Author Archives: tjdy

Editorial: [Florida] Court ruling a wake-up call for better approach to gambling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on recent efforts to expand gambling through the Seminole gambling compact.  Most coverage has been on the widespread online sports gambling expansion, but it also allows for additional gambling expansion.  A recent court case invalidated the compact and the following guest editorial from the Palm Beach Post highlights lessons learned and the importance of following the established constitutional model for any gambling expansion:

On Nov. 22, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney L. Friedrich ordered the U.S. Department of Interior to throw out the 2021 gaming compact Gov. Ron DeSantis reached with the tribe. The judge apparently shared the misgivings of many of the compact’s critics, who saw the deal as a way around the Florida Constitution and federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, to expand gambling in Florida. The ruling not only halts online betting but blocks the tribe’s planned Hard Rock Casino expansions.

The judge made clear he didn’t buy the argument that the tribe could host online sports statewide as long as the servers taking the bets were located on tribal grounds. While recognizing the language of federal law, the judge also upheld the will of Florida voters who amended the state constitution to give them greater say over gambling expansion. 

The ruling puts the state back to square one. Instead of operating under a gaming compact that would give the state $2.5 billion over five years, Florida finds itself under a 20-year compact reached in 2010 when Charlie Crist was governor. The judge’s order doesn’t foreclose online sports betting in Florida but any new compact must limit online betting to Indian lands. The only way those bets can be expanded statewide is through a citizen’s initiative approved by Florida voters.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 12/20 – 12/26

Account stole 129K from Child Abuse Victims’ Center

A former accountant with Kids House of Seminole, a Children’s Advocacy Center in Sanford, was arrested Thursday after having fraudulently obtained $129,231.54 from the non-profit, according to the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office. Carrie Wagner, 61, is accused of using her exclusive access to the organization’s financial resources to knowingly and willingly acquire the money under false and fraudulent pretenses, according to her arrest report. Wagner would print forged payment checks that she would deposit or cash, she would wire herself money through Zelle and she would attempt to cover her tracks by manipulating financial data in QuickBooks, deputies said. According to the arrest report, Wagner turned herself in to law enforcement without incident. During the investigation, detectives said they learned Wagner intended to use the stolen money to gamble at the Hard Rock Casino in Tampa. “It shows the lengths Carrie went to with the intent to permanently deprive Kids House of Seminole, Inc, from $129,231.54 worth of their own funds,” the arrest report said.

Vicksburg man arrested for murdering wife at Riverwalk Casino

A Vicksburg man is in custody after shooting and killing his wife at Riverwalk Casino on Saturday morning. Vicksburg police responded to the scene around 7:00 a.m. Upon arrival, officers found Oceanna Lee-Hubbard, 28, lying in the parking garage suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. The victim’s husband, Cedrick L. Hubbard, 26, was taken into custody in Clinton just before 12:00 p.m. Saturday. Hubbard will be held without bond until he makes his initial appearance in Vicksburg Municipal Court.

Illegal horse racing investigation in Walla Walla County continues, as many as six face potential felony charges 

An investigation into illegal horse racing in rural Walla Walla County is continuing, and as many as six people could face felony charges, the state Gambling Commission said Friday. Suspects’ names and the specific ranch location are not being made public, pending a charging decision by the Walla Walla County Prosecuting Attorney, a news release from the state agency said.

The investigation has been ongoing for over two years. Agents gathered information in October that a ranch near Burbank was allegedly being used for horse racing that included illegal wagering and other suspected illegal gambling on site, the release said. The Gambling Commission’s investigation into the illegal activity began in early January 2019 after a tip from another agency about alleged illegal horse racing and gambling at the location. An undercover special agent attended events to gather information for the search warrant that was served on site in October, the release said.

Woman Sentenced to 2 Years in Prison & Ordered to Pay $170k Following Mountain Bike Company Embezzlement

A woman has been sentenced to 28 months in prison for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft after embezzling $150,000 from a high-end Seattle mountain bike company. An FBI investigation found that Trower used a variety of schemes to steal from company accounts including creating checks using the company software system, claiming expenses and compensation she did not earn, and making transfers from company accounts to accounts she controlled. At one point, Trower transferred more than $26,000 to her account in the span of just a few months in 2018. Trower and her boyfriend used the money to, among other things, gamble at area casinos. Alongside the wire fraud, Trower was also charged for aggravated identity theft after she forged the signature of company executives on fraudulent checks and submitted false invoices.

Woman shot after setting gambling machine on fire in NE Houston, police say

A woman has been hospitalized after being shot during a fight at a convenience store in northeast Houston. While the woman shot is expected to be OK, police said an argument between two women led to the shooting. The victim and second woman were inside a convenience store near some gambling machines. At one point, the victim pulled out lighter fluid and poured it on one of the machines. This led the women to begin arguing. The argument followed onto the parking lot and at some point, the second woman pulled out a gun and shot the victim. One of the women was taken to the hospital and the second woman is on the run. While the relationship between the women is unclear, police say they know each other.

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

Guest article: Casinos – An Addiction Industry in the Mold of Tobacco and Opioid Drugs

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the vast ways that gambling creates addiction and creates numerous social issues. The following guest article was featured in the prominent Illinois Law Review and looks at the creation model in the gambling industry: 

The growing casino industry in the U.S. is built on a model of profitability that bears very close resemblance to two other industries: the tobacco industry and the opioid pain medication industry. While it is rather obvious that all three industries have demonstrated the ability to be consistently profitable, the models used to achieve that profitability are remarkably similar. 

All three industries began with addictive products. Through investments in research and development, they continually refined their product designs to emphasize and amplify addiction as a design element in order to increase profits. In each case, aggressive and deceptive marketing tactics were employed to target vulnerable populations and to normalize their addictive products despite the risks they posed to consumers. 

In each case, these products created substantial social costs. For the tobacco industry this includes the premature deaths of nearly half a million Americans annually, an enormous healthcare burden, and a substantial loss of productivity. For the opioid pain medication industry this includes thousands of deaths, tens of thousands of overdoses and an illicit market for other opioids that create enormous healthcare and criminal justice expenditures funded by tax dollars. 

The casino industry’s products do not directly cause physical harm such as lung cancer or opioid overdose. Rather, this industry’s products are designed to induce consumers to get in “the zone” and “play to extinction.” The impacts on communities caused by casinos are latent, much like the lung cancer that appears in a smoker a quarter century after she takes her first of more than a million puffs. An addicted gambler will potentially experience bankruptcy, divorce, unemployment, and perhaps engage in embezzlement or larceny to keep gambling. The volume of such individuals reduces civic engagement and family stability in communities located in the vicinity of casinos. Other social costs include loss of productivity and healthcare costs associated with comorbidities related to the addiction to casino industry products. 

The accumulation of social costs and misery caused by highly profitable industries may provoke responses in social attitudes and policy. Over the past twenty-five years or so, federal, state, and local policies have regulated and reduced the impact of tobacco industry products. Litigation, too, has had an impact not only on tobacco industry profits but also in increasing transparency regarding tobacco industry behavior through discovery and whistleblower testimony. Such transparency has contributed to a denormalization of that industry’s business model. More recently, the opioid crisis, driven by the opioid pain medication industry, has initiated policymaking as well as thousands of lawsuits against industry leaders. The casino industry, highly reliant upon electronic gambling machines designed to addict consumers may soon find itself in a very defensive legal and policy posture much like the tobacco and opioid pain medication industries which share its business model.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 12/13 – 12/19

Rivers Casino Des Plaines Gambler Claims He Was Robbed After Winning $40K in Cash

A 34-year-old Arizona man claims that after visiting Rivers Casino Des Plaines in Illinois, two assailants robbed him at gunpoint and stole some $40,000 in cash that he had just won while gambling. The alleged victim, Cordero Supe, told police that a woman was chatting with him inside the Chicago suburb casino. He now believes that person might have been involved in the subsequent theft by tipping off the two men who confronted him. Supe says that after exiting the casino with roughly $40,000 in cash winnings at around 2:25 am on November 8, two men wearing bandanas covering their faces approached him in a dark-colored vehicle. They brandished firearms and demanded that he hand them the cash.

Orange County law enforcement officials cracking down on illegal game room activity

Law enforcement officials said our proximity to Louisiana, where gambling is legal, only adds to the confusion. According to Orange County officials, some of the owners of these game rooms make between $100,000 to $130,000 per day. Investigators said most of that money comes in illegally. Operators could end up “paying for playing” if their game rooms are illegal, officials said. “Time is on our side and their time is running out, so we’re going to eventually catch them,” said Orange County Constable Matt Ortego. Ortego calls it a cat and mouse game, one that’s expanding outside of the region. “It’s all across the state,” Ortego said. “It’s not just here in Orange County, you know, what they’re doing is they’re running and jumping in all these different counties that don’t have ordinances that are in place. Judge John Gothia said they eventually had to put their foot down. “For our county, it was getting out of hand and that’s why we implemented new restrictions that went into effect,” Gothia said. Orange County is following the lead of Jefferson County, which has new ordinances and ongoing enforcement.

Online casino could face legal action after sending promotional emails to recovering gambling addicts 

AN ONLINE casino that sent “distressing” promotional emails to recovering gambling addicts could face legal action, a law firm has said. Sky Vegas, owned by Flutter UK&I, apologised (sic) last week after emails were sent by mistake to people who had opted out of betting correspondence. Data breach specialist law firm PGMBM announced today that it was exploring the possibility of bringing legal proceedings on behalf of 120,000 who are believed to have been sent emails offering “free online spins.”

The firm’s legal director Tony Winterburn said: “This mistake could cost people their recovery from gambling. “These emails have already caused harm and distress to those who opted out of receiving gambling promotions for very good reason.” Clean Up Gambling director Matt Zarb-Cousin, who was among those who received the emails, said Sky Vegas’s actions were “inexcusable.” He said: “There is already too much temptation driven by the volume of advertising, so, when someone takes steps to keep themselves away from promotions like this, they should not be force-fed them again.”

Casinos made Macau one of the wealthiest places in the world — but they also brought heightened inequality and crime 

At 32 square kilometers, Macau is just 5% of Singapore’s size. It’s about half the size of Manhattan. Yet it has more than 35,000 hotel rooms, 30 Michelin-star restaurants, and 25 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And it clocks gaming revenues that are six times that of the Las Vegas Strip. With the casinos came a lot of money. Macau is the only place in China where gambling is legal, and casinos have had a strong 20-year run. But the wealth rests in the hands of a few — and that, in turn, is at odds with the government’s “common prosperity” messaging. 

Wealth inequality isn’t the only issue in Macau. For one, there’s crime: According to a paper from  the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies, since the liberalization of casino licensing in 2002, crime has “increased drastically.” There are other social problems, such as a whole generation of young people dropping out of studies to work in the gaming industry because of its financial rewards, according to Robbert van der Mass, director of APAC Hospitality Services Macau. This in turn affects small retail shops and restaurants, many of which have disappeared as they couldn’t compete with salaries offered at casino resorts.

Former federal employee from Syracuse stole more than $100K in SSI benefits

A 34-year-old Syracuse man and former federal employee admitted Thursday to stealing more than $100,000 in Supplemental Security Income benefits, according to federal prosecutors. Sean Okrzesik pleaded guilty to theft of government property and aggravated identity theft, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York. While Okrzesik was employed by the Syracuse office of the Social Security Administration, he opened bank accounts using the names and social security numbers of people who receive SSI benefits, according to federal prosecutors. Okrzesik used the money to pay for video gaming equipment, a custom suit, jewelry, airline tickets to the Caribbean and online gambling, according to prosecutors. In all, Okrzesik took $103,798.77 in benefits, prosecutors said.

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

AGA Seeks Federal Involvement in Illegal Gambling Machines – Calls on Justice Department to Shut them Down

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing battle in Missouri to end the operation of illegal slot machines all over the state.  These machines are designed with the intent of being slot machines in every way, but use a pre-reveal method to try to skirt local gambling laws.  This issue isn’t actually unique to Missouri and now the American Gaming Association is looking to the Justice Department to act on a Federal Level.  An online source explain: 

The AGA wants regulators to intervene in the manufacture of illegal gaming machines. The group cites the Johnson Act as grounds for the government’s intervention. Some of the machines are called skill games, which operate in a grey area in some states.

The American Gaming Association has urged the federal government not to allow illegal gambling machines to be manufactured. In a letter to the Justice Department, Bill Miller, AGA President, and CEO wrote that “support and resources from the Department of Justice and federal law enforcement agencies are critical to eliminating illegal gambling devices from our communities.”

The association is asking the government to adopt a well-established law that requires any company that manufactures, sells or ships gambling devices that are sent across state lines to register with Justice Department. This is similar to what happens in the regulated gaming sector. The Johnson Act is a law that punishes those who violate it. They can face a maximum $5,000 fine and up to two years imprisonment, as well as forfeiture of their machines.

The AGA, which has addressed the issue before, also states that such machines are not compliant with federal anti-money laundering laws, have not been tested or monitored to ensure fairness to consumers, and prey upon the most vulnerable consumers, including problem gamblers and minors who have been excluded from regulated casinos.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 12/06 – 12/12

Girl, 8, molested outside Pa. casino as her relative gambled inside

A 65-year-old man is facing a felony charge after police say he admitted molesting an 8-year-old girl outside a Pa. casino as the girl’s relative gambled inside. It took years for the case to catch up with the accused suspect, Mateo Mejia, 65, of Scranton. The incident took place in the summer of 2016, when an un-named relative of the girl had Mejia drive the pair to the Mohegan Sun Pocono casino. Mejia was supposed to watch the girl in the car while the relative went inside and gambled. The relative was supposedly babysitting the child while her mother worked, police in Plains Township, Luzerne County, told the newspaper. 

Gambling company sued by customers who claim they were cheated out of big payouts

Fourteen gamblers are taking legal action against an online gambling company for allegedly refusing to pay them their full jackpot payouts, according to New Jersey regulators. In one federal lawsuit, filed by Lisa Piluso of Pennsylvania, the gambler claims the company did not pay a $100,000 jackpot she says she had won while playing a slots game on her phone. The company allegedly maintained there was “a bug” in the product. Thirteen other gamblers have claimed they were not given their correct earnings from the gambling company either, regulators said. The “Capital Gains” slot game, played by Piluso on Oct. 2 in 2020, was run on an online platform by Caesars Interactive New Jersey, and the game is manufactured by American Gaming Systems, based in Las Vegas. Piluso’s lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Camden, accuses the gaming company of consumer fraud and other wrongful actions related to the jackpot prize. Neither Caesars casino nor its online division were named as defendants in the suit.

Presque Isle Downs and Casino fined $45,000 for violating alcohol provision of COVID-19 order

Presque Isle Downs and Casino was fined $45,000 Wednesday for allowing a patron to drink on the gaming floor in violation of a statewide order that prohibited bars from selling alcohol unless it was served with a meal. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board on Wednesday approved consent agreements between its Office of Enforcement Counsel and three casino operators resulting in a total of $150,000 in fines. The statewide order — issued on July 16, 2020 and lifted on April 4 — was meant to slow the spread of COVID-19. It was among several mitigation efforts put in place as restaurants and bars were able to resume indoor service.

Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Financial Director Stole $3M, Blew it at Harrah’s 

The former financial director of Kappa Alpha Psi, one of America’s largest Black college fraternities, has admitted to embezzling nearly $3 million from the organization, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Prosecutors say Curtis D. Anderson blew most of the money he stole at Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack. According to court filings, the 58-year-old Claymont, Del. resident began siphoning money from the fraternity in June 2012. Anderson’s MO was simply to write checks from the Kappa Alpha Psi check book to himself or to others whose signatures he faked. He would then exchange them for cash at Santander or Wells Fargo banks. In all, he is accused of cashing 78 bogus checks over a six-year period.

UAW Member to Appear in Court in Case of $2M Embezzlement

Timothy Edmunds has been “temporarily detained” for his suspect involvement of misappropriating $2 million. Investigators were led to Edmunds after finding out that some $142,000 had been redirected to his union debit credit with $30,000 worth of withdrawals at ATMs from 2018 through 2020. The ATMs withdrawals were done at Greektown Casino. Between 2016 and 2020, the investigation alleged, Edmunds had delivered buy-ins north of $1 million, and the total amount of gambling done exceeded $16 million in the four-year span. Handling such amounts should have alerted authorities much sooner, but Edmunds, the investigation claims, was smarter than that. He knew that if he cashed out more than a given amount, he would be reported on the Currency Transaction Report, which is obligatory under the Bank Secrecy Act. Cashing $10,000 of chips at a time, Edmunds seemed to avoid being detected.

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

Florida appeals Seminole Compact Ruling – No Casinos Joins Fight against Unconstitutional Expansion

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to expand gambling through online sports gambling efforts in Florida.  Their constitution required a vote of the people to expand gambling, but a deal negotiated between the Florida government and Seminole Tribe added sports gambling to the compact and allowed for online gambling as well.  They claimed as long as the online servers were on tribal land, anyone could use the online app, thus creating legalized online sports gambling for the entire state.  A federal judge rejected the compact and called the notion “fiction.”  The appeal has been filed and No Casinos has joined the legal fight to help keep the issue suppressedAn online source reports:

No Casinos and a group of south Florida businessmen have joined the legal fight to defend a district court ruling striking down the 30-year gambling compact between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the State of Florida. The Seminole Tribe is appealing the ruling and seeks an immediate stay, which would allow it to legally continue the first-in-Florida sports betting operations it launched on Nov. 1. The compact also authorized the tribe to build new casinos on its property and to offer games such as craps and roulette that were previously illegal in Florida.

John Sowsinki, president of No Casinos, told the Phoenix in a statement provided Tuesday that the tribe should immediately stop its sports-betting operations, which he considers “illegal gambling.” He noted the tribe chose to launch Florida’s first-ever statewide sports betting operation on Nov. 1 despite ongoing litigation and has not halted it despite Judge Friedrich’s order.

Further, No Casinos, Codina, Carr and Braman want sports betting and other gambling expansions authorized in the gambling compact to be shut down permanently – except as may be authorized in the future by Florida voters, as required by the 2018 constitutional amendment titled “Voter Control of Gambling,” then known as Amendment 3.

Their amici brief, filed late Tuesday, urges the appellate court to affirm the district court’s order striking down the compact and to deny the tribe’s request for a stay in the interim.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 11/29 – 12/05

Three dead in Stateline Casino shooting (MT)

Three people are dead in an apparent murder/suicide at the Stateline Casino in Bainville, Montana. The Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office reported that deputies responded to a reported shooting at the Stateline Casino at approximately 5:20 p.m. on Saturday, Nov 6. Upon arrival, they discovered three deceased individuals, including the suspected shooter. The Sheriff’s office reported that surveillance video recovered from the scene appears to show that 56-year-old Bradford Mann of Williston shot and killed his wife, 49-year-old Jennifer Mann, also of Williston, and 63-year-old Scot Panasuk of Bainville, before turning the gun on himself and taking his own life.

Ransomware gangs hit several tribal-owned casinos in the last year

The FBI’s Cyber Division said in a private industry notification issued earlier this week that ransomware gangs have hit several tribal-owned casinos, taking down their systems and disabling connected systems. These attacks are part of a long series of similar incidents targeting tribal entities since 2016, with damages estimated in the millions of dollars in recent months. Ransomware-hit casinos had to shut down their gaming floors, as well as restaurants, hotels, and gas stations, causing significant revenues losses after being forced into providing limited or no services to customers while working on restoring their systems.

Limited cyber investigative capabilities and law enforcement resources are likely some of the reasons behind ransomware groups’ seeing US tribes as desirable targets, according to the FBI. Ransomware gangs that coordinated attacks against tribal communities include REvil (Sodinokibi), Bitpaymer, Ryuk, Conti, Snatch, and Cuba. Due to these incidents, tribal entities have dealt with operational disruption, theft of sensitive data, and financial losses.

Online Gambling Companies to Refund $1.2M Doctor Embezzled from UK Health Service

Several unnamed online gambling companies in the UK will repay more than £900,000 ($1.2 million) in public money, stolen and gambled away by a rogue doctor from the country’s National Health Service. Senior general practitioner Dr Rumi Chhapia, 45, was sentenced to three years and four months in prison by a court in Portsmouth, England last week. Chhapia pleaded guilty to siphoning a total of £1.2 million ($1.5 million) from a network of doctors’ surgeries, the Portsmouth Primary Care Association (PPCA), which he co-founded. Chhapia stole the money during “six weeks of madness,” according to his lawyer. At the time, he had been placed in control of the organization’s accounts when the regular financial controller was signed off sick. The physician, who earned £200,000 ($270,000) a year, plowed the cash into online gambling sites, chasing jackpots on slot machines and big wins on roulette.

Man abducted after returning home from casino, police say

Police in Philadelphia said a man was abducted after he returned home from a casino trip. The man said he noticed a U-Haul van parked at his home in Philadelphia when he returned home at about 1 a.m. Sunday, WPVI reported. He is not sure if he was followed home from the Parx Casino in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, about half an hour away from the city. After he parked his car, he told police three masked men grabbed him and threw him into the van. He said at least two of them were armed, WPVI reported. He told police they took him to an unknown location and tied him up, demanding that he tell them where he has money hidden in his home. This is not the first time someone was attacked after leaving the casino. A 53-year-old man from Middlesex County, New Jersey was killed after he was followed home from Parx Casino, police said, according to WPVI.

Pennsylvania’s Valley Forge Casino To Install Infrared Cameras To Watch For Kids in Cars 

The increased number of unattended minors left in parked cars at Pennsylvania’s Valley Forge Casino Resort while adults gamble has led the gaming property to take several new precautions. One includes installing infrared surveillance cameras. The infrared cameras can detect heat if a child or other person is in a parked car. That will assist security guards patrolling vehicles with darkened windows. Since January, Valley Forge, located in King of Prussia, saw 22 times when unattended children were left in cars or other vehicles. That compares to 15 such incidents in the past three years, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. If caught leaving kids in vehicles, the suspects could be prosecuted and banned for life from the state’s casinos.

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

UPDATE: Federal Judge Rules Against Florida Seminole Sports Gambling Provision, Calling the State’s Argument ‘Fiction’

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to legalize sports betting in Florida via the Seminole Gambling Compact.  The problem has been the plan calls for online sports betting and claims that anyone in the state can use their app and gamble on sports even though sports gambling is very much not legalized in the state.  Their argument has been that as long as the servers are on tribal land, then the gambler doesn’t have to be at the casino.  A Federal Judge has reviewed the case and despite what some thought would be a simple political push through, has approved the injunction and shut the deal down.  The Miami Herald reports:

In a stunning rejection of Florida’s attempt to give the Seminole Tribe a monopoly on sports betting, a federal district court judge in the District of Columbia ruled late Monday that the compact violates federal Indian gaming law and invalidated the entire agreement, halting all sports betting and gaming expansion in Florida indefinitely.

The ruling by Judge Dabney L. Friedrich puts a halt on the sports betting quietly launched by the Seminole Tribe on Nov. 1 and, in a double hit, it also blocks the tribe’s Hard Rock casinos in Broward and Hillsborough counties from becoming full Las Vegas-style casinos.

“Although the Compact ‘deem[s]’ all sports betting to occur at the location of the Tribe’s ‘sports book[s]‘ and supporting servers … this Court cannot accept that fiction,’’ Friedrich wrote. “When a federal statute authorizes an activity only at specific locations, parties may not evade that limitation by ‘deeming’ their activity to occur where it, as a factual matter, does not.”

Judge Friedrich ordered Florida to revert back to the prior compact and outlined the path for sports betting to either be on Tribal land or statewide through a vote of the people.  Many believed politics would prevent such an obvious and clear understanding of federal gambling law, but this decision is a positive first step.  The state is likely to appeal, but its a major victory for those fighting against such gambling expansion.  The Miami Herald continues:

The decision is a victory for the owners of Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room and a group of plaintiffs that includes No Casinos and Miami businessmen Armando Codina and Norman Braman. They each filed separate lawsuits against U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland alleging that the federal government improperly approved the gaming compact.

Codina and Braman have fought to block gaming expansion for decades and helped finance the successful 2018 constitutional amendment that requires that any expansion of gambling be approved by voters in a statewide referendum.

“I think this is a big victory. I couldn’t ask for more,’’ said Codina, a real estate developer and devoted gambling opponent. He said he will continue to fight if the state and tribe file an appeal.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 11/22 – 11/28

L.A. casino fined $500,000 for looking the other way when a gambler brought duffle bags stuffed with $100 million for marathon gambling sessions

A Los Angeles County casino was hit with a hefty fine for failing to properly alert financial regulators and the Internal Revenue Service when a “high roller” walked in with $100 million in cash to bet on games of baccarat. Federal prosecutors say the unnamed whale — who was described only as a Chinese national — made over 100 visits to the Bicycle Hotel & Casino over eight months in 2016, often arriving with duffle bags full of cash to bet on marathon sessions of the high-stakes card game. On numerous occasions, the gambler’s assistant would exchange millions in cash for chips, with the high roller cashing in and cashing out approximately $100 million during the course of his months-long gambling spree, prosecutors said.

When gamblers buy over $10,000 in chips using cash, a casino is required to file a currency-transaction report and a suspicious-activity report with the Department of the Treasury. But prosecutors say the casino routinely filed the forms in the name of the gambler’s assistant, in violation of the law. Last week, the casino reached a nonprosecution agreement with the Department of Justice under which it will pay a $500,000 fine and revamp its anti-money-laundering protocols.

Man arrested months after fatal shooting at illegal gambling operation in San Antonio

A San Antonio man was arrested Sunday on suspicion of murder months after a fatal shooting at an illegal gaming room, according to police. The footage, taken on a cell phone, showed Alderete walking over to Isaac and attempting to shake his hand, according to the affidavit. Isaac is seen pulling out a gun and pointing it at Alderete, shooting him in the chest. The two kept fighting, and Alderete was shot a second time. Isaac’s stepdaughter was also shot in the ankle during the struggle. 

Two employees get prison for stealing $777K from Native American addiction center 

Two employees of a Native American counseling and addiction center, including its executive director, have been sentenced on charges of embezzling more than $777,000 in federal funds. DeCoteau served as executive director of Ain Dah Ing (ADI), which has operated as a non-profit halfway house in Spooner, Wisconsin since 1971, from 2002 to 2017. Schmuck worked as the bookkeeper from 1990 to 2017. They were fired after the thefts were discovered. DeCoteau and Schmuck pleaded guilty to one count of theft of federal funds on July 15 and June 24, respectively. ADI offered mental health and alcohol and substance abuse services to Native Americans from Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. At sentencing, Judge William M. Conley noted that DeCoteau and Schmuck stole more than 67% of the total funds intended for programming at ADI, and that they gambled away most of this money at local Indian casinos.

Former Office Manager Sentenced for Swindling Broken Arrow Business of $2.7 Million

Dihel pleaded guilty to mail fraud and tax evasion on July 21, 2021, after she brazenly embezzled more than $2.7 million from her employer from 2011 until May 2019. Dihel took advantage of her trusted position as an office manager at the business and forged the president’s signature on approximately 334 checks for her own benefit and to the detriment of the company. She made some checks payable to herself, some to her boyfriend and a family member, and some to personal credit card companies to pay her monthly credit card bills. Her boyfriend and family member were unaware of her scheme. Dihel further manipulated accounting entries in her employer’s books and records to cover her tracks. Dihel stated in her plea agreement that she spent most of the money on gambling. 

Cash, drugs, guns, flamethrower seized in Oakland illegal ‘gambling shack’ bust

The Oakland Police Department is investigating an illegal casino gambling operation that has already landed three arrests and the seizure of weapons, drugs and even a flame thrower. Among the items recovered by officers were four loaded firearms, a 50 round drum magazine, a flame thrower and $17,500 in cash, police said. OPD said officers also recovered eight gambling machines, a quarter pound of suspected meth, and a large amount of tar heroin packaged for distribution inside of what they described as a “gambling shack.” Two people were arrested during the search warrant, while a total of 11 people were detained. A third person, who is believed to have been running the operation, was arrested for being a felon in possession of a firearm, police said.

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

$32 Million and Counting has been Dropped in Florida to Legalize Sports Betting via Initiative Petitions, but will they Succeed?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to legalize sports betting in Florida.  The Seminole Nation and state of Florida reached a new gambling compact that provides exclusive rights to sports betting in exchange for annual cash payments to the state.  That compact has been hotly contested and seemingly violates federal and states laws for allowing sports betting online and not solely at Seminole casinos.  But even if those legal hurdles are worked out, that still leaves companies like Draft Kings and FanDuel from getting a piece of the sports betting pie.  Enter the initiative petition. If enough signatures can be gathered, the issue would go to the voters.  If the voters pass the petition, sports betting could be legalized all over the state.  So how much money has been spent on these petitions and are they getting the signatures they need?  Florida Politics breaks it down:

Two gambling drives each have spent $16 million; neither has more than 110K verified signatures. Gambling interests’ efforts to get Florida voters to consider expanding casino gambling and sports betting are raising the stakes — pouring another $22 million into their campaigns in October.

The cash infusion fuels frenetic petition drives by Florida Education Champions, a committee backed by the fantasy sports giants DraftKings and FanDuel seeking to expand sports betting in Florida; and by Florida Voters In Charge, a committee backed by Las Vegas Sands Corp. seeking to create opportunities for casinos in North Florida. Between them they’ve spent more than $32 million over four months.

For DraftKings, FanDuel, and Las Vegas Sands, the clock is ticking, fast, on their petition drives. The two petition drives each need 891,589 verified voters’ signatures by January. Neither is close, according to the latest updates posted by the Florida Secretary of State.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 11/15 – 11/21

UPDATE: Man who shot his ex outside of Toppenish casino fatally shot by police 

A 41-year-old man accused of recently shooting his ex-girlfriend at Legends Casino in Toppenish was fatally shot by Idaho sheriff’s deputies after he fired his gun at them, led them on a high-speed chase across counties and pulled a gun on them a second time. Buddy McKenzie, 41, was previously charged with attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault and illegally possessing a firearm after police said he shot a 37-year-old woman in the stomach and head on Oct. 4 in the Legends Casino parking lot.

Deputies confirmed that McKenzie was the shooter by looking through the casino’s security footage. A nationwide warrant was issued for his arrest with a reward of $750,000, but deputies were unable to locate him until they got a call that McKenzie had been found more than 600 miles away in southern Idaho. Schilperoort said on Wednesday afternoon, McKenzie fired several gunshots at law enforcement officers in Caribou County, Idaho and fled in a small, white pickup truck. The high-speed chase continued for about 20 minutes and through into nearby Bannock County. Law enforcement officers were able to use spikes to deflate the truck’s tires and the vehicle eventually came to a stop on Highway 30 near the exit to McCammon. Schilperoort said McKenzie got out of the truck, pulled out a pistol and pointed it at deputies.

Shots Fired In Parking Lot Of Grand Sierra Resort and Casino

Friday morning just after 3 a.m Reno Police responded to reports of shots fired in the parking lot of the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino. Police arrived on scene to find shell casings in the parking area on the west side of the building. No one was injured though multiple unoccupied vehicles were hit. Police say they’ve identified a possible vehicle and suspect but have made no arrests yet or determined the cause.

Northeastern Minnesota casino employee sentenced for theft of more than $300K

An Orr woman will serve eight months in federal prison for embezzling more than $300,000 from Fortune Bay Resort Casino in Tower. Boutto, a former front desk supervisor at the casino, pleaded guilty in March to a felony count of embezzlement and theft of tribal funds. Authorities said she managed to steal $315,739.87 by processing nearly 3,000 false cash refunds between January 2013 and October 2019. According to court documents, Boutto began working as a reservationist in 2008 and was promoted over the years — eventually gaining the ability to issue cash refunds without direct oversight. “Boutto’s scheme to defraud was premised on this access,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jordan Sing wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “Boutto identified customers who spent significant money at Fortune Bay and, after the customers checked out, issued a false cash refund against the invoice. Boutto concocted various reasons for the refunds and then retrieved the cash for herself from Fortune Bay’s vault. The scheme worked, and Boutto’s confidence in it grew over time.”

Spanish Woman Faked Own Kidnapping, Used Husband’s Ransom to Play Bingo 

Spanish police have arrested a woman they accuse of faking her own kidnapping and using the ransom for bingo buy-ins. According to Mossos d’Esquadra, the police force serving Spain’s semi-autonomous Catalonia region, the unnamed 47-year-old woman concocted the plan while her husband was being treated in a local hospital. The unfortunate man called police in a panic on October 6 after he received messages on his mobile phone, purportedly from his wife’s abductors. He was told he would have to pay a €6,000 ($7,000) ransom to secure the woman’s freedom. The case was assigned to Mossos d’Esquadra’s elite kidnap and extortion unit. Fearing his wife was in mortal danger, the man was advised to pay a portion of the ransom, in line with instructions in the messages.

When some of the ransom was later withdrawn from a bank in Badalona, near Barcelona, agents sprang into action, obtaining footage from the security camera. The video showed the purported abductee, apparently safe and well, thumbing the cash. The unit then traced her to a nearby casino. In security video from the venue released this week by Mossos d’Esquadra, she is seen washing her hands with sanitizer at the entrance, before marching past the slot machines to the bingo hall. She was arrested that evening, mid-bingo game, and charged with extortion and suspicion of reporting a fake crime.

Ex-State Fair Finance Head Gets Jail, Probation for Theft 

The former finance director of the Nebraska State Fair was sentenced Friday to 30 days in jail and 15 years’ probation for stealing more than $150,000 from the fair. Patrick Kopke, 30, received the sentence Friday and was ordered to pay restitution of more than $158,000 to the State Fair, television station KSNB reported. He was also ordered to undergo counseling for a gambling addiction. In August, Kopke pleaded no contest to three counts of felony theft. He had faced up to 20 years in prison on each charge. A state audit found that a company Kopke created was paid nearly $150,000 in state funds but there was no proof the company had done any work for the fair.

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

The Newest Attempt at a Casino in the Missouri Ozarks Appears to be Tribal Gambling, but Hurdles Loom

Casino Watch Focus has reported on efforts to legalize a new casino at Osage Beach at the Lake of the Ozarks.  The biggest problem has been that casino gambling, or river boat gambling as it were, is constitutionally restricted to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and there is a cap on the total number at thirteen.  So even if a casino license were to become available, neither river flows near Osage Beach.  The newest plan would seek to get around those rules by establishing a Tribal Casino.  Tribes are allowed to offer the same equivalent gambling on their reservations that are allowed in the state, but there are a few major hurdles that would have to be overcome, including the actual establishment of a tribal reservation in Missouri.  The Missouri Times explains:

The Osage Nation is planning to roll the dice on a new casino at the Lake of the Ozarks, potentially opening up a new revenue stream at the popular tourism spot — though a successful outcome is far from guaranteed.   

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), passed by Congress in 1988, outlined the process for approving a tribal casino off of a reservation.

Purchased land would be handled by the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the Osage Nation would then negotiate the responsibilities for providing law enforcement and taxation with the state government — all of which could take several years. If any party were to oppose the terms along the way, the project would be dashed.

A major hurdle for the project could be a clause in the IGRA that requires a tribe to have a reservation in the state to receive approval: Once a prominent tribe in Missouri, the nearest Osage reservation is now in Oklahoma, Leara said. 

So just what kind of support or more importantly, opposition would such a plan face?  Well, given how long it would take to even establish that the Osage Nation has the jurisdiction to build such a gambling facility, the political landscape could be vastly different.  The Missouri Times concludes:

Ultimately, Leara said he would place his bets on the project taking up to a decade to come to fruition — if it manages to get off the ground at all.

“I think when this becomes more than a press release and something a little more concrete, we’ll start to see opposition,” Leara told The Missouri Times. “We don’t know where the governor is on this — we’ll likely have a different governor before this goes anywhere anyway. There are a lot of questions and while they did get a lot of attention from their press release, I don’t think it’s anything in the near future.”

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

A Brief Look at Crime 11/08 – 11/14

S.I. man was boss of ‘Diamond Enterprise’ ring, feds say

The Staten Island leader of a racketeering operation dubbed the “Diamond Enterprise” pleaded guilty to multiple charges in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday in connection with underground gambling establishments that propped up a criminal organization under his control. Abduraman Iseni, 56, who authorities said is a Staten Island resident, pleaded guilty to eight charges including racketeering, money laundering, bank fraud conspiracy, making false statements to a bank, making interstate threats and two gambling offenses.

Iseni made the guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Andrew L. Carter. “As he admitted today, Abduraman Iseni led a network of underground gambling establishments to prop up a criminal enterprise under his control,” said U.S. Attorney Damien Williams. “Iseni engaged in a series of additional crimes, including money laundering, threatening a victim with physical violence, and defrauding and lying to banks in an effort to receive money to which he was not entitled,” said Williams. “Thanks to the hard work of our partners at the FBI, Iseni stands convicted of numerous offenses and awaits sentencing for his years of crime.”

Legends Casino shooting, nationwide warrant issued at 750K

Police are still actively looking for Buddy McKenzie as there is a nationwide warrant for his arrest of 750K. Authorities say they are receiving Crime Stoppers tips and Det. Reyna is receiving phone calls, but still no leads in finding McKenzie. Investigators confirmed the victim is 37-year-old Lupe Torres, and she is still alive. Police are asking for the publics help in finding 41-year-old Buddy Byron Mckenzie for shooting Torres in front of Legends Casino. In the early morning of Monday, October 4th, deputies were called to Legends Casino for a report of a woman that was shot in the parking lot of the casino.

According to investigators, casino security found the woman and directed deputies to the crime scene where deputies realized the woman had a gunshot wound to her head and torso. Deputies provided first aid until medics arrived and took her to the hospital by ambulance. If anyone has information about this shooting and where they can find Buddy Mckenzie please call Detective Reyna at (509)574-2567 or CrimeStoppers at (800) 248-9980  Case 21C16703

Fatal Punch at The Strat Leads to Las Vegas Murder Charge

A Las Vegas man is to appear in court on Tuesday for allegedly murdering another man in the lobby of the Strat Hotel, Casino & SkyPod several weeks ago. The charge was brought to light this week. Initially, Michael Saunders was charged with battery for the Aug. 27 incident, but the charge was upgraded to murder after the victim died from his injuries, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Saunders is currently being held without bail. If convicted, he could face life in prison. He has been convicted previously for unrelated crimes in Nevada.

Five accused of scamming more than $1M at Atlantic City casinos

Five New York City residents are accused of stealing more than $1.1 million from casinos here through a bogus-check scheme. The suspects allegedly exchanged phony bank checks for gaming chips at five casinos between Aug. 26 and Aug. 28, said the Attorney General’s Office. Three of the casinos — Borgata, Caesars and Ocean — each lost $284,000 to the scheme, the agency said in a statement Thursday. The Golden Nugget and Hard Rock casinos lost $134,000 apiece.

“The defendants were caught executing a sophisticated financial scheme spanning multiple casinos and over a million dollars in fraudulent checks,” Acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck alleged Thursday in announcing charges in the case. The suspects allegedly presented each casino with two fake checks, one for $150,000 and another for $134,000, the statement said. The checks appeared to be from TD Bank and Bank of America. Hard Rock’s loss was lower because it denied a $150,000 check. Golden Nugget reduced its exposure by telling a suspect she could only receive incremental amounts on a $134,000 check.

Pennsylvania Board Adds Three to Casino Exclusion List for Leaving Kids Unattended

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) this week placed the names of three parents or guardians on an exclusion list. They were involved in separate situations, leaving kids unattended in cars parked at a casino.

In each case, the parent or guardian went into the casino while the child or children were left alone in the car. The board called the adults’ actions “irresponsible.” “In making these decisions regarding the three adults, the Board is reminding the gambling public to not leave children unattended … not only because of the possible exclusion from all Pennsylvania casinos and prosecution, but more importantly due to the possible safety hazard to the child,” the PGCB said in a statement. Now that the adults are on the Involuntary Exclusion List, they are prohibited from entering or gambling at any Pennsylvania casino, the statement adds.

The PGCB detailed each incident. One of the parents was placed on the list after leaving an 11-year-old child in a parked car, while the adult went into the casino to redeem a sportsbook ticket. In another case, the father of two boys — one of whom was eight and the other five — was placed on the list after leaving them in his car while he placed a bet at the sportsbook and played craps, the statement said. And a woman was placed on the list for leaving four children — ages 13, 13, 10 and two — in her vehicle while she watched an acquaintance play craps.

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

Missouri Pro-Sports Teams look to Initiative Petitions to Legalize Sports Betting

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to legalize sports betting in Missouri.  Various attempts have been made over the years to pass a bill through the legislature, but all efforts have so far failed.  A recent plan was reported that would target the Missouri lottery as the sports gambling regulatory body, but nothing has been formally introduced to move forward.  Now, it would appear Missouri pro-sports teams have grown tired of the legislative process and have instead pushed forward what can only be described as a chaotic, unorganized, and desperate attempt to get some kind of sports betting legalized.  Literally anything would seem to work for them considering they filed 9 different initiative petitions in hopes that something will stick.  An online source explains: 

A Missouri lawyer last week filed nine ballot initiative petitions that would legalize sports betting with the secretary of state’s office. The proposals all call for the Missouri Gaming Commission to regulate wagering, for betting to be limited to professional sports teams only, and for tax revenue to be earmarked for education and road projects.

Beyond that, there are key differences, and, in total, the proposals are similar to some of the many sports betting bills that have been filed in the General Assembly over the last four years.

Sen. Denny Hoskins and Rep. Dan Shaul say they’ll try again in 2022 and have plans to pre-file bills next month. “I sense there’s a frustration at the lack of movement on the bills,” Shaul told Sports Handle in August.

Hoskins has his concerns about letting the state’s professional teams drive the process. “Obviously I am for sports betting,” he told the Post-Dispatch last week. “But I do have concerns when we put something in the Missouri Constitution without proper vetting. “There are a lot of details to sports betting, including tax rates, application fees, and annual administrative fees.”

Given there are nine different petitions, all with different approaches, its clear this method for a properly vetted and well regulated plan would be incredibly risky and likely to leave holes in consumer protections.  

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