Meetings & Information


Friday, May 22, 2015

Boston expands lawsuit against Massachusetts gaming commission

Boston expands lawsuit against Massachusetts gaming commission

BOSTON —An amended lawsuit filed by the city of Boston is asking a judge to bar the current Massachusetts gaming regulators from any future action on the $1.7 billion casino proposed for neighboring Everett.

Mayor Marty Walsh announced Thursday the city amended its complaint that challenges the Massachusetts Gaming Commission's decision to award Wynn Resorts a casino license for the proposed casino.

"The commission's award of the license was the product of a corrupt process to favor Wynn," the lawsuit stated. "Their conduct has irreparably tainted the gaming licensing process, and has demonstrated that they are unwilling and unable to fulfill their legal obligations to serve as independent regulators."

Elaine Driscoll, a spokeswoman for the gambling commission, called the revised lawsuit a "personal assault" on the five-member panel and "wholly unproductive" to resolving complex policy issues.

"The commission made each license award based solely on a thoughtful, objective and exhaustive evaluation of each gaming proposal," she said.

Originally filed in January, the lawsuit seeks a court order to void the Wynn license and levels numerous allegations of wrongdoing by the commission and Wynn Resorts during the licensing competition that ended late last year.

Among them are allegations that commission members changed application rules and regulations to benefit Wynn, and that Wynn representatives knew criminally suspect figures had an ownership stake in the development property before signing a land deal, despite what the company has said.

Three of the property's former owners face federal wire fraud charges for allegedly trying to cover up criminal ties.

A Wynn Resorts spokesman dismissed the allegations as "retread stories" without merit. Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria agreed.

"This is nothing but a rehashing of issues that have been brought up, solved or addressed by the state and the Gaming Commission," he said in a statement.

Walsh said Boston had no choice but to go to court because Wynn has not reached a financial compensation deal with the city and has not applied for the necessary city permits even though the casino's main entry goes through Boston.

"(It) is clear that this is the only way to move forward to protect the rights of Boston's public and restore integrity to the gaming process," he said in a statement.

The cities of Revere and Somerville have also filed separate lawsuits challenging Wynn's license, which is one of three the commission has issued. MGM holds a casino license for a Springfield resort and Penn National Gaming has a license to build a slot parlor in Plainville.

Casino company Mohegan Sun, which lost its bid for the Boston-area license to Wynn, is a party in Revere's lawsuit, as is the labor union representing workers at the Suffolk Downs horse racing track in Revere.

21 indicted for allegedly stealing more than $88,000 in casino scam

Thursday, May 21, 2015

21 indicted for allegedly stealing more than $88,000 in casino scam

The Press of Atlantic City

Police have busted another check-cashing scheme that allegedly netted more than $88,000 from Atlantic City casinos.

A grand jury indicted 21 people allegedly involved in the scheme Thursday, Acting Attorney General John Hoffman announced.

The defendants allegedly took advantage of TD Bank’s policy of making funds available the same date a check is deposited, according to the attorney general's office.

The alleged ringleader, Michael Williams, 35, of Sicklerville, allegedly recruited the other defendants to either open a new TD Bank account or use their existing TD Bank account to conduct the scheme, the statement said. Williams would allegedly deposit a bad check into an account, and a day later, the account holder would allegedly withdraw most of the money through a Global Cash Access cash advance transaction in either Bally’s Casino or Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa, the statement said.

The new accounts opened with small deposits ranging from $2 to $30, the statement said. The bad checks later written were for between $4,900 and $4,995, the statement said.

The scheme was possible because TD Bank offered same-day availability of funds on checks deposited, so the money was withdrawn before TD Bank was notified that the check was bad, the attorney general's office said in a news release. Williams allegedly stole a total of $88,796 with the other defendants. Williams allegedly let the other defendants keep a small share of the stolen money in return for their participation in the scheme, the statement said.

The charges are the result of an investigation by the New Jersey State Police Casino Investigation Financial Crimes Unit and the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau, the statement said.

Williams received second-degree counts of conspiracy, money laundering and theft by deception. The other defendants were each charged with third-degree counts of conspiracy, money laundering and theft by deception.

The other 20 defendants are:

Edward Smith, 31, of Clementon

Jennifer Gathers, 35, of Bridgeton

Antwan Cannon, 30, of Clementon

Armissa Williams, 37, of Lindenwold

Jose Ramos, 24, of Lindenwold

Anais Ramos, 26, of Lindenwold

Tidarat Johnson, 43, of Runnemede

Neil Miller, 65, of Clementon

Johnny Swain, 55, of Lindenwold

Saleem Brown, 36, of Philadelphia, Pa.

Jennifer Polidoro, 30, of Pine Hill

Mark Harley, 44, of Clementon

Gail Whitner, 52, of Philadelphia, Pa.

William Taylor, 32, of Somerdale

Lebaron Harvey, 33, of Camden

Eric Puriefoy, 51, of Berlin

Christina Honey, 30, of Pennsauken

Santa Santiago, 34, of Vineland

James Burch, 60, of Lindenwold

Barry Ettore, 54, of West Berlin

Exclusive: Feds probe L.A.-area casino over cash transactions

Exclusive: Feds probe L.A.-area casino over cash transactions

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Oldies, but Goodies

In 2010, the articles below were posted along with their links, some of which are no longer valid.

This blog was begun and included articles posted in their entirety because frequently the articles are not archived.

The Propaganda is always the same, the outcome merely promises.

Casinos sold for bargains

This should have sent chills through the capital markets - meaning
they'll have to provide more equity and pay a higher interest rate,
although with the Fed trying to push down long term rates, who knows?

Casino Tribes Default

Florida: Gambling Addiction

**The results of the survey showed nearly one in five inmates were problem gamblers.
My note --
**That's 20% of the prison population that has a gambling problem. It's costs such as this that Beacon Hill has been asked to consider in an Independent Cost Benefit Analysis that they have refused to conduct.
What will this cost taxpayers of the Commonwealth?

Lenders Wary Of Indian Casinos

Mohegan Sun and Connecticut’s other resort casino to the north — Foxwoods in Mashantucket — have more than $3 billion in debt thanks to ill-timed expansions and payments due at the onset of the recession. Both casinos are attempting to refinance their debt, possibly forcing their lenders to take massive losses. [forcing investors and taxpayers to pick up the tab]
On Sept. 21, Moody’s credit rating service announced a possible downgrade of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority’s rating, citing payments of $527 million and $250 million due in 2011 and 2012.Despite the tribe’s annual $1.4 billion net revenues for its Connecticut and Pennsylvania locations, Moody’s said weak consumer demand for casinos, limited near-term growth possibilities for the Mohegan Sun casino, and the possibility of Massachusetts opening to casinos could lead to the downgrading of the tribe’s rating.The rising debt payments for Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun couldn’t have come at a worse time for the two Connecticut casinos. Slot revenue dropped steadily over the past five years; and the fiscal year that ended in June was the worst 12-month period of gaming revenues since 2001 for Mohegan Sun and since 1996 for Foxwoods.

 The article below is available by subscription only so is
included in its entirety.
This is really significant because Steve Norton was posting as
himself [as far as I know] after all of the local articles and
touting how wonderful Atlantic City Casinos were.
If you go to my blog and enter 'Steve Norton' in the search,
I posted a lot about his comments - and went after him every
time I found his comments.
Steve Norton = Centaur = Northeast = Palmer & New Bedford

Indiana Live swamped by debt, faces potential default

Francesca Jarosz
October 16, 2010
Indiana liveOwners of the Indiana Live racetrack and casino face an interest payment on the lion’s share of their $544 million in debt next month, as credit analysts continue fretting about the company’s ability to pay its bills.
Rating agency Standard & Poor’s noted that the Shelbyville venue boosted revenue 25 percent in the first quarter of 2010. But they say that hasn’t allayed their concerns about Indiana Live’s massive debt.

Most of the debt is in the form of $440 million in bonds, which have required interest payments in May and November. The size of the November payment wasn’t disclosed in public documents; Indiana Live’s total interest expense this year is expected to be $54 million.

S&P analysts say default could be imminent.

“It’s something we’ve seen coming and are anticipating relatively soon,” S&P’s Ben Bubeck said. “You can only be generating less than you need for so long.”

In what could be another sign of financial distress, Indiana Live in recent months cut ties with The Cordish Cos., the Baltimore-based developer hired to manage Indiana Live.

Sources close to the matter confirmed the split, but would not share details while the parties try to reach a peaceful settlement on the early termination of the 10-year contract. The casino paid $7.2 million in management fees last year, according to a filing with the state.

A Cordish partner did not respond to requests for comment, and Ross Mangano, chairman of South Bend-based Oliver Racing LLC, which owns Indiana Live, would not discuss the Cordish contract.

Mangano also would not share details about Indiana Live’s finances. But he emphasized that the company is working to improve its financial condition, adding there is “no imminent problem.”

“We’re doing everything in our power to address our balance sheet and improve it,” Mangano said. “We’ve been dealing with this debt from day one and we’re still dealing with it.”

Both Indiana Live and Indianapolis-based Centaur Inc., owner of Hoosier Park in Anderson, borrowed heavily after the General Assembly in 2007 allowed the horse tracks to add slot machines in return for a $250 million licensing fee.

The slots parlors, which opened the following year, have drawn smaller crowds than projected, in part because of the recession. Centaur slid into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March of this year and is selling off holdings in Colorado and Pennsylvania to reduce debt.

In the upcoming session of the General Assembly, lobbyists for both racinos plan to appeal to lawmakers for help. The want an adjustment to the venues’ taxing formula that could provide up to $12 million per year in relief.

But lawmakers say passing such a measure will be a tough task in a year when the state is hurting for money. And even if it were to pass, some predict that won’t be enough to put their debt-saddled owners on solid financial footing.

Feeling the strain

Indiana Live increased its gross revenue from $48 million during the first three months of 2009 to $60 million during the first three months of this year. But a July S&P report said the improvement wasn’t enough to justify a rating upgrade. Since October 2008, Indiana Live has carried a rating of CCC with a negative outlook, close to the bottom of S&P’s scale.

The S&P report noted that, as of March, the company had no remaining availability under its $25 million line of credit.

“We still feel concerned that it’s not enough of a ramp-up to provide the cash they need to meet their fixed charges,” said Ariel Silverberg, an S&P credit analyst who helped write the report.

Silverberg and other analysts wrote in the report that debt restructuring is likely, a move that potentially could include bankruptcy.

In 2009, the company brought in $244 million in revenue. But after expenses such as $102 million in gambling taxes and $62 million in interest expense, it wound up with a $59 million loss.

In March, the company’s auditing firm, Somerset CPAs, echoed the concerns of credit analysts, estimating Indiana Live would need $25 million beyond the cash generated from operations to pay its bills this year.

“The company does not currently have enough capital to fund operations for the next year considering required debt term payments, related interest payments, and capital and operating lease obligations,” auditors wrote in the report.

In addition to borrowing to pay the state’s slots-licensing fee, Indiana Live spent $210 million to buy gambling equipment and design and build its gambling facilities. Interest on most of the debt is 11 percent.

Experts say the licensing fee and the slots rollout aren’t all that’s dragging down the racinos.

Alan Klineman, a chairman of the Indiana Gaming Commission in the 1990s, said the number of casinos in the state, plus competition from venues cropping up in other states, has saturated the market.

Excluding the racinos, statewide casino revenue was at a five-year low of $2.4 billion in 2009.

“We were very careful that we were not giving out licenses to people who were so actively competing with each other that they wouldn’t be successful,” Klineman said.

The S&P’s Bubeck said that, since the beginning of 2008, about two dozen of the roughly 70 gambling-sector companies the agency rated have defaulted as the weak economy cut into consumers’ discretionary spending. He is not projecting much of an uptick until at least 2012.
The challenges are especially acute for Indiana’s racinos, he said, because they’re not allowed to offer table games. In addition, he said, the stiff licensing fee limited their ability to build lavish facilities on par with those in places such as Las Vegas.

Expensive solutions

Under the current tax setup, both Indiana Live and Hoosier Park pay a 15-percent tax to the horse racing industry, plus another 4 percent in other taxes.

They also are taxed starting at 25 percent of the first $100 million they bring in. That tax increases to 30 percent for revenue between $100 million and $200 million and 35 percent of revenue in excess of $200 million.

That overall revenue tax includes the 19 percent in other taxes they pay, which means they are essentially being double-taxed on a share of their revenue.

Doug Brown, an Indianapolis attorney who lobbies for Indiana Live, projects that will cost both casinos $12 million this year.

“It puts racinos at an unfair competitive disadvantage and in an untenable financial position,” Brown said. “It’s an unfair situation that should be corrected.”

Some lawmakers agree, but are hesitant to concede that taxes and licensing fees are at the heart of the businesses’ financial troubles.

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, who oversaw much of the racino debate, said the underlying problem is that Indiana Live borrowed with abandon instead of raising more equity to fund its expansion.

Kenley, who sits on an interim study committee on gambling, said he agrees double-taxation for racinos needs to be eliminated. But he said this would be a tough time to make the change.

A report issued by the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute last month showed dwindling tax revenue will cause a projected $1.3 billion budget gap as the state enters its next budget cycle.

Mangano said in addition to correcting the double-tax, he would like the Legislature to allow table games at Indiana Live.

Rep. Terry Goodin, D-Austin, one of two leaders on the interim study committee, said that is among the options the committee is exploring. Another possibility is taking the double-tax away in phases.

The committee is expected to issue a report Nov. 1.•

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Senator Tony Hwang: Trying To Stop Casinos

It's always a sad commentary when elected leaders fall for the same propaganda!

Sorry for everyone who flls into the trap.

Senator Tony Hwang: Trying To Stop Casinos

By Christopher Keating

Top Senate leaders say they have the votes to pass a bipartisan bill Wednesday that would lead to the construction of a third casino in Connecticut.

Despite the odds, one freshman senator - Tony Hwang of Fairfield - has emerged as the most outspoken senator against expansion of any form of gambling, ranging from casinos to keno.

Hwang, a former three-term member of the state House of Representatives who took the seat vacated by former Senator John McKinney, says the state legislature has not properly calculated the societal costs of gambling addiction that includes lost jobs and broken families.

Hwang goes back to the fundamental question when asked about the bill that is expected to be approved in the Senate as early as Wednesday.

"The basic question, again, is why are we doing it at all?'' Hwang asked. "We open up a potential Pandora’s Box of equal protection and due process'' for other potential tribes that are seeking federal recognition.

He adds, “Leave good enough alone.’’

While the advocates remind legislators on a continuing basis about the need for jobs, Hwang counters with the problems associated with gambling.

"We’ve forgotten what the potential societal human costs of gambling has wrought,'' he said. “We’re betting on an industry that has a downward trajectory.’’

At their peak in the 2007 fiscal year, the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes contributed $430 million to state coffers in a slot machine, revenue-sharing arrangement that was crafted during the tenure of then-Gov. Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. That total is expected to drop by more than half - to $189 million - in the 2018 fiscal year due to the opening of the $800 MGM Resorts International casino just over the Massachusetts border in Springfield.

“I just don’t believe it’s the right solution for our state,'' Hwang said. "Why do it at all? ‘’

But employees of the Mohegan Sun casino traveled to the Capitol on Tuesday to lobby legislators to vote in favor of the bill.

"If it doesn't happen, we'll probably be looking to move out of state,'' said Robert Gallagher, a pit manager at Mohegan Sun.

If he moves, he says he would work "definitely in the casino business'' at another venue. But Gallagher says he hopes that a third casino can be approved so that both tribes can maintain employment levels and save about 9,300 jobs.

"It's all about jobs,'' Gallagher said. "They can't ignore the tax revenue that will be lost.''

Gallagher came to the Capitol with fellow managers Mitchell Friedman and Thomas Tomillo, along with Daniel Sefton, a former Pfizer employee who works in cybersecurity and attempts to block the hackers who are seeking to break into the casino's computers.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Missing Danny Collinson fled with £500k from legal highs firm

Missing Danny Collinson fled with £500k from legal highs firm

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: May 16, 2015

Daily Mail | Posted: May 16, 2015
GAME IS UP: Cricketer Danny Collinson stole almost £500,000 then blew most of it on betting websites.
A GAMBLING addict who sparked a missing persons inquiry when he disappeared on a visit to a Hull bank stole almost £500,000 from a company selling legal highs – then blew most of it on betting websites.

Danny Collinson, 29, became financial director of Hedon-based PGD Limited in August last year when he was one of seven people who bought it from owner Alex Hope.

What his six fellow directors did not know was that Collinson had been hooked on gambling since he began playing penny arcade machines in Withernsea at the age of ten.

He did not require any other signatories to access the company's bank account, which a judge said was "the equivalent of giving an alcoholic the key to the wine cellar".

Related content

On March 2, Mr Hope, who was due 50 per cent of the profits as part of the sale, contacted director Antoni Tuniewicz to say there was only £9 left in the company's Barclays account.

Mr Tuniewicz asked Collinson to check online, but he said he could not access it at the time and agreed to accompany the other two men to a branch in Hull city centre.

Mr Hope and Mr Tuniewicz thought the account had been hacked, but Collinson knew the game was up and promptly disappeared, causing more than a week of anxiety for his family.

Dale Brook, prosecuting, told Hull Crown Court that as the men waited at the bank, "Mr Collinson indicated he needed to use the toilet, left the branch and never returned".

As Collinson caught a train to Edinburgh, Mr Tuniewicz was informed that more than £100,000 had been transferred out of the account that weekend.

In fact, in a little under two months, Collinson transferred a grand total of £488,234.42 from the account. The named recipients included Collinson, betting companies, HMRC, and firms working with PGD, but none other than Collinson had received a penny.

Before disposing of his mobile phone, Collinson sent to a text to relatives in which he "apologised for letting them down".

Police traced him to the Scottish capital, where he had been staying in a B&B. He was arrested on March 10 and had a rucksack full of cash and money in "various locations" amounting to more than £100,000.

A search of the home he shared with his parents in Hull Road, Withernsea, revealed legal "powders" and about £60,000.

He also had an Armani watch that appeared new.

Collinson, who was captain of Patrington Cricket Club and played football for Roos, admitted one count of theft.

But he had little to show for the fortune he had plundered and appeared to have blown most of it on gambling websites, the court heard.

Joanna Golding, defending, said: "From the age of ten he has been in the grips of the most devastating gambling addiction, starting from penny slot machines in Withernsea arcades and culminating in this monstrous theft from those with whom he worked."

Mrs Golding said Collinson fell into the addicted gambler's trap of placing ever bigger bets in the hope of recovering his losses.

"The more he lost the more he bet to try to recover the monies he was spending," she said.

"It became a never-ending spiral of desperation.

"This was a complete shock to his parents, from the little boy who used to go to the penny arcade to the master criminal who would end up in the situation he is in now.

"They can't comprehend how this happened."

She said: "There's a responsibility, too, for the people who took those bets, large sums, and they must have been aware that something was awry."

Sentencing Collinson to three years in jail, Judge Mark Bury told him: "I accept that as gamblers often do, they think that the answer to their prayers is in the next bet – it never is.

"I hope that either in custody or on licence, you get some help with your gambling addiction."

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Snooker legend Willie Thorne going bankrupt after £1m gambling addiction sparked suicide attempt


Snooker legend Willie Thorne going bankrupt after £1m gambling addiction sparked suicide attempt
BBC commentator saved from killing himself by wife Jill after he fled home with a knife
Willie Thorne
Tearful: Snooker champion Willie Thorne has gone bankrupt
Snooker legend Willie Thorne is declaring himself bankrupt after a £1million gambling addiction led to him trying to end his life.

Unable to see a way out of his financial turmoil the BBC presenter grabbed a knife, left his home and drove to a hotel where he penned three heart-breaking letters to his family.

But he tells how his devoted wife Jill tracked him down and burst into the room before he could go through with the suicide bid.

Speaking about the ordeal, he admitted: “If it wasn’t for Jill I would not be here now.

“She saved my life. Now I am going to try and put it back together.”

Willie wiped away tears with his fists as he spoke – a broken man at odds with the jovial person who grinned his way through Strictly Come Dancing and whose commentary is adored by millions of snooker fans. Just last month he was helping front coverage of the World Championship for the BBC.

But off screen, the 61-year-old has been living a lie. Now, in an exclusive interview Willie – who declares himself bankrupt next week – has decided to reveal the truth.

He tells how he:

  • Has lost millions to bookies since retiring from snooker
  • Was left owing cash to money-lenders – with one threatening to chop off his wife’s fingers
  • Had two thugs turn up at his house demanding £300,000 in cash
  • Cleared his house of all its contents – including his prized trophies – to keep them out of the clutches of bailiffs.

Sitting at home in Leicester, the pain of the last few months is clear to see.

The showman is still there, but the eyes are red and distant. And his voice is breathless, worn out by the speed his mind is racing at.

Gambling, and the debts which come with it, have left him broken.

“People think because I’m Willie Thorne, the guy off the TV, I must have loads of money. Nothing could be further from the truth. The house I live in is mortgaged to the hilt and the cars are on lease.

“Yes we should have a nice house in Spain. Yes I should be enjoying my retirement. But there is nothing left – and I’ve no one to blame but myself.”

Willie, who spent two decades on the ­professional snooker circuit, says his gambling hell can be traced to the moment he retired 15 years ago.

He said: “All of a sudden I wasn’t Willie Thorne the snooker player. I found that difficult.”

Bob Thomas Sports PhotographyWillie Thorne
Eyes on the prize: Willie Thorne at the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible

Hours given to practice, which once made him one of the world’s best players, were replaced with time spent putting money on horses – a love he spoke of in his autobiography that had left him penniless in the past.

It led to him surrounding himself with ­professional gamblers and other unsavoury ­associates. And he was drawn in by money lenders who knew he could not resist borrowing big in the hope of a windfall at the race track.

Willie had the gambling under control until two years ago, suffering a relapse when he lost mum Nancy, 87, in July 2013.

He said: “Mum was my rock and everything to me. When she went, my head went. I thought, ‘What am I going to do?’ I wanted to get away from how I was feeling, to win enough to live happily ever after – I know it sounds daft. So where I was having a grand on a horse now and again, I would have a bit more.”

For Willie a “bit more” was sometimes £20,000 on a race. And he fell back in with the wrong people. He says: “I met this guy, a ­professional gambler. The person who introduced us said he’d won every month for four or five years and he can help you out.”

Willie Thorne
No way back: Snooker champion Willie Thorne has gone bankrupt

In the first few weeks using the gambler’s tips Willie was placing several thousands on the horses. And the gambler was able to use Willie as he could secure huge credit with betting firms.

Willie said: “I had a few wins but I had a few big losses too and before I knew it the amount I was in debt was stacking up and up.”

Stuck with massive debts Willie turned to friends, or acquaintances he barely knew, to ask for cash.

“I was borrowing off more and more people. Things just got out of hand. I was robbing Peter to pay Paul,” he says.

“I’d get my hands on some money and would then place a bet to try and win some money to reduce the debt. It’s a vicious circle. I kept saying to friends ‘I’ll sort it out, I’ll sort it out’. But I knew I couldn’t.”

Willie distanced himself from the ­professional gambler – only to hear he had scooped a £300,000 win. Meanwhile, Willie’s despair was getting deeper.

GettyWillie Thorne
Potter: Willie Thorne competing in the Masters in 1986

Eventually, with no money left to wager and no one left willing to lend to him, he tried to take his own life. After leaving home last June Willie drove to a nearby hotel where he made frantic calls to friends trying to borrow money.

When he was knocked back he signed off each call by saying “goodbye” and that he was “sorry for everything he’d done”.

And when word of the calls got back to Jill she called 999. They got to Willie just in time. He was found in a room with a knife and three letters to his family. He says: “I couldn’t see a way out. I thought I’d caused so much grief to so many people.

“I can’t remember a large part of that day. I was oblivious to what was happening. I’d gone. I was told by police afterwards I had a knife. My intention was to end my life. It was a shock to see Jill burst into the room. She saved my life.”

Willie explains: “I had lunatics chasing me and demanding money and I couldn’t see a way out.

“It’s so cowardly isn’t it. I have three children, two stepchildren, grandchildren, a nice house with a loving wife yet I couldn’t see a way through.”

Willie was taken to hospital but soon discharged himself. Next day he was centre stage at a public engagement and as ever the showman kicked in.

He says: “Everyone thinks I’m happy-go-lucky. But they don’t know I’m living a lie. Always smiling, always laughing – but inside feeling hopeless.

“Maybe after the suicide attempt I should have gone to rehab. Perhaps there was a sense of denial, I didn’t want to see the letters I’d written for instance. All I wanted was to sort out the mess.”

But he increasingly turned to money-lenders, some with criminal connections, to put things right. It led to terrifying threats being issued towards Willie and his family. He revealed: “Just before Christmas two men came to our house.

“My wife and I weren’t in but another member of the family was. They said they’d come to collect £300,000 and that they wanted the money repaid.”

Willie and Jill fled their home and contacted police. But the threats got even more severe.

“Threats were made to Jill,” Willie says. “I had a call saying unless I came up with the money they would chop her fingers off to get to the diamond rings. I had to protect my family.”

The ordeal left Jill equally terrified – she started to check every car that passed and every person who came near.

GettyWillie Thorne
Happier days: Willie Thorne competing in the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, April 1983

In the end the pair moved out, until they felt it was safe to return at the start of the year. But after moving back Willie got a warning bailiffs might come calling.

Jill cleared the house of everything, including Willie’s trophies. Family photos were stripped from the walls.

A dolls house used by the grandchildren went into storage. All that remained was the couple’s bed, a sofa and a wicker chair.

Willie took pictures of his bare house on his mobile and sent them to the people chasing him. But it was all putting off the inevitable – bankruptcy.

Over the past few weeks Willie admits he has been in total denial about the extent of his money woes. It was only when he recently sat down with his friend that he realised the extent of his turmoil.

He owes up to £1million that he borrowed to either settle gambling debts or to lay new bets. More than 30 people are owed money.

Setting out to rebuild his life from scratch, Willie has spoken to the BBC who have vowed to stand by him – giving him a vital lifeline.

Willie Thorne
Morose: Snooker champion Willie Thorne has gone bankrupt

He said: “The BBC have said what’s gone on is ‘off the table’. They say they enjoy what I do and that means an awful lot. Nobody knew about anything that was going on at home during the coverage of the World Championship.

I asked Dennis Taylor and John Virgo to borrow five grand. They both said things were ‘a bit tricky’. I think they probably knew it would be for gambling.”

Another person who Willie has turned to in the past is old pal Gary Lineker. The pair have been mates for more than 30 years and starred together in the Best Of Friends series.

Willie says: “I borrowed 10 grand years ago from Gary when I was in trouble. My mum rang him up and Gary helped.” But he resisted asking Gary for help this time.

He said: “Since Gary divorced from his first wife and I split from my ex wife Fiona, we have drifted apart a little. But Gary has helped me. He has been a support and a dear friend.”

Willie Thorne
Stroll: Snooker champion Willie Thorne with supportive wife Jill

The ordeal has had a devastating impact on Willie’s health. He suffered a stroke four years ago and believes the stress caused by his gambling addiction may have contributed.

He also suffers from depression and has to take medication to sleep at night. He said: “I’ve put on two stone. I eat when I’m depressed.”

Despite the turmoil Willie, who has not placed a bet in three months, is determined the future will be brighter. Since retiring from professional snooker, he has become a top after-dinner speaker.

He said: “I never want to see another betting slip in my life. The grief gambling has caused me is immeasurable.

"The last two years have destroyed me. I never went out with the intention of hurting anyone but there are people I may never be able to pay back and I’m truly sorry for that.

“Now I just want to try and put things right. I’m at rock bottom but I am desperately going to try and get back up.”


Tribe objects to casino operation

Tribe objects to casino operation

By Taunton Gazette
Posted May 15, 2015 at 5:18 PM

BOSTON — Nearly a month from Plainridge Park Casino’s targeted opening, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is claiming the type of machines and number of positions at the commercial slots parlor violate state law.
“I’m very confident in our work, in our lawyering and in our process, but I’m also open to talking about it,” Gaming Commission chairman Stephen Crosby said.
Penn National Gaming, which was awarded a license to open a slots parlor at Plainridge Park in Plainville, near the Rhode Island border, plans to open the new facility on June 24. Under its license, the facility is restricted to 1,250 slot machines and no table games.
While the slots parlor has 1,250 machines, the Gaming Commission decided last year to allow the facility to have up to 1,500 gamblers playing at the same time, as some machines offer multiplayer games. Differing from traditional slots, some of the machines offer video simulations of poker and other table games.
Crosby said the commission’s actions reflect the panel’s understanding and interpretation of the statute.
The tribe, however, disputes that interpretation.
“The Tribe hereby respectfully requests that the Attorney General’s Office investigate this matter and advise the Commission to rescind or amend its regulations to bring them into compliance … ,” attorney Howard M. Cooper wrote in a May 13 letter to Attorney General Maura Healey.
Healey spokeswoman Emalie Gainey said the tribe’s letter is under review.
The Mashpee, who have faced a series of delays and setbacks in their pursuit of a tribal casino in Taunton, claim the additional positions at Plainridge could divert $30 million in revenue from a future tribal casino.
“We believe their claim is completely without merit and that we are in full compliance with state regulations,” said Eric Schippers, Penn National’s senior vice president for public affairs and government relations.
The gaming commission on Thursday approved the floor plan for Plainridge Park. The panel’s legal counsel, Catherine Blue, said the decision is unrelated to the tribe’s complaint. She vowed the commission will cooperate with the AG’s office.
Crosby said the tribe’s complaint “came out of left field.”
The decision to allow 1,500 gambling positions, Crosby said, underwent a careful legal review and rigorous public comment period last year. The commission, he said, works to interpret and match the language of the gambling statute to industry norms.
“We discussed this in a very public, robust extended conversation,” he said.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Tribal casino fight tests lobbying clout

Neon lights welcome gamblers to the Gila River Casino in Casa Blanca, Ariz. | AP
Neon lights welcome gamblers to the Gila River Casino in Casa Blanca, Ariz. | AP Photo

Tribal casino fight tests lobbying clout

Two Indian tribes locked in a six-year battle over the opening of a casino near Phoenix have spent millions on high-powered Washington lobbyists over the years to push Congress to side with them.
Now, one of the tribes, the Gila River Indian Community, which has a competing casino in the area, might finally win after intensive lobbying and support from Arizona Republicans. Committees in both the House and Senate recently passed the “Keep The Promise Act,” which would block the Tohono O’odham Nation from opening a casino in Glendale, Ariz. that is now under construction and supposed to open at year’s end. The measure could come to the floor for a vote in both chambers in coming weeks.

Gila River paid Akin Gump, a top Washington lobbying firm, nearly $1 million in the first quarter of this year alone. The firm, which has 22 lobbyists working on behalf of the tribe, has received at least $2.5 million each year from the tribe since 2012.
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By comparison, Tohono O’odham Nation, which has also ramped up its federal lobbying, spent more than $400,000 in the first quarter of the year and slightly more than $1 million on lobbying each year since 2012. It has retained lobbying firms Dentons, Gavel Resources and QGA Public Affairs.

More broadly, tribes have spent millions on lobbying the federal government each year on Indian gaming issues. Last year saw record spending on gaming-related lobbying with tribes shelling out $24.8 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Sponsors of the legislation, Arizona Republicans Rep. Trent Franks — whose district the casino falls in — and Sen. John McCain, have argued that the casino would mean “dangerous changes to the complexion of tribal gaming in other states across the country” and that casinos should not be “airdropped” into communities.

Gila River and other proponents of blocking the casino have also accused the Tohono O’odham Nation of misrepresenting their intentions while negotiating the state gaming compact in 2002, alleging that the voter-approved agreement does not allow for new casinos in the area. A federal judge rejected the argument saying new casinos may be built.

“The hardest thing has been to fight Akin Gump’s message,” said Arizona Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva, an opponent of the bill who represents a neighboring district and sits on the House committee that has jurisdiction on the issue. “It’s hard to counter that because they are very effective.

The prevention of this casino has been a windfall economically for Akin Gump.”

In an interview, McCain blasted critics of the bill who have pointed out Gila River’s lobbying spending as a reason for the bill’s passage in committee. “I wrote the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, so therefore, I know the intent of Congress,” he said. “Anybody who alleges that somebody influences me – some lobbyists — that is an outrageous and disgraceful lie.”

And Gila River’s main lobbyist insists that the firm’s role in pushing the bill has been exaggerated. It’s first-quarter lobbying report for the tribe also lists other issues including appropriations for an irrigation project and health care facilities construction.

“This is a popular bill that has enjoyed broad support, and so it wouldn’t be accurate to imply that we are the reason it is moving forward,” said Don Pongrace, who heads the firm’s American Indian law and policy practice.

“We are working on many different projects for the community, so there tends to be a lot of overestimation of our efforts around this particular issue.”

The Congressional Budget Office recently projected that blocking the casino could cost taxpayers as little as nothing and as much as $1 billion, if Tohono O’odham Nation takes the government to court and a settlement is reached.

“There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that (Tohono O’odham Nation) is within the framework of the gaming act to do it, and it is a difficult issue,” said Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, the ranking member on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, who voted against the measure in committee.

“Trust me – it’s not one where anyone is going to win…We’ve got to get some legal minds to look at this. It maybe a fool’s errand on passing this bill.”

The casino fight, now in its sixth year, began when the federal government purchased a track of land and put it into trust for the tribe. The purchase was intended to compensate the tribe after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flooded part of its reservation.

Heather Sibbison, a lobbyist for the Tohono O’odham Nation, said Congress passing the measure to keep the tribe from opening the casino would be unprecedented.

“We have been pointing out for a very long time that if Congress enacts this bill, it would be the first time that Congress reneges on an Indian land and water settlement in the modern era — it would mark a very unfortunate return to the treaty-breaking era.”

In and outside Capitol Hill, the feud has drawn interesting bedfellows. Local tea party chapters and unions have supported the casino, as state officials continue to oppose it. And Arizona Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick has also joined the Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation to co-sponsor the legislation blocking the casino.

The city of Glendale itself, which previously opposed the casino, has now changed its mind after negotiating a deal with the tribe that would give the city $1.4 million every year for 10 years.

The Obama administration opposes legislation blocking the casino, meaning the path forward for measure will likely be being tucked in legislation President Barack Obama wouldn’t want to veto, making the issue even more politically-charged.

“The more the courts have ruled in favor of the Nation, the harder certain members of Congress have pushed to change the law on which the courts have relied,” Sibbison said. “It makes it pretty clear that this is about politics and not about substance.”

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Why is Sen. McCain carrying the Gila River Indian Community's water?

Senator John McCain's Gambling Addiction?

Why is Sen. McCain carrying the Gila River Indian Community's water?

Posted: Friday, May 15, 2015
From 2004 to 2006, Washington was transfixed by the revelations that several Indian tribes had paid exorbitant fees to then-uber lobbyist Jack Abramoff to stop other tribes from opening casinos that might siphon gamblers away from their own operations.
Ten years and little has changed. Since 2009, the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) in Arizona has spent nearly $11 million on lobbying Congress to pass legislation that would prevent the Tohono O’odham Nation from opening a competing casino. A sister tribe, the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community, also with casinos in the Phoenix area, has dropped a couple million dollars more on the fight.
That’s a lot of money spent in service of an issue that most Americans care nothing about. Two Arizona members of Congress, Rep. Paul Gosar and Sen. John McCain, keep the issue bubbling. The question is why.

For Gosar, the issue makes little political sense. The Tea Party Republican has spoken often of the sanctity of land rights, writing on his own website that the freedom to exploit and enjoy one’s own property is an issue “upon which America was founded.’’

But sometimes cash trumps politics: the Center for Responsive Politics reports he relies heavily on political donations from casino interests - $50,750 in the past four years.

McCain’s support of anti-Tohono legislation is more puzzling. According to local officials in Phoenix, he vowed several years ago not to take sides in the squabble.

Sen. McCain has decried the “grinding poverty” that suffuses many reservations and, partnering with his mentor, Rep. Mo Udall, wrote the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 after the Supreme Court held states can’t control gambling on reservations. Although he claimed to have qualms about the development of Indian casinos, he acknowledged that when tribes “are faced with only one option for economic development, and that is to set up gambling on their reservations, then I cannot disapprove.”
Once sympathetic to the Tohono’s plight, McCain’s tune has changed. After long refraining from taking a position on the matter, last August he introduced legislation to kill the Tohono casino. This year, he’s back with another bill.

Between 2004 and 2006, McCain held hearings in which he railed against Jack Abramoff and others who had exploited Indian tribes. He was viewed as a hero to the Indian community and hailed for taking on powerful lobbying interests. The truth, however, is that the senator’s actual record on Indian gaming is more complicated. A 2008 New York Times article revealed that McCain has weighed in both for and against Indian gaming, seemingly based more on his personal relationships than on policy.

According to the Times, in 2005, when a small tribe sought to build what would have been the third tribal casino in Connecticut, McCain stepped in as a favor to his friend Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), helping persuade the Bureau of Indian Affairs to rescind the tribe’s recognition. In addition, although McCain had gone on record opposing “off-reservation” casinos and pushed the Bush administration to rewrite the rules governing them, a California tribe planning such a casino – in which McCain friend, former Sen. William Cohen (R-ME) had invested – hired a long-time friend of the senator and the tribe’s application was approved.

Even the Abramoff investigation was piqued by people with strong connections to McCain. At a Democratic lobbyist’s suggestion, the Saginaw Chippewa hired Republican lobbyist Scott Reed, who frequently boasted of his access to McCain.

More recently, the Salt River tribe hired an obscure Washington lobby shop called First Strategic to push the anti-Tohono legislation. With less than $1 million in annual lobbying revenue and a staff of six lobbyists, First Strategic derives about one-third of its revenue from the Salt River contract. The tiny influence shop has one asset the big K Street firms can’t match - a man named Wes Gullett.

Gullett lives in Phoenix, not Washington. But he has one good friend in Congress: John McCain.

According to the Times, Gullett has known McCain for more than 40 years. He was a senior adviser on McCain’s 1992 senatorial and 2000 presidential campaign and his wife, Deb, is McCain’s former chief of staff, state director, and served on the national finance committee for his 2008 presidential bid.

The McCains and Gulletts are close socially: the wives are said to be best friends, while The New York Times reports that the husbands often go on gambling junkets together. In 2006, the Times said, when Gullett needed to find a gambling loophole for a client, a California Indian tribe that wanted to build an off-reservation gambling hall outside of San Francisco, McCain happily obliged.

Perhaps the lesson in this instance is one that Abramoff knew all too well: If the Tohono hopes to build a casino, it should hire a friend of Sen, McCain.

Melanie Sloan, a partner with Triumph Strategy, previously served as the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which helped expose Jack Abramoff’s web of corruption.