that violates the ban* on “banked” card games that had been imposed by the state.

According to notice which was published on an online court list with pending cases for trial, the *1st District Court of Appeal* is set to host the appeal’s hearing on *September 12th*.

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