Monthly Archives: June 2019

EA Tries to label Gambling-esques Loot Boxes as ‘Surprise Mechanics’ During UK Parliamentary Investigation

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing studies and investigations into the latest predatory gaming mechanics known as loot boxes. These are digital boxes that can be purchase with real money in video games and they contain random loot that can be used in game. In some cases these are vary rare items that have value in game. Most of the time, however, they are essentially useless items and kids or other gamers are encouraged to buy another box to get the good prize. It’s effectively a slot machine, along with all the psychological bells and whistles designed to get the player to keep paying to open more boxes.

In some cases, these items have enough value that they can be cashed out or soldmaking them exactly like a slot machine. As a result, they have been investigated and studied vigorously over the past year or so and even when some conclude they aren’t outright gambling, almost all conclude they are predatory, addictive, aimed at exploiting children and some have concluded that they lead to problem gambling & gambling addiction.  

Most recently, the UK Parliament’s Digital Culture, Media, and Sports Committee conducted an investigation and they heavily questioned EA, the company most famously known for its loot box controversies involving key games like Star Wars Battlefield II and FIFA. During the testimony, they attempted to rebrand loot boxes and tried to compare this highly sophisticated and psychologically trapping mechanic to surprise toys, like Kinder Eggs, that you can buy in the store. Screen Rate explains:

Kerry Hopkins, EA’s VP of legal and government affairs, went on record during an oral evidence session with the UK Parliament’s Digital Culture, Media, and Sport Committee as saying that the company doesn’t view its microtransactions as loot boxes, but rather as “surprise mechanics.”

It’s a frankly shocking and blatant disregard of much of the research that has gone into the problem of loot boxes, with Hopkins also likening EA’s loot boxes to “Kinder Eggs, or Hatchimals.” The difference? The latter two haven’t been correlated with gambling addiction in research studies, whereas loot boxes have, even if many more studies need to be done to conclusively link the two. EA’s attempted rebranding of loot boxes in the face of anti-loot box stances in the Netherlands, Belgium, and now in the United States is a clear appeal to keep the practice in place in the face of growing hostility.

With EA, it can be hard to separate the fact from fiction, but in this instance, it’s not difficult at all: loot boxes are loot boxes, not “surprise mechanics.” That the publisher is even attempting to assert they’re anything but what they are is an insult to consumer intelligence everywhere, and shows a blatant disregard for ethical concerns, instead prioritizing money.

This level of false equivocation is beyond concerning. EA pushed back against the Belgian Gaming Commission when it concluded their FIFA loot box cards clearly constituted unregulated gambling. Ultimately, they did remove them from the game in that specific country, but they really don’t see a difference in their gambling mechanic and Hatchimals. Video Game YouTuber YongYea, in a rather spirited, yet extraordinarily well reasoned video, properly outlines why this a dangerous false equivocation:

The only similarity between loot boxes and Kinder Eggs is that both involve opening some kind of container to reveal a random reward. But video game loot boxes go layers deeper than that. First of all, unlike Kinder Eggs, video games usually charge an entry fee, normally $60 for the standard edition. With Kinder Eggs there is no entry fee. You buy one or a couple, you get whatever toy inside and that’s that.

Most of the rewards you get out of loot boxes will be completely useless, with a small chance of getting something truly coveted, and that is by design. [B]ecause loot boxes are digital in nature, its parameters can be controlled and adjusted to the developer’s and publisher’s whim at their convenience. We often see games that tweak the odds post-launch, that introduce new roadblocks, add new coveted items that are easier to get or new modes that are easier to overcome by paying, rather than playing.

Then there is also the fact that with Kinder Eggs, opening a container for the little toy inside [is] pretty much the whole game. There’s not much else to it than that. The entire purpose of Kinder Eggs is to get that toy and maybe collect them. In-game loot boxes, on the other hand, act as this sub system that holds a lot of influence over the game itself. Loot boxes often tend to be implemented in such a way that you pretty much have to buy them in order to access the best possible experience for the game you purchased or downloaded. They essentially act as slot machine tollbooths for the product you already bought. Games will often implement intentional issues and roadblocks so that you will have to pay to mitigate them through the purchase of these randomized rewards.

I should also point out that when you open a Kinder Egg, there are no flashy animations or sound effects that are strictly designed to release these chemicals in your brain that give you that addictive sense of anticipation. With loot boxes, on the other hand, every time you open one you’re presented with this spectacle that is not too dissimilar to what you’ll find in casinos, slot machines specifically. That’s because slot machines and loot boxes are designed with the same purpose in mind, to keep those who are psychologically susceptible to gambling addiction and addictive tendencies coming back so they can be milked dry. This is regardless of their mental or financial health. That’s not a priority for these casinos and companies like EA.

Casinos at least have some kind of system where they keep kids away and what have you. The gaming industry, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to [care] about kids whose minds are still developing, who are more susceptible to addiction than adults are. The gaming industry certainly doesn’t care about susceptible adults or implementing monetization schemes responsibly.

The gaming industry cannot even uphold something as simple as an age restriction. As per the ESRB, on their website you can see that any game with real-life gambling must be considered an adult’s only game. Of course, this classification will prevent that game from being sold on most major platforms. But because loot boxes make them so much money, they’re trying to pretend like loot boxes aren’t gambling. That’s how they get around this and now companies like EA are going as far claiming loot boxes aren’t even loot boxes, but rather surprise mechanics. No EA, Kinder Eggs and loot boxes don’t come anywhere close to being the same thing. That’s like saying getting shot with a BB gun is pretty much the same as getting shot with sniper riffle because both involve pulling a trigger that ejects a projectile. This is false equivocation at its finest and this is a classic move from EA and other major publishers.

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


A Brief Look at Crime 06/17 – 06/23

Macau Gambler Murdered over Unpaid Gambling Debts by Loan Sharks

A gambler has been found beaten to death in a Macau guesthouse, allegedly over unpaid casino debts, reports the Macau Times. The unnamed victim, aged 40, had been held captive at the boarding house by three loan sharks, who had loaned him HKD50,000 ($6,373; £4,863). When the man lost all the cash at one of Macau’s casinos, the trio gagged him and beat him to death with fists, shoes, and belts over the course of two days. According to the police, one of the loan sharks confessed to the homicide, which happened on Saturday, May 4. The police then moved in to arrest the other two loan sharks in the Outer Harbor district. The three suspects are aged between 29 and 34 and come from mainland China.

Casino panel hopes record $35M Wynn fine serves as deterrent (MA)

The record $35.5 million in fines Massachusetts imposed on Wynn Resorts and its CEO reflect the many violations uncovered but are also meant to serve as a deterrent as the nascent state casino industry takes shape, Massachusetts regulators said Wednesday. The state’s Gaming Commission on Tuesday levied a $35 million fine on Wynn Resorts and another $500,000 on new CEO Matthew Maddox for failing to disclose years of allegations of sexual misconduct against company founder Steve Wynn. But the five-member panel allowed the company to retain its state casino license and open its $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor resort as planned in June. “We do feel like that fine reflects the scope and multitude of the violations,” Commission Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein said as the panel met in Boston the morning after delivering its long-awaited decision. “We were very mindful that it should serve as punishment to really address the violations. We also thought it was necessary to provide a message of deterrence to ensure future compliance.” The commission was focused on how long company officials were aware of the allegations and how they responded, rather than the truth behind the claims. Steve Wynn, who resigned as CEO last year, has denied the allegations.

5 plead guilty in mob-run gambling and loansharking ring that kicked up millions to Genovese Crime Family 

Five New Jersey men pleaded guilty pleaded Wednesday for their roles in various financial schemes that kicked money up to the Genovese Crime Family, included loansharking and illegal sports gambling operations that raked in millions of dollars. The men wereindicted in a 2014 joint operation by multiple law enforcement agencies dubbed “Operation Fistful,” according to a release from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office. “When those involved in traditional organized crime engage in schemes such as loansharking and illegal gambling, they profit at the expense of victims who are struggling with debt, gambling problems, and other issues,” said New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said. “By prosecuting the men who ran these schemes and putting key defendants behind bars, we send a message that we will not tolerate these corrosive criminal activities that harm individuals, families and society as a whole.”

Gambling addict embezzled $535K and evaded $139K in taxes

An admitted gambling addict who embezzled $535,000 from her Middletown-area employers avoided a federal prison term Thursday on $139,000 worth of tax evasion charges for failing to report the income from her thefts to the IRS. Instead, U.S. Middle District Senior Judge Sylvia H. Rambo sentenced the visibly nervous Diane Fabian to 5 years of probation, banned her from gambling ever again, and required her to repay the feds at a rate of at least $25 a month. Fabian cited the ravages of her gambling addiction when she came before Cherry for sentencing. She did the same as she pleaded with Rambo for mercy. “When my addiction to gambling was going on, I never knew I had to pay taxes on the money I embezzled,” Fabian told Rambo in a trembling voice. The IRS requires taxpayers to report all their income, regardless of whether it was obtained legally. “All the money I stole went to the casino,” Fabian said. “I always thought I would win big and pay the money back…I would sit and play the slot machines until every cent was gone.” Defense attorney Corky Goldstein called a therapist, James Snyder, who testified he has treated Fabian for her gambling addiction. Snyder said Fabian’s addiction is in remission, although as with any type of addiction she faces a lifetime battle to keep it under control. “Gambling is very similar to the use of crack cocaine,” Snyder said.

Former attorney sentenced to prison for embezzling $1.3M

A former attorney has been sentenced to eight years in prison for embezzling $1.3 million from his clients. Attorney General Peter Neronha says 58-year-old Vincent Mitchell, of Coventry, Rhode Island, pleaded no contest Thursday to one count of embezzlement over $100. He was ordered to pay $1.3 million in restitution. His attorney, Robert Mann, said Friday Mitchell is very remorseful, and acknowledges that many people were hurt. Mitchell voluntarily told the Rhode Island Supreme Court disciplinary counsel’s office last year that he had taken money from his clients for unauthorized personal use, which is unusual for someone who isn’t under investigation. Neronha says Mitchell used money from 11 of his older clients to cover losses from his bank accounts, stemming from substance abuse and gambling, from 2014 to 2017.

2 more Volusia internet gambling spots shut down, 184 devices seized (FL)

Volusia County sheriff’s detectives raided the rooms Wednesday and seized 184 computer devices and several thousand dollars in cash, according to a statement made public Thursday morning. Ninety gambling machines and $11,599 in cash were seized at the South Daytona location by the Sheriff’s Office-led East Volusia Narcotics Task Force with the assistance of the South Daytona Police Department, according to the statement by Andrew Gant, sheriff’s spokesman. James R. Heckaman is listed as the registered agent and manager for PrintCo, records show. Ninety-four machines and $16,366 in cash were seized at the Deltona location by members of VCSO’s West Volusia Narcotics Task Force, Deltona Narcotics Enforcement Team and Crime Suppression Team, the release said.

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

UPDATE: Congress Looks to Defund the DOJ’s Ability to Enforce its Online Gambling Interpretation

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the Department of Justice’s Wire Act interpretation as it relates to online gambling. The Trump Administration looked to return to the original interpretation of the wire act, which effectively bans all online gambling. The need arose because the Obama Administration reinterpreted the wire act to only apply to sports betting, thus legalizing all other forms of online gambling. Both sides of the debate claim the wire act’s plain language allows for their interpretation, but thus far, Congress has yet to pass any new, or straightforward legislation that would clear the issue up. However, Congress does appear to be getting involved, but in a most unusual manner. A new amendment has been proposed that takes away the DOJ’s funding for enforcement of its new interpretation. An online source explains:  

Rules Committee members filed an amendment this week regarding an appropriations bill that will block funding that would be used to enforce the new Wire Act interpretation. The primary sponsor of the amendment is Representative Hank Johnson. He is joined by Representative Sanford Bishop and Representative Andy Barr as sponsors.

The proposal wastes no time and gets right to the point, stating that none of the funds made available by the Act may be used to enforce the new memorandum titled Reconsidering Whether the Wire Act Applies to Non-Sports Gambling.

The amendment is to be voted on this week and while it will not affect the law in general, it will prevent the Department of Justice from enforcing their new opinion.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 06/10 – 06/16

Casino employee attempts to run over robber after being held at gunpoint 

Shreveport police are investigating following an armed robbery at a downtown casino. It happened overnight at the ElDorado Hotel and Casino’s parking garage. Police say a female employee had just finished her shift and was counting her money in her car. That’s when allegedly a gunman walked up to her and snatched her money away. However, police say she attempted to run him over as he ran away and he fired his gun. No one was hurt. The gunman was not captured and police said he dropped the money that he stole while getting away.

‘Trusted employee’ gambled away more than £103,000 of stolen money

A TRUSTED employee stole more than £103,000 from the family company where she worked, a court heard. Nicholas Berry, prosecuting, told Hereford Crown Court that Ashley had held a number of positions at the company over the years, most recently that of company accountant. An accounting discrepancy of about £15,000 was initially noted by the external accountancy company brought in to sign off the accounts, but Ashley reassured them that it was part of a private loan arrangement. Her deception was finally discovered when she became unwell prior to the 2018 meeting to sign off the accounts. Company director Simon Adam called the external accountancy company ‘to sort a few issues’ in Ashley’s absence. During the telephone call, the external accountant queried whether a three per cent interest rate was sufficient for the loan to Ashley, which Mr Adam knew nothing about. Directors Simon and Julia Adam ordered an immediate review of the accounts and confronted Ashley directly. She immediately admitted the theft, blaming financial issues that had begun to accumulate six years previously due to her use of payday loans and online gambling sites.

Former EDA director lost $700,000-plus gambling

Jennifer McDonald, the former director of the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority, lost $753,207 gambling from 2014 to 2018, according to unsealed court documents relating to the Virginia State Police investigation into possible financial improprieties. Virginia State Police, in conjunction with the Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Office, subpoenaed documents in September from the Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, West Virginia, detailing McDonald’s gambling records. This came seven months after McDonald told a local media outlet that she purchased various land parcels using about $1.9 million she had won at the casino from 2014 to 2018. Virginia State Police Special Agent Eric Deel states in an affidavit that records provided by the casino show McDonald lost $753,207, with annual losses of $38,752 in 2014, $130,517 in 2015, $158,752 in 2016, $205,264 in 2017 and $219,920 in 2018. Interim EDA Director John Anzivino stated in an email that McDonald’s last budgeted salary was $115,000.

The situation is similar to the case of Byung “Peter” Bang, who served as Montgomery County, Maryland’s former Department of Economic Development director. According to the Washington Post, Bang pleaded guilty in November 2018 to federal counts including wire fraud and state charges including misconduct while in office. According to the Washington Post, it was Bang’s gambling habit that led to him embezzling $6.7 million of county money. In March, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

When McDonald resigned as director on Dec. 20, she sent the EDA board an email stating that she is liable for $2.7 million in EDA losses. Last month, the EDA filed a $17.6 million lawsuit against McDonald and nine other defendants detailing alleged embezzlement involving land dealings and misappropriation of town and county credit lines.

Man accused of robbing three St. Paul banks — one of them twice — to support gambling addiction

A man accused of stealing thousands of dollars from St. Paul bank branches in the last two months told investigators he did so because of a gambling addiction. In each instance, Hill donned a ski mask, sunglasses and gloves, walked into a St. Paul bank and handed over a note to the teller instructing the employee to hand over all available cash, authorities say. One of the notes read: “This is a robbery, cash, 90 seconds.” Another read, “We are watching you. Do not panic or set off the alarm. Hand over the 100s, 50s, 20s and 10s,” according to the complaint.Police arrested Hill Wednesday after officers tracked vehicles involved in the thefts to him, according to the charges. He admitted to stealing from the four St. Paul bank locations, as well as one in Stillwater, adding that he never threatened anyone or displayed a weapon, the complaint said. He went on to say that a gambling addiction caused his “downfall,” costing him jobs, his marriage and creating “major financial problems” in his life, according to the charges. The case comes less than a year after Hill was sentenced on a theft by swindle conviction for embezzling more than $150,000 from his former employer, HealthEast, authorities say. He received 10 years of probation in that case.

Bellefonte man sentenced after pleading guilty to embezzling nearly $1.5 million 

A former Bellefonte insurance agent was sentenced Friday to 17 years in prison and three years’ supervised release after he pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly $1.5 million from dozens of individuals.U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann also ordered Hocker to pay $1,495,782 in restitution. James Hocker, 49, solicited funds from individuals throughout Centre County between 2009 and 2018 and guaranteed returns of at least 25%, though he never invested the money, according to the criminal information filed in the U.S. Middle District Court of Pennsylvania. Instead, Hocker built a life that revolved around gambling, drugs and prostitution, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Alisan Martin. “(Hocker) took check upon check, staring into the faces of people who not only trusted him as a financial advisor, but cared for him as friend,” Martin wrote in her sentencing memo sent to U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann. “The government respectfully asks the court to see the defendant for the self-serving fraud that he is.” In her 19-page memo, Martin also included stories from 22 individuals who were defrauded by Hocker.

Florida man allegedly scammed victims out of nearly $7M

A man from Miami, Florida has pleaded not guilty in federal court after allegedly committing wire fraud and international money laundering, scamming victims out of nearly $7 million, including two from the Baton Rouge area. The indictment states Byers found potential victims through various social media sites, commercial services that provided investor leads, and documents that identified victims of other schemes. The indictment goes on to claim Byers talked victims into investing with his company, WBI Associates, llc, and promised victims their money would be invested in various things such as gold production, a lottery company, foreign currency, or “dark pools” or “blind pools.” Rather than investing the victims’ money, Byers allegedly spent the funds on personal things, including about $10,000 per month in rent for his home in a Miami hotel, the lease of luxury vehicles, like a Ferrari, and gambling in casinos. Byers allegedly received at least $6,888,000 as a result of the scheme. According to the indictment, two of Byers’ victims live in Louisiana, one in Baton Rouge and one in Baker.

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

UPDATE: Court Strikes Down DOJ’s Wire Act Ruling – Appeal Likely to Follow

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the Department of Justice’s Wire Act interpretation as it relates to online gambling. Prior to the Obama Administration, the Wire Act was always interpreted to apply to all online gambling. During the Obama Administration, the DOJ decided the wire act only applied to sports betting, thereby legalizing all other forms of online gambling. Its been argued that their decision wasn’t grounded in the plain language and clear intent of Congress when the act was passed in the 1960’s. Never the less, it opened the floodgates to online gambling. Recently, the DOJ produced a memorandum that said they planned to reinterpret the wire act to apply to all gambling as it was for so many years prior. Naturally many groups opposed the ruling and the DOJ delayed its enforcement to allow time for the court process to take place. Now, the first ruling has been made and unsurprisingly, it upholds the Obama Administrations ruling. An online source reports:

In a memo dated June 12, 2019, US Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen instructed all US attorneys to hold off on implementing the Wire Act opinion until the end of the calendar year. The last date given had been June 14, 2019, but the decision by the US District Court last week makes any enforcement of that Wire Act opinion illegal as it pertains to any forms of gambling other than sports betting.

[E]veryone will wait to see if the DOJ decides to appeal that decision or let it stand. It is unlikely that the DOJ will not appeal, as even Judge Barbadoro fully expected the case to head to the US Supreme Court, as noted during the oral arguments phase.

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


A Brief Look at Crime 06/03 – 06/09

Police: Man stabbed on Mystic Lake Casino floor early Thursday morning

Prior Lake Police say a man was stabbed early Thursday morning on the floor of Mystic Lake Casino. Officers responded to the casino at 2 a.m. about the stabbing. Upon arrival, officers found one male victim with a stab wound to his abdomen. The injuries were non-life threatening. Prior Lake Police Chief Booker Hodges said the two males involved in the incident had known each other previously and came into contact with one another at the casino. One man reportedly asked the other if he had money to spare, which the other said he did not. Then, the suspect hugged the victim and stabbed him in the abdomen in the process. The suspect fled the scene, but was arrested in his hotel room at the casino shortly afterward.

Life in prison for 19-time felon shot fleeing Vegas police

A 19-time felon suspected of escaping from authorities, getting shot by Las Vegas police and leading a wild chase in a stolen truck stood before a judge the next day, his arm in a bandage, to be sentenced to life in prison. “At some point you have to say, Mr. Ganci, you can’t be in the public and not break the law,” the judge said. “I think it’s time you pay the consequences.” Ganci’s sentencing was delayed for a day after he failed to appear in court Wednesday. Smith gave Ganci five consecutive life terms without parole for being found guilty in February of armed robbery, kidnapping, battery and two counts of conspiracy. His 19th conviction was for admitting he had a gun. He had been accused of abducting and robbing a man who escaped Ganci and a woman at a Las Vegas casino. No bystanders were struck by gunfire and no one was seriously hurt in vehicles rammed by the pickup, police said.

Fake Investor Gets 5-Year Arizona Prison Term;Must Repay $1M

A Texas man who was a bogus investor has been sentenced to five years in federal prison in Arizona for stealing funds from his clients. Federal prosecutors say 33-year-old Daniel Braden was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Phoenix and ordered to pay more than $1 million in restitution. Braden had previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud for inducing clients to invest in fake opportunities he promoted. Prosecutors say the Spring, Texas, man portrayed himself as an experienced trader and falsely claimed to be working with Bank of America Merrill Lynch. They say Braden provided investors fabricated account statements that he created and assured investors that their funds were insured. But prosecutors say Braden diverted the funds to high-risk trading, sports and casino gambling or to support himself financially.

Philadelphia lawyer reciprocally disbarred after allegedly misappropriating funds for gambling debts 

Philadelphia attorney Frank Nathan Tobolsky has been reciprocally disbarred in Florida following a Feb. 28 Florida Supreme Court order after he allegedly misappropriated money to feed his gambling addiction, according to a recent announcement by The Florida Bar. A New Jersey ethics committee rejected Tobolsky’s defense “based on his gambling addiction and depression” the New Jersey Supreme Court said in its decision handed down in March 2018 to disbar Tobolsky in that state. Attorneys disbarred in Florida generally cannot reapply for admission for five years and must pass an extensive process that includes a rigorous background check and retaking the bar exam.

Apparent murder-suicide at Hard Rock

A doctor and his daughter are dead after an apparent murder-suicide on the grounds of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood. Police found that a vehicle owned by [the father] arrived at the complex minutes before the bodies were found, and that the car was parked on the eighth floor of the Winner’s Way parking garage, Bitner said. Seminole Police haven’t said how the father and daughter died and haven’t released additional information about their case. The investigation’s preliminary findings “point to a murder-suicide,” Bitner said. [The father] was a staff radiologist at the Lower Keys Medical Center in Key West from December 2014 until his death, a hospital spokeswoman said. He was licensed to practice medicine in Florida and Michigan, state records show.

Man arrested after gambling turned deadly in Birmingham (AL)

Detectives said an altercation began while several people were gambling in the 1200 block of 12th Street North in Birmingham. At 9:21 p.m., officers from the North Precinct were called to the location and found three people shot. One person was dead, and two others, including one juvenile, were taken to UAB for treatment. Durand Witherspoon, 22, of Birmingham, has been identified as the victim. Tarek Owens, 31, of Birmingham, has been named the suspect by Birmingham Police. He is being held in the Jefferson County Jail.

Authorities destroy 600 gaming machines seized in Jefferson County

Authorities on Tuesday destroyed about 600 gaming machines seized from an illegal gambling operation in Jefferson County. Sheriff Lafayette Woods Jr. said the agency had paid about $22,400 to store the machines at the Pines Mall in Pine Bluff since the machines were seized in 2013. Authorities had hoped to sell the machines to a company outside the state but didn’t receive any offers. The gaming machines were destroyed as plans take shape for the first legal casino in the county. The Oklahoma-based Quapaw Tribe plans to open the Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff in 2020.

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

Greyhound Industry Seeks to Overturn Florida’s Amendment 13 that Bans Live Races

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the recent attempts to ban dog racing in Florida. Voters passed Amendment 13, which banned live greyhound races. The issue was anything but straight forward, as many voters wanted to eliminate the gambling that goes along with dog racing as well. However, the bill simply decoupled the live racing requirement from the gambling that took place at the tracks. The bill allows gambling on races that are simulcast and leaves open the possibility for existing slot machine gambling to be allowed even though the track doesn’t support live racing. However, Florida voters also passed Amendment 3, which requires voter approval for any expansion of gambling. This would seemingly mean new “tracks” couldn’t go up that are essentially just mini slot machine casinos that offer simulcast dog races. The true decoupling implications and the actual landscape of how slot machine gambling will expand as a result is uncertain until such mini casinos attempt to be built or expanded and all the legal posturing takes place. However, the seemingly clear issue of live dog races being banned in Florida may not be as certain either. It has been announced that a new group has been formed with the goal of legally challenging Amendment 13. Orlando Weekly reports:

Amendment 13, which passed with a 69 percent “yes” vote last year, banned betting on greyhound races in Florida. Now, the head of a pro-greyhound racing group says they’re fighting to bring the so-called sport back.

In a public Facebook post last week, Jennifer Newcome, chairman of the Committee to Support Greyhounds, announced the group’s intention to move forward with challenging the amendment in court.

Newcome said the group plans to file the case in July. The group adds on their website: “Greyhound Nation did not back down before, and we refuse to stop until the last judge says ‘NO.'”

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


A Brief Look at Crime 05/27 – 06/02

Va. man gets 10 years for dogfighting, animal cruelty; 26 dogs seized from his property

A Dinwiddie County man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for dogfighting and animal cruelty. The Virginia Attorney General’s Office announced Eldridge Freeman, Jr., 44, was sentenced after he was convicted of 37 counts of animal cruelty and dogfighting involving 26 dogs back in December. Freeman is also banned from every owning a pet again. According to evidence at his hearing, Freeman participated in dogfighting at a home on Wilson Road in Dinwiddie County. Investigators found at 14x14x2 fighting pit outfitted with carpet, a tarp for a cover, and what appeared to be blood stains and smears on the inside. Dogfighting paraphernalia, heavily scarred dogs, wound dressings, and others items associated with dog breeding and dogfighting were also found on the property. Prosecutors also said Freeman kept the dogs in plastic barrels, water tanks, or plywood whelping boxes, all of which were not insulated and did not have bedding. Illegal animal fighting is closely tied to illegal gambling, drug and alcohol crimes, and violence against animals has been shown to be linked to violence towards other people.

Payson Man Sentenced For Mazatzal Casino Robbery

A Payson man, Armando Pablo Ochoa, 32, of Payson, was sentenced to ten years in prison after pleading guilty to use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. According to the FBI, the 32-year-old Ochoa and 31-year-old or Ryan Pearson, were employees at the Mazatzal Casino when they entered the casino armed with handguns and demanded that employees open a vault. When they did not receive immediate compliance, Ochoa and Pearson each fired a round from their weapons. The incident happened at the Mazatzal Casino, located along Highway 87 in the southern area of Payson, on July 17. Ochoa admitted to using a weapon, along with co-defendant, Ryan Pearson, to rob $652,000 in cash from the casino. Pearson pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence and is scheduled for sentencing on April 15, 2019.

Illegal gambling operations busted in West Phoenix 

Two businesses in west Phoenix have been cracked down for conducting illegal gambling operations. The Arizona Department of Gaming led a combined operation to execute warrants related to illegal gambling operations. Police officers from Phoenix and Glendale and ADG agents conducted the searches at Lan Anh Billiards, 2635 W. Bethany Home Road and Thanh Long Billiards, near 35th Avenue and Indian School Road. The ADG said its agents seized close to $1 million in cash, several illegal gambling devices (seven Dragon games) and other assets. The case will be sent to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for prosecution. The unnamed suspects could face charges up to a class 5 felony for conducting a criminal enterprise and other miscellaneous charges. “I wish to thank our agents, as well as our partners in the Phoenix and Glendale police departments for their hard work,” Ted Vogt, director of the ADG, stated in a release. “The Arizona Department of Gaming takes its duty to enforce the gambling laws in our state seriously. Our agents are steadfast in thoroughly investigating all suspected illegal gambling activities to protect the public and ensure compliance with the law.”

Scottish National Party: Damage Gambling Firms Damage to Gamblers Cause “Tantamount to Gross Negligence” 

Ronnie Cowan, MP for Inverclyde and vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on fixed odds betting terminals, wrote his article in Politics Home ahead of his debate today on gambling-related harm at Westminister Hall. Talking about drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, Cowan stated that people know the harm these things can cause; however, when it becomes a matter of gambling the harm involved isn’t always so obvious. He wrote: “Debt incurred from gambling creates instability, insecurity and can lead to bankruptcy and in the extreme, result in criminal activities. Relationships can be disrupted and often lead to emotional and social isolation. This can lead to mistrust and erodes cohesive relationships.” Additionally, he noted that suicide can play a role in gambling-related stress. Citing figures from Gambling with Lives, Cowan said that between 4% and 11% of suicides are linked to gambling. This is the equivalent of around 250-620 deaths each year in the UK. He added: “To make it perfectly blunt, the gambling companies have stacked the odds against the punters and the damage that is being done needs to be redressed.”

New Jersey Gambling Regulator Fines for Self-Exclusion and Geolocation Failures

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement has slapped a hefty fine on GVC Holdings and its Atlantic City land-based casino partner Borgata Hotel Casino for self-exclusion failures. is facing the consequences of its *failure to prevent self-excluded players* from gambling online. As a result, 12 gamblers, who had previously opted to self-exclude from wagering, lost the amount of *$41,759.49*. In a separate civiл order, the Borgata was ordered to forfeit the exact amount of gambling money lost by the 12 self-excluded individuals once it receives an invoice from the Division.

The Borgata has recently received another slap on the wrist by the New Jersey gambling regulator, that one for *failing to prevent a gambler based in California* from accessing its online gaming offering. In an order from earlier this year, the Division ordered the Borgata and Caesars Interactive, the online gambling division of Caesars Entertainment Corp., to *forfeit more than $90,000*. The money was found in the online gambling accounts of Vinh Dao, a California resident who found a way around the geolocation technology used by New Jersey’s casinos to prevent out-of-state gambling.

Woman accused of stealing $60,000 from casino card player (FL)

A card player woke up late and groggy in his Hollywood hotel room and discovered about $60,000 was gone from the pockets of his jeans. Police say the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino guest met a woman at the blackjack tables and she accompanied him to his room. The woman was wearing a short, olive-colored dress that zipped up the back and had a colorful tattoo on her left forearm. Before they began the massage that she offered, the woman suggested the man take a sip of his drink. That was all the man remembered from the 2:30 a.m. encounter on March 26, 2017. He told police he believed he was drugged because he woke up that day at noon, and he never sleeps late, an arrest report said. The man’s gray Hard Rock Cafe sweatshirt also was missing, and hotel surveillance video showed a woman wearing it as she left his room, an arrest report said. On Monday, Seminole Police said Las Vegas police picked up Villalobos on an arrest warrant.

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