Author Archives: tjdy

Despite Supreme Court Ruling to Legalize State Sports Gambling, Florida doesn’t Seem Likely to See Such Gambling Expansion this Soon

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts by New Jersey to legalize sports betting, including the news that the Supreme Court may have just put forth the largest expansion of gambling policy ever by allowing all states to now legalize it. For months states have been gearing up for this possible scenario and the sports leagues have likewise been in communication with state legislatures to ensure they see a piece of the new gambling pie. However, Florida may be one of the few states that wont see an immediate rush to capitalize on this new gambling expansion frenzy. The Florida Times Union online explains: 

in Florida, two major obstacles — a ballot initiative and the need for a special legislative session — stand in the way of joining states such as Mississippi and Pennsylvania, which have cleared the decks to allow gamblers to bet on professional and collegiate sports teams as soon as the NFL season begins in the fall.

A proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot will allow Florida voters to decide if they want to control decisions about gambling, something now largely left up to the Legislature. If Amendment 3 passes, voters statewide would have to sign off on future gambling expansions.

Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, who has been a lead negotiator on gambling issues for several years, said Monday the high court ruling won’t have an immediate impact on Florida, where sports betting is illegal.

Galvano and his House counterpart, Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, last month raised the possibility of a special session to address perpetually elusive gambling issues but abandoned the notion after Gov. Rick Scott secured a yearlong gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe. The agreement is focused on the tribe’s promise to continue making payments to the state in exchange for “exclusivity” over “banked” card games, such as blackjack. A special session in reaction to Monday’s court decision is unlikely, Galvano said.

John Sowinski, the chairman of Voters in Charge, a political committee behind the amendment, called the court ruling another reason to support the proposed constitutional amendment because the measure would give voters a say in gambling activities. “A lot of people in Florida would be relieved to know that, if we’re going to have sports gambling in this state, it’s going to happen by design of Florida voters, not by Tallahassee politicians and gambling lobbyists,” he said.

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

 

Advertisements

A Brief Look at Crime 05/14 – 05/20

‘Losing Streak Lois’ had apparent gambling addiction, police say 

The motive still isn’t clear as to why Lois Riess ended up on Fort Myers Beach, who was eventually accused of killing Pamela Hutchinson, stealing her money, ID and car. But her family says she had a problem with gambling—even stealing money from her own family to do so. “The addiction is still there. She had to find a way to get money—and she hurt someone here in our community,” said FGCU clinical coordinator Yaro Garcia. Riess is a mother from Minnesota, now wanted for two murders—of Hutchinson and her husband. “Riess’ mode of operation is to befriend women who resemble her and steal her identity,” said Undersheriff Carmine Marceno with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. She’s still on the run, and was last spotted in Texas after fleeing Florida. The day after allegedly killing her husband, Riess was spotted at a casino. Police say her gambling addiction tore her family apart. Minnesota news outlets report that in 2016, Riess stole over $100,000 from her sister. She was ordered to pay it back, but never did. Garcia says it’s likely to have pushed Riess over the edge. “The extreme, maybe killing a person, maybe stealing an identity, doing whatever it takes to gamble one more time,” Garcia said. Garcia says that a gambling addiction could explain Riess’ alleged killing of Hutchinson on Fort Myers Beach. “Ms. Hutchinson’s purse was found to be in disarray, and all cash, credit cards and identification appeared to be removed,” Marceno said. “What happens to people who have this type of addiction is almost the same as a heroin addict or any other drug. It’s just as powerful,” Garcia added.

More Than 1,000 Birds Seized in Lancaster in Illegal Cockfighting Investigation

Officials in Lancaster confiscated more than 1,000 fowls they believed were being used for illegal cockfighting, authorities announced on Wednesday. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said it served a search warrant on a location on the 6300 block of East Avenue E on Monday. Officers were investigating an animal cruelty case concerning the breeding and fighting of game fowl. Crews from the L.A. County Department of Animal Care and Control, with help from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles, examined the animals at the scene and confiscated them. “Rooster handlers, or ‘cock fighters,’ often allow birds who suffer injuries during fights to go untreated or throw the birds in the trash,” the Sheriff’s Department said in a statement. “Having animals fight to death along with letting them go untreated is not only cruel but often times goes hand-in-hand with gambling, drug-dealing and other illegal activities.”

Man defrauded investment customers of millions

A New Jersey man has admitted operating a long-running scheme to defraud investment clients out of millions of dollars. Scott Newsholme pleaded guilty Wednesday to wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and preparing fraudulent tax returns. The 43-year-old Farmingdale man faces up to 25 years in prison when he’s sentenced July 19. Federal prosecutors say Newsholme has owned and operated at least three different financial advisory and tax return preparation businesses since 2002. Authorities say that between 2007 and 2017, he recommended to multiple clients that they give him money for various investments. He then allegedly used that money for personal expenses, including multiple vehicles, bedroom furniture and debits at casinos. Newsholme misappropriated more than $3.1 million from his clients, resulting in net investment losses of more than $1.8 million.

Virginia business owner must pay back $4M for fraud scheme

A Virginia business owner who spent business loans on personal expenses, including his rock band, will pay more than $4 million in restitution, in addition serving a 10-year federal prison sentence. The Virginian-Pilot cites a U.S. Department of Justice release that says 58-year-old Edward Zinner was sentenced Thursday in connection with a fraud scheme. The release says he operated Ocean Equity, a collection of businesses that engaged in credit card processing and merchant cash advances, through which he provided false representation to obtain more than $4.5 million. He also obtained six business loans worth $3 million that he spent on personal expenses, including gambling and his TGZ Band. When Zinner closed his business in 2016, he still owed $3.9 million to investors. He pleaded guilty to money laundering in October.

Barnes must repay embezzled school money 

Paula Barnes, 61, was sentenced on Thursday to 30 days in the Anderson County Jail and 10 years’ probation for embezzling $111,000 from the Palestine Independent School District in 2015 and 2016. Judge Deborah Oaks Evans, of the 87th District Court, ruled that Barnes must pay the money back, in addition to court fines. She also must perform 400 hours of community service. “I am so remorseful for everything I’ve done,” a visibly distraught Barnes said on the witness stand. The investigation began in March 2016, when another employee reported a discrepancy in funds. In June, Barnes confessed to ISD officials that she was garnering cash from the activity deposits in the amount of $60,000 to $80,000. An external auditing firm confirmed the theft in August 2016. Barnes was arrested in January 2017 for theft of greater than $30,000 but less than $150,000 and released on bond. DA Allyson Mitchell presented evidence of checks written to Jason Barnes in various amounts, ranging from $200 to $26,000. Jason Barnes was not present at the hearing, but the defense stated he had a gambling problem.

Dutchess man pleads guilty to embezzling over $2.5 million from former employer 

A Pleasant Valley man, who worked as the comptroller for two companies, pled guilty this week to federal charges of mail fraud and tax evasion. When sentenced in August, Mark Cina, 56, agreed to pay $2.5 million in restitution to the two companies – Atlantis Energy Systems, Inc. and Business Technology Corporation. Cina allegedly used the money he embezzled for gambling, to pay rent, drive rented cars, dine out, get his car washed, bail out an arrestee, and pay a phone charge for an inmate’s call. The attorney for the two companies, Michael Pollok, said Thursday that his firm has now filed a related lawsuit. “We have filed a civil law suit on behalf of our clients against D’Arcangelo & Company for their involvement with Mark Cina. John J. Cina, Jr., also known as Jack Cina of the accounting firm of D’Arcangelo & Company is Mark Cina’s brother and named in the civil law suit because he was entrusted with our client’s financial information and tax preparation during the relevant time periods. That trust was breached when the principal of the victim companies was stricken by illness and the fraud perpetrated.” 

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


UPDATE: Supreme Court Strikes down Federal Sports Betting Ban, Creates ‘Wild West’ for Sports Gambling and Potential Devastation for Problem Gamblers

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts lead by New Jersey to reverse federal bans of sports betting. After many failed attempts, New Jersey has finally succeeded in opening the door for them to regulate sports gambling. This obviously opens the door for every state as well, and the ramifications will be serious. In an op-ed piece published by the Hill, John W. Kindt, a professor of business and legal policy in the Department of Business Administration at the University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business, who for 20 years has focused his specialty research on the societal, business and economic impacts of decriminalizing gambling activities, outlines how such a reversal of policy creates a Wild West: 

On Monday, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Murphy v. NCAA, a case brought by the State of New Jersey to overturn the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which was sponsored, ironically enough, by former Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), a professional basketball legend, to protect the integrity of U.S. sports. Trying to legalize sports gambling, New Jersey lost twice in U.S. district court and twice in the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals between 2012-2014. In a perplexing move, however, the Supreme Court accepted New Jersey’s appeal and heard the case on Dec. 4, despite the recommendation of the Office of the Solicitor General advising the court to reject New Jersey’s appeal.

Generally ignoring the practical economic and social effects of enabling unregulated “real time” sports gambling, for example by kids on cell phones, a divided court decided “to destroy PASPA rather than salvage the statute” complained Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her dissent.

The majority decision focused almost exclusively on New Jersey’s myopic arguments invoking the “anti-commandeering” principle of a 1992 case New York v. United States, while ignoring the obvious interstate impacts and the well-established Commerce Clause empowering congressional action on interstate sports.

While appearing innocuous to the uninitiated, the Murphy case will quickly generate ubiquitous and unregulated “Wild West” sports gambling. It is academically well-documented that this type of gambling is poised to explode with local and strategic economic impacts negatively affecting the U.S. economy.

While unlikely, immediate congressional actions regulating the practical impacts of the Murphy case are necessary.

While the Supreme Court cited the U.S. Gambling Commission’s 1999 Final Report, the court missed the Final Report’s numerous recommendations against gambling in cyberspace — particularly sports gambling.

Sports gambling in real time on cell phones and computers was highlighted as an example of the “crack cocaine” for hooking college students, teens and kids into addicted gambling. The Supreme Court also missed a wide spectrum of negative economic and financial issues associated with widespread sports gambling.

The complete editorial can be read HEREAdditionally, its important to understand this move might be the single greatest expansion of gambling seen by a single court case. The ramification of such explosive legalized gambling cant be overstated. A Press Release by the National Council on Problem Gambling explains their position: 

“Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court is the largest potential expansion of gambling in our nation’s history now that an additional 49 states have the opportunity to legalize sports betting. NCPG believes the expansion of legalized sports gambling in the United States will likely increase gambling participation and gambling problems unless steps are taken to minimize harm,” says Marlene Warner, President of the NCPG Board of Directors.

NCPG’s wide-ranging and deep experience in these fields since 1972 allows the organization to provide a clear-eyed perspective on both the benefits and pitfalls of legalized gambling, and to find a middle way that addresses concerns on all sides. Revenues from legalized sports betting must be viewed in the context of social costs. Research has shown that current gambling activity generates over $115 billion in overall revenue to local, state and federal government, but also results in $6.5 billion in associated costs, including criminal justice and healthcare costs. These costs are often hidden and difficult to see. Approximately 2% of adults experience gambling problems, or approximately 5 million people. These social and economic impacts must not be ignored.

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


A Brief Look at Crime 05/07 – 05/13

Man Charged With Decapitating Gambler Now Faces Witness Tampering Charges

One of two men charged with decapitating an individual they met at a casino is now accused of witness tampering. Donald Ray Cherry, 31, was charged on March 16 with intimidation and tampering with witnesses or informants, both felonies that can result in an addition 20 year prison sentence. Cherry and co-defendant Jeffrey Glen Haverty, 33, met the victim, Myron Wesley Knight, 41, at the Montana Lil’s Casino in November. Knight gave a casino employee his $120 in winnings to hold on to out of fear the two men were going to rob him. Knight’s body was later found, decapitated, three weeks later at a campsite. Authorities determined he had been beaten with a blunt force object prior to the decapitation but that he was likely still alive at the time. Cherry’s girlfriend told police she witnessed Haverty cutting Knight’s head off before Cherry took over. According to the latest court filing, Knight is accused of telling his girlfriend to lie about what she saw and warning that she might also be implicated in the crime. The witness claims she arrived at the scene of the gruesome crime as it was in progress.

Genovese crime family associate convicted of racketeering, murder conspiracy

An associate of the Genovese crime family was convicted of racketeering and murder conspiracy for an attempted hit on a Whitestone man, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said. Salvatore Delligatti, 40, was found guilty in Manhattan federal court last week on all counts of racketeering conspiracy, murder-for-hire conspiracy, participation in an illegal gambling operation, and a firearms offense following a three-week jury trial. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison in August. Delligatti committed all his crimes in order to increase his standing in the Genovese family, according to Berman. From about 2013 through 2015, Delligatti, DeBello and Ellis were involved in a large-scale bookmaking and sports betting operation that took bets from gamblers in Manhattan and Queens, while making use of an offshore wire room, according to prosecutors. During the gambling operation, Delligatti and Ellis brought envelopes filled with cash to DeBello. Delligatti’s co-defendants, DeBello and Ellis, previously pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy offenses for their roles in the murder conspiracy, the extortion conspiracy, and the illegal gambling operation, prosecutors said.

Pellet gun-waving man inside Montana casino shot, killed by police 

A police officer shot and killed a man who was waving a pellet gun and threatening patrons inside a casino early Tuesday — the second fatal shooting by officers in Montana’s largest city in less than 24 hours. The 44-year-old man was being sought by police in the lead-up to his death. His ex-wife reported earlier that he showed up at her house, banged on her door and windows and told her he was going to rob a casino, Billings Police Chief Rich St. John said. Less than an hour later, the man was seen entering Lucky Lil’s casino just before 1:30 a.m. Two officers broke a window to enter the locked building, where Sgt. Bret Becker shot the man multiple times with an AR-15 assault rifle after the suspect refused to drop the gun and said he had taken hostages, St. John said. It was unknown whether the man fired the pellet gun, which Becker had believed to be a firearm, St. John said. The suspect’s identity was not immediately made public pending notification of relatives. St. John said the man was “known to the police” but provided no further details. His ex-wife told police that he may have taken opiates prior to Tuesday’s confrontation and St. John said toxicological tests on the man were planned.

New Freedom woman blames gambling addiction for embezzling $4.3 million from her employer

A New Freedom woman has been sentenced to 71 months in prison for embezzling $4.3 million from her employer, according to a news release. Donna Wozniak, 57, pleaded guilty in August 2017 to embezzlement in connection with healthcare and tax evasion, the news release states. She was a business manager for Susquehanna Valley Surgery Center in Dauphin County for 14 years. Wozniak said during sentencing that she stole the money because she has a gambling addiction. She was fired from her job in November 2014 after admitting that she stole the money, the news release states. United States District Court Judge John E. Jones III sentenced her on Tuesday to 71 months behind bars and three years of supervised release. Wozniak’s job was to review invoices and pay vendors. A forensic audit showed that she would make a portion of the signed blank checks payable to herself, and she cashed or deposited them using multiple bank accounts, the news release states. She then falsified the records, showing that the money went to the vendors. “All income is taxable, no matter what the source of the income,” Guy Ficco, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation, said in a news release. “Today’s sentencing should serve as a deterrent to others who might consider attempting a similar scheme in the future.”

After losing at poker, bank robber gambled on trip to North KC casino

A Kansas City man who was arrested at Harrah’s Casino in North Kansas City has pleaded guilty to the January robbery of a bank in Bonner Springs. Timothy Karpovich, 39, admitted in federal court Tuesday that he robbed the KCB bank in Bonner Springs on Jan. 22. After the FBI released bank surveillance photos of the robber, tipsters identified Karpovich as the robber, and then the FBI learned that he was a regular customer at the casino. Later that night, while FBI agents were speaking to employees about Karpovich, he returned to the casino and was arrested. He admitted to agents that he robbed the bank. He said he decided to commit the robbery after losing all of his money a few days earlier playing poker.

Gambling Parlor Bouncer Shot Dead, Killer Sentenced

The man who shot a bouncer who wouldn’t let him inside an illegal Brooklyn gambling parlor has been sentenced to at least 20 years in prison, prosecutors announced Wednesday. Crown Heights man Euzebelin Abellard, 35, could face a life sentence for the murder of Jean Claude Bernagene, a worker in an East Flatbush gambling parlor, in November 2015, according to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office. Abellard tried to sneak into the basement parlor on New York Avenue by hiding behind a regular customer, but was stopped by Bernagene, 51, on Nov. 20 at about 5:30 p.m., prosecutors said. That’s when Abellard pulled out a gun, told the bouncer in Creole that he would shoot him, then shot him in the torso and hand, prosecutors said. The wounded Bernagene chased his shooter out onto the street before he collapsed, prosecutors said. Police officers found the parlor worker lying on the street and emergency responders rushed him to Kings County Hospital, where he died two days later, prosecutors said.

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


UPDATE: Greyhound Industry Sues to Remove Dog Racing ‘Decoupling’ Ban from Florida Ballot

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to ban greyhound racing, but typically leave the gambling behind. This practice essentially creates mini-casinos and has been referred to as decoupling. Many are excited for the dog racing to come to an end, but most of those same proponents would like to see the gambling at those establishments end as well. An Amendment was proposed to do just that, but Florida State Sen. Tom Lee said he couldn’t get the amendment passed unless he allowed for the other forms of gambling to stay. Some who are opposed, such as former Florida Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, believe this is a legislative issue and shouldn’t be passed as a constitutional amendment. It’s a complicated issue that isn’t very clear to would be voters who might believe the ban will eliminate the dog racing and all other gambling at the tracks. This is part of the basis for a new lawsuit filed to stop the constitutional amendment form going to the ballot in Nov. The Ledger explains: 

The proposal, placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission, would outlaw greyhound racing at dog tracks by 2020, a process known as “decoupling.” Tracks would still be allowed to operate other, more lucrative gambling activities, such as slot machines and poker rooms.

But the Florida Greyhound Association and its president, breeder James Blanchard, maintain that the proposed ballot title and summary don’t fully inform voters about the impact of the amendment if approved. In a complaint filed Thursday in Leon County circuit court, lawyers for the plaintiffs raised what they deem numerous flaws in the amendment, which was backed by Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Massachusetts-based advocacy group GREY2K USA Worldwide.

Among the shortcomings alleged by the plaintiffs: The proposal does not advise voters that dog tracks still would be allowed to broadcast live greyhound races from other states. And the measure would only ban “commercial” dog racing, which means that kennel clubs would be allowed to continue dog competitions, the complaint says.

There is also concern that the law is entirely too broad as to how it attempts to regulate the dog racing industry. There is worry that it could impact animals in ways clearly not intended by the amendments authors. The Ledger continues: 

The lawsuit also alleges that the text of the proposal — which voters won’t see on the ballot — could have implications far beyond the greyhound-racing industry

The proposed amendment says the “humane treatment of animals is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida.” That language “might ultimately apply to animals other than dogs,” plaintiffs’ lawyers Jeff Kottkamp, a former lieuten.ant governor, and Paul Hawkes, a former appellate judge, wrote in the 17-page complaint.

“For example, would this statement, once adopted by voters who were not informed that it was contained in the amendment, be utilized in the future to limit horse racing? To limit the use of hunting dogs? A voter who favors ending dog racing might very well decline to pass an amendment with such a broadly-stated provision for fear that once adopted as status quo in connection to dog racing, such statement might be expanded to limit or prohibit other activities or livelihoods that involve other animals,” the lawyers wrote.

Most viewed the filing of the lawsuit as a natural progression of an industry attempting to save the racing. Others believe it’s the wrong approach to actually ending the greyhound racing industry and more definitive steps should be taken. Beyond the specifics, there are those that believe the lawsuit wont succeed and the issue will end up on the Nov Ballot as Amendment 13. 

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


A Brief Look at Crime 04/30 – 05/06

Feds Seize $10.1M in ‘Illegal Gambling’ Money from Pojoaque Pueblo Tribe of New Mexico

The US Department of Justice on Friday filed forfeiture proceedings in a federal court to seize $10.1 million from a bank account linked to the Pojoaque Pueblo tribal gaming operator in New Mexico. The DOJ said it deemed the money to be the proceeds of illegal gambling. It’s the latest twist in the longstanding fight between the tribe and the State of New Mexico, which kicked off in 2014 when the tribe refused to sign a new compact. Its original gambling agreement, signed in 2005, gave the state an 8 percent share of gross gambling revenue and was due to expire in 2015. Negotiations over a new revenue sharing agreement broke down when the tribe accused the state government of unreasonably hiking up its cut, to 9 percent. New Mexico’s other tribal operators reluctantly agreed to these terms, but the Pojoaque Pueblos dug in their heels. The tribe argued for the right to negotiate a new compact with the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, rather than the state.

Casino-Bound Passengers Describe Terrifying Wild Ride With Drunk Bus Driver 

Dozens of passengers took terrifying trip on a Bay Area tour bus whose driver was dangerously intoxicated, according to authorities. It was supposed to be a relaxing drive up to Graton Casino, but it was anything but that. It ended up being a wild ride through San Francisco and the North Bay with a very drunk driver behind the wheel. One passenger told CHP officers the driver hit the right side rail of the Golden Gate Bridge and kept driving. The passenger called 911 to report the incident, but the says the driver continued to drive erratically, going at unsafe speeds and passing on the right shoulder. The CHP tried to stop the bus in Petaluma but couldn’t get there in time, and 911 calls from other drivers on the road started to pour into the dispatch center. The wild ride didn’t end until the bus arrived at the casino in Rohnert Park. CHP officers interviewed those on board and the driver. Officers say 34-year-old Angela Teasley from Richmond was put through DUI tests and she was almost 4 times over the legal blood alcohol limit.

Police Bust Alleged Lucchese Gambling, Loan-sharking Operation in New York State 

New York State law enforcement has broken up an illegal gambling and loan-sharking racket with alleged links to the notorious Lucchese crime family. Ten people, most from New Rochelle, Westchester County, were arrested and indicted Tuesday on charges of first-degree usury and first-degree promoting illegal gambling, according to the state attorney general’s office. It was the culmination of “Operation The Vig is Up” – a yearlong investigation into the bookmaking activities of alleged Lucchese “made member” Dominick Capelli and the loan-sharking operation coordinated by his alleged henchmen. It was the biggest loan-sharking operation the AG’s office had ever investigated. The “vig” in question refers not to the bookmaker’s edge but the usurious interest payments charged on the loans, which collectively exceeded a $1 million during the duration of the investigation alone. Prosecutors described how the operation was designed to trap gamblers in a cycle of impossible debt. They identified at least 47 victims, many saddled with multiple loans and paying exorbitant weekly interest rates equivalent to 200 percent per year.

Federal agents rescue 63 dogs from suspected South Georgia dogfighting ring

On March 23, the United States filed a civil forfeiture complaint seeking the possession of 63 pit bull-type dogs that were allegedly involved in a dog fighting venture in violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act. At the reported location, agents discovered a disassembled dog fighting “pit” and more than 60 pit bull-type dogs staked to the ground by heavy chains. The condition of a majority of the dogs, including scarring and aggression toward other dogs, was consistent with dog fighting and related training. After obtaining a search warrant, agents found numerous indications of dog fighting at the Eastman property, including a treadmill with a rope attached to the front part of the machine, antibiotics and other injectable veterinary medications, and a jenny mill, which is used to develop a dog’s endurance and musculature by enticing the animal to run on a circular track. From four grave areas, agents unearthed the remains of seven dogs, five of which had scarring consistent with dog fighting and one of which had a broken leg. During the search, agents noted that none of the live animals had access to food, and most did not have access to water.

“Dog fighting is a barbaric spectacle that has no place in any civilized society, and it will enjoy no quarter in the Southern District of Georgia,” Christine said. “We know that animal fighting ventures often entail other forms of illegal activity involving drugs, firearms, and gambling, and this Office will continue to work with its law enforcement partners at all levels to investigate and successfully prosecute those who contribute to the proliferation of crime and seek to profit off the abuse and suffering of helpless animals.”

State: Casino worker preyed on addicts, laundered $1.5M 

The Washington State Gambling Commission says a couple suspected of providing $300,000 in loans to people with gambling problems at a Tukwila casino and then threatening them in order to collect the debt have been arrested. The News Tribune reports the 45-year-old employee and her 27-year-old boyfriend are also charged with laundering about $1.5 million through Macau Casino. Authorities are working to determine the source of the $1.5 million. Authorities believe Macau Casino’s general manager was aware of the activities. His gambling license was suspended. A statement released Friday by the commission said that the agency and police have received numerous complaints of loansharking and money laundering at the casino over the past two years. The suspects were booked into jail and face charges of collection of unlawful debt, money laundering and use of extortionate means to collect extensions of credit.

Woman embezzled more than £100,000 from Glasgow care home 

A woman has admitted she embezzled more than £100,000 from a care home company which led to up to five people losing their jobs. Sarah McGartland, 51, transferred £102,398 of Harveys Healthcare cash into both her own and her husband’s accounts over 11 months. But she was caught when a director of the firm carried out an audit. As well as the job losses the company has downsized as a result of McGartland’s crime. She pleaded guilty to embezzling the money between January and November 2015 from the company, which was based in Ibrox, Glasgow. The court heard she was jailed for six months in 2010 for forgery and uttering. Harveys Healthcare is a care home company who look after elderly residents, mostly for Dumfries and Galloway Council, and at the time had around 40 residents. Gambling addict McGartland, of Ibrox, Glasgow, was an accounts clerk for them for 13 months, including most of 2015. Part of her duties were filling out invoices to ensure any money owed was paid, which was then authorised by one of the directors, Bijay Kumar. He carried out an audit in November 2015 after noticing anomalies with the company account.

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


New Loot Box Legislation Proposed Domestically as Foreign Governments Ban them in Video Games: Publishers State they Wont Stop Exposing Children & Gamers to Such Practices

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing realization that loot boxes are simply a sophisticated form of gambling in video games. More and more jurisdictions are becoming aware of loot box and skin gambling as they are expected to reach revenue over $50 billion dollars by 2020. Many domestic jurisdictions have already proposed regulations, studies or called for the industry to self-regulate. Minnesota is the most recent to propose legislation. An online source explains: 

[N]ew loot box bill was introduced in Minnesota this week. The bill joins other state level legislative efforts in the USA, which were introduced since the global loot box debate peaked in the second half of 2017. State Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South Saint Paul) introduced the bill H.F. 4460, which “would regulate ‘loot box’ gambling in video games”. The matter was discussed and both parties spoke in favor of the bill. According to Rep. Hansen “People are spending real money on random drawings in video games. Minnesota regulates gambling and when loot boxes meet the threshold to be considered gambling, then we need to treat it as such and regulate it too.”

The bill prohibits the sale of a “video game containing a system that permits the in-game purchase of (1) a randomized reward or rewards, or (2) a virtual item that can be redeemed to directly or indirectly receive a randomized reward or rewards to a person under 18 years of age” [sic].

Additionally, no video game may be sold or provided unless accompanied by a warning stating: “Warning: This game contains a gambling-like mechanism that may promote the development of a gaming disorder that increases the risk of harmful mental or physical health effects, and may expose the user to significant financial risk.” For games sold through electronic means, the warning must be acknowledged by the purchaser.

The Minnesota bill has a long way to go before it becomes binding legislation, as do most of the domestic bills discussed recently. However, several foreign government have passed and implement regulations including outright banning loot boxes from video games. The online European source The Verdict explains: 

Belgium has followed the Netherlands in banning the sale of loot boxes in video games, as Europe begins to crack down on what it deems to be illegal gambling operations run by major game publishers. Speaking to /Verdict/, a Belgian Gaming Commission spokesperson said: “The Belgian Gaming Commission has come to the conclusion thatreal-money loot boxes are gambling. This means that in Belgium, these types of games are prohibited unless licensed.”

If they do not adapt their games, they all potentially face criminal prosecution. Punishments would include up to five years in prison and fines of up to €800,000, which could be doubled if it is found that minors were involved.

It is highly likely that this would be the case. Approximately 22% of video gamers are aged between ten and 20 years old according to Statista, which is largely the cause of the Belgian Gaming Commission’s concerns. The Belgian Gaming Commission added:

“Real-money loot boxes are not innocent. Especially because the video games that they appear in are often played by children. “The Gaming Commission wants to protect the players in general and vulnerable groups (e.g. minors) in particular.”

Despite all these bans and all the discussion of how loot boxes are gambling and harmful to children, publishers don’t seem to willing to stop such predatory practices. EA, the publisher whose Star Wars video game Battlefront started this backlash, has been the most vocal about their inability to part from this gaming mechanic. The Verdict continues:

The loot box debate has been going for some time, but the bans issued by the Netherlands and Belgium are the first sign that governments are beginning to take notice. However, at least for the time being, publishers are unlikely to be too concerned.

Tom Wijman, market consultant at video game research company Newzoo, told Verdict: “I don’t expect publishers to be too worried, it should be quite simple to turn the option for loot boxes off for Belgian and Dutch bank accounts, and those markets are pretty small compared to the United States or UK.”

EA stated that it disagrees with Belgium’s ruling. A company spokesperson told /Verdict/ that the company welcomes discussions with Belgian authorities, but did not confirm whether it intends to comply with the request to remove these items from its games. EA CEO Andrew Wilson has since told industry analysts that the company plans to continue pushing forward with services such as Fifa Ultimate Team, which generates vast revenues through the sale of loot box items known as player packs.

For now, the issue is more of a nuisance than a problem for game publishers, but it could get worse if other regulators decide to follow Belgium’s lead. “I think the significant part about these bans isn’t so much theNetherlands and Belgium banning loot boxes, but rather the messagethis sends to regulatory institutions for gambling worldwide,”Wijman added. Should other countries issue similar bans, the attack on loot boxes could prove costly for developers.

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