Monthly Archives: December 2017

UPDATE: Gambling-esque Loot Boxes in Video Games Face Regulatory Measures & Studies from Governments like Hawaii and Private Companies like Apple, but are they Actually Harmful?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the newly covered, gambling type video game items known as loot boxes. The boxes are purchasable in a video game and they provide random loot, or in game merchandise, much like a slot machine. This system of microtransactions came to light because EA pushed the envelope so far in their new Disney licensed Star Wars video game, that the only way to truly progress in the game or have the tools to win was to buy these loot boxes and gamble on the items you would get. The system is designed for the player to buy boxes, open them and chase after the best loot. Players pushed back, mainstream media picked up the issue, Disney had to get involve and make EA pull the gambling system from the game and legislators started looking into the issue. Hawaii legislators came out very strongly against the idea of exposing children to such psychologically manipulative, gambling type systems and called the game a Star Wars themed online casino. Its no surprise that a few weeks later and Hawaii legislators are now drafting legislation and working with other states and the industry itself to regulate the issue.   Gaming publication Kotaku reports:

A Hawaii in which games with microtransactions are illegal for minors to purchase is one that state legislator Chris Lee is now hoping to realize. He says that prohibiting the sale of games with loot boxes is a “no-brainer,” and along with a dozen other politicians, he says, he’s thinking of how to put legal controls around video game microtransactions. 

Over the course of a few months, Lee had been hearing from local teachers about kids who struggled with the temptation to spend beyond their means in game microtransactions. Lee cited one conversation about a kid who, he heard, had stolen their parents’ credit card to pay for their gaming habit. He says several families reached out about spending thousands of dollars on microtransactions.

“Gambling has been illegal especially for minors and young adults because they are psychologically vulnerable,” he told me, adding that kids “often don’t have the cognitive maturity to make appropriate decisions when exposed to these kinds of exploitative mechanisms.” 

“There’s no transparency at the outset of what they’re getting into,” he said. “That’s something I think is a real concern.” Now, Lee is working to prevent the sale of games containing loot boxes to gamers under 21 in Hawaii. He also wants games to disclose up-front whether they have “gambling-based mechanics” and to publicize the odds of winning various items in loot boxes.

Apple Inc. certainly agrees with Lee that the odds of winning various items need to be disclosed to gamers. Falling in line with what other foreign governments like China Korea, Apple is now requiring game companies to publicize the odds. Venture Beats explains:

Apple quietly updated its rules for developers yesterday with a new version of its App Store Review Guidelines, and it now requires that developers disclose the odds of getting cool loot in the loot boxes for free-to-play games.

Loot boxes have become a big monetization opportunity in free-to-play games, but they’re also controversial, as Electronic Arts’ discovered with tying loot crate purchases to unlocking desirable characters like Darth Vader in Star Wars: Battlefront II. Gamers revolted, and EA backed off. Government officials also started to step in to say that loot crates should be regulated, as they can be perceived as ripping off consumers or even as gambling.

Apple is clearly trying to get ahead of any regulatory problem by requiring that developers now disclose proper information.

But those in the gaming industry don’t believe loot boxes are gambling. Not only have individual companies gone on record to say they are perfectly fine, the ESRB, the self-regulated industry body who labels games by age range, came out and said they didn’t believe they were gambling and they certainly haven’t proposed any regulatory measures to help protect consumers against the predatory nature of microtransactions. Those fighting against loot boxes aren’t simply looking at antidotal evidence either. The UK’s Gambling Commission just released a report with rather shocking evidence of children as young as 11 being preyed upon and possibly lead into gambling addiction. Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioral Addiction at Nottingham Trent University explains:

Last week, the Gambling Commission’s annual report found that children as young as 11 years of age are “skin gambling” online – paying money for the chance to win in-game virtual items. But this, while alarming, is just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s the terrifying phenomenon of “loot boxes” that are the most worrying and potentially dangerous aspect of e-gaming for children right now. “Loot boxes” are everywhere – they are otherwise known as crates, chests, cases, bundles, and card packs.

In FIFA Ultimate Team, for example, players can purchase gold, silver or bronze card packs, either using in-game currency or real money, in the hope of getting their hands on top talent to improve their teams. But there’s no guarantee of landing A-listers like Ronaldo or Messi – the cards won’t all be star players and will more likely be less valuable collectables.

The issue is that the buying of crates or loot boxes is a form of gambling because players, often children, are being asked to buy something of financial value that could end up being of lower financial value than the amount they paid. 

The good thing is parents are now hearing about things like “skin gambling” and “loot boxes” but children also need to be educated about these activities as much as drinking, drugs or the risks of underage sex. Parents need to get to grips with what is going on in their children’s worlds.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 12/18 – 12/24

Two R.I. men get prison for lottery-related beating death

Two Rhode Island men are headed to prison for beating a man to death aboard a sailboat over lottery winnings. Attorney General Peter Kilmartin says Richard Baribault was sentenced Friday to life plus ten years. Troy Gunderway received a 55-year term with 35 years to serve. Baribault was convicted this summer of murder and other offenses in the 2015 death of 70-year-old Fernando Silva. Gunderway pleaded guilty to similar charges in March. Prosecutors say the Warwick men went to the marina to rob Silva, also known as “Captain Fredy,” on his boat after he won several hundred dollars playing Keno. Silva was beaten in the process and died of his injuries. Prosecutors say Gunderway later piloted the boat into Warwick Cove and abandoned it. The harbormaster later found Silva’s decomposed body.

‘Shoot Me,’ Man Says Before Fatal Gunfire at Lucky Eagle Casino

A Thurston County Sheriff’s Office deputy ordered an armed and suicidal man in a parking lot at the Lucky Eagle Casino in Rochester to drop his gun numerous times before fatally shooting him last month, according to investigative reports from the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office obtained by The Chronicle through a public records request. “I had no other means to stop that threat and if he would’ve lifted that gun up and shot at me, I wouldn’t have had any reaction whatsoever,” Deputy Brett Campbell told detectives, as quoted in Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Det. Jamey McGinty’s report. Officer Robert Strader, of the Chehalis Tribal Police Department, reported that when he responded, he saw Deputy Campbell running from the Jeep back to his patrol vehicle. Two other law enforcement officers were at the scene. James was handcuffed and lying on the ground on the driver’s side of the Jeep when Chehalis Tribal Police arrived, they reported, bleeding from multiple bullet wounds in his upper right chest area. Officers at the scene began attempting to aid James, packing his bullet wounds with gauze as they waited for medics, Chehalis Tribal officers wrote in their reports.

Car dealer Ralph Ahmet tried to smuggle drugs worth £12 million into Kent in Winnebago

A “high end” car dealer tried to smuggle a cocktail of drugs – with a street value of £12 million – into Kent stashed in his Winnebago. Ralph Ahmet – who has a home and his business in Dubai – has construction a hidden compartment inside the America-built 10 metre mobile vehicle. He was stopped in September by UK Border Force officials in Coquelles and the 125 kilos of cocaine, heroin and cannabis were found near the petrol tank. Defence barrister Paul Lamb told Canterbury Crown Court that the car dealer, who has served a jail term for drug smuggling, had invested £300,000 in a motor vehicle venture which failed. Ahmet also had a gambling problem and decided to accept a £50,000 offer by unnamed dealers to drive the Moneybag from Germany to the UK. “He accepts the stupidity of his actions which were borne out of desperation, “ he added.

San Bruno casino facing $8 million penalty over alleged money laundering on premises

The federal Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has hit Artichoke Joe’s Casino in San Bruno with an $8 million penalty for allegedly violating a number of anti-money-laundering laws over the past eight years. From October 2009 until this month, FinCEN claims, the casino — one of the largest so-called card clubs in the state — failed to create adequate internal controls intended to detect, deter and report suspicious transactions. In a statement released on Friday, FinCEN Acting Director Jamal El-Hindi said that “for years, Artichoke Joe’s turned a blind eye to loan sharking, suspicious transfers of high-value gaming chips and flagrant criminal activity that occurred in plain sight.” “Casinos, card clubs and others in the gaming industry should consider their risk of exploitation by criminal elements, and understand that they will be held accountable if they disregard anti-money-laundering and illicit finance laws,” El-Hindi said.

The casino was raided by federal and state law enforcement officials and temporarily closed in March 2011. The raid led to the conviction of two of the casino’s customers on loan-sharking charges. According to FinCEN, senior-level employees at the casino knew that loan sharks were conducting criminal activity at the casino, using Artichoke Joe’s gaming chips to facilitate illegal transactions. FinCEN claims the casino’s operators failed to file reports on the alleged illegal activity, like loan sharks passing chips to casino patrons on the gaming floor in clear sight of the casino’s employees.

Former CFO admits stealing more than $1 million from company

The former chief financial officer of a New Jersey orthopedic care provider has admitted stealing more than $1 million from the company for his personal use. Federal prosecutors say 70-year-old Harry Wolfmuller pleaded guilty Wednesday to wire fraud. The former Belmar resident now faces up to 20 years in prison when he’s sentenced March 13 and must pay $1,175,720 in restitution. Wolfmuller was the CFO for an orthopedic care provider that has offices in Monmouth and Ocean counties. Prosecutors say he cashed checks from the company’s business accounts between 2007 and 2015 and spent the money on restaurant meals, golf outings, gambling, lottery tickets and other unapproved personal expenses. He then misrepresented the nature of these transactions in the company’s accounting records to make them appear as legitimate business expenses.

Lenexa woman dies after shooting near 7th Street Casino in KCK

A Lenexa woman is dead after a shooting outside a casino in Kansas City, KS. The shooting happened at about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday in a parking garage outside of the 7th Street Casino, located at 777 N Seventh Street Trafficway. Overland Park Police officers stopped a vehicle at about 1:20 a.m. near southbound Interstate 35 and Antioch Road to assist a Mission officer who had pulled the car over for speeding. Officers noticed that a Hispanic woman riding in the vehicle had been shot and had a faint pulse. CPR was administered but the woman died on the side of the road. Police say the woman was 28-years-old. They say they do not know how the woman and the man driving the vehicle are connected. “The preliminary investigation revealed that she was meeting up with an acquaintance,” KCK Police Department Public Information Officer Cameron Morgan said. “That’s all I know for sure right now.” The driver is not considered a suspect. He says he was trying to take the woman to Shawnee Mission Medical Center, the closest hospital he knew of.

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

Florida Greyhound Ban Clears First Hurdle and will be presented to Committee: Decoupling Issue Remains Unclear, but more Support for a Ban Grows

Casino Watch Focus has reported that a new and unique avenue for banning greyhound races was being proposed by Sen. Tom Lee. As a member of the Constitutional Revision Committee, he planned to bring forward a bill that if approved, would go to state voters and seeks to ban greyhound racing. The General Provisions Committee is putting the resolution in front of the Executive Committee. The issue of decoupling is still vague, so its unclear if this would pave the way for stand alone poker rooms or if this would shut those down along with the dog racing. An online source reports:

As debate regarding the industry rages on, a proposed constitutional amendment could put the decision on the future of greyhound racing – and, by extension, live poker – in the hands of the voters of Florida.

The General Provisions Committee decided on Thursday to put the potential resolution in front of the entire Executive Committee. Called Proposal 67, the resolution would ban greyhound racing effective December 31, 2019. According to Saunders, the original plan was for the ban to be slowly phased in with an effective date of July 21, but the General Provisions Committee moved up the date. “We should do this as quickly as we feasibly can,” commission member Brecht Heuchan said to Saunders.

By state law, the only way that a greyhound track can offer a poker room is if they offer a significant racing schedule and pari-mutuel betting. There have been discussions for several years about separating the greyhound tracks and the poker rooms, but they have been unable to separate the two industries. If Proposal 67 were first to get on the ballot in 2018 and then be voted through by 60% of the citizenry of Florida, there would be significant issues because of the linkage.

The proposed constitutional amendment isn’t necessarily looking at gambling or poker being offered at the tracks. Many of the members of the constitutional committee are more concerned with the perceived issues that have plagued the racing industries for years. As Lee stated to Saunders, “As we’ve evolved, we’ve banned all sorts of activities that have been considered cruel to animals: bullfighting and cockfighting and all kinds of things. To me, this is just the next step on that plane of becoming more sensitive to this kind of inhumanity.”

More supporters looking to free dogs from the realities of this harmful environment have come forward. In an editorial sent out to multiple publications, including the Palm Beach Post Online:

Kate MacFall, the Florida State Director for the Humane Society of the United States, laid out a passionate plea to end greyhound racing, some of which is blow:

With 12 of the 18 dog tracks nationwide in our state, Florida has the most dog-racing operations in the U.S., thanks to our state government’s actions to prop up the industry. Greyhound racing is illegal in 40 states, and now is the time to add Florida to the list.

On average, a racing greyhound dies in Florida every three days. Many more are injured. Even if dogs don’t end up injured or dead, their lives are ones of abject misery.

Just this year, two more cases of dog “doping” have been added to the long list of violations. In one case, two trainers at a Jacksonville-area track were cited when dozens of greyhound blood tests came up positive for cocaine, with one greyhound testing positive six different times.

The total amount gambled on live racing at Florida dog tracks declined by 56 percent between 2006 and 2016. State tax revenue from dog racing also continues to drop, with revenue declining by 81 percent from 2006 to 2016. 

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A Brief Look at Crime 12/11 – 12/17

‘He Pulled Out a Gun and Shot Him’ – Witness Describes Bakersfield Casino Shooting

About a dozen shots rang out just before 6 p.m. on Friday Nov. 3, at the Golden West Casino in South Bakersfield, California, according to a witness interviewed on KBAK Eyewitness News. A man identified in an eyewitness interview as ‘Doug,’ a regular at the Golden West Casino, said a black male got into an argument with a security guard when he was asked for ID. The man then pulled out a gun and shot the guard dead, wounding another. Security personnel returned fire but failed to bring down the shooter, who escaped from the scene of the incident. When Kern County Sheriff’s Department deputies arrived on the scene, they found the security guard dead outside the casino entrance, said spokesman Lt. Ian Chandler. Police did not confirm that a second security guard had been wounded. The police located a man with a gunshot wound at a nearby market and took him into custody. The department is treating the individual as a “person of interest in the shooting,” according to Chandler. More than 100 people were inside the casino at the time of the shooting. None were shot, but some sustained injuries while running for cover.

Gala pays £2.3m after stolen money gambled away

A Gambling Commission investigation found “significant flaws” in the way the company dealt with two high-spending customers. Gaming operator Gala Interactive has agreed a £2.3m penalty with regulators after failings which saw two high-spending customers gamble away stolen money online. Gala, which includes bingo and poker brands and is owned by Ladbrokes Coral, has agreed to repay the £1.3m stolen funds to the victims – plus £1m towards research into problem gambling. The Gambling Commission said its failures were aggravated by the fact that they took place just as the business was giving assurances following a previous, similar case. Ladbrokes Coral said it accepted that the failures saw it fall short of accepted standards and offered to pay a further £200,000 towards research in addition to the penalty package. One of the customers at the centre of the case, later jailed for four years for stealing from an employer, lost £837,545 over 14 months. The other, who gambled away £432,765 over 11 months, was jailed for four-and-a-half years for a money laundering offence. An investigation found there were “significant flaws” in Gala’s dealings with the two high-spending customers and that it breached regulations that protect consumers. The Gambling Commission said the firms “failed to effectively interact” with the customers who were displaying traits of problem gambling, and did not have written policies in place that could have curbed the behaviour.

Man attempts to rob Las Vegas casino 3 different times

Over the course of three months, a robber decided to test his luck not once but three times at the M Resort in Las Vegas. On Aug. 24, Gregory Bolusan reportedly entered the M Resort at 3:54 a.m. with a handgun and a backpack. He demanded that the cage employee hand over all of their money but was unsuccessful due to the employee fleeing the cage. Bolusan returned to the M Resort on Sept. 10 at 5:33 a.m. with the intentions robbing the casino cage again. This time he made away with $29,589. Investigators were able to identify him because he wore the same clothing, drove the same vehicle and used a similar gun and backpack. In his final attempt, Bolusan returned to the M Resort on Oct. 28 and was able to use the same game plan to make away with $33,480 – or so he thought. Bolusan was wearing different clothes during this robbery attempt but was driving the exact same vehicle, parked in the exact same spot, and entered the exact same doors as before. This led to M Resort security members apprehending Bolusan before he could get away with the cash. During the arrest, it was determined that he was driving a white 2010 Toyota Camry and that his gun was not real. Bolusan was booked into the Henderson Detention Center on several counts of attempted robbery, burglary.

Radio host who teamed with ex-NFL player shocked by charges

A radio host who teamed up for years with former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason on a New York City sports show said Wednesday that he was shocked by his arrest and will prove his innocence. Craig Carton, 48, spoke outside Manhattan federal court after pleading not guilty to fraud charges in an indictment returned last week. He told reporters he entered the plea because he was “unequivocally not guilty.” The longtime co-host of WFAN’s “Boomer and Carton” show was arrested in September on charges that he misappropriated at least $5.6 million from two investors in a ticket reselling business designed to raise millions of dollars so he could pay off gambling debts. Free on $500,000 bond, he quit his job shortly after the arrest. “I was shocked when I was arrested and even more surprised that the government was accusing me of running a complete sham as they put it,” Carton said with his lawyer at his side.

Czap gets four years for taking $6.1 million from Newark company

Czap will be required to turn over more than $1 million in assets that represent some of the proceeds obtained from her activities that involved embezzling $6.1 million from a financial services company. Czap pleaded guilty on June 1 to one count of wire fraud, one count of money laundering, and one count of making false statements on tax returns. Beginning in January 2011 and through August 2016, while employed as the Vice President of Accounting at an unnamed financial services company in Newark, Czap made 497 separate fraudulent online transactions from the company’s accounts into her personal accounts. Prosecutors said Czap disguised these transactions, ranging from $1,000 to $38,527, as payments to corporate health insurance or payments to corporate marketers and altered the company’s general ledger to further conceal the transfers. In total, Czap obtained more than $6.1 million through her fraud. Czap converted these electronic transfers to cash, through either ATM withdrawals or cash advances at several casinos. After gambling, often briefly, she would cash out at the casino and receive US currency. Federal law requires that all income, whether obtained legally or illegally be declared on tax returns. Czap failed to report the proceeds of her fraud on her tax return for years 2013 through 2015.

Man arrested for mass shooting threats at casino

Authorities say an Ohio man has been arrested for threatening to carry out mass shootings at a megachurch and the Las Vegas casino where his estranged wife works. The FBI says 28-year-old Wei Li was transferred from police custody to federal authorities Thursday after being charged in a criminal complaint with interstate communications of a threat and destruction of evidence. The Cuyahoga Falls resident is accused of sending his estranged wife text messages threatening to kill her and commit mass shootings at a casino and a church with more than 1,000 members. The FBI says Li acknowledged sending the texts to his wife but didn’t intend to carry out the shootings. No firearms were found in his home.

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UPDATE: The Supreme Court Heard Oral Arguments in the New Jersey Sports Betting Case and Experts think the Court Might Side with Gambling Expansion

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing events surrounding legalized state sports gambling as it pertains to New Jersey. For years they have tried and failed to legalize sports betting in their state. The issue has finally made it to the Supreme Court and the sides have been fairly well documented, with New Jersey and gambling operators seeking legalized sports betting and the major sports organizations such as the NCAA, NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL and the Trump Administration’s Department of Justice backing existing Federal law which prohibits sports betting outside of Las Vegas. Oral arguments have now been heard and early statements by a majority of the justices seem to indicate they might side with New Jersey. Forbes reports:

Proponents of legalized sports betting had to be feeling confident after last Monday’s oral argument in/NCAA v. Christie/ — the so-called New Jersey sports betting case, in which leagues including the NFL, the NBA and Major League Baseball are seeking to prevent the state from permitting such gambling. The general consensus among those in attendance was that the Supreme Court appears poised to invalidate the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), the 1992 federal law that bans states from authorizing or licensing sports betting.

By my count, at least five justices — John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito and, surprisingly, Stephen Breyer (one of the court’s more liberal members) — indicated that they believed PASPA violates the 10th Amendment’s anti-commandeering principle, which forbids the federal government from commanding the states to implement federal laws or policies that would interfere with state sovereignty.

From the tenor of the oral argument, with only Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg appearing to credit the leagues’ argument that PASPA is a straightforward preemption law, one could easily envision a decisive victory for New Jersey. A 6-3 margin sounds about right — at least that’s my prediction.

Additional factors seem to indicate a shocking reversal from where the issue was just months ago, following 6 failed attempts by New Jersey. ROI provides the additional analysis:

“When you look at recent history on U.S. Supreme Court rulings, 83 percent show a reversal of the lower court opinion; and in the past five years, that figure is still over 70 percent,” Wallach said.

“So, all of the metrics show a change is afoot. What that change looks like, we’ll have to wait and see. It might not be whether New Jersey prevails on its partial repeal, but how sweeping of a decision in New Jersey’s favor it turns out to be.”

Court followers suggest the decision would come in spring or later. Just months ago, New Jersey and the gaming industry believed it had exhausted all efforts to win this case. But, to the surprise of many, on June 27 the Supreme Court decided it would take the case. “Look at where this case was just five months ago,” Wallach said. “It wasn’t even being mentioned. Now it’s going to the Supreme Court. New Jersey has lost six battles on this case in the lower courts. But this is the one that counts.

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A Brief Look at Crime 12/04 – 12/10

Ex-cop, son admit to roles in $4 million illegal sports-betting scheme

An ex-cop who once spent time in prison for participating in an advertising scheme, has racked up another felony conviction, this time for his role in illegal Internet-based sports gambling rings, which, authorities said, hauled in about $4 million in wagers. Ciro Barone, 68, of West Brighton, has pleaded guilty to a felony count of promoting gambling and a misdemeanor count of conspiracy. His son, Woodrow resident Paul Barone, who was 32 when arrested in January, has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of attempting to promote gambling. Prosecutors said the Barones worked from Jan. 18, 2015, through Jan. 3, 2016, with a co-defendant, Woodrow resident Robert Rossi, who managed bettor accounts from a wire room. Father and son passed out gambling accounts to bettors, while recruiting new clients and collecting wagers and doling out winnings, said an indictment. In a recorded phone conversation on Sept. 5, 2015, Ciro Barone told an unidentified person he received a “commission” of 30 percent if the user of a certain account lost money placing bets, the indictment alleges. Last week, Rossi pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of attempting to promote gambling, and was sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge. In a separate scheme, Ciro Barone and a co-defendant Francisco Muro, 78, of New Springville, were responsible to recruit new clients, collect money from bettors and distribute winnings, said another indictment.

Waterville off-track betting parlor sues former employee

A former teller at Favorites, the off-track betting parlor in Waterville, is being sued for $696,000 the owner says was stolen over the past 3 ½ years. The lawsuit, filed in the parlor’s name, Pioneer Gaming LLC, alleges that Michael S. Tardiff Sr., 50, of Augusta, embezzled the money between November 2013 and August 2017. John Barnicle, attorney for Pioneer Gaming, filed the civil action in Kennebec County Superior Court in September, and a judge approved an attachment of $696,000 on Tardiff’s property. He said he reviewed closing settlement reports following “significant but unexplained losses at Favorites,” and saw “a huge discrepancy between vouchers sold and vouchers cashed in at the end of (2016)” andcalculated that $232,000 more money was cashed out than taken in.

Woman Who Bilked Oregon Retiree Out of $3M Gets Prison

A manicurist who helped trick an Oregon retiree out of $3 million was sentenced Wednesday to 21 months in federal prison. Thy Mihn Phan and her boyfriend led the victim to believe the money collected during a three-year scheme was to help with legal issues and a landscaping business. Instead, they blew almost every penny while enjoying a high-roller lifestyle at Las Vegas casinos, including Aria, Bellagio, Caesars Palace and MGM Grand. Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Bradford said the victim lost everything he saved for retirement. “They didn’t just steal the victim’s money,” Bradford told U.S. District Judge Anna Brown. “They stole his dignity, they stole his happiness.” Prosecutors said Van and Phan sought loans from R.W., saying the landscaping business was struggling to stay afloat. At one point, Van presented his financial problems as so dire he was contemplating suicide. Moreover, the pair said Van needed more money because he was going through a divorce and had legal troubles. They promised to pay him back with interest. Prosecutors said they made some interest payments to keep the scheme going. Mostly, however, the money vanished in a long run of bad gambling luck.

Former Chief Financial Officer Of Insurance Brokerage Company Pleads Guilty To Embezzlement And Tax Evasion

On Friday, United States Attorney Russell M. Coleman announced that the former Chief Financial Officer of Market Finders Insurance Corporation pleaded guilty to tax evasion and embezzling nearly $2,000,000 during a two-year period. 63-year-old Sylvania Rebecca Smith of Louisville, Kentucky was previously charged with one count of wire fraud for devising an embezzlement scheme to acquire funds from her employer. Smith admitted to generating fraudulent loan checks from Market Finders while serving as the company’s CFO. She also admitted to diverting the money into a bank account owned by PBS between July 2013 to April 2015. The defendant created fraudulent insurance financing contracts between Market Finders and clients of PBS Insurance without permission from existing clients. She also attempted to conceal her activities by manipulating records. The defendant admitted that she and her husband used some of the money to fund her husband’s business, as well as to pay for personal expenses and gambling activities.

Hungerford butler stole more than £2million from trusting employers

A SCHEMING butler secretly looted paintings by Picasso and Toulouse-Lautrec and more than £2m worth of artefacts belonging to a Hungerford couple. Former soldier Simon Dalton, 54, helped himself to gems and other valuables over a three-year period from the safe of millionaire Maj Christopher Hanbury and his wife Bridget, to feed his gambling addiction. The 73-year-old victim, a former member of the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars and an aide to the Sultan of Brunei, is a family friend of Prince Charles. Manchester Crown Court heard how Dalton kept his addiction a secret from the couple, who run a polo stud farm. When the victims enquired about items that were missing from the safe, Dalton would cast doubt on their memories. The truth emerged after the family mentioned to Dalton they would install cameras in the safe – and the butler, who had a grace and favour cottage on the Hanburys’ estate – knew the game was up.

Maine casino campaigns fined record $500k by ethics panel

The Maine ethics commission has levied $500,000 in fines against the four committees behind a referendum that, if approved Nov. 7, would allow a casino in York County. The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices levied the fine Friday. The Portland Press Herald reported the fine is almost 10 times the commission’s previous record fine. Voters will decide next week if entrepreneur Shawn Scott can run a casino in York County. Emails released by the five-member ethics commission late Wednesday detail communications among the Scotts, Timberlake and other associates as the casino drive progressed. The commission voted in June to investigate the ballot question committee Horseracing Jobs Fairness, where it got its financing to collect signatures to put the casino referendum on the ballot and why it failed to meet finance report filing deadlines. Three other ballot question committees formed by Lisa Scott were swept into the investigation and all four were penalize. The records also include financial reports and other emails that show how Shawn Scott and partners, one of whom was based in Cambodia, were the key people in the $4.5 million push to gather signatures and get the casino proposal on the ballot.

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Florida Bill Seeks to Legalize Daily Fantasy Sports, but Might Violate the Seminole Gambling Compact

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various attempts at legalization of Daily Fantasy Sports DFS), especially in Florida, a state that has been heavily lobbied due to major DFS companies DraftKings and FanDuel physically residing there. Last January an attempt was made to officially legalize, but it never materialized. New efforts have surfaced and have now passed committee. Florida Politics reports:

A proposal to exempt fantasy sports from state gambling regulation cleared a Senate committee Thursday—but with one notable opponent.

“I don’t think the issues raised are clear,” said Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Port Orange Republican and vice-chair of the *Regulated Industries Committee, which handles gambling policy.

Aside from Hukill’s ‘no’ vote, that committee otherwise moved the bill (SB 374) by *Dana Young, a Tampa Republican, on an 8-1 vote. Similar measures (SB 840 223) have been filed for the upcoming Legislative Session.

In the online games, players pick teams of real-life athletes and vie for cash and other prizes based on how those athletes do in actual games.

Asked to clarify her position after the meeting, Hukill said, “Is this a game of skill or not? I don’t think that’s clear, at least for now.”

The issue isn’t as simple as legislation clarifying if it’s a game of skill or change and gambling or simple recreation. There is also the issue of the major gambling compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe. They have issued a letter that clearly outlines they view Fantasy Sports as gambling and in violation of the compact and they have threatened to withhold payments to the state if such gambling expansion is pushed through by the legislature. On online source explains:

In a Tuesday letter to the state officials, the Seminole Tribe made it clear that the regulation of sports contests is to violate the tribe’s exclusive rights and the Seminole is to stop making payments to the state. The letter was signed by the Tribe’s general counsel Jim Shore and addressed to Sen. Travis Hutson and Rep. Mike La Rosa. The letter points out that the bill is to reduce the Tribe’s exclusivity. Furthermore, it states that the tribe is ready to discuss the issue with the state representatives. According to the letter, the bill is to violate Part XII of the 2010 Gaming Compact between the State and Tribe.

At present, the state reaps more than $200 million per year for granting gambling exclusivity to the tribe. Supposing that the state to tax daily fantasy sports contests, the tribe threatened to cease payments to the state. Industry insiders believe that the tribe’s warnings may change the officials’ stance on the matter and the DFS regulation may hit the rail. This seems to be the likely scenario as Florida is eyeing DFS regulation since 2015. Two years later, the bill is pending a stamp by the local government. 

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A Brief Look at Crime 11/20 – 12/03

Organized crime a ‘viable threat to public safety’ in B.C. casinos: gov’t report

The presence of organized criminals in casinos is “a viable threat to public safety,” the B.C. government was warned in an April internal memo obtained by Postmedia. The memo — sent to John Mazure, B.C.’s assistant deputy minister in charge of the gaming enforcement branch — sheds light on the level of awareness in the government of how money laundering in casinos could pose a danger for both B.C. residents and the provincial economy. “The gaming policy enforcement branch intelligence unit reports that organized crime presence in and around B.C. casinos presents a viable threat to public safety,” the April 2017 memo says. The memo was written by Len Meilleur, the gaming enforcement branch’s director of compliance. It refers to RCMP and B.C. Lottery Commission investigations that led to allegations that “illegitimate lenders” associated with organized crime are lending cash earned through crime to VIP gamblers, with drop-offs in B.C. casino parking lots. After a series of redacted paragraphs, Meilleur’s memo said: “This information is proving well founded within the current investigation and these subjects have been identified as threats to public safety … because of their involvement in a wide array of criminal activity.” Documents also say that evidence provided by police to the BCLC suggests organized crime’s laundering of money through casinos and thus into B.C.’s economy is “substantial.”

Lotto rapist faces paying back £2.5million as fraud cops prepare for possible prosecution

Lotto rapist Edward Putman may have to hand back a £2.5million jackpot as fraud cops prepare a possible prosecution, the Sunday People can reveal. In a significant development, the convicted sex attacker, 52, is facing potential court action over claims he used a fake ticket to scoop his 2009 windfall. Despite a wall of silence, ­detectives have ceaselessly probed allegations that Putman used Camelot fraud unit worker Giles Knibbs, who later killed himself – as an inside man. It is believed officers worked with the Crown Prosecution Service as they obtained signed statements from key witnesses. The Sunday People understands a Camelot whistleblower has broken cover to provide vital clues into the alleged fraud. Now, in a dramatic twist, ­police are expected to hand over a file of evidence “imminently” to prosecutors. We have also discovered that Putman – jailed in 1991 for the violent rape of a 17-year-old girl – believed officers had dropped their probe. But he was “shocked” to ­discover the investigation was ongoing and officers had refused to give up on the probe. If criminal charges are ­activated and Putman is ­convicted he could be made to repay the seven-figure fortune under the Proceeds of Crime Act. A source close to the ­investigation said: “For months, even years, police have been frustrated by a lack of evidence and limited information. “But they haven’t given up and they have kept plugging away in the background. They’re nearing the point where they can produce a file for the CPS. “This is a significant milestone. Putman had his solicitor contact detectives because he thought the whole thing was over. “He couldn’t believe his ears when he was told they were still investigating. It was pure shock. “People in the ­investigation have been told that someone who works at the Lottery had finally come forward.

Gambling game prompts shooting in Decatur

The Decatur Police Department is looking for a suspect following a shooting on Sunday night. Police say they responded to the area of North Edward Street and West Center Street in Decatur for the report of shots fired, around 8:40 p.m. On scene police located a 21-year-old male victim who was bleeding from the mouth nose and had a gunshot to his leg . His injuries were not life threatening. The victim provided no information about who shot him, police said. He eventually told police that he was attacked and beaten, then shot by an unknown subject he believed to male. At the scene police found evidence of a abandoned dice game. The victim said there was gambling in the area, but wouldn’t say where. Officers located a vehicle with numerous bullet holes.

Man shot, killed by Thurston County deputy outside casino

Thurston County deputies are investigating a fatal officer-involved shooting that occurred Tuesday night in Rochester. The shooting happened at the parking lot of the Lucky Eagle Casino before 8 p.m. The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office told KIRO 7 a deputy shot a man who brandished a weapon at the officer. The man was airlifted to St. Peters Hospital in Olympia, where he was pronounced deceased.. No deputies were injured.

Extreme violence at illegal gaming house near Markham

Over the past year, York Region has seen a slew of violent incidents linked to illegal gambling and raising questions about organized crime. In Vaughan, a portion of Woodbridge’s Caffe Corretto was blown out in June 2017, exposing illegal gaming machines, and two people were murdered in a hail of bullets in a Woodbridge illegal gambling site, Moka Cafe, in 2015. In Markham, a man was allegedly kidnapped from outside a well-known gaming site before being killed and dumped on the side of Old Kennedy Road, just north of Steeles Avenue East, in November 2016. Now Toronto police have recovered deleted video from a Sept. 18 incident, in which two men were badly beaten at an illegal Asian gaming house just south of the Markham border, in North Toronto. One of the victims was treated with a brain bleed and remains in a non-verbal state following a strike to the head with a machete. Det. Andrew Lipkus, from Toronto police’s street violence task force, said the gaming house had level of sophistication.

Genovese mobster charged with tax evasion

This guy could be the next Al Capone. An aged wiseguy has been slapped with tax evasion charges for failing to fork over $367,000 in dues from real estate sales, authorities said. Genovese solider Salvatore “Sallie” Demeo neglected to give the feds a piece of his $2 million action when he unloaded his shares in two Brooklyn properties in 2013 and 2014, according to court documents. Prosecutors said a small chunk of the money was funneled into the plumbing company of a mobbed-up associate, but said they couldn’t locate the rest. The beaming 77-year-old was released on $2 million bond Thursday, and excitedly poked his attorney in the ribs as the judge ordered he’d walk free. This isn’t the grizzled geezer’s first run-in with the law. He was charged in 1996 for stealing some $400,000 from a Manalapan, N.J. bank, and spent the next year on the lam, attempting to avoid federal racketeering charges. He was eventually caught, convicted, and sentenced to 57 months behind bars. Most recently, the mobster was sentenced to probation last month to running an illegal off-shore gambling ring in Costa Rica.

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