Author Archives: casinowatch

GUEST ARTICLE: [Florida] Lawmakers’ Rushed Deal to Expand Casinos in Miami is a Reckless Gamble

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to expand gambling in Florida by authorizing a new, Las Vegas style, destination resort casino. As recently pointed out by the Mason-Dixon poll, the vast amount of voters, 84%, want to either hold the line or actually reduce gambling expansion. When it came to gambling expansion through new casinos, the Florida legislature has typically done as the people have asked and not expanded gambling in this measure. However, that appears to be coming to an end as House and Senate are making a deal to allow a new casino to come to Miami and they are facing huge opposition. The below article is the office Miami Herald Editorial Board position:

After years of an impasse between the House and Senate on expanding casinos in Florida, comes a sudden and unseemly rush to get the job done.

The Legislature needs to slow its roll of the dice. Legislation pushed through in a hurry, without much, if any, public notice or input, is never a good thing….

House and Senate leaders appear to be closing in on a deal to radically revamp Florida’s gambling industry and strike an agreement with the Seminole Tribe in what could be a considerable expansion of gambling throughout the state — and Miami-Dade.

The measure rightly has been met with resistance from gambling opponents. This rush toward a decision in the session’s final days to allow, among other things, a new casino in Miami-Dade has that hush-hush, backroom feel — almost always unwise, and usually at taxpayers’ expense.

Count the Editorial Board among those calling for putting the brakes on this troubling quickie deal. The Board has long opposed turning Miami-Dade into a Las Vegas-style destination — and we continue to do so. Gambling, indeed, can transform communities — often for the worse. Miami-Dade is a progressive community of great accomplishment, but one, too, that already is a magnet for too many dangerous and illicit activities. Casinos won’t help…

Among the opponents of the deal is Armando Codina, one of Miami’s most prominent developers, who told Herald/Times reporter Mary Ellen Klas that he was surprised by the sudden legislative sprint. Codina, chairman of Codina Partners, LLC, a real estate investment and development firm based in Coral Gables, has long been a critic of expanded gambling in the county.

“I’m well-informed, but this surprised me how it was snuck in without any public debate,” said Codina.

He added that while the new gambling revenue would flow to the state and county, it will cost Miami-Dade dearly, leaving the community with the kind of infrastructure and social problems that it is already hard-pressed to handle. We agree. 

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

 

 


New Jersey Petitions Supreme Court to Allow their Overturned Attempt at Legalizing Sports Betting in NJ

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts of New Jersey to legalize sports betting in their state. Its been long the case that sports betting has been limited to Las Vegas as they were grandfathered into legislation that prevented states from allowing sports betting. Time & time again New Jersey has attempted a new way to legalize sports betting and time & time again their attempts have been shot down by the courts. There last was a 2014 law that was also halted by the courts. They are taking the final step with this attempt by making an appear to the Supreme Court. The Times Union explains:  

After an initial 2012 law allowing sports gambling in New Jersey was struck down in court, Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law in 2014 that repealed prohibitions against sports gambling at casinos and racetracks.

That tactic — repealing prohibitions instead of approving gambling — was seen as a way to get around the federal law by not having sports gambling officially authorized by the state.

But that also met defeat at the hands of a federal judge in New Jersey and a federal appeals court in Philadelphia.

In this week’s brief, the state argued the federal government, while able to regulate citizens directly, may not “require the states to govern by Congress’ instruction.”

Put differently, the appeals court’s ruling invalidating New Jersey’s 2014 law violates the Constitution by “authorizing a federal court injunction mandating that a State reinstate prohibitions it has chosen to repeal,” attorneys representing the state wrote.

The Supreme Court is expected to either pick up the case or reject hearing it, thus affirming the lower courts ruling that the law is illegal, within a month.

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


A Brief Look at Crime 12/26 – 01/01

Army Vet Killed Over ‘Poker Room Table Talk,’ 2 Arrested

Two men are behind bars after a U.S. Armyvet was gunned down outside a South Florida casino on Christmas night. Those men appeared in court Tuesday morning. The shooting happened at the Miccosukee Resort and Casino. Investigators say it began with ‘poker room table talk’ that led to an argument between Kenin Bailey, Mikey Lenard and MarineFernando Duarte. “It was poker room table talk, a little poker room talk at the table itself,” said Det. Flavio Rivera with the Miccosukee Police Department at the hearing Tuesday. Duarte was asked to leave the poker room. Later, in the parking lot, police say, they all continued to argue. At one point, investigators say, the two suspects cut off Duarte twice. The second time, Duarte got out of his car and approached the pair. Police say Bailey then opened fire, shooting off 13 rounds

Rugby fraudster tricked couple out of retirement pot to fund gambling 

A CROOKED bookkeeper who has clocked up almost £300,000 worth of frauds over the last 15 years is back behind bars after tricking a couple out of their retirement pot to fund his gambling and high-living. [M]ost of the money had gone on gambling and to pay for luxury holidays to destinations including Barbados, Egypt, Spain, Portugal and Cyprus. “It is very difficult for me to overestimate the impact this has had on the complainants. These were people approaching the end of their working careers, and now money they had worked hard for to put aside for their pensions has simply gone. “I don’t say it’s the sole cause of it, but the couple are no longer together, and [the husband] has lost his job because he was taking so much time off for stress,” said Mr Williams. Brough’s previous convictions included thefts from employers, fraud, forgery and false accounting – and Judge Andrew Lockhart QC commented: “In the 2000s he stole nearly £300,000.

Man sentenced for misusing company credit card for gambling

A Cumberland Township man who recently pleaded guilty to using his former employer’s company credit card to spend about $118,000 on lottery tickets and gift cards last year, was sentenced Thursday to 9 months to 23 months in Greene County Jail, followed by five years of probation. Police wrote in court documents that Kozy admitted he “got carried away” and became addicted to buying lottery tickets and “went extremely overboard” with the credit card. He allegedly told police he did not realize he had spent more than $100,000 with the card. Kozy pleaded guilty to access device fraud and was ordered by Greene County Judge Lou Dayich to pay back the $118,074 by making $300 monthly payments for the first year, and $500 per month after that.

Woman accused of embezzling $100k from wounded vets 

Army investigators arrested a government contractor at San Antonio Military Medical Center on Wednesday and accused her of taking more than $100,000 meant for wounded soldiers from the foundation she volunteers for — the Air Warrior Courage Foundation. According to a complaint filed by an investigator with the Army Criminal Investigation Division, foundation funds were deposited into Charles’ personal account, which she then diverted to pay personal living expenses from April through October of this year. Much of that money she withdrew as cash from automated teller machines at the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino in Eagle Pass, according to the complaint.

Virginia woman gets 5 years in prison in Ponzi scheme 

70-year-old Williamsburg woman has been sentenced to five years in prison in what prosecutors say was a Ponzi scheme through which she swindled more than $1.1 million. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said in a statement that Patricia Means of Williamsburg was sentenced Monday after pleading guilty to wire fraud and money laundering earlier this year. The statement says Means, a retired investment broker, developed a scheme to raise funds for developing a handbag organizer. They say she then used investments from more than a dozen victims on housing, casino trips, vehicles and other personal items. According to the statement, longtime friends of hers were among the victims. Means was also ordered to pay restitution and was sentenced to three years of supervised release.

Veteran Marine gunned down outside Miami casino on Christmas night

A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps was gunned down Christmas night at a South Florida casino. Family members of Fernando Duarte said he was shot while leaving the Miccosukee Casino in Miami. The 33-year-old walked out after winning a prize from a slot machine when he was shot by three gunmen. Duarte was rushed to Kendall Regional Hospital where he later died. Miccosukee police said three people are in custody in connection with the shooting. Detectives did not release their identities or the charges they face. The investigation is ongoing.

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


Online Gambling Ban efforts Hope to find Success in Congress under the upcoming Trump Administration

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to reverse the Obama Administration’s stance on online gambling. Federal Law clearly made the activity illegal but the Obama Administration use the courts to provide a very controversial interpretation of the Wire Act. Many efforts have been made to reverse this course, but none have succeeded under Obama’s Administration. Many believe once he leaves office, there will be real movement in restoring online gambling bans and a new bill has been filed with that very intent. An online source explains: 

Pennsylvania Republican Representative Michael Fitzpatrick has introduced legislation to the US House that would ban online gambling at a federal level.

The “RAWA-esque” bill HR 6453 appeared on Capitol Hill last week, December 7, and is co-sponsored by Representative Bobby Rush (D-Illinois) and longstanding online gaming opponent, Representative Charles Dent (R-Pennsylvania). It’s been coming. The dark clouds began to gather last week when ten attorney generals from states across the US wrote to petition the incoming Trump administration to impose a federal ban on online gambling.

“The risks to our citizens are real and extensive,” explained the AGs. “The ability for youth to access online gaming sites presents a significant risk to teens, a risk more easily mitigated at traditional brick-and-mortar establishments.”

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


A Brief Look at Crime 9/05-9/11

Man shot during card game in Phoenix

Phoenix police are looking for two men after gunshots erupted during a card game Thursday night, sending one man to a hospital with life-threatening injuries. The card game, which police say may be connected to an illegal gambling ring, took place in an abandoned building that was once a hookah lounge near 32nd Street and Cactus Road. Sgt. Vince Lewis, a Phoenix police spokesman, said a friend of the gunshot victim called 911 at 8 p.m. to report an armed robbery. The caller said his friend was shot about 10 minutes earlier. “Violence is not part of our neighborhood,” she said. “We have neighbors that always watch everything and we have good, good people around us. This is very unusual for our side of town.”

Court: Prosecutors had right to seize $800K NFL pool money

An appeals court has upheld a ruling that a New Jersey county had the right to seize more than $800,000 from the operator of an NFL survivor pool. NJ.com reports the court ruled that Monmouth County prosecutors were acting within their authority when they seized cash found in the Parlin home of John Bovery and money from his three bank accounts in 2010. The three-judge panel disagreed with Bovery, who contended that the pools weren’t illegal because he wasn’t taking bets on individual games. A judge wrote that the pools are illegal because they’re a form of gambling that isn’t sanctioned by the New Jersey constitution. Bovery settled his criminal case this spring. His attorney says Bovery plans to petition to the state Supreme Court.

Normandie Casino owners hit with more than million dollar fine for protecting higher roller customers

Former operators of the Normandie Casino in Gardena, California have been hit with more than a million dollar penalty after the casino admitted to violating the Bank Secrecy Act in an attempt to protect its high roller customers from reporting their winnings as per federal law. The casino will now have to turn over $1.4 million which it did not report in high-value transactions to the government and also pay a fine of $1 million for its violations. The casino was sold in July after pleading guilty to the charges in January. The Normandie Casino was one of the oldest casinos in California and opened in the 1940s. The casino admitted that it did not record a number of high-value transactions in 2013 and also was guilty of not adopting and following an effective program to counter money laundering activities in the casino. During a six-week period in 2013, one of the casino’s VIP patrons is reported to have won $1 million from another customer and the casino management did not report these transactions and shielded the identity of the high-roller. The acting special agent responsible for the IRS criminal investigations, Anthony J. Orlando stated that the fines imposed on the Normandie Casino are proof of the government’s seriousness to enforce anti-money laundering laws and ensure that VIP gamblers will not be encouraged to hide their winnings. 

Dad who left kids in car while gambling charged with child abuse

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s Office charged a Ypsilanti father, whom police say left two young children in his car while he gambled, with child abuse Tuesday. Montez D’Angelo Sistrunk, 25, was arraigned Tuesday on two counts of second-degree child abuse after leaving two young children in a vehicle while he gambled at Motor City Casino on Grand River in Detroit for nearly an hour, according to a statement issued by Worthy’s office. “An employee of the casino observed the children and alerted a security guard who removed the children from the car,” the statement said. Detroit police said the children were 5 months old and 2 years old. Sistrunk was issued a $75,000, 10 percent bond.

Gambling with the gov’t’s dime: Pentagon employees used work credit cards at casinos, strip clubs

It’s no surprise that government workers like to party – just look at the myriad Secret Service and Drug Enforcement Agency scandals. Even the Pentagon has gotten in on the action, with employees using government travel cards at strip clubs and casinos. Not only did Defense Department employees improperly use their work credit cards, but their supervisors failed to take appropriate action after discovering the malfeasance, a report by the Pentagon’s inspector general found. The investigation was a follow-up audit of a previous report, which discovered that the military racked up 5,000 charges at casinos and strip clubs totaling more than $1 million over the course of a year. 

Normandie Casino Owners Ordered to Pay $2.4 Million for Violating Bank Secrecy Act

The Normandie Casino in Gardena, California is no more, but its former owners are still on the hook for a $2.4 million penalty. In January, the owners of California’s oldest card club pled guilty to violating the Bank Secrecy Act and admitted to hiring independent gaming promoters to attract high-rollers. The casino also confessed to deliberately failing to file the proper transaction reports. Owned by the Miller family since 1947, the Normandie casino owners found out their sentencing fate last week. United States District Judge James Otero ordered the Millers to pay $500,000 for each of the two counts of failing to report large cash transactions and maintain an effective anti-money laundering program. Otero also ordered the Normandie casino to forfeit $1,383,530, which represents numerous unreported transactions in 2013. The Bank Secrecy Act requires casinos to report details of individual transactions over $10,000. “Our money laundering laws were enacted to prevent criminals from concealing the source of large sums of cash generated by illegal activity,” United States Attorney Eileen Decker said in a statement. “Casinos and card rooms such as Normandie are cash-intensive businesses that are particularly attractive for use by criminals seeking to launder their ill-gotten gains, so they must be vigilant in meeting their obligations under those laws,” Decker explained.

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


A Brief Look at Crime 5/16 – 5/29

First he started gambling. Then he started to disappear. And then he was found dead.

Purna Gurung survived nearly two decades in a refugee camp before he arrived in Clarkston. Those who knew him thought he was bound to succeed. Then Purna started playing video gambling machines. And then he started to disappear. Within two years of his arrival he was found locked inside his apartment bathroom bleeding to death, a police report states. He had slit his wrists and neck and stabbed himself in the abdomen. His wife told investigators they were three months behind on rent and Purna had been out of work for six months. “I didn’t believe it,” his brother Mongal Gurung said. “He was my brother, and best friend, too.” “He wore clean clothes. He was well dressed. No one thought something was going on in his life,” Sharma said. But to Mongal, Purna seemed a little withdrawn. A mutual friend told Mongal about Purna’s gambling, and Mongal decided to confront him.“You need to slow down,” Mongal recalled telling him. “It’s not a place you need to be spending money.” Only after Purna’s suicide did others learn he had been leaving his wife alone with their new daughter to gamble, and they remained unaware of the purported depth of his financial troubles during a recent AJC interview. But visits to any gas station in Clarkston are a reminder of the power of the games. Gamblers stand at the terminals mesmerized.“They forget everything,” Mongal said. “They forget food to eat and water to drink.”

Heroin money laundered at casinos

A 31-year-old Felton man, Deangelo Mcglotten, is the “ringleader” of a large-scale heroin distribution effort that a two-year police investigation just broke apart, authorities said announcing the indictment of Mcglotten and 12 other people on drug, conspiracy, racketeering and money laundering charges. Police also said the investigation uncovered a money-laundering scheme that sent proceeds of illegal drug sales through casinos. A Georgetown businessman, Salman Choudhary, 37, was charged with involvement in organized crime, racketeering, money laundering, attempting to evade tax and failing to file tax returns. He was held on a bond of $1.7 million, the largest cash bond of any of the people indicted after what authorities called “Operation Duck Hunt. In all, police confiscated 1.75 kilograms of heroin during the investigation, with a street value of $1.2 million, Bratz said. On May 11, police arrested eight people, including Mcglotten, Choudhary, Felix and Coverdale.

Woman, who says she embezzled to pay for gambling, must pay $500K in restitution

An admitted problem gambler who paid for her addiction by embezzling funds belonging to the city of Oklahoma City was ordered Monday to pay nearly $500,000 in restitution. “The addiction was strong,” Renne M. Magerus told an Oklahoma City federal judge during the sentencing. “What were you thinking?” U.S. District Judge David L. Russell asked her at one point. “I wasn’t thinking,” Magerus replied, “(I was) covering up my gambling addiction.” Prosecutors alleged that while Magerus was employed as an accounting manager for Republic Parking System she embezzled nearly $420,000. Republic Parking System manages downtown parking garages and lots for the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority. The city of Oklahoma City created the authority, or COTPA, in 1966.

Securities fraudsters who stole from 100M people to be extradited

Two Israeli men accused of securities fraud and hacks into media outlets and nine financial institutions, including JPMorgan Chase, Fidelity Investments and E*Trade Financial Corp., will be extradited to the U.S., according to Bloomberg. The extradition was approved by an Israeli court opening the path for Ziv Orenstein and Gery Shalon to face trial following their arrest in July at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice. The two men, along with a third non-Israeli, also face charges related to identity theft, unlawful internet gambling and money laundering that netted them hundreds of millions of dollars.

Hamburg bookkeeper sent to prison for stealing $260,000 from employer 

A bookkeeper from Hamburg who betrayed the trust of two employers by embezzling from them was sentenced Thursday to up to eight years in prison, but not before she was excoriated in Erie County Court by her victims’ family and the judge. “This was someone we regarded as not just an employee but a friend,” Jarrett Gilden said of Joan Joyce. Joyce, 57, worked for ECC Electrical Construction, a company Gilden’s father built, when she stole $263,135 to support her gambling addiction. She pleaded guilty in February to one count of second-degree grand larceny for the theft and five counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing for lying about her illicit income on her state income tax forms.

Vegan fugitives ‘finally caught’ for failing to pay employees, stealing $2M from investors 

The owner of a high-end vegan business and her husband who skipped town last year were indicted Thursday for leaving their employees out to dry and stealing from investors, then using $2 million to gamble and shop. Sarma Melngailis and Anthony Strangis were arrested in Tennessee and will be brought back to New York to face charges on a 24-count indictment. Melngailis, 43, and Strangis, 35, allegedly failed to pay 84 workers of Pure Food & Wine and One Lucky Duck in Chelsea Market and Gramercy over $40,000 in wages, stole $844,000 from four investors, didn’t pay $400,000 in taxes and spent $2 million at Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun Casinos, luxury jewelry, trips to Europe and Uber rides.  January 2015, paychecks bounced, leaving 98 workers without pay. They refused to work, despite the owner’s urgings, and the business closed, prosecutors said. In addition, Melngailis and her corporations failed to remit the required state sales taxes from the beginning of 2014 through the demise of the business for a total of sales tax due of $409,987.56, according to the indictment.

Bus company involved in fatal Texas crash repeatedly failed safety checks 

The bus company involved in a crash that killed eight people and wounded 44 [on its way from San Juan to a casino in Kickapoo] Texas had been repeatedly rebuked in recent years for safety failings. OGA Charters, the company operating the coach involved in the crash yesterday morning, was caught violating safety codes for drivers and vehicles at least 15 times in the last two years. In the most serious incident, the company was ordered to sideline a bus in May 2015 due to faulty brakes, only for the same bus to be ordered off the road in August when the problem was not fixed. OGA Charters, the bus company involved in the fatal crash in Texas yesterday, had been repeatedly flagged for safety violations in the last two years including faulty brakes on its coaches.


John Sowinski: Compact is a #BadDealforFlorida

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the newly signed gambling compact between Florida Gov. Scott and the Seminole Tribe. The scrutiny of this massive $3 billion piece of gambling expansion legislation will continue to build as more sources dissect the material, but the following guest article by the President of No Casinos provides an instruction to many of the opposition’s criticisms:

When state lawmakers approved the original 2010 gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe, they promised Florida residents it would serve as a firewall against the further expansion of gambling. The proposed renewal of the compact is a complete violation of that trust.

In fact, the renegotiated compact will lead to the largest gambling
expansion in state history, taking South Florida in the direction of Las Vegas and Atlantic City while creating pressure to build casinos in the rest of the state.

As negotiated, the compact would allow the tribe to add more games in more locations and convert its facilities into full-scale Vegas-style
casinos. It also would allow for two nontribal slots casinos, including
an expansion into Palm Beach. Those would be added to a market that industry experts say already is oversaturated with pari-mutuel casinos.

Carving out special deals for gambling operators in Palm Beach and
Miami-Dade counties only will create demands for casino expansion in other parts of the state, from the Panhandle to Tampa Bay to Southwest Florida. Judging by reactions to the compact from some legislators and lobbyists, that process already has begun. History has demonstrated numerous times that gambling can’t be expanded, even a little, without it leading to more gambling than promised: It’s called gambling creep.

Even the notoriously pro-gambling *South Florida Sun-Sentinel*
recognizes this deal will expand gambling. Its recent editorial calls
the compact, “a coup for gambling lobbyists,” and notes that, “There is no denying that the agreement continues the gambling-creep that has affected Florida since voters cleared the way for the lottery in 1986 and racinos with slot machines in 2004.”

This compact threatens our family-friendly tourism brand, the most
successful in the world. The compact promotes a business model that
invites crime, addiction, government corruption and other social ills — costing the state far more than the revenue it produces.

We also have seen again and again the consequences when governments become dependent on gambling revenues. As that revenue flattens out or even declines, states respond with even more gambling or other concessions such as tax cuts or bailouts. One *newspaper story* said it best, “Every state that has allowed casinos to come in as a salve for their budgetary woes still have their budgetary woes.”

Florida is experiencing a strong economic resurgence and is diversifying its economy. It has abundant budget surpluses and is among the most financially stable states in the nation. We didn’t achieve that because of gambling and we won’t be a better state for allowing gambling to expand. That all begs the question: Why are we doing this?

This compact is a bad deal for Florida’s residents, businesses and
economy. We encourage Florida legislators to side with Florida voters who have consistently and overwhelmingly rejected this path for our state.

John Sowinski is president of NoCasinos.org.

 

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