Monthly Archives: March 2018

Supreme Court Could Rule in Favor of Sports Betting Expansion Soon, MLB & NBA Seek to Impose a Controversial Integrity Fee

Casino Watch Focus has reported over the years on the numerous efforts by New Jersey to legalize sports betting in their State. As is stands. Las Vegas is the only place where sports betting in allowed and the Supreme Court has heard arguments about the appropriateness of the PASPA, the law which makes it illegal outside of that specific jurisdiction. Experts believe the ruling could come as early as Monday, April 2nd, so states are getting ready. The Washington Post reports:

Some time before July — perhaps as early as Tuesday — the Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling that could drastically alter sports gambling in the United States, possibly striking down the 25-year-old federal law that largely prohibits sports bets outside of Nevada or maybe allowing individual states to decide for themselves whether fans should be permitted to wager on games.

While the Supreme Court could opt to maintain the status quo, many sports gambling analysts and court-watchers anticipate a ruling that lays out some sort of path to legal sports wagering. At oral arguments in December, a majority of justices seemed receptive to New Jersey’s argument. At least 18 state legislatures have some form of legislation in the works in anticipation of the Supreme Court giving them a path to legalized sports betting.

The States aren’t the only ones preparing for such a Supreme Court decision. Whereas the NHL and NFL are continuing their position of opposing sports gambling, the NBA and MLB are actively lobbying state legislatures to craft gambling legislation that they believe will be integral to the leagues. Bloomberg explains:

Now, on the eve of a Supreme Court decision that could reshape gambling in America the leagues have come around. Professional baseball and basketball have gone further: They also want a cut of the profits, drawing a new battle line with the casinos and sparking a state-by-state lobbying war. The National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball are asking legislators to require casinos to pay the leagues 1 percent of all wagers placed on their sports. Casinos and sports book operators, unsurprisingly, are vehemently opposed.

The fee is by far the most controversial entry on the leagues’ wish list, though there are others: The leagues want states to require bookmakers to use official data streams, share consumer information and allow the leagues final approval of what types of wagers are allowed on their games.

The leagues justify the fee as part royalty, owed to the league for rights to profit off its games; and part insurance policy, to offset the risk to the league that its games will be corrupted and the money it will spend to make sure they aren’t.

“Sports betting is built on our games,” NBA General Counsel Dan Spillane told a hearing of Connecticut legislators on March 1. “If something goes wrong, if there’s a scandal, something that tarnishes the image of the game, that’s going to be a cost borne by the sports leagues, and less of a cost borne by the operators that offer sports bets.”

A representative from William Hill Plc, one of the world’s biggest gambling companies, made the bookmaker’s case. Las Vegas casinos typically keep about 5 percent of the bets they take, he said, which means the NBA’s proposed 1 percent cut is really a 20 percent cut of revenue.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 03/19 – 03/25

Man fatally shot in head at gambling party

Detroit police are investigating after an unidentified man was found fatally shot in the head and left face-up in the street early Sunday morning on the city’s west side. Police say the shooting took place outside of a gambling party. The homicide took place about 12:10 a.m. on the 14300 block of Sussex, which is north of Grand River and east of Greenfield. The victim, a black male believed to be in his 20s, was wearing a black jacket, gray sweatpants, and black Michael Jordan gym shoes. Police are looking for as many as five suspects, who drove in a gold or creme Chevy Tahoe SUV At least one was armed with a handgun, police say.

Suspect had 60 roosters, cockfighting equipment, drugs, NY authorities say

A man was arrested near New York City on Friday after authorities found him in possession of at least 60 roosters, an injured pit bull, cockfighting equipment and drugs, authorities said. Authorities said they found cocaine and marijuana, in addition to money and drug-packaging materials. In their search of a second location, authorities discovered the birds and cockfighting equipment, at which point the Suffolk County SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) was called to the scene, Chief Roy Gross said. Authorities seized more than 60 roosters that appeared to have been trained to fight, as well as “fighting paraphernalia” and a fighting ring, an SPCA news release said. The seized equipment included razor blade-like spurs that are attached to the roosters when they fight and “little boxing gloves” that protect the birds when they train, Gross told the Associated Press. “The call it a blood sport,” Gross told the AP. Spectators “want to see the birds cutting each other, seeing the blood, and generally they bleed out. It’s barbaric. They generally fight to the death,” he said.

Man shot and killed at Grant Travel Plaza

According to law enforcement, a Texas man was shot dead Sunday night at the travel plaza of the Choctaw Casino Resort. A confrontation between a patron an two security officers turned deadly when the man pointed his gun at the officers and they returned fire. Tribal security and the FBI are investigating the incident. John Hobbs, Executive Director of Public Safety of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma released a statement on Monday:

“Choctaw Tribal Police and the FBI are currently investigating a shooting that occurred at approximately10:30 p.m. Sunday evening at the Choctaw Travel Plaza in Grant, Okla. “An employee requested security support with an individual who was causing a disturbance. When an officer approached the individual, the individual pulled a gun and threatened the officer. The individual turned and walked away, continuing to brandish the gun. “At this time, a second officer arrived on site. The officers ordered the individual to drop the gun, and the individual turned and pointed the gun at the officers. The officers opened fire and the individual was killed.

Former insurance brokerage company CFO sentenced to prison

The former chief financial officer of Market Finders Insurance Corporation has been sentenced in federal court to 37 months in prison. The former CFO,*Sylvia Rebecca Smith*, agreed to pay $674,093 in restitution, for committing tax evasion and embezzlement. Smith admitted in a plea agreement that, from July 2013 through April 2015, while employed as CFO of Market Finders, she generated fraudulent loan checks from her employer and diverted them into the bank account of PBS. Specifically, Smith devised a scheme to embezzle funds from Market Finders and Market Finders Insurance Premium Budget Corp., a subsidiary of Market Finders, by creating fraudulent insurance financing contracts between Market Finders Premium Budget and existing insurance clients of PBS Insurance without the knowledge of those existing clients. Smith admitted to manipulating the records so that her theft of funds would not be detected by her employer. Smith admitted that she and her husband used a portion of the fraudulent loan proceeds to fund her husband’s business and to pay for personal expenses for herself and her husband and to pay for gambling activity.

Gambling Addicted Trader Charged With Stealing $2 Million in Bitcoin

24-year-old Joseph Kim claims he intended to return approximately $2 million worth of Bitcoin after covering his own trading losses. He was found out before that could ever come to fruition. The Chicago-based trader, working at Consolidated Trading LLC, was charged Thursday by the United States’ federal government with wire fraud for the theft of $2.06 million in Bitcoin and Litecoin from his employer. Kim, described by one of his co-workers as a “degenerate gambler”, becomes the first person in Chicago history to be charged with a crime tied to the cryptocurrency trading industry. The thefts occurred over a two-month period last year during which time Kim served on the firm’s newly-formed crypto trading group. Kim stole as much as $3.2 million worth of Bitcoin and Litecoin but did return some $1.2 million prior to the theft being discovered. The trader was believed to have used a portion of the stolen funds for gambling purposes.

Frisco man indicted on fraud is back in jail after online bets on the ponies totaling more than $175,000

A Frisco man already indicted in a $60 million Medicaid fraud scheme is back in jail after authorities say he placed illegal online bets for horse races. Bradley Harris, 36, spent more than $175,000 last year gambling online, which is illegal in Texas, according to testimony at a hearing Tuesday. The couple was arrested Friday at their Frisco home. In addition to the illegal gambling accusations, federal prosecutors had also alleged that Harris and his wife engaged in bank fraud by securing a $50,000 business line of credit that was then spent on illegal gambling. But while Ramirez said that the Harrises’ actions looked “suspect,” she determined there was not enough probable cause to find that bank fraud had occurred.

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

March Madness Betting Leads to Billions in Illegal Gambling, Poses risks for Problem Gamblers, and Costs Billions in Lost Work Place Productivity

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing problems that come with the NCAA March Madness tournament each year. Millions is lost to employers through a decline in work place productivity and people continue to gamble away money at unprecedented rates. Most of this gambling is illegal and this year the trend continues. The NCAA remains steadfast on its objection to gambling on the Tournament. They not only understand the hardships it places on addicted gamblers that can’t control the sheer volume of risk and loss the can suffer, but they also understand the impact to the integrity of the games at play. ESPN reports:

The $10.4 billion expected to be bet on the tournament includes popular office pools and is up 13 percent from last year’s tournament, the AGA says. Only a small fraction of the money bet on the tournament, around 3 percent, is believed to be wagered legally in the United States. The bulk of the remaining $10.1 billion is placed with offshore sportsbooks and local bookmakers, according to the AGA, which represents the U.S. casino industry.

While gambling on the tournament grows, the NCAA remains opposed to all forms of sports betting — legal and otherwise — and believes it has the potential to undermine the integrity of the games and negatively impact the welfare of student-athletes.

The legality of such gambling continues to be a prominent issue this time of year as many people view office pools as harmless fun. Unfortunately, it’s anything but and its almost always illegal gambling. ESPN explains:

“Generally, if the office pool charges a fee for entering the pool and awards prizes to the winner(s), then there is a serious question as to its legality. Some states exempt small pools from their gambling laws and regulations,” said Washington, D.C.-based attorney Steven Eichorn of Ifrah Law.

Sports betting is currently legal in only a handful of states, with Nevada the only state permitted to offer single-game wagering, the most popular form. The Nevada Gaming Control Board does not track the amount bet on the NCAA tournament separately, and combines the NBA and college basketball into one “basketball” category on its monthly revenue reports. The spike in action from March Madness is easy to see, though.

Past the issues of legality, it’s especially problematic for those with gambling addiction. The NCAA tournament structure is particularly unique, as the gambling isn’t set on one game, as is the case with the Super Bowl. For a problem gambler, regardless of today’s outcome, there is another game coming up next, and a new chance to chase the action. Michael Rosen, counselor and VP of Clinical Services with the Center for Addiction Treatment explains:

For the person with a gambling problem, there’s literally always another tomorrow. “The problem gambler’s brain is producing ‘feel-good’ chemicals at each bet, even if he’s not winning,” Rosen said.

Why then do people who struggle with compulsive gambling keep trying to recapture their losses? For example, two of the top four-seeded teams in the tournament, Xavier and Virginia, were upset during the first two rounds. Virginia’s loss to the University of Maryland Baltimore County marked the first time in tournament history that a No. 16 seeded-team defeated a No. 1 seed.

“He has become conditioned to (gamble),” is how Rosen explained chronic betting even after losses. “It is simply the next part of the sequence that occurs without much conscious thought. A bet is made, and then another and then another.”

While most people cut their losses in the office pool, problem gamblers often aren’t aware of the dangers they face. Rosen advises to keep an eye on friends and family members who have a history of problems with sports betting. And, yes, he said, it can be an addiction that’s as dangerous as one to drugs and alcohol.

“You might not see physical symptoms,” said Rosen, who then ticked off a list of what to look for: Physical health may begin to deteriorate with increased hypertension, lack of sleep, less eating.

Psychological issues may include increased anxiety, depression, irritability, ruminating obsessive thoughts, and thoughts of suicide. Changes in behavior may include an increased use of alcohol or other drugs, tendencies to isolate, lying to others, experiencing angry outbursts, and reckless driving.

Clearly, March Madness has a dark side. And the gambling temptations keep on coming.

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

On the low end, the FBI estimated in 2013 that $2.6 billion was bet illegally on the tournament. On the high end, veteran bookmakers estimate the number to be anywhere from $12 billion to $26 billion. Friendly bracket pools are everywhere, with most everyone betting on the NCAA tournament in some form. But there are bets, and then there are bets. You don’t get to $26 billion with $20-per-sheet office pools.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 03/12 – 03/18

Man shot dead by police was distressed gambling addict

A man shot by police while waving a two by four on a Vancouver street in 2014 was arrested months before outside a Richmond casino for kicking down garbage cans and displaying homicidal thoughts, a British Columbia coroner’s inquest into the death heard Monday. Tony Du was a “gentle giant” most of the time, but he was also a gambling addict who was banned by Lower Mainland casinos. He still found his way in to lose money, however, prompting stress and anger that added to his chronic schizophrenia, the court heard. “He had lost all of his money, he was angry, he spent quite excessively and he felt guilty that his mother was taking care of him rather than the other way around,” said his psychiatrist, Dr. Soma Ganesan. Du told police at the time of the Richmond incident that he had stopped taking psychiatric medications and was brought to local hospital, the inquest heard, but a report of that incident never made its way to his primary care physician. “Taken by police because he was outside the casino kicking over garbage cans,” Vancouver lawyer Karen Liang read from the record of the incident from July 4, 2014. “Screaming he wanted to kill someone. Police reported incoherent speech, that he said he lived in the sky. He told police he stopped taking psychiatric medications,” she read.

Oroville man accused of threatening casino mass shooting

Deputies arrested an Oroville man Tuesday on charges of threatening a mass shooting and suicide at a casino, according to the Butte County Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office said the man, Wade Burnside, 26, sent text messages to a person indicating the shooting would happen before 11 p.m. Tuesday. Deputies learned Burnside had earlier met the person at Gold Country Casino and Hotel in Oroville. The investigation began Tuesday when Yuba City police received a call from a person reporting they had received threatening text messages, according to a news release. Police passed information to the local Sheriff’s Office after learning the person who called police met the suspect at Gold Country Casino.

Norfolk man gets prison after admitting to construction scam

A Norfolk man has been sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud related to a construction scam. The Lincoln Journal Star reports 47-year-old Bradley Leffers was sentenced Wednesday to two years in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution of $712,066. He also must serve three years of supervised release. Leffers pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, and in exchange federal prosecutors dismissed six other counts. The U.S. Attorney’s Office says in 2013 and 2014, Leffers took money from 17 farmers and ranchers with the promise of building metal structures on their property. He took partial payment but didn’t get material or begin construction. Most of the victims were in northeast Nebraska. Leffers lawyer says he got into financial problems and then tried gambling in hopes of hitting it big and repaying his debts.

Former bingo owners guilty of defrauding charities

Larry and Dixie Masino, the former owners of Racetrack Bingo in Fort Walton Beach, were convicted late Wednesday of operating an illegal gambling business and defrauding 10 local charities. A U.S. District Court jury in Pensacola convicted Larry Masino on one count of operating the illegal business, one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud, one count of conspiring to commit money laundering and 18 counts of money laundering. Dixie Masino was convicted along with her ex-husband of operating an illegal gambling business and the two conspiracy charges. However, she was found guilty of 20 counts of money laundering. The indictment stated Larry and Dixie Masino worked together to steal about $5.8 million from the charities between 2006 and 2015. They did so, the indictment charged, by charging exorbitant rents and fees for the use of their bingo hall. The ill-gotten gain was laundered through profit distribution checks that went to the Masinos and their three children as shareholders of Racetrack Bingo, a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Agent in FBI probe into corruption in college basketball accused of misconduct

An undercover FBI agent who played a key role in the investigation into corruption within college basketball has been accused of misusing government money on gambling, food and drinks. According to the Wall Street Journal. the agent played a key role in setting up a number of the coaches who were arrested when news broke of the bribery and corruption scheme last September. Beginning in spring 2017, the agent spent months undercover, however shortly after an undercover meeting in late July 2017, the agent abruptly appeared to stop working on the operation. The absence of the agent was reportedly explained to those involved as an overseas trip, however the Justice Department opened an inquiry into the agent’s behavior at some time last year. If found culpable, the agent’s ability to be a witness in the cases he was part of — including the college basketball case — could be in peril. The undercover agent in question reportedly posed as a business partner of Marty Blazer, the FBI’s cooperating witness in the case, to make coaches believe he was helping funnel money to them in exchange for the business the coaches would bring in after their players turned pro.

Gambling-Obsessed Nanny is sentenced to death after killing mother and her three children

A gambling-obsessed nanny who lost £6,800 in one night was sentenced to death today after setting her employer’s flat on fire during her desperate attempt to find money for her debts, according to a Chinese court. The blaze caused a mother and all of her three children – aged between six and 11 – to be killed last June at their 17th floor home in eastern China. The court said the former nanny, named Mo Huanjing, had intended to set the fire then put it out, hoping her ‘brave act’ could win her middle-class employer’s gratitude. This way, she could expect them to lend money to her. However, the fire went out of control killing the family of four during the wee hours at their four-bedroom home in Hangzhou, a bustling metropolis. The children’s father was reportedly on a business trip, hence survived the tragedy. The nanny managed to escape the fire. The court claimed that Ms Mo was addicted to online gambling games and had been buried under debts. She lost £6,800 after gambling online from the night of June 21 into the early hours of June 22 – right before she decided to set the flat on fire – said the court.

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

Florida Ends Session with No Gambling Bills Passed – Seminole Tribe Provided Assurances to Continue the Revenue Sharing Compact in the Interim

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing gambling expansion issues in Florida. Many issues were on the table this legislative session including a new gambling compact between the State and the Seminole Tribe, a greyhound racing ban, specific regulations on types of card games to be allowed, and the location and expiation of new slot machines in the states. The hope was to address these issues this legislative session, as it seems clear that a new amendment will pass a vote of the people to require all future gambling legislation to be approved by the voters. Most recently though, Casino Watch Focus reported that those goals were unlikely to be achieved as the focus of the Florida legislators would be shifting to focus on gun control legislation that was prompted after the Parkland school shooting. After those efforts were complete, gambling discussions were given some very last minute life, but as reported by The Palm Beach Post, those efforts have come to a close with no new gambling bills being passed:

Republican legislative leaders had resurrected the issue in the waning days of the session as they tried to strike a deal between the gambling-leery House and the Senate, which was willing to expand slot machines to counties where voters have approved the lucrative machines.

But after a day of horse-trading, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron declared the issue off the table. “Despite the good faith efforts of both the House and Senate, a gaming bill will not pass the Legislature this session,” the leaders said in a statement Friday evening. “Gaming remains one of the most difficult issues we face as a Legislature. We are pleased with the progress made over the last week and know that our colleagues will continue to work on this important issue.”

Lawmakers were anxious to address the perennially elusive issue due to a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would give voters control of future gambling decisions, something now largely left up to the Legislature.

“We spent so much time, and rightfully so, on the school-safety legislation, and we found ourselves on a Friday, with a Sunday deadline if we had extended, and the tribe’s not up here,” Galvano said, referring to school-safety legislation stemming from the Feb. 14 mass shooting at a Broward County high school.

One of the more pressing issues at hand, was the formation of a new gambling compact between the Florida and the Seminole Tribe. The legal issues at hand have stemmed from the exclusivity aspects of certain card games in exchange for income to the State. The Palm Beach Post continues:

Also, legislators wanted to ensure a steady stream of income from the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The money could be in peril after a federal court ruling about controversial “designated player” games at pari-mutuel cardrooms throughout the state. Striking a new deal, called a compact, with the Seminoles, which would be part of any gambling legislation, has proved elusive for legislators.

One of the critical provisions of a 2010 deal between the state and tribe, giving the tribe “exclusivity” over banked card games, such as blackjack, expired in 2015. That spawned a protracted legal battle and previously futile attempts by lawmakers to seal a new agreement. The tribe pays more than $300 million a year under the banked-card games portion of the 2010 agreement.

But the legal battle focused heavily on what are known as “designated player games,” which are played at pari-mutuel facilities. After a federal judge sided with the tribe in a dispute over whether the lucrative designated-player games breached the Seminoles’ exclusivity over offering banked card games, the tribe agreed to continue making payments to the state, and gambling regulators promised to “aggressively enforce” the manner in which cardrooms conduct the designated player games.

While the tribe agreed to temporarily continue paying the state, some lawmakers are eager for the financial certainty a new compact would provide. But Galvano said he has spoken with a representative of the tribe, who assured him that the Seminoles intend to maintain the revenue-sharing agreement with the state. 

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

A Brief Look at Crime 03/05 – 03/11

Gunmen Shoot 21 at Clandestine Cockfight in Mexican Border State

Preliminary information revealed that an unknown number of gunmen opened fire at the cockfighting arena known as “Centro Gallístico Santa María” which is located on the outskirts of the state capital of Chihuahua, according to Mexican news outlets. Based on a statement by the state prosecutor’s office, several masked gunmen opened fire on people gathered at the club late Saturday at approximately 11pm. Four were killed at the scene with an additional three succumbing to their wounds in transit to hospital. Two of the wounded were identified as children aged seven and 10. One victim, who died early Sunday morning, was identified as 15-year-old Juan Daniel Magallanes Rodríguez received a gunshot to the chest. Cockfighting is very popular in many parts of Mexico; the primary draw is the gambling. The activity also tends to invite organized crime and cartel elements due to the high-stakes wagers. Gun violence is also common. Cockfighting operations have also been discovered in the United States, typically along the southern border. The illegal operations are primarily run by illegal and legal immigrants from Mexico. Numerous operations have been closed down in Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, and California.

‘The sense of betrayal … was awful’ – Sterling woman gets 6 years, $400,000 bill for her gambling related crimes

A longtime employee, considered to be family, violates a position of extreme trust and breaks the hearts of her boss and coworkers by stealing vast amounts of money to finance a hobby that’s overtaken her life. Trisha Clemens of Sterling was sentenced Tuesday to 6 years in prison, and ordered to pay $400,000 in restitution, plus fines and fees, in two felony theft cases. With day-for-day credit, she could be out and paying her tab by March 2021. It’s a big one: That’s $291,153.45 she owes Sterling law firm Miller & Lancaster, for stealing deposits, not reporting cash payments, and writing checks for herself and her credit card bills from Dec. 3, 2007, through May 18, 2015, and $108,793 she must pay famed fantasy author and Sterling native Terry Brooks, whose comic book collection, stored at the firm, she ransacked and sold piecemeal. Clemens, who had hoped for 4 years’ probation, cited an online gambling addiction and alcohol abuse.

Fulton woman faces 20 years for national casino fraud scheme

Wang faces two to 20 years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines. Her case was the product of a joint investigation by the FBI and California’s Bureau of Gambling Control. Wang and a co-defendant — Frank Luo, 49, of Las Vegas — participated in a scheme to defraud casinos and credit card companies across the country. The scheme involved using the names and social security numbers of migrant workers to apply for casino credit and to open credit card accounts. Casino credit — also called a “marker” — is a cash advance provided by a casino to a patron, and it is often secured by a check from the patron’s bank account, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Initially, Wang and Luo paid off several of these “markers” on time to give the impression of “credit worthiness” to casinos and credit card companies, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. But then Wang and Luo recruited “clients” to participate in the scheme to induce the casinos and credit card companies to part with even more money under fraudulent pretenses. Wang and others working with her coordinated their gambling activity to give the appearance of losing money, which encouraged the casinos to issue future “markers,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. The investigation found that one schemer would “lose” money while another would gain the same.

Ex-employee sentenced to prison for embezzling $500K from Tucson auto dealership

A former employee of Chapman Honda was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for embezzling $500,000 from the auto dealer. Brenda Reiko Bryan pleaded guilty in July to two counts of wire fraud, according to court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Tucson. Prosecutors said she spent nearly six years forging signatures, depositing Chapman Automotive Group checks into her bank accounts, and using company checks to pay her bills. Judge Rosemary Marquez on Tuesday also ordered Bryan to pay back the $514,000 she embezzled from 2007 to 2013, court records show. Bryan used the money to pay her auto loan student loans, travel, gambling, her daughter’s wedding, and to pay off her credit cards and those of her family members, federal prosecutor Jane Westby wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

Man sentenced to prison for running illegal sports betting ring

A man who ran an international bookmaking operation out of the Lucky Lady Casino and Card Room in San Diego was sentenced Monday to about three years in prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Sanders Segal, 66, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy in San Diego federal court on Aug. 29. In addition to serving a 37-month prison sentence, Segal was ordered to pay about $222,000 in criminal forfeiture for the proceeds he made from bookmaking, money laundering and collecting illegal bets, prosecutors said. In his plea agreement, Segal admitted he oversaw Segal’s Lucky Lady Sports Book from 2013 to 2016, directing associates to place illegal sports bets on overseas gambling sites on behalf of customers in the U.S. The sites were in places such as Costa Rica, the United Kingdom and Hong Kong. The bookmaking operation, which used the licensed casino on El Cajon Boulevard as a front, generated nearly $1 million in profits, authorities said. Segal admitted he received 10 percent of the profits in the enterprise.

Michigan woman admits to embezzling $1.9M

A Michigan woman has admitted to embezzling more than $1.9 million from her employer and tax evasion after being charged in federal court. Lori Lynn Pawielski of Buchanan has been charged with attempting to evade or defeat tax from 2009 to 2015. Pawielski has agreed to plead guilty to the tax evasion charge, and in return will not be charged with embezzlement. In a signed plea agreement filed with the Western District of Michigan federal court, Pawielski admitted to embezzling $1,962,611 from her former employer over the span of seven years. She wrote 271 checks to herself without her employer’s knowledge. Pawielski then used that money for personal use, including gambling at a casino.

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


ESRB Responds to Sen. Hassan’s Letter to Regulate Gambling-esque Loot Boxes Offering a Completely Meaningless Solution

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing issue of loot boxes in video games. Many seek to label them as gambling and want to see the appropriate regulations in place. The game that brought the issue to light was a Disney owned property, Star Wars and the game EA produced, Battlefront II. Hawaii legislator Chris Lee candidly referred to the game as an online, Star Wars themed casino, designed to take kids money. Since the issue has become more clearly understood, more legislators have pressured the industry for the appropriate protections moving forward. Most recentlyUS Senator Maggie Hassan wrote an open letter to the ESRB, the video game self-regulator body, asking them to address the issue before bodies like Congress had to step in to offer protection. The ESRB finally released a statement outlining a new policy, and it should come as no surprise that their recommended actions do absolutely nothing to protect consumers or adequately inform parents as to the dangers of loot boxes, or even to their inclusion in games for that matter. Forbes very precisely breaks down the situation and comments from Sen Hass demonstrates why the ESRB’s suggested policy action wont advance protections in any meaningful way:

The ESRB made an announcement yesterday that it will now start labeling games that sell loot boxes. The problem? It will also be labeling games that sell /anything/, loot boxes, microtransactions, boosts, even DLC, using one, catch-all “In-Game Purchases” label.

The issue that was immediately pointed out by everyone was that nearly every game on the market contains “in-game purchases” in 2018, so this will be a sticker slapped on pretty much all titles, barring perhaps some indies. Hassan herself even saw this as a pretty obvious dodge, saying this after the announcement was made:

“While today’s announcement of the creation of a new ‘In-Game Purchases’ label and the ESRB’s response to my letter are a positive step for parents and consumers, I am still concerned by the ESRB’s skepticism regarding the potentially addictive nature of loot boxes and microtransactions in video games. I will work with all relevant stakeholders to continue oversight on these issues and ensure that meaningful improvements are made to increase transparency and consumer protections.”

The ESRB very clearly understood that people would see through such meaningless actions, so they attempted to preemptively address everyone’s criticism. As Forbes points out, their response was nonsense and it’s incredibly obvious that the industry won’t be attempting to address the issue unless legislative bodies like Congress force them to protect children from this form of gambling:

The ESRB anticipated that it would get flack for not targeting loot boxes specifically with this move, and president Patricia Vance said this in its defense:

“I’m sure you’re all asking why aren’t we doing something more specific to loot boxes,” Vance said. “We’ve done a lot of research over the past several weeks and months, particularly among parents. What we’ve learned is that a large majority of parents don’t know what a loot box is. Even those who claim they do, don’t really understand what a loot box is. So it’s very important for us to not harp on loot boxes per se, to make sure that we’re capturing loot boxes, but also other in-game transactions.”

This is, of course, nonsense. While the ESRB is setting up a site to better educate parents on in-game spending in addition to this new “in-game purchases” sticker, the point is that the ESRB is totally ducking the real issue here. They still want to get /nowhere/ near declaring loot boxes gambling and doing something drastic like making all loot box-infused games M or AO rated, so this is their incredibly phoned-in compromise.

To me, this is about as useful a gambling regulatory body (run by the casinos, not the government) informing you that a stay at a casino will cost you money, but without differentiating between spending cash on food, blackjack, drinks, poker, hotel rooms or slot machines. Kids can order food and drinks and stay at the hotel, but they can’t gamble for obvious reasons. But the ESRB with its new system is lumping /all/ forms of spending together in a way that is bound to do nothing but confuse parents even further, obscuring the real issue.

It is absolutely absurd that the ESRB is creating a system that would group something like /Horizon Zero Dawn/’s Frozen Wilds [Downloadable Content (DLC)] in with something like /Battlefront 2/ loot boxes. This “solution” is totally glossing over the crux of the issue, which is not that players are able to spend money past the $60 asking price of a game, but that /the way/ in which they’re asked to spend money has often been honed by psychologists to ensure it’s as addicting, if not more so, than traditional gambling. But the ESRB is not touching that with a ten foot pole, relying on the old argument that since nothing of “actual value” is won during this gambling because the items are digital, that it isn’t gambling at all. And yet there is nothing psychologically addictive about wanting to buy DLC for a game you’ve purchased, while there certainly is for players, often children, that are spending dozens, hundreds, or thousands of dollars on randomized, slot-machine-like loot box rewards across the majority of releases today.

So yes, the ESRB did something that is essentially nothing, and it’s clear they’re not going to be a player in this fight unless legislation forces them to change their tune. 

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

A Brief Look at Crime 02/26 – 03/04

Hamburg man gets prison time for $7.7 million fraud

Christopher F. Venti says he was simply trying to help his family and, along the way, made a very big mistake. A mistake that resulted in three separate fraudulent investment schemes and a $7.7 million loss to the victims, here and across the world, who trusted the former Hamburg man. Venti, 49, now a Florida resident, was sentenced Tuesday to 46 months in federal prison for his role in the schemes. “Bottom line, you may not be an evil person, but what you did was evil,” said U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford. Wolford also ordered Venti to pay $1.6 in restitution to the victims, many of whom are unknown, and $216,000 to the Internal Revenue Service. Venti also admitted withdrawing $148,000 in investor funds while at three local casinos. He eventually pleaded guilty to fraud and tax evasion charges.

CVS employee stole winning $1 million lottery ticket

An Illinois man is claiming that a CVS employee stole his winning $1 million scratch-off lottery card after being “coerced” inside the store. Carlos Figueroa said in a lawsuit filed last week in Cook County Circuit Court that he bought the “Merry Millionaire” ticket on Oct. 30 at a CVS in Waukegan, but it came out cut in half due to a machine malfunction. Figueroa says he was then “coerced” by a store employee into handing over half of the ticket under the intention that it would be checked to see if it was a winner, the Lake County News-Sun reported. About 20 minutes later, according to the lawsuit, the worker gave Figueroa half of a different lottery ticket back – one that was not a winner – despite his protests to be handed the original ticket.

Priest gets 8 months in prison for embezzling $500,000

The rector of a retirement home for Roman Catholic priests who was convicted of embezzling a half-million dollars has been sentenced to eight months in federal prison. Authorities say Monsignor William Dombrow spent the stolen funds on casino visits, expensive dinners and concerts. At his sentencing Wednesday, Dombrow acknowledged committing a “serious crime” and said he would accept the judge’s decision. Dombrow’s attorney says the priest was sometimes accompanied on those outings by residents of Villa St. Joseph. The Philadelphia Archdiocese runs the facility in Darby to house aging priests and treat those accused of sexual abuse.

Ex-PSD employee gets home incarceration for embezzling quarter million dollars

The former office clerk/secretary for the Enlarged Hepzibah Public Service District was sentenced to home incarceration Thursday for an embezzlement of about $257,000 that the state said resulted in a rate hike for consumers. Harrison Chief Judge James A. Matish ordered [the employee], 64, of Spelter, to pay at least $200 a month in restitution; to obtain another job to supplement her Social Security/private pension income; and also ruled she must obtain outpatient mental health counseling for her gambling addiction. [She] previously told the court that she gradually became addicted to gambling on video lottery machines, leading to the theft of money. “When you start something like that, it gets ahead of you. It gets ahead of you. I’m sorry,” [she] said at her plea hearing. In Metz’s mind, she believed she stole about $50,000 or $60,000 over time, but she allowed at her plea hearing that she couldn’t be sure. On Wednesday, Dyer said they couldn’t, and wouldn’t, dispute the amount of about $257,000.

FBI: NC Man Pleads Guilty in Multi-State Dog Fighting Ring

Brexton Redell Lloyd, 54, of Eagle Springs, North Carolina, pled guilty to one felony count of conspiracy and two felony counts of possession and training a dog intended for use in an animal fighting venture, contrary to the animal fighting provisions of the federal Animal Welfare Act. “Organized crime has no place in North Carolina or the United States – and dog fighting of this sort is nothing short of organized crime,” said United States Attorney Martin. “Our law enforcement partners at the Department of Agriculture, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Moore County Sheriff’s Office, and the N.C. State Highway Patrol demonstrated exceptional coordination in bringing this defendant to justice.” “Today’s sentence sends a message that our justice system will not tolerate the torment and death of animals in the fighting ring, all for the sake of illegal gambling.”

Sandy man accused of embezzling $1 million from employer gets 6 years in prison

A Sandy man accused of embezzling more than $1 million from his employer has been sentenced to spend six years in a federal prison. Though Strong claimed he was funneling legitimate purchases through Grand Design in order to save his employer money, forensic accountants found no evidence any of the money was used for legitimate business reasons, according to the memorandum. Prosecutors also alleged Strong has a $700,000 share in an illegal gambling business called Paradise Gaming, but didn’t provide additional details about the endeavor. Tax evasion and money laundering are also suspected in connection with the gambling. 

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