Author Archives: tjdy

Hurricane Irma Brings out the Worst in Feuding Florida Casinos

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the desire for the gambling industry to push new casinos into Florida and to the benefit of Florida families, most of the efforts to expand gambling, especially through full-scale Vegas-Style casinos, has failed. More recently, reports have surfaced that the industry really views gamblers as prey and they seek out specifically target the must vulnerable. So to some degree, its shouldn’t seem shocking to learn that at a time when communities should come together, like after a major hurricane that rocks an entire state, casinos are instead fighting over who has the right to prey on whom. This unbelievable story centers around one casino actively trying to attract the gamblers from anther casino whose property was damaged as a result of Hurricane Irma, and the classless media fighting and jabs they took at each other. Mardi Gras Casino is closed due to damage and nearby Gulfstream Park Racing is doing everything it can to lay claim to their gamblers. An online source reports:

The two casinos have long been sworn rivals, and are regularly in hot competition for sixth place (out of eight) in Florida’s pari-mutuel market. And while there may be little wrong with healthy competition, Mardi Gras contends its old foe is being exploitive, and has taken things too far.

According to the /Miami Herald/, since the hurricane hit the state on Sep. 10, Gulfstream has been advertising that it will honor loyalty coupons Mardi Gras gives to top players offering free slots play.

“It is sad and pathetic, but not surprising,” Mardi Gras PresidentDan Adkins told the /Herald/. “It’s so sad when you have a community hat’s battered and someone feels like now’s the time to be an opportunist. It’s indicative of their nature and that’s OK with me.”

But Gulfstream Park’s assistant GM Ernie Dellaverson says Adkins is being a bit disingenuous.

“We’re just doing something that’s been done since the beginning of casino marketing,” he says. “If the roles were reversed, I’d expect them to do [the same]. It’s about helping the players, and I haven’t heard a complaint so far.”

As if those actions and comments weren’t shocking and damaging enough, the fighting for Florida families in the wake of a natural disaster got even uglier when the focus was centered on the competition that would follow after the Mardi Gras casino reopened. The sad display continued through the previous source: 

Adkins contends Gulfstream is still sore about being beaten to the sixth spot in casino earnings this year, albeit by a photo finish. Mardi Gras posted $51 million in gross gaming revenue for the first half of 2017, compared to Gulfstream Park’s $50 million.

But ultimately, Adkins says he believes his casino will win in the long run because it has a certain Buddhist spiritual principle of cause and effect on its side. “Here at Mardi Gras we have a little friend named Karma,” he said.“When we rise from the ashes, the grandeur of Mardi Gras, along withKarma, will more than overcome these senseless, childish opportunists.” Although, for such a believer in Karma, he must be asking what he did in a previous life for his casino to get trashed by a hurricane while the other one a mile up the road is doing just fine. “When we reopen,” he said, “we’re going to go back to kicking their ass.” 

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

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A Brief Look at Crime 09/18 – 09/24

Dramatic moment armed cops stormed Las Vegas casino in hunt for ‘active shooter’ after Mayweather v McGregor fight 

Dozens of cops stormed the Cromwell Hotel as panic spread among thousands of fans who descended on Sin City for the blockbuster contest. A video shot by super-middleweight star Eubank Jr shows officers drawing their weapons and shouting “hold that door” as they charge towards the venue in what was treated as an “active shooter” scenario. Footage shows hundreds of people cowering on the floor inside the Cromwell Hotel before cops and security order everyone to evacuate the building. DailyMail.com reported that it is believed a brawl had broken out near the casino entrance which led to heavy ornamental statues being knocked over – causing the loud noises which sparked the panic. Cops later confirmed no active shooter was on the loose.

Woman receives life sentence for husband’s murder

A 49-year-old Sand Lake area woman convicted of first-degree murder in the death of her husband will spend the rest of her life in prison. Duram was convicted of first-degree murder and a felony firearm charge in the shooting death of her husband, 46-year-old Martin Duram. The man was shot five times in May 2015 at the couple’s Ensley Township home, police said. Officers arrived at the home to find Martin Duram dead and Glenna Duram with a bullet wound in her head. She was transported to a hospital for treatment, and survived. The scene was initially reported to be a suicide. Police suggested financial issues may have led to a fight between the Durams. Their probe into the incident looked at the couple’s gambling habits and the fact that their home was in foreclosure.

Hermosa Beach Ironman champ gets probation for role in gambling, narcotics ring

Five-time winner of the Hermosa Beach Ironman competition, Jeff Bellandi, was sentenced last week to three years probation including eight months of house arrest for his role in a criminal gambling and money laundering ring. Bellandi, also a co-owner of Waterman’s on Pier Plaza, reportedly served as a bookmaker for Owen “O-dog” Hanson, a Redondo Union High School graduate and former USC football player, who faces a minimum of 20 years in prison. Bellandi pled guilty in January to operating an illegal gambling business and money laundering, though none of the charges traced back to the popular Hermosa Beach bar. According to federal prosecutors with the Southern District of California, Bellandi set up a shell corporation and laundered roughly $4.1 million in cash for Hanson that was obtained through illegal gambling proceeds and narcotic sales.

West Salem woman pleads guilty to embezzling over $800,000 from Onalaska church

A West Salem woman has pleaded guilty to financial and tax crimes in a scheme to defraud an Onalaska church of $832,210. Snyder served as the secretary and accounting clerk for the church, and the embezzlement she’s accused of took place between 2006 and 2015. Snyder took a portion of the church’s funds during that time and used them for gambling, according to Acting U.S Attorney Anderson. To avoid detection, Snyder discarded records of church collections, created false entries in accounting records and lied to church auditors, Anderson said. Snyder filed a false Individual Income Tax Return for 2015, where she underreported her gross income, Anderson said.

Man killed in shooting at Hon-Dah Casino

A man was killed around 10 a.m. Monday during an apparent failed armored car robbery attempt the Hon-Dah Resort Casino and Conference Center. The incident was a second violent incident in more than a month at the White Mountain Apache Tribe-owned resort and casino. The FBI’s Phoenix office, along with Bureau of Indian Affairs officials, said a cash courier making a stop at the Hon-Dah Resort Casino was approached by a man who sprayed her with an unidentified chemical irritant. The courier then reportedly pulled her pistol and shot the man on the spot at the front door of the casino, where he fell and died a short time later. No one else was injured in the shooting and no one else is suspected in the robbery attempt, Phoenix FBI representative Jill McCabe said. “The cash carrier was treated on scene and is expected to be OK,” she said. The FBI has not yet released the name of the deceased man, but plans to do so pending notification of his family.

Online gambling firm 888 hit with record £7.8m penalty

Online gambling firm 888 is to pay a record penalty of £7.8m after it failed to protect vulnerable customers. The Gambling Commission said there were “significant flaws” in the firm’s social responsibility processes. The regulator highlighted a technical failure which meant 7,000 customers who had chosen to bar themselves from their 888 accounts were still able to gamble. Another customer bet more than £1.3m over 13 months before he was identified as having a problem. Sarah Harrison, chief executive at the Gambling Commission, said the penalty would ensure that “lessons are learnt”. Part of the penalty package will be used to repay £3.5m in deposits made by the customers who had self-excluded themselves when they wanted to stop gambling.

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


Florida’s Voters in Charge Petition Reaches 200K Signature and Receives addition backing by Disney

Casino Watch Focus has reported on Voter’s In Charge petition for Florida voters. The idea is simple, voters should have the final say in gambling expansion. It shouldn’t be enough for legislators to pass gambling expansion, in especially in an era of backroom deals and cronyism. They believe when an issue has such a drastic impact on Florida families, specifically gambling expansion, the final decision should be left to the voters. So far the petition has passed all the normal steps on its way being on the ballot, including a look by the Supreme Court. Its now being reported that an important milestone is being reached and additional support continues. An online source reports: 

Disney Worldwide Services, part of the Disney entertainment empire, contributed another $600,000 in August into a Florida ballot initiative that could make it harder to expand gambling in the state. This, according to a newly filed campaign-finance report.

As of Aug. 31, Disney had contributed $1.75 million of the $1.98 million raised by a political committee known as Voters In Charge. The group is at the forefront of efforts to get the initiative on the November 2018 ballot. The initiative would change the Florida Constitution by giving voters the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling” in the state.

The political committee needs to submit a total of 766,200 petition signatures to get on the ballot. As of Sept. 11, it had submitted 216,469 signatures, according to the state Division of Elections website. The committee had spent $1.47 million as of Aug. 31, with the majority of the money going to petition gathering and verification.

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


Unsurprisingly, Casino Lobby Joins New Jersey in Attempt to Sway Supreme Court in favor of Legalized Sports Betting

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many attempts by New Jersey to legally allow sports betting in their state, despite federal law that makes it illegal. Every attempt made has resulted in the courts shutting down the illegal sports gambling. The case will finally be resolved one way or another later this year when the Supreme Court will examine the issue. The list of opponents of this expanded sports betting is long and includes all the major sports and collegiate organizations such as the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and the NCAA. Not surprisingly, the casino lobby is coming to the side of New Jersey and they have submitted a brief to the Supreme Court. The Washington Examiner reports: 

The American Gaming Association filed a brief on Tuesday supporting Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in his upcoming Supreme Court fight with top U.S. athletic leagues over sports betting. Christie’s team argues that federal law banning sports betting violates states protections under the 10th Amendment. More than two decades ago, New Jersey failed to take advantage of a window in federal law to run sports gambling, but then decided to do so on its own in 2011.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association challenged the New Jersey law, along with the NBA, NFL, NHL, and Major League Baseball. The Supreme Court has yet to set a date for oral arguments this term in the sports gambling case, which will be closely watched as its outcome could change sports gambling rules throughout the country.

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


A Brief Look at Crime 09/04 – 09/10

SCV suspect arrested in online gambling raid pleads guilty

New York prosecutors are whittling away at the list of Santa Clarita Valley men arrested in a massive joint forces series of raids carried out almost two years ago in connection with an illegal $32 million nationwide sports betting ring, The five local men were among 17 suspects across the country indicted Oct. 28, 2015, by a Queens County grand jury on charges of unlawfully operating a highly sophisticated sports gambling enterprise that stretched from New York to California and used offshore-based gambling websites. According to the grand jury indictment, the online gambling enterprise, which is alleged to have booked more than $32 million in bets annually, is also accused of laundering its criminal proceeds by depositing and withdrawing large sums of cash from various banks throughout the United States. Members of a multi-agency police operation led by New York Police Department investigators surrounded a Saugus home Oct. 28 and arrested Irani, alleged to be the ring’s kingpin, law enforcement officials said.

Wedding planner conned dozens of couples out of £130k to feed gambling addiction

A wedding planner conned dozens of couples out of £130,000 to feed his gambling addiction and then jetted off to a holiday in Ibiza. Craig Williamson is facing jail after ruining his victims’ dream weddings, who had booked their big day at a grand castle setting. Williamson worked at Guthrie Castle in Angus but he took his victims’ money and failed to record their bookings, the Daily Record reports. As a result, some weddings were double or triple-booked and other couples were left in limbo, not sure whether their big day would go ahead.The castle’s owner, American businessman and multi-millionaire Dan Pena, has paid more than £130,000 from his own pocket to cover refunds and honour bookings taken by the conman. At Dundee Sheriff Court yesterday, gambling addict Williamson, 42, admitted fraud between July 16, 2015, and April last year.

Jack Entertainment fined $200,000 by Ohio Casino Control Commission for Underage Gambling

Jack Entertainment will pay a $200,000 fine to the Ohio Casino Control Commission for allowing underage patrons into the Cleveland casino and giving unauthorized employees access to the computer management program for the Cleveland and Cincinnati casinos. “We acknowledge the significance of the matters identified by the Ohio Casino Control Commission and take our compliance with their important operational policies and procedures seriously,” Matt Cullen, Jack chief executive officer, said in a statement. “We have swiftly taken steps to respond to these issues and will continue to work with the Commission to ensure ongoing compliance.” Both issues arose last year after Jack Entertainment took over ownership of the casinos from Caesar’s Entertainment Corp., said commission spokeswoman Jessica Franks. “We found a number of cases where underaged individiuals were allowed on the property,” she said. “We get that you will never have 100 percent compliance in keeping out minors and the Cleveland casino has unique features,” she said. “But we found that basically the security personnel were not following procedures that are supposed to be followed to screen out individuals.”

Trio embezzled $750K – Probation for former seniors director; casino employee, mother await sentencing

Three Atmore women recently entered guilty pleas in two separate federal court cases to charges they collectively embezzled more than $750,000 from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. According to a press release issued by Steve Butler, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, 54-year-old Carolyn Dortch was sentenced on August 4 to serve five years on probation for using her former position to steal tribal money. Court documents show that Dortch was employed as Poarch’s senior services director from around 2010 until October 2016. She was in charge of the tribe’s Seniors Active in Learning (SAIL) Center, which provided numerous activities for seniors such as meals on wheels, games, crafts and outings. The Atmore woman was responsible for purchasing food and supplies and for handling tribal money on senior trips. In October 2016, tribal accountants discovered that Dortch had been apparently “misusing her position of employment and submitting falsified receipts representing fictitious purchases.” Federal Bureau of Investigation agents took over the probe and discovered that over a six-year period Dortch had embezzled more than a half-million dollars from the tribe and used the money for personal gain.

Gambling addict who defrauded company out of £1.7m ordered to pay almost £800k

An online gambling addict has been ordered to repay almost £800,000 after defrauding her employers of more than £1.7 million. Tracey Stevenson, 54, from Arlington Way, Thetford, Norfolk, was instructed to pay back £786,766.38 to refurbishment contractors Ecsec Ltd in Newmarket. Stevenson had been found guilty of fraud at Cambridge Crown Court in July last year, but the same court had a confiscation proceeding on Friday, August 11 and determined that amount. Stevenson had fraudulently diverted in excess of £1.7 million from the company’s bank accounts, which she used to buy two houses in the UK and one in Spain, as well as fund an addiction to online gambling. She committed these crimes between 2011 and 2016. Her criminal activity was uncovered after Ecsec Ltd suffered from cash flow problems in January and launched an investigation, which caused Stevenson to go on sick leave. The account manager’s lies were uncovered however, when her husband discovered a suicide note that confessed the crimes. He later told the company bosses.

NM woman pleads guilty to stealing $400K for child care meal money

Capitan woman pleaded guilty last week to embezzling $400,000 in federal money meant to reimburse child care centers for meals provided to kids. Gina McPherson, 50, faces up to 10 years in federal prison after admitting she stole the funds while working as the manager of the day care center for employees’ kids at the Inn of the Mountain Gods resort near Ruidoso. According to a criminal complaint against her, McPherson tried to deny she stole the money but ultimately admitted to an FBI agent that she took it to pay for her gambling addiction. “McPherson acknowledged having a gambling problem and stated, ‘I felt like I gave them back everything I took from them … gambling it back,’ referring to gambling losses McPherson incurred at (the resort) and other Native American casinos,” FBI agent Lisa Kite Hill wrote in the complaint.

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

 


Online Gambling Industry has Tools to Help Low-Income & Problem Gamblers; Chooses to Target & Prey on them Instead

Casino Watch Focus recently reported that gambling lobbyist finally admitted that casinos prey on customers. In a comment meant to say casinos hope more to prey on tourist, than the local residents, the well-understood relationship between casinos and gamblers was painted in a truthful light. Its clear the industry needs gamblers to make money, but it can be rather upsetting to learn just how they truly view them. Now it appears the online gambling community finds itself in a similar position. A recent study has shown that the online gambling industry has the tools to identify the most vulnerable of gamblers, yet they don’t help them, they pursue them. Consumer Affairs online reports: 

Focusing on practices in the United Kingdom, the Guardian reports that the gambling industry often takes data from third-party companies to serve online gambling ads to low-income consumers or those who have struggled with gambling addiction. One digital marketer detailed his experience of working with one such betting company.

“Third-party data providers allowed us to target their email lists with precision. Lower-income users were among the most successfully targeted segments,” he said. “We could also combine segments, ie we could target users who are on less than £25k a year, own a credit card and have three kids, via these providers.” 

Its upsetting to think the industry has no moral issue with targeting those most vulnerable, but to some its shocking. They promote the idea that gambling is an entertainment provided for people of the community to have a good time. They publicly preach messages of responsible gambling and offer 888 numbers and resources to help those in need, yet privately, they secretly target them as sustainable and easy money making prey. Consumer Affairs continues: 

The practices of these gambling sites bring up some interesting ethical implications when it comes to digital marketing. One could argue that serving a targeted ad to get someone to buy a product they could be interested in is harmless, but can the same be said for serving an ad to someone who is desperate or struggled with gambling in the past? According to some consumers, the answer is a definite no. In the Guardian report, several people say that bookmakers are purposely taking advantage of its targeted audience to promote their business.

“It just reaffirms my belief that the betting industry has no moral compass and are capable of exploiting the vulnerable in order to obtain the last pound out of them,” said Carolyn Harris, Labor MP for Swansea East in the UK. “They are actively seeking out those who can least afford to be involved in gambling. I’m absolutely aghast that they use these hostile techniques in order to suck the life out of people. If we were to offer free cocaine to an addict, they’d find it very difficult to decline. The betting industry knows this and they are by token doing exactly the same thing.” 

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

 


A Brief Look at Crime 08/21 – 09/03

Alleged murder victim lost $5,500 at casino just prior to fatal crash

Caesars Windsor surveillance footage shows Andrew Witt making repeated withdrawals from an ATM and expressing his grief over failed bets — including the loss of $2,500 on one roll at the craps table just minutes before leaving the casino, a jury heard Wednesday. Less than an hour later, the 55-year-year-old Witt was dead after riding as a passenger in a vehicle driven by his best friend Andrew Cowan, who is now on trial in Superior Court facing a charge of first-degree murder. Cowan, 45, who survived the Oct. 21, 2012 crash, has claimed both were attempting to commit suicide after leaving the casino when he piloted an F-150 pickup at a high rate of speed through a flower bed which he used as a ramp to go airborne and smash into a building in the 200 block of Talbot Street West in Leamington.

Ex-Winnebago Tribal Council member sentenced for casino theft

A former Winnebago Tribal Council member indicted last summer in a conspiracy to steal from the tribe’s casino got five years of probation at his sentencing Monday in federal court in Omaha. Lawrence Payer pleaded guilty to misapplying funds belonging to an Indian gaming establishment. According to the federal indictment, the defendants granted themselves funds from the Winna Vegas Casino without accounting for them through the tribe’s payroll department or approving their distribution at a regular tribal council meeting. The distributions to defendants were paid through the use of casino gift certificates and pre-paid debit cards paid for by the casino. The total amount of gift certificates issued to the defendants in 2013 and 2014 was $87,000. The total amount loaded to the debit cards of the defendants in 2013 and 2014 was $240,500.

Suspect blames Silver Sevens attempted robbery on gambling debt

A man accused of attempting to rob an off-Strip casino cashier’s cage said he had recently lost $5,000 while gambling, according to an arrest report. Las Vegas police said Richard D. Watkins, 41, pointed a gun underneath the iron cage bars at Silver Sevens, 4100 Paradise Road, on Aug. 3 and demanded money from the employees and shot a handgun before he was captured by casino security. Detectives identified Watkins as a suspect through security footage and witness accounts. He had recently lost his job and money while betting at a sports book, according to the Metropolitan Police Department arrest report. “Watkins was clearly upset that he lost money and blamed the state of Nevada for allowing casinos to take his money,” the report said. Watkins faces several charges including attempted murder, attempted robbery with a deadly weapon and burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon. He was jailed in Clark County Detention Center and held without bail as of Tuesday morning.

Ex-nonprofit official to be sentenced for $500K embezzlement

A former finance director of a Providence nonprofit group who pleaded guilty to wire fraud for embezzling more than $500,000 from the organization is set to be sentenced this week. WJAR-TV reports that court documents show Charles Denno is asking a federal judge for a sentence of less than three years at his Friday hearing. Denno pleaded guilty earlier this year. Prosecutors say Denno took at least $550,000 from the nonprofit data analysis organization Providence Plan between November 2012 and July 2016. They say he used money given to the group from the U.S. Department of Education and the Bloomberg Family Foundation and paid it to a business he owned. Denno has acknowledged that he later used the money for personal reasons, including withdrawals at Twin River Casino

Man, 35, murdered outside illegal gambling spot in Trenton

Kryronne Hazel, 35, was found on a sidewalk on the 400 block of Lambeton Street suffering from a gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead a short time later at Capital Health Regional Medical Center, a spokeswoman for the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office said Friday in an email. A 39-year-old man was also struck in his left cheek by the hail of gunfire. Authorities said he arrived at the hospital by personal vehicle. Neighbors described the area where the shooting occurred as a nuisance spot that attracts illegal gambling. “They gamble and stand outside the house on the front stoop,” one neighbor said, noting 15 people at any given time can loiter at the spot playing cards. “Everybody is outside every night. Sometimes late at night, they start screaming.” A couple who lives on the street believes many of the people who hang out at the illegal gambling operation don’t even live in the city. “They come in taxies, they come in big SUVs and they all carry weapons,” the neighbor said. “We’ve had our house shot, my car shot up and my husband’s car has been damaged.” Residents say they are being held hostage in their homes due to the far-too-common crime and shootings in the area. “We can’t sell the house,” said one resident, who lived on the block of Thursday night’s deadly shooting. “We had it on the market for a year and we had one person come and look and it.”

Top Members of Lucchese Crime Family Nabbed in New York Mob Crackdown

In a sweeping organized crime bust, New York investigators arrested 19 people who are alleged leaders and members of the notorious Lucchese crime family. The defendants were charged with a wide range of crimes including narcotics distribution, wire fraud, money laundering, murder, gambling and robbery. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the charges were linked to a racketeering scheme that ran in New York between 2000 and May 2017. The NYPD and the FBI’s Organized Crime Task Force carried out the crackdown. The Lucchese family is among five mafia organizations that have a long history of operating in New York. They are part of La Cosa Nostra, an organized criminal network that started in Italy.

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