Monthly Archives: June 2021

Florida’s Seminole Gambling Compact Faces Federal Approval and Many Believe Tribal Gambling Laws and the Florida Constitution make the Sports Gambling Provisions Invalid

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing developments in the approval of the newly negotiated Florida gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe.  While most agree the compact is a key and necessary part of balancing gambling expansion in Florida, many believe this compact has gone too far to expand gambling, most specifically in regards to statewide Sports gambling.  The Compact has been passed by the Florida Legislature and the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and now it goes before the Federal Government.  An online source explains:

The Department of the Interior oversees tribal-state gambling “compacts,” such as the one that Gov. Ron DeSantis and Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. signed April 23 and sent to lawmakers for approval. Once the compact is submitted, the Department of the Interior has 45 days to approve the plan, reject it or allow it to go into effect without the federal agency’s action.

Federal officials will “look at the compact and see if there are any provisions in there that are problematic,” said George Skibine, whose lengthy career with the Department of the Interior included a stint as director of the Office of Indian Gaming.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act requires that covered gaming activities occur on “Indian lands,” Skibine noted. The deal with the Seminoles may turn out to be a national test case for other tribal compacts, he said.

Clearly there are past examples in other states that looked at a similar issue, and they concluded all gambling must take place on tribal land.  There are two other examples of mobile gambling involving tribal land, but both of those cases involve the tribes letting the state government handle the regulations and taxation of the gambling.  This Florida case just isn’t the same as those given that the Seminole Tribe is fully regulating sports betting and the Florida constitution currently prohibits sports betting in Florida and would require a statewide vote of the people to establish it as legal gambling.  An online source explains:

So how come Arizona and Connecticut have a clear path forward and the Seminoles do not? The key is regulatory structure.

A group of Arizona tribes and Gov. Doug Ducey announced a compact and companion legislation earlier this year that allows the tribes to open retail and online sportsbooks, among other gaming expansion options. The federal Department of the Interior has already approved the retail sportsbook components of the deal.

Critically, the compact didn’t include online betting and the tribes agreed to let Arizona government officials regulate, license and tax their online sportsbooks under a separate bill approved by the legislature.

Connecticut’s two gaming tribes and Gov. Ned Lamont announced a similar deal this year that’s now awaiting formal federal government approval. Just like Arizona’s tribes, Connecticut’s Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes agreed to separate online casino gaming and sports betting from the compact’s retail betting language.

Conversely, Florida’s compact gives the Seminoles rights to online sports betting through its own digital platform and to partner with pari-mutuel facilities for additional mobile skins. Federal law and subsequent court rulings make it seem the Seminoles don’t have authorization for online sports betting under a compact, leading many to believe federal officials will strip those provisions from the agreement.

Moreover, IGRA very clearly outlines that the gambling activity must take place on Tribal land or must be the same gambling that the state already recognizes as legal.  Some have argued that in an attempt to rush the deal, they didn’t follow current models for proper gambling compacts, and are at real risk of rejection by the Federal Government.  The source concludes:

This strict interpretation of IGRA within the language of the law and ensuing court rulings has limited gaming to physical options on tribal lands. All states that offer or have approved any form of regulated online tribal gaming, such as Arizona, Connecticut and Michigan, have done so independent of federal compacting law. Instead, these tribes maintain autonomy over in-person gaming for their brick-and-mortar gaming options and act like commercial operators for their online options.

Daniel Wallach, a Florida-based gaming attorney and sports betting legal analyst, told the Action Network the Seminoles and Florida policymakers could have followed the model established in other states. Instead, trying to shoehorn online sports betting authorization under federal law jeopardizes its very legality.

“Michigan and Arizona have acknowledged this jurisdictional limitation and crafted a solution that appears to satisfy IGRA,” Wallach said. “Florida, on the other hand, has brazenly ignored the plain and unambiguous language of IGRA, and has set up a flawed system that is on a fast track to a federal court rebuke.”

Florida’s Miami-Beach Mayor Dan Gelber was equally blunt with his rhetoric in a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior.  The Tampa Bay times provides excerpts of his letter:

“I support the goals of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (’IGRA’), namely, to provide Native American tribes with a pathway to greater independence and economic vitality. But the Florida Compact you are considering was not crafted in pursuit of those goals,” Gelber wrote in a nine-page letter to Deb Haaland, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

“It was simply a vehicle hijacked by non-tribal casino interests who fully corrupted the legislative and executive process in order to obtain advantages outside of tribal land and in direct contravention to the interests of Floridians.”

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

A Brief Look at Crime 06/21 – 06/27

Florida woman’s club treasurer accused of stealing $160,000 in donations to gamble in casinos

The GFWC Woman’s Club of Clearwater treasurer is accused of stealing thousands of dollars over a period of two years, according to Investigators. Sharon Lynn Brindamour, 59, allegedly used $160,000 in charitable donations to gamble in casinos officals said. “She went to the Hard Rock in Tampa, she went to the Hard Rock in Fort Lauderdale, she went to Harras in Biloxi, Mississippi, she spent it on her own personal car insurance,” Pinellas County Sheriff’s Corporal Travis Sibley said. The club first contacted authorities when management changed and the numbers weren’t adding up, Sibley said. GFWC Woman’s Club of Clearwater helps local charities and nonprofit groups like the Clearwater Free Clinic. “Our mission is to help improve the health of the community as a whole,” Clinic’s Development Director Meredith Reagin said “By helping people that don’t have the means to access care themselves.”

DraftKings Subpoenaed by US Authorities Investigating New York Lobbyist’s Circle 

A lobbyist in New York with ties to the gaming industry is under scrutiny by federal regulators. The office of the US attorney in the *Southern District of New York*, through its public corruption unit, is reportedly investigating *Patrick Jenkins*, according to the New York Times (NYT), but hasn’t provided any specific details regarding the motive behind the investigation. Jenkins, a former aide to current New York, Assembly Speaker *Carl E. Heastie*, is said to have links with *DraftKings*, *FanDuel*, the *NBA*, *MLB*, *The Stars Group*, and others, and at least two of his gaming clients have been subpoenaed as part of the investigation.

According to public records, Jenkins’ firm was paid over *$3.22 million in compensation in 2019, a substantial increase from *the $37,500* it had received in *2014*. Heastie became the Assembly Speaker in 2015, and, in 2016, his campaign was paying Jenkins $4,000 a month. Some have drawn ties between the appointment and the compensation.

Casino Miami Melee Follows Outside Shooting, Two Victims Hospitalized

Miami cops continue to investigate a shooting spree near Casino Jai-Alai Miami. Three people were wounded Thursday evening outside of the Florida gaming property, and the casino was evacuated by police. Officers had their firearms drawn as they entered the casino, according to /WSVN/, a local TV station. “Everybody out, now,” an officer ordered players and visitors at the casino, the report adds. Moments after the shooting, several people outside of the casino ran inside of the gaming property for protection from the gunfire. Some hid in the manager’s office. Outside, shots had been fired by occupants of two cars driving near the casino. The driver of a back sedan appeared to be chasing the second car, a white sedan, /WSVN/ said. Miami-Dade Police Lt. Carlos Rosario said one of the suspects was “hanging out of the black sedan just shooting,” the report said. The occupants of a third car were apparently caught in the crossfire. Two of the wounded individuals were treated at a local hospital, /WSVN/ said. A third person was grazed by a bullet, the report adds.

Lanarkshire finance officer admits embezzling quarter of a million pounds

A shamed finance officer stole more than £240,000 to fund his gambling habit. John Reid, overpaid companies linked to First People Solutions Ltd. where he worked between March 2014 and July 2017. He then got his hands on the cash by asking the firms to send the surplus back into his own bank account. Glasgow Sheriff Court heard Reid carried out 155 transactions and pocketed a total of £244,950. The 39-year-old confessed to his manager when caught and stated he had a “gambling addiction.” Reid, of East Kilbride, pled guilty to embezzlement on Friday.

Feds recommend prison time for elderly Detroit-area woman who stole $440,000 from Social Security

The government is recommending a prison term for a Detroit woman who stole more than $440,000 over 30 years by cashing Social Security checks issued to her late grandmother. It’s the largest case of Social Security theft in eastern Michigan in more than five years, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Andrea Billingsley-Jamison, 63, pleaded guilty in March 2020 to stealing government money, but her sentence has been delayed because of the coronavirus. She’s due in federal court on July 21. Her grandmother died in 1987, but the government apparently wasn’t aware and kept sending Social Security checks. Billingsley-Jamison’s attorney acknowledged that the government’s loss was “substantial” but said prison isn’t necessary for the first-time offender. Billingsley-Jamison used the money to support her parents, her daughter and a gambling addiction, lawyer Nancy McGunn said in a May 28 court filing.

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

Possible new Trump Casino in Florida hits New Roadblock as Local City Bans Casinos

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the possibility of new casinos being developed in Miami Beach.  Attempts to develop full Vegas-style casino gambling establishments in the Miami area are nothing new and have typically been unsuccessful.  However, recent developments involving possible transfer of licenses has raised the alarms for those in the area.  Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber exposed the potential legislative intent and Trump’s Resort and other casino’s immediately made national headlines as one of a few possible companies to use the new Seminole Compact to extend casino gambling into new areas.  As a response to, the nearby city of Doral, the home of Trump Doral Resort, passed an ordinance to ban casinos and gambling without a full public referendum and vote.  The Miami-Herald reports:

Count Doral among the latest Miami-Dade cities to erect defenses against casino politics as the prospect of gambling — and a Trump-branded casino — creeps closer.

The Doral city council on Wednesday voted 4-0 to ban gambling and casinos from the city unless approved by residents in a referendum, weeks after Gov. Ron DeSantis negotiated a $500 million gaming deal the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Critics believe the compact was tailored to allow casinos at properties such as the Trump National Doral Miami resort or the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel, which local officials fear will bring negative impacts to their communities.

The gaming deal, among other things, stops the Tribe from objecting to the transfer of existing slot machine licenses to anywhere 15 miles from its casino on Seminole land near Hollywood, language that opens the door to former President Donald Trump purchasing a license and transferring it to his Doral golf resort.

Miami Beach Mayor Gelber also took additional defensive action as there are many jurisdictions in that area that should there be a new casino push.  Of course, there are existing laws in place that would make moving a casino an enormous uphill battle, but Mayor Gelber wants to be prepared.  The Miami-Herald concluded:  

Local gambling bans alone may not be enough. Miami Beach, which banned casinos in 2017 retained law firm Shubin & Bass to help fend off any attempts from the Legislature to bring gambling to the city.

Mayor Dan Gelber said the city is wary that state lawmakers may try to pass a bill that preempts a local governments’ ability to ban gambling. “We’re not waiting for it to happen before we hire someone,” Gelber told the Miami Herald Tuesday, speaking about the decision to hire Shubin & Bass.

He said the state’s recently approved sports gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe clears a path for Jeffrey Soffer, the owner of the Fontainebleau to transfer his casino license from The Big Easy Casino in Hallandale Beach.

“Obviously the fact that the 15-mile barrier was included in the compact is a pretty good expression of the intent of the governor and Legislature to give him what he wants,” said Gelber, who wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior asking that the government reject the gambling deal.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 06/14 – 06/20

Man Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison over Shooting at a Poker Game 

A man from New York State was sentenced to at a *minimum of 20-years-to-life in prison* on Monday this week. *Charquan Edwards*, who was *previously sentenced for shooting a man during a private poker game back in 2015,* faced a retrial. Initially, Edwards was sentenced to prison by now-retired *Judge John Brunetti* in 2015. However, the 2015 trial was overturned in 2019 by the appellate court after it found several issues with the sentence.

Back in 2015, Edwards, 23 at the time, participated in a poker game that turned out badly. Having lost twice, he returned *two times to re-enter the game with more money*. After losing for the third time, *he came back with a gun and attempted to flee with some $9,000* from the poker table cash

Since the initial accident in 2015, *multiple eyewitnesses have deceased*. However, during the retrial testimony, US State Supreme Court *Judge Gordon Cuffy* allowed the testimony of the deceased to be read in front of the jury. Although Judge Cuffy acknowledged that Edwards is an “/intelligent young man/“, he *reaffirmed the original sentence* by Judge Brunetti. Consequently, Edwards was re-sentenced to 20-years-to-life in prison. With that in mind, he will serve the sentence concurrently while *the court took into consideration the time which he already served* since his initial conviction.

Chester County Accountant Sentenced for Fraud Scheme

Acting United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Christopher May, 32, of Paoli, PA, was sentenced to one year and four months in prison, and two years of supervised release by United States District Judge Timothy J. Savage for engaging in an embezzlement scheme through which he stole more than $1.2 million from his former employer.

In February 2021, the defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud stemming from this scheme which he perpetrated over the course of about eight months. From roughly October 2019 until May 2020, while employed as a staff accountant at a local e-commerce automotive parts retailer based in Paoli, PA, May made more than 50 unauthorized Paypal transfers of his employer’s funds into his personal accounts. In total, he stole $1,213,500. He immediately spent nearly this entire amount gambling on sports and making payments to pornographic web camera models whom he met on the internet.

Man Jailed For Theft of $1M From Poker Pro Chad Power 

Clark County authorities have arrested and jailed one of two men believed to be responsible for a February residential burglary in which a safe containing a million dollars in cash and poker chips was taken from Las Vegas poker pro Chad Power. 32-year-old Brock Brewer of Las Vegas was arrested on Tuesday and charged with eight felonies connected to the burglary. Brewer and another man, who has yet to be identified, are believed to be responsible for the February 10 robbery at Power’s Henderson home. Police believe Brewer and the other robber trailed Power to his home at some point after observing him at a Vegas casino. On the day of the robbery, Power left his home to play poker before receiving an security-system alert.

By the time Power returned home, discovered the break-in and called the police, the robbers were long gone, though surveillance footage showed two maskless men leaving his home. A suspect, later identified as Brewer, had Power’s home safe on his shoulder as he left the scene. The police report about the theft, as noted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, noted that “Chad advised that inside the safe had been approximately $750,000 in cash in $100 bill denominations, mostly organized into $50,000 bricks. The safe had also contained approximately $250,000 in high-value poker chips.”

Mississippi Man Gets 16 Years for Armed Robbery of Casino

A Mississippi man convicted of robbing a Choctaw casino was sentenced Friday to 16 years in prison. William Christopher Belk, 33, of Quitman, pleaded guilty to robbery and the use of a firearm during a crime of violence, Acting U.S. Attorney Darren J. LaMarca said in a news release. Belk entered the Bok Homa Casino, located on the Choctaw Indian REservation near Sandersville, Mississippi, on July 9, 2020, armed with a handgun, authorities said. Once inside, he pointed the gun at a casino security officer, took several items from the officer then fled in a resort vehicle. A Sandersville Police officer spotted the vehicle and tried to arrest Belk, who fired his weapon, injuring the officer. He then drove toward Laurel, Mississippi, where officers arrested him. A federal grand jury indicted Belk in August, charging him with robbery, use of a firearm during a crime of violence and theft from an Indian gaming establishment. He pleaded guilty in February.

Owner of third cockfighting venue admits participation in illegal animal fighting operation

An Emanuel County man has admitted operating an animal fighting venture, representing the third owner of a cockfighting operation in the Southern District to enter a guilty plea to federal charges. *Wendell Allan Strickland, *67, of Swainsboro, Ga., pled guilty in U.S. District Court to two counts of Sponsoring and Exhibiting an Animal in an Animal Fighting Venture; two counts of Conducting an Illegal Gambling Business; and one count of Possession and Transport of an Animal in an Animal Fighting Venture, all felonies; and one misdemeanor charge of Attending an Animal Fighting Venture, said Acting U.S. Attorney David H. Estes. In addition to forfeiture of the property on which illegal cockfights were held, Strickland faces a possible statutory penalty of up to five years in prison and significant financial penalties, followed by up to three years of supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system.

“Animal fights are illegal and barbaric, and also are magnets for other criminal activity,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Estes. “With our law enforcement partners, we will continue to shut down these operations and hold the organizers accountable.”

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

Experts warn that Florida’s Seminole Gambling Compact Introduces Massive Gambling Expansion, but Leaves Problem Gamblers without Vital Resources

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to secure a new gambling compact between the Seminole Tribe and the Florida Government.  Recently a new compact was agreed upon and has been approved by the Florida Legislature and Governor.  If the bill makes it past federal approval, it represents a massive expansion in gambling.  Despite the normal political battles that such legislation brings, three is a serious health element that experts warn is being completely overlooked.  Aid for compulsive gamblers wasn’t addressed in the compact or the special legislative session that pushed the compact through.  This is of dire concern for problem gambling experts.  Florida Politics reports:

While the Legislature pushed through the Seminole Compact and gambling bills to support it, the matter of dealing with compulsive gambling drew alarm, debate, promises, but no action.

“If the Compact survives scrutiny at the federal level and the legal challenges, this is going to be a major expansion of gaming opportunities in the state of Florida, just in the sports betting alone,” said *Richard* *Pinsky*, a lobbyist for the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling. “Florida is not prepared right now for the impact that it will have upon families and individuals.”

Florida’s main response, through the Council, is a gambling prevention program helpline, 1-888-ADMIT-IT (236-4848). Set up initially to assist compulsive gamblers in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, it is woefully unprepared to handle statewide action; it was never fully funded even for its intended purpose. “I can show you the actual transcripts (of calls) that would wrench your heart,” Pinsky told a House committee last week. 

Pinsky warned that “thousands and thousands” of Floridians will fall into compulsive gambling problems. And he believes that will grow fastest among younger generations. “The younger demographic, that’s exactly who does sports wagering and fantasy sports,” Pinsky said. “College students and those under 30. And they’re also the most at-risk group.”

Florida’s gambling prevention program has not been updated since 2005 when it was initiated as a response to the legalization of slot machines in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 06/07 – 06/13

Trainer Bob Baffert suspended from Belmont after Kentucky Derby winner fails drug test

The New York Racing Association (NYRA) temporarily suspended Bob Baffert, the trainer for Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, in the aftermath of the horse failing a post-race drug test. NYRA President and CEO Dave O’Rourke announced the suspension in a statement on Monday, citing Medina Spirit’s positive post-Kentucky Derby drug test and previous drug violations discovered among Baffert’s horses. During the time of the suspension Baffert will be forbidden from running any horses or occupying stall space at Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course and the Aqueduct Racetrack, effectively barring Medina Spirit from entering the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown, which will take place in June. The NYRA said it expects to make a final decision regarding the length and terms of Baffert’s suspension based on the results of the ongoing investigation in Kentucky, including Medina Spirit’s post-race test.

Woman called in bomb threat at Seminole Hard Rock casino after losing playing slots

Police arrested a woman accused of calling in a bomb threat to the Seminole Hard Rock casino in Tampa after she lost hundreds while playing the slot machines. Clearwater police said Adele Belizaire of Spring Hill got mad after she lost $380 in the slot machines at the casino. When Belizaire returned to her hotel room on Clearwater Beach around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, investigators said “her self-admitted anger issues got the best of her.” That’s when she called the casino from her cell phone and said she left a bomb on the property. Authorities at the casino contacted Clearwater police, who worked to identify Belizaire and confirm where she was staying. Officers arrested her early Wednesday at her hotel and booked her into the Pinellas County Jail. She is charged with making a false report about planting a bomb, explosive or weapon of mass destruction.

Bettors File Lawsuit Against Bob Baffert & Medina Spirit Owners for Racketeering Fraud

Attorneys for four bettors filed a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court in California late Thursday against Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, his company and Zedan Racing, owners of Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit. The bettors are suing Baffert for racketeering and fraud, alleging that Medina Spirit’s win in the Derby constituted illegal gambling. Days after winning, the horse tested positive for Betamethasone, a steroid that reduces inflammation but is not allowed within two weeks of racing because it helps to serve as a masking agent to more serious doping drugs. If a second sample comes back as positive, Medina Spirit will be stripped of the win and its owners would be forced to return the $1.86 million winner’s prize. That’s not the case for the bettors. Anyone who bet on Medina Spirit would get to keep their money and anyone who bet on the presumptive new winner Mandaloun would not be given credit.

“Bettors…rely on participants’ representation that they comport with these laws, regulations and rules in order to properly determine which horses to be on,” the lawsuit reads. “Defendants and other owners and trainers intend that bettors rely on these representations in order to encourage wagering in racing, thereby increasing the purse total.” The bettors, Michael Beychock, Justin Wunderler, Michael Meegan and Keith Mauer, all had Mandaloun in their betting combinations. The two largest bettors — Beychok and Wunderler — said they would have made in between $10,000 and $100,000 if Mandaloun won the Derby or was given the win in the betting world. The bettors ask for the money that they say is rightfully deserved plus additional damages, among other things.

Lincolnshire taxi firm manager jailed for fraud over gambling addiction

A Boston taxi firm manager who stole his company’s COVID bounce back loan has been jailed for two years and eight months (32 months). James Lloyd, 39, successfully applied for the loan on behalf of the firm and within days of the money arriving in the company bank account he transferred it into one of his personal accounts. Lloyd turned to online gambling at the start of lockdown to boost his family income, as at the time he was off work after contracting a lung disease and his wife’s hairdressing salon was closed because of the COVID restrictions. 

He was trusted by the owners of Angels Taxis based in Boston, and was a signatory on the company bank account and was given company bank accounts. But his gambling spiralled out of control and he stole over £140,000 to fund his habit. Lucy Jones, prosecuting, told Lincoln Crown Court that Lloyd was a friend of Julian and Toni Vines, who owned the company, and was trusted to manage the taxi firm. She said “It gave him the opportunity to access the company’s funds and fund his addiction to gambling. “From December 2018 up until the police became involved in August 2020 the defendant spent over £208,000 on gambling websites.

Another Win-River Casino Elderly Winner Robbed, Attacked in California 

An elderly man was kidnapped, beaten up, and robbed Saturday after winning money at Redding, Calif.’s Win-River Resort & Casino. /KHSL/, a local TV station, reported the unnamed victim was forced to give a ride to a man.  Both had been at the casino. When they reached a wooded area in Redding, the bandit ordered the victim into the woods. The suspect then “violently assaulted” the man, Shasta County Sheriff’s deputies said. The victim struggled with the 6 foot, 220-pound suspect. But the older man was again attacked and lost consciousness. He also lost blood from his injuries. Upon wakening in the woods, he realized the suspect had stolen much of the money the man had won at the casino. Still, he soon was able to contact Shasta County Sheriff’s deputies. 

They discovered the suspect had gotten a ride from a driver of a pickup truck. Deputies later located the suspect. He was identified as Anthony Marcell RobbinsWray, 29, of Shasta Lake, Calif. *He admitted to assaulting the man, deputies were quoted by /KHSL/. Most of the man’s casino winnings were still in RobbinsWray’s possession upon his arrest.* Upon checking Win-River surveillance video, the suspect was at the casino earlier, /KHSL/ said. The clothes he was wearing while at the casino were later located at the residence where he was arrested, deputies said. RobbinsWray was arrested for assault, robbery, elder abuse, and kidnapping with the intent to commit robbery, /KHSL/ said

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

Guest Article: Missouri Draws Criticism for failing to pass Smoking Ban at Casinos during Global Pandemic

Casino Watch Focus has reported on local and nationwide efforts to institute smoking bans at casinos during the pandemic.  Not only is this a very clear way to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, it also offers many other health benefits to those that frequent casinos.  As such, efforts were taken to bring the matter up to the Missouri Gaming Commission.  As one Southwestern editorial notes however, the Commission has instead chosen to gambling with public health…

When the COVID-19 pandemic quickly spread last year, a number of businesses, including casinos, temporarily shut down.

Consistent with developing health protocols for re-opening, such as frequent disinfection of surfaces, requiring face masks, and providing hand sanitizer stations, over 140 casinos in 23 states also prohibited smoking. Managers recognized face masks were of little value if smokers pull them down while smoking. Several managers also recognized the public health risk of exposing people to secondhand smoke. So, what about Missouri?

Sadly, not one Missouri casino adopted this health measure. Even so, Section 313.812.14 of the state gaming law requires the Missouri Gaming Commission to take punitive action against a casino licensee that acts or fails to act in a manner that is “injurious to the public health.”

In May of 2020, the gaming commission was asked to give attention to this clause. This request was accompanied with information about long established medical science that exposure to secondhand smoke is a causal factor for heart attack, lung cancer, emphysema and stroke.

Also provided was a report that found air quality in Missouri casinos rated as “unhealthy” and a study that found a nearly 20 percent reduction in medical emergencies when smoke-free policies were implemented across the 26 casinos in Gilpin County, Colorado.

That secondhand smoke is dangerous to employees and patrons should not be news to the commission. In 2009, the National Council of Legislators from Gambling States, of which Missouri is a member, adopted a resolution in support of smoke-free gaming venues. This resolution encouraged state gaming commissions to adopt smoke-free policies as a prerequisite for issuing or renewing licenses.

The commission chose not to discuss the matter… An open records request revealed an email from the attorney stating the commission chair’s position was that their primary mission is to regulate gambling activity facilities in the state and, therefore, is not interested in pursuing a smoking policy for casinos.

Whether a primary mission or not, the law is clear in stating a casino licensee “shall be”, not “may be” subject to punitive measures for “any act or failure to act … that is injurious to the public health.” The law stipulation of “shall be” means this is not a discretionary option for the commission, but a mandated requirement to act in the interest of public health.

Commission data indicates over 7,700 employees in Missouri casinos.

These employees deserve a safe workplace environment free of air pollutants known to cause heart disease and cancer, especially when this exposure is so easily prevented. Sadly, these employees would likely be subjected to retaliation if they spoke up (e.g. have hours cut, be re-assigned to less desirable work shifts, be passed over for raises or promotions, be laid off, etc.).

Thus, they have no voice regarding a totally preventable risk to their health, leaving them the hard choice between a paycheck or their health.

The commission not only has the statutory authority, but also the statutory mandate to protect the public health. Their dereliction of duty endangers the health of employees and patrons by needlessly exposing them to secondhand smoke, a known cause for heart disease, cancer, respiratory diseases and strokes.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 05/24 – 06/06

UMKC Student Charged in March Shooting Death of Man (MO) 

A grand jury has indicted a University of Missouri City student on second-degree murder and armed criminal action counts in the March shooting death of another man over what police called a gambling feud. Zyan Teague, 21, is charged in the March 20 death of 31-year-old Byren Dennie, of Kansas City, the Kansas City Star reported. Officers found Dennie lying in the grass in an empty lot in the Ivanhoe Southwest neighborhood with gunshot wounds. He was taken to a hospital, where he died. Witnesses told police that Teague was among a group of people invited to Dennie’s home after leaving a Kansas City night club, investigators said. The group had been gambling when an argument began that led to a fight outside the home, police said.

Four New York casinos owe $17.7M to the state’s Gaming Commission

The New York State Comptroller’s Office said four casinos still owe the Gaming Commission $13 million in past oversight fees, more than a year after its initial report. The Comptroller’s Office released a report in January 2020 indicating the Gaming Commission had failed to bill and/or collect the fees from four commercial casinos: Rivers Casino & Resort, Lago Resort & Casino, Resorts World, and Tioga Downs Casino. The fees were incurred between April 2017 and March 2019, /News10 /reports. The casinos were billed $9.3 million for the oversight fees in November 2019 and given until December 2019 to make payment. As of May, the Gaming Commission has yet to see any of the billed fees, according to the Comptroller’s report.

2 killed in shooting at casino in San Luis R.C. (Mexico)

Police said two people are dead after armed suspects killed them outside a casino in San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora. According to Tribuna de San Luis, in a video circulating on Facebook, people are seen hiding under tables screaming after the suspects begin shooting at a casino located in Plaza La Herradura. Sources say the shooting happened around 3 p.m. on Monday. In the video, the man says, “They’re shooting,” as you can can hear children and adults screaming in the background. Police say the suspects fled the scene. Mexican officials continue to investigate.

Online gambling: ‘I stole £70,000 to feed my addiction’

“I was about 18 or 19 when I got hooked,” says Danielle. “It started off with a £20 bet online where I won £1,000 and then it got bad really quickly.” Before she knew it, Danielle was using her student loan, overdraft and even phone bill to gamble online. “I was in a bad place and it filled an emptiness in my life. People assume everyone does it to win money or for the excitement, but it stopped me feeling lonely and anxious.” Statistics published by the gambling charity GamCare show that of the 38,404 calls received to its helpline between 2019-2020, six out of ten were from people aged 35 or under. This age group also makes up more than half of those getting treatment, according to The National Gambling Treatment service.

Danielle’s 24 now and says the turning point came last year. “I’d started stealing money from work and the total was almost £70,000 by the time they confronted me about it. “It actually felt like a massive weight off my shoulders to admit it and accept that I needed help.” Danielle lost her job and her case went to court earlier this year. She admitted theft and false accounting and was given a suspended jail sentence and 175 hours of community service. She says she’s been lucky to receive counselling and support from her family since, but thinks more targeted help should be available for young people struggling with a gambling addiction. “There needs to be more education in schools about gambling and money management,” says Danielle. “It’s such a huge problem for people growing up.

Rochester accountant, church treasurer charged with theft of more than $400,000 from church

A Rochester accountant and church treasurer is charged with 12 felonies after she reportedly admitted to church leadership that she had stolen money to fund her gambling addiction. The admission from 62-year-old Patricia Ann Radich came as the church was preparing to do a financial review in May 2020, according to court records. A criminal complaint charging Radich with eight counts of theft by swindle and four counts of theft was filed in Olmsted County District Court on April 12, 2021.

Rochester police were called by Trinity Lutheran Church on May 19, 2020, regarding the theft after Radich admitted to embezzling from the church and provided a spreadsheet of the money she took totaling $183,189.03, according to the criminal complaint. The spreadsheet showed Radich allegedly stole the money between 2016 and 2019 and was done as a result of her gambling addiction. A later audit of the church’s accounting records found checks totaling $422,925.90 that were made out to Radich going back to 2013. The checks appeared to start in 2013 and increased over the years, ending in 2019. A review of Radich’s bank statements revealed that a large amount of the funds that were withdrawn were done so at casinos.

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