Monthly Archives: March 2020

Despite Missouri Casinos Closing to Adhere to Coronavirus Guidelines, Illegal Gambling Machines are still Operating Statewide Creating unsafe environments

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to shut down illegal gambling machines that have popped up all over the state.  One of the biggest problems is the fact that they are completely unregulated. Up to this point, the impact has been loss of revenue for Missouri school systems and absolutely no checks and balances to safeguard those who play the machines from being cheated out of their money.  However, these rogue machines are now creating a new issue that stems from being unregulated – they are still operating and tempting the public to gather at a time when the rest of the casinos are shut down due to the covid-19 pandemic. The St Louis Post Dispatch reports:

Post-Dispatch visits to Columbia-area gas stations, where slot machine-style games have operated for months, showed many games were still plugged in on Tuesday, despite casinos receiving the order a week ago to shut down until March 30.

The inconsistency highlights the unregulated nature of roughly 14,000 gaming devices in Missouri, located in gas stations, clubs and bars.

Mike Leara, chairman of the Missouri Gaming Commission, which regulates licensed casinos, said the commission wanted to prevent large crowds from gathering at casinos during the outbreak — something that wouldn’t necessarily happen at a gas station.

A study released March 17 by the National Institutes of Health said the new coronavirus was detectable for “up to two to three days” on plastic and stainless steel surfaces.

Wildwood-based Torch Electronics is one of the biggest players in unregulated slot machine-style devices in Missouri. Torch faces felony illegal gambling charges by the Linn County prosecutor. A hearing in that case is scheduled for April 23.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 03/16 – 03/22

California Lottery officials shortchanged schools by millions, state audit says

The management of the California Lottery was sharply criticized Tuesday by state officials, who released a scathing audit alleging that the agency shortchanged schools by millions of dollars over the last four years, and recommended that most of the money be repaid. Separately, the state controller has launched an investigation into a gift of 30,000 Scratchers tickets to “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” first reported by the Los Angeles Times The audit released Tuesday said California schools have suffered as a result of problematic management and contracting at the lottery agency. “The Lottery has not followed state law, which requires it to increase its funding for education in proportion to its increases in net revenue,” State Auditor Elaine Howle wrote in a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature. Howle said the California Lottery failed to provide $36 million that should have gone to education in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2018.

Man charged with stealing $50,000 from employer, gambling it away

A Bismarck man is accused of stealing nearly $50,000 from his employer in the last half of 2019 and gambling the money away, according to a police affidavit. Denver Tergesen, 35, made his initial court appearance Tuesday on a charge of felony theft. A manager at Lucky’s 13 Pub in Bismarck on Monday notified police that from June through December, 136 cash deposits totaling just more than $49,500 were missing from the restaurant’s account. Tergesen was in charge of those deposits and when confronted by management initially blamed the problem on a banking error, police say. Tergesen in a text message to the manager later admitted he lost the money gambling and also stated he went to prison in 2009 after robbing a bank to pay gambling debts, the affidavit says. North Dakota court records do not show that he has a robbery conviction. Tergesen is being held in the Burleigh Morton Detention Center in lieu of $2,500 bail. No attorney is listed for him in court records.

156 dogs rescued during statewide animal abuse, drug trafficking operation

In a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Middle District of Georgia, multiple search warrants were taken out and executed on Wednesday, February 26 related to multiple suspects violating the federal Animal Welfare Act and drug trafficking. Many of the animals were found malnourished with scarring. Some were found severely injured, and will require surgery and other medical intervention. Two dogs had emergency surgery, and one female pitbull was discovered chained up with broken legs, malnourished, and overbred. The 156 rescued animals are now in the care of the U.S. Marshals Service. For their safety, the location of the dogs’ care and housing will not be made public.

Pennsylvania State Police seized 71 ‘illegal’ gambling machines, including ‘skill games’

Pennsylvania State Police seized 71 “illegal” gambling machines from Jan. 22 through Feb. 25, including a video gambling device seized from one Dauphin County location, Uncle Jim’s Tavern in Williamstown, State Police announced this morning. The seizures include gambling devices marketed as “skill machines,” State Police said in the release. “Illegal, unregulated gambling is a serious — and growing — problem facing the commonwealth, with video gambling devices spreading beyond licensed liquor establishments into convenience stores, malls and restaurants,” said Capt. Jeffrey Rineer, acting director of the State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement. “So far in 2020, gambling machine seizures have been reported from every BLCE office, in counties from Erie to Philadelphia.”

Providence man charged with leaving 3-year-old alone in casino parking lot

State police on Saturday arrested a Providence man accused of leaving a 3-year-old boy in a car in the parking lot of Twin River Casino. Mitchell Cuevas, 38, was charged with child neglect and obstruction of justice, according to a state police news release. Police say Cuevas left his son in the car for around half an hour while he placed bets in the casino sports book. Police said Cuevas provided “false information” about the boy’s identify and the identity of the boy’s mother. Cuevas was arraigned at the state police barracks in Scituate and released on bail.

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

Florida Casinos Criticized as Irresponsible during Covid-19 Pandemic by Waiting far too Long to Follow Government Orders

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many ongoing gambling issues in Florida.  Most of those issues connect to public safety by way of gambling addiction.  However, with the recent coronavirus pandemic, Florida casinos have put public safety on the line in a devastating new way.  Despite social distancing orders, many casinos stayed open. After pressure, many decided to finally shut down. However, two remained open drawing the ire of leadership.  State Rep. Jackie Toledo condemned the casinos for staying open, and singled out The Hard Rock Casino in particular for their dangerous practices.   A local NBC affiliate provided the story:

State Rep. Jackie Toledo is condemning the Seminole Hard Rock Casino for remaining open during the coronavirus and says the casino is putting profits over people.

“There are reports from inside that there have been no changes to cleaning procedures and that sick employees are not being sent home,”Toledo said.

Toledo says employees approached her office, in fear for their jobs and health claiming the casino is business as usual with not practicing social distancing, no one actively disinfecting, and no posted signs about change in procedure.

The Seminole Nation claims they are providing a safe environment for workers, but the facts seem to contradict their claims.  An online source reports:

After receiving pleas from casino employees, State Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, hosted a news conference Wednesday outside the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa in the hopes of pressuring the casinos to close during the coronavirus outbreak.

Seminole Hard Rock CEO James Allen issued a statement saying that the casinos are following all hygiene protocols, have closed its poker room, limited the number of slot machines, canceled all concerts, poker competitions and tournaments, and is limiting the number of guests at game tables and in the hotel’s restaurants.

“This is the exact opposite of what we are hearing from inside the walls,” said Toledo. “Employees are claiming if they do not have PTO, the casino makes them work while they are sick. We are told by patrons there is no hand sanitizer, and we’ve heard from dealers saying they have been out of sanitation wipes for days. This is a breeding ground for this virus.”

She said she learned Wednesday that the casino gave away free drink tickets to draw in nearly 8,000 people. “It is criminal to hold promotions to bring vulnerable guests in their doors,” she said.

And it would appear Rep. Toledo was right about the public health concerns of creating a social environment in which the virus could spread.  The casino has now closed its doors, but only after a confirmed case stemmed from their facility. It’s currently unknown just how devastating the spread of covid-19 will be as a direct result of their actions, or inaction in this case. An online source explains:

Seminole Gaming announced Friday they would be closing all of their casinos, including Hard Rock casinos, across Florida starting at 6 p.m. amid coronavirus concerns

This comes just one day after a man who died from COVID-19 was said to have visited the Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee.

Representative Heather Fitzenhagen and an employee at the casino called for the casino to close down after learning this.

“I think that this makes it even more important that they decide to do the right thing and close down the casino for the safety of everyone in Southwest Florida,” she said.

She says the 77-year old man spent hours playing the slots the weekend

before he died on March 13.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 03/09 – 03/15

Mother accused of leaving infant at casino hotel charged with two felonies

A woman sought by police after an infant was abandoned in a casino hotel in Niagara Falls was taken into custody Monday morning, according to police. Sherone Littleton, 28, was arrested on Floss Avenue in Buffalo by Niagara Falls police and members of a U.S. Marshals task force, police said in a news release. Littleton’s 10-month-old son was found abandoned in Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino on Jan. 31. Littleton was charged with first-degree reckless endangerment, a class D felony; abandonment of a child, a class E felony; and child endangerment, a misdemeanor, police said. Late last week, police announced they were looking for Littleton and asked for the public’s help finding her. They said she told a detective she was in Ohio, but they didn’t believe that was true. Buffalo Common Council President Darius G. Pridgen last week took to Facebook  and made a personal plea for Littleton to turn herself in. A housekeeper found the infant in the ice machine room on the 18th floor of the hotel at about 10:45 a.m. Jan. 31, after guests contacted hotel staff about a crying baby, police said.

MGM Resorts Data Breach Exposes Personal Information Of 10.6 Million Guests

Were you hacked at your last stay at an MGM Grand property? Personal data details of some 10.6 million guests was reportedly posted on a hacker forum this week. MGM confirmed that the breach took place last year. It says the company reported the breach to residents of states that require reporting of breaches of “phonebook data.” A ZD Net report says that it’s not just holiday travelers whose data was exposed. Personal and contact information was leaked for celebrities, reporters and perhaps most worryingly, for US military and government officials and executives at technology companies. Two names mentioned are Justin Bieber and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. ”Last summer, we discovered unauthorized access to a cloud server that contained a limited amount of information for certain previous guests of MGM Resorts. We are confident that no financial, payment card or password data was involved in this matter,” said an MGM spokesperson. “MGM Resorts promptly notified guests potentially impacted by this incident in accordance with applicable state laws,”

A Southern California man charged with bilking nearly $150 million out of 70,000 investors worldwide

A Southern California man charged with bilking nearly $150 million out of 70,000 investors worldwide through a phony digital currency scheme has agreed to enter a guilty plea to federal charges, it was announced Wednesday. Steven Chen, 62, of Bradbury agreed Tuesday to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of tax evasion, the U.S. Attorney’s office announced. “Mr. Chen’s promises to investors were as worthless as his non-existent mines and phony digital currency,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said in a statement. “This case should remind all investors that trappings of success may convey legitimacy, but everyone should exercise extreme care when considering giving hard-earned money to any outfit promoting trendy products and extravagant profits.” Chen used millions of dollars in proceeds to buy homes and pay for a gambling habit, authorities said.

Brother of Chicago Bears legend among 10 charged in illegal gambling scheme 

Casey Urlacher, the brother of Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher, was among those charged this week in an illegal offshore gambling scheme. Urlacher and eight others helped supposed ringleader Vincent Delgiudice — also known as “Uncle Mick” — take sports bets and placed them in an illegal sports book based in Costa Rica, prosecutors alleged in a 28 page indictment unsealed in the Northern District of Illinois. “It was further part of the conspiracy that Vincent Delgiudice used Federal Express to cause the cashier’s checks and money orders to be delivered to the addresses in Costa Rica supplied by Individuals 1 and 2,” the indictment says. “And others who worked for or were associated with Company A.” Urlacher is also the Mayor of Mettawa, Illinois and prosecutors alleged that he also made bets with Delgiduice, who prosecutors say accepted wagers from as many as 1,000 gamblers. According to the Justice Department, a “law enforcement search of Delgiudice’s residence in Orland Park seized more than $1.06 million in cash; silver bars and jewelry valued at $347,895; and gold coins valued at $92,623.”

Casino management ignored workers’ warnings about money laundering

The president of one of B.C.’s biggest labour unions is asking the province’s public inquiry on money laundering to consider how illegal money has affected the lives of everyday working people. Stephanie Smith, president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, told the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering that union members have been dealing with the problem for decades. That includes dealing with criminals trying to clean illegal cash through casinos or facing the ever-rising home prices that have been linked to that same cash. “Workers in some casinos have faced a visible organized crime presence for at least two decades,” Smith said in her opening statements on Monday. “All too often, casino management has ignored these issues or ever encouraged them.” B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen sits at the head of the commission, which will hear opening statements this week from stakeholders with formal standing in the inquiry.

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

March Madness Gambling Takes an Unexpected Turn due to Covid-19

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the massive amount of gambling that takes place during the NCAA College Basketball Tournament.  Known as March Madness, its one of the most prominent gambling events next to the Super Bowl. Typically Casino Watch Focus reports on the varying levels of devastation that result from this gambling, however, this year there won’t be an NCAA tournament due to the covid-19 pandemic.  Forbes explains:

The cancellation of March Madness is sad on so many fronts. Beyond the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) and the health pandemic sweeping across America and the world, millions of fans are missing out on watching and wagering on the NCAA Tournament.

Asher told Stuart Varney of FOX Business Network that the “first three days of March Madness equate to Super Bowl Sunday” in terms of betting activity and volume in Nevada. How much is that? A total of $154.7 million was wagered on Super Bowl LIV in Nevada this year.

Overall, the 2019 NCAA Tournament had approximately $349 million wagered in Nevada according to Nevada Gaming Control Board research analyst Michael Lawton. Sportsbooks across the Silver State took in profits of $36.5 million, which is nearly 7% of the total handle.

The cancellation of March Madness will have a tremendous financial impact on bookmakers and sportsbook operators. You can bet on it.

Whereas it’s very true that the cancellation of the tournament will be felt hardest for those in the tourism industry near these events and certainly those collegiate seniors who will miss out on their last opportunity at an NCAA championship, its clear that there will be countless families spared the devastation that this gambling brings each year.  That’s not much of a silver lining given the overall impact of Covid-19, but it’s one of the few that has presented itself. 

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

A Brief Look at Crime 03/02 – 03/08

Bingo addict Murdered Her Uncle

A bingo addict who murdered her elderly uncle to feed her habit admitted to the killing in a video selfie on his mobile phone, a new documentary has revealed. Susan Warne, 41, attacked John Proctor, 80, at his home in Leiston, Suffolk on June 13, 2015 pushing him down the stairs so she could rob him. Terrified he would go to the police however, she strangled the pensioner before stabbing him in the neck with a knife. She made off with just £300 and was later seen on CCTV in Lowestoft spending some of the cash on slot machines in an amusement arcade.

State halts 14 illegal gambling operations in 6 Michigan counties 

Fourteen Michigan businesses were issued cease-and-desist orders to stop offering illegal gambling games during 2019 through a joint enforcement effort by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office and the Michigan Gaming Control Board. The 14 businesses claimed to operate redemption games, which are legal in Michigan. Investigators determined the locations instead were offering casino-style video slot machines based on chance and rather than skill.

Former Executive Sentenced for Stealing $4 Million From Firm

The former chief financial officer for a suburban St. Louis company was sentenced Thursday to four years in prison for embezzling nearly $4 million from the firm. Bryan G. Vonderahe, 45, of Kirkwood, Missouri, also must pay restitution. He pleaded guilty in October to wire fraud. According to the documents, Vonderahe set himself up as a sham vendor and issued about 500 company checks to himself, totaling about $3.8 million. The U.S. Attorney’s office in St. Louis said Vonderahe falsified company records and issued financial statements to outside auditors as part of his scheme. Authorities said Vonderahe used the money on personal expenses, travel and gambling.

Australian sportsbooks issued with record AU$207,500 fine for gambling inducements

Australian sportsbooks Ladbrokes and Neds have been issued with the biggest fine of its kind ever issued in the state of New South Wales after being found guilty of offering illegal gambling inducements to residents. Subject to a potential appeal, the companies have been fined AU$207,500 (US$140,000) after an investigation by Liquor & Gaming NSW relating to four Ladbrokes and two Neds ads that ran across Channel 7, Instagram and Facebook in 2018. Ladbrokes is the parent company of Neds, having acquired the smaller operator in an AU$95 million deal in late 2018.

According to Liquor & Gaming NSW, the companies breached NSW law by offering bonus bets to new customers who signed up and made a deposit. Under the NSW Betting and Racing Act, it is an offence to publish a gambling advertisement that includes any inducement to participate, or participate frequently, in any gambling activity. “Inducements are known to increase the risk of gambling harm and these advertisements reached a broad segment of the population,” said Liquor & Gaming NSW Assistant Director of Compliance, Dimitri Argeres. “In NSW such advertisements are restricted to registered betting account holders. “This record fine should serve as a reminder that betting operators have an obligation to ensure their gambling advertising complies with NSW laws.

General Manager of Historic Tavern Stole Nearly $70K

The general manager of a historic tavern in Kentucky has been accused of stealing nearly $70,000 from the business and then gambling it away. Detectives determined Smock stole almost $64,000 from daily deposits and nearly $4,000 from the house bank where money was stored, Chitwood said. Smock has refused to speak with detectives, Chitwood said, but police obtained a warrant and arrested him Feb. 9. A preliminary hearing in the case was scheduled for Wednesday, the Courier Journal reported. The complaint warrant states Smock admitted to gambling the money away, news outlets reported. Smock was being held in the Fayette County Jail, Chitwood said in the news release. It was unclear whether he had an attorney to speak for him.

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

New Missouri Gambling Bill Seeks to Legalize Illegal & Unregulated Slot Machines

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the illegal gambling machines that have emerged all over Missouri.  The Missouri constitution limits gambling to river boat casinos along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers only.  Any other gambling outside of the lottery is illegal. So naturally many were confused when illegal slot machines started showing up at truck stops and other locations outside of regulated casinos.  Initially there was confusion over who had the authority to shut them down as the Missouri Gaming Commission can only regulate gambling at the casinos. However, after some time, a lot has been done to curb the illegal devices including criminal and civil lawsuits.  Missouri representatives have been looking at legislation to explicitly ban them all together and there has been some disagreement on how to handle the situation in general. However, its still rather shocking to see legislation proposed that would attempt to violate the Missouri Constitution and make such gambling devices legal.  An online source reports:

The new bill, dubbed Senate Bill 566, aims to combat the illegal gambling machine problem. It seeks to allow state-regulated video gambling machines in truck stops, fraternal and veterans’ organizations and retail locations that hold liquor licenses. It suggests that people over the age of 21 should be allowed to access these regulated machines, which will be monitored by the State Lottery Commission.

Some lawmakers are uncomfortable with the idea of these machines. For instance, Senator John Rizzo said that he doesn’t want kids to walk into gas stations, buying Gatorades and passing through these gambling machines.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 02/24 – 03/01

2 transported following shooting at Miccosukee Resort & Gaming (FL)

Two people had to be transported following a shooting that took place at Miccosukee Resort & Gaming. The shooting happened near Krome Avenue and Southwest Eighth Street in West Miami-Dade, early Sunday morning. Two men were hurt and rushed to Kendall Regional Medical Center as trauma alerts. Rescue crews airlifted one of the victims, and the other arrived in an ambulance. Miccosukee Police has since released a statement on the shooting that read: “In the early morning hours, an incident occurred at Miccosukee Resort & Gaming, which is under investigation. The safety of our patrons and guests is our number one priority, and we remain open for business.” The cause of the shooting remains under investigation.

Marlow IT boss used company cash to buy £175k-worth of phones to fund gambling habit

The IT boss of an international City law firm who used company cash to buy £175,000 worth of high-end mobile phones, which he sold to fund his online gambling habit has been spared jail. Instead, Marlow father-of-two Justin Lowdon, 44, who was employed by US-based Proskauer Rose at their Bishopsgate office received a suspended two year jail sentence on Thursday (February 6). Lowdon, of Newfield Gardens, pleaded guilty at Inner London Crown Court to fraud by abuse of position between January 1, 2013, and September 2015. Recorder SJ Phillips QC told him: “The amount was significant. You were employed as the IT manager and you ordered mobile phones, which were not required and sold them on for your own benefit. “The reason you did this is because you were under a lot of stress in your job, you had an online gambling addiction and significant personal debt. “There is no excuse for what you did and this criminal behaviour you know is wrong and you should not have done it. “This is a serious crime that must be reflected in the sentence I hand down, but the fact that it has taken three years to come to court must be taken into account.

Man Pleads Guilty to Beheading Winning Casino Patron

One of two men accused of decapitating a winning casino patron in Montana has pleaded guilty to deliberate homicide. The Billings Gazette reports 35-year-old Jeffery Haverty entered his plea Tuesday in the October 2017 death of 41-year-old Myron Knight. Attorneys agreed to recommend 50 years in prison with no parole restriction and 20 years of probation. Haverty had already pleaded guilty as part of a deal that called for 50 years in prison only, with no probation term. A judge rejected that plea, saying 50 years alone was insufficient. Haverty’s co-defendant, Donald Cherry, is facing trial for deliberate homicide, evidence tampering, witness tampering and intimidation. Prosecutors say he hid Knight’s remains and belongings and tried to intimidate his girlfriend and tell her that her memory was incorrect during conversations from the jail. Police say Cherry’s girlfriend previously told them both Cherry and Haverty killed Knight.

Vt. woman sentenced for embezzling $2M from employer

A St. Johnsbury woman who admitted to stealing more than $2.2 million from her employer has been sentenced to just over four years in prison. Choinere says even though family members questioned Dwyer’s lifestyle, he trusted her. “Our business is having kind of a tough time over this, but we will persevere,” he said. Choinere says they have had to take out a number of loans amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep the business open. The 74-year-old says he has had to put his retirement on hold because of Dwyer’s actions. “I dont have anything to add besides what I said in court,” said Natasha Sen, Dwyer’s lawyer. In court, she said Dwyer spent the money primarily on online gambling. But federal prosecutors say she also bought a pickup truck, a camper, and paid personal debts. She apologized to the family in court, saying she was on a “vicious cycle” and wanted to confess, but was so overwhelmed and that the only was she could stop was to get caught.

Utah man makes $8 million a year in cash from illegal gambling machines 

Police said the owner of businesses with multiple locations across the county, was making eight million dollars a year in cash—just from his gambling machines. For months, detectives with the Millcreek Street Crimes division of Unified Police have played the slots, undercover. “Once you enter that room, the atmosphere is dark and it feels like a casino,” said Detective Two. Detectives learned gambling machines lined the stores of eight separate locations owned by the same man. Each time a customer would win, they had to walk up to the cash register for a cash payout.

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