Sunday, September 26, 2010
Detectives believe a man was followed home from a Hawaiian Gardens casino and robbed of his winnings before being killed on a Santa Ana street this morning.
The unidentified victim, 55, had apparently won several thousands dollars before he was slain.
Santa Ana police were alerted to the South Andres Place killing about 5:30 a.m. by a woman screaming for help.
Arriving officers discovered a man lying in the street, having apparently been run over by an assailant. Dozens of $20 bills lay like confetti on the street.
Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said the victim had won several thousand dollars early Friday at the casino.
His killer followed him from the gambling establishment in another vehicle to Santa Ana, where he cut him off, according to Bertagna.
Bertagna said the suspect and victim had an altercation on the street, and the 55-year-old man fled on foot only to be struck by the killer’s vehicle.
The woman had accompanied the victim to the casino but was apparently unhurt in the attack.
OKLAHOMA CITY, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- A former head of audits for an Oklahoma agency overseeing school real estate has admitted embezzling $1.2 million to feed a gambling addiction.
Roger Q. Melson Jr. pleaded guilty to 174 counts Friday, The Oklahoman reported. His lawyer, Billy Bock, called him a "gamblaholic" and said he is recovering.
"He doesn't gamble anymore, and he goes to several support groups," Bock said. "He's been humbled."
Melson, 56, director of audits at the Commissioners of the Land Office, set up an account in his name at BancFirst, describing himself as doing business as Commissioner of the Land Office. BancFirst has agreed to give $250,000 to educational foundations to settle a negligence claim.
The plea agreement did not specify a sentence, leaving it in the hands of Oklahoma County District Judge Kenneth Watson. Prosecutors say they will seek a prison sentence and full restitution when Melson is sentenced Nov. 9.
Bock said Melson, who has already given the state his savings and retirement account and works as a janitor at a church, will have a hard time repaying the entire amount.
"He would have to live a very long time to pay it back," the defense attorney said.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
(ABC 6 NEWS) -- On Tuesday a group called Profit Minnesota unveiled its plan to put electronic gambling in bars and restaurants across the state.
"I think it'd be something of course as a business we'd discuss with the ownership here at Rookie's, but I also think that it's something that if was approached to us, we'd be able to accept very quickly," says Dean Nelson, Operations Manager at Rookie's Sports Grill and Bar in Rochester.
The state-regulated plan could add revenue without boosting taxes.
"Anything that can help our business succeed and generate more revenue, more guests that come into our business is great. On the flip side, if it's gonna help out the economy and as they say help with the budget, I think it's a win win situation," says Nelson.
But some health professionals say the plan could have unintended consequences, including those with a gambling addiction.
"The folks who just come in, a couple quarters, got an extra quarter in my pocket, not a big deal. It's the ones that are playing the rent money or other things and it's just gonna to expose vulnerable people to high risk situations," says Steve Lansing, PhD.
They agree that something needs to be done to fix the state's budget problems.
"I want to see things that are going to help people and if we're gonna raise more money, are there maybe better ways to do that?" says Lansing.
But say electronic gambling is not the solution.
Profit Minnesota will present it's plan to various political candidates for support.
In addition to giving money to the state, the group says it would generate nearly $230 millions for Minnesota charities.
Granite State Coalition
Against Expanded Gambling
NH GOP Convention Kills Pro-Casino Plank, 2 To 1
The most contentious part of Saturday's debate among delegates at the NH GOP convention was an amendment proposed by Rep. Ken Weyler and others which would have removed the state GOP's existing and long-standing anti slot casino provision. The proposal was voted down by voice vote by a margin of about 2 to 1.
Jim Rubens and others spoke against removing the anti-casino plank.
20 September 2010
From the National Times on September 20, 2010:
The league's defences against corruption are ridiculously naive.
MILLIONS of dollars will be bet on this weekend's AFL grand final - but it is only good luck and not good management that the sport is yet to suffer the same type of betting scandals that have rocked most other major codes around the world.
Gambling now presents as great a threat to the integrity of sport as performance-enhancing drugs did in the 1980s and '90s, but the AFL Commission has taken a head-in-the-sand approach, revelling in the endless bounty of gambling licence agreements while running an integrity system designed only to catch dummies.
Gambling is now as ubiquitous at the football as meat pies. Punters will bet on every facet of the grand final - score margins, first goals, which players get more goals or disposals.
The AFL's defence against the threat of gambling is to check with bookmakers if any players have been betting on matches. It does this by checking if players have bet under their own names.
I am not sure many of those caught match-fixing in other sports have opened accounts in their own names and placed large bets on matches they could influence. The AFL's is a ridiculous defence against corruption.
Former bookmaker and Footscray full-forward Simon Beasley has said the AFL was in ''noddy land'' if it thought it could control betting by players or officials. ''What can the AFL do if your wife puts the bets on? What can they do about a player who has a mate who bets enormously on information the player supplies?'' he said this year in a newspaper interview.
And what about players or officials who bet with cash?
The AFL has caught players and officials betting small amounts on matches, and dealt with them severely. But such detections are never likely to uncover match-fixing - corruption is rarely that simple. AFL bosses will be closely watching an investigation under way into circumstances surrounding this year's round 24 National Rugby League match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Canterbury Bulldogs.
The matter was referred to police by the NRL following an examination of betting patterns leading into the match - NRL boss David Gallop warned this week that any player involved in match-fixing would face a life ban.
Tony Robinson, the minister responsible for gambling in Victoria, has repeatedly warned of the dangers gambling presents to sport. ''Ultimately, if these rules aren't enforced, there will be a day where we will pay for it - where there is a scandal exposed which undermines the entire integrity of these sporting codes and that will do a great deal of damage to the code,'' he said.
Bookies have told The Age that they consider the AFL one of the best sports in the world in terms of integrity and probity. Yet the AFL's checks and balances to safeguard against the threat of gambling are not as tight as in other sports. For example, where international cricket has banned mobile phones in change rooms, the AFL has not.
The AFL will also not say if it is examining player phone records to check for any unusual contact with bookies. Some are now concerned that the growth in telephone and internet betting technology and the proliferation of gambling providers are exponentially expanding the reach and opportunity for gambling in sport - and the risk.
Spot betting during matches poses one of the greatest risks. Bets such as who kicks the first goal could be open to corruption if an opposition player gives away a free kick in front of goal.
Not for a second can the AFL believe it is immune to betting corruption. Players have admitted to gambling addictions and the money to be made has grown enormously. The danger signs should not be ignored.
The former head of the International Cricket Council, Malcolm Speed, is working with codes such as the AFL to ensure they have the appropriate integrity measures to safeguard against gambling corruption, and in 2008 the AFL also hired senior Racing Victoria integrity manager Brett Clothier as the AFL's new manager of integrity services. But much more needs to be done.
The only way to guarantee the integrity of the sport is to limit the types of bets that can be placed, increase regulation on ''in-play betting'' or spot bets, and wind back the gambling culture that has hijacked the AFL. As part of this, scoreboards at matches should stick to the scores - not publicise the odds.
Research shows professional sports people are more likely to engage in betting-related behaviour during a game if it is unlikely to have a big impact on the outcome of a match.
A gambling summit should be held by the AFL and all clubs over the summer to tackle gambling, map out the types of bets that should be permitted and how far clubs and the AFL are prepared to allow gambling to intrude on the competition. Then the AFL can get back to its core business - football matches.
By: Jason Dowling
Part Two in a Series
By Huntingtonnews.net Staff
If Democratic Governor Wally Barron symbolized political corruption for a whole generation of West Virginians in the 1960s and 70s, the legislative branch was to take it's turn in the late 1980s.
Not one but two Senate Presidents, in rapid succession, went down on corruption charges: Dan Tonkovich and Larry Tucker.
Tonkovich was a tall, handsome State Senator from Marshall County with aspirations for the Governor's Mansion. He an impressive background: After earning his B.A. degree from nearby West Liberty State College, he received a Masters degree from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse. He was always a hit with veterans' groups, as he ad served in Vietnam as an army infantryman.
However, Tonkovich came out of a Northern Panhandle political environment that has had gambling interests in play for decades. For all his potential, he succumbed to those gambling interests and threw away his promising career in West Virginia politics for extorting $5,000 from gambling interests.
Tucker Goes Down Fast, Too
Immediately upon Tonkovich's removal from office, State Senator Larry Tucker of Nicholas County was elected to the State Senate President's position. Yet only a few months later, he, too, was found guilty on similar charges. Tucker was sentenced to six months in prison and fined $20,000 for taking an illegal $10,000 payment from gambling interests.
Interestingly, years later Tucker ran competitively for Nicholas County Commission in 2008, losing only by 66 votes in the general election. Apparently, Nicholas Countians can be a forgiving folk.
The scar left by two Senate leaders going to prison on gambling related corruption charges not only hurt West Virginia's public image nationally. The gambling industry also came under greater scrutiny by the public, who voted down many local and state gambling refernenda for the next twenty years.
My Name is Earl
Another Democratic State Senate President, current State Senator Earl Ray Tomblin, is under renewed scrutiny since he has the potential to become the state's next Governor should Joe Manchin win the U.S. Senate race in November against John Raese. According to the state's succession law, the Senate President fills the immediate vacancy of a Governor until an election is set.
Tomblin has long been derided for the $260,000 state grayhound breeding contracts awarded to his mother during his time in the State Senate. Tomblin has also had significant ties to gambling interests.
Concern about Tomblin promoting his family's financial interest has intensified as some voters wonder what he might try as Governor. Already, Tomblin's office has said that it is trying to get more influence with the Governor's budget in the event that Tomblin assumes the position.
In light of the state's corruption history and the current federal probe into the Manchin Administration on possible financial gains made on the Fairmont Gateway road project, such talk may be worrisome to many voters. Tomblin's office reaching out for influence with the Governor's budget way ahead of schedule may not be what voters across West Virginia want to hear right now.
....most notably the 900 full-time jobs created by SugarHouse.
Jobs for 800 full-time and 200 part-time casino employees are nothing to sniff at in tough economic times.
Either number is still far from the thousands promised and promoted on Beacon Hill, phony numbers gathered from flawed reports paid for with taxpayers' hard-earned dollars. Some may recall Beacon Hill's refusal to conduct an Independent Cost Benefit Analysis, afraid it might shed some light and truth on their folly.
Just because SugarHouse finally opened didn't mean the end of protests against it. Though overwhelmingly outnumbered by casino supporters - some of whom yelled, "Go home!" - a few dozen opponents were on hand with signs bearing such slogans as "Reclaim Our Neighborhoods" and "Reclaim Our Jobs."
The Rev. Robin Hynicka, of the Arch Street United Methodist Church and a volunteer with Casino-Free Philadelphia, insisted that the odds are stacked against the people waiting to get into the casino.
"The myth that they'll be winners is wrong," he said. "The reality is that they'll be losers and they won't be able to pay their rent and put food on their table. You don't see anybody here in three-piece suits."
Francesca Lo Basso of Casino Town Watch said, "The only way for SugarHouse to make a profit is through cultivating addiction."
She identified as "predatory" such casino-marketing tactics as round-the-clock operations, free alcohol and easy-to-establish lines of credit, which, she charged, "allows [gamblers] to potentially go bankrupt in one night."
Lo Basso added that SugarHouse's exemption from the city's smoking ban will put "workers' and patrons' health at risk."
Note this revealing comment on opening day, expansion plans are already underway in a never ending scheme of continued expansion to suck every remaining dollar from local economies to fulfill their greed:
But if those are concerns of SugarHouse's execs, they were keeping it a secret yesterday. As Chief Executive Officer Greg Carlin accepted congratulations from various well-wishers, he was asked when expansion plans would be developed.
"We're already working on 'em," he said with a smile.
Jobs for 800 full-time and 200 part-time casino employees are nothing to sniff at in tough economic times.
In a pattern that repeats itself as legislators and regulators genuflect before the Casino Vultures, Beacon Hill also rejected monthly statements and any effort that would have offered protection:
...state gambling regulators even rejected the sensible idea of requiring that regular patrons be sent monthly win-loss statements.
Inquirer Editorial: Gaming is a gamble
As the colorful con man in The Music Man would say, friends, we've got gambling "right here in River City."
The question is whether the official opening Thursday of Philadelphia's first casino will mean "Trouble with a capital 'T'," as the mythical Professor Harold Hill forewarned.
Six years after Pennsylvania legalized slots parlors - now upgraded prematurely to full-fledged casinos - the debut of SugarHouse Casino on the banks of the Delaware River is a sobering moment for a city that can ill-afford more trouble.
The utilitarian gambling hall erected on North Delaware Avenue at the border of Fishtown and Northern Liberties puts 1,600 slot machines and 40 card tables within easy reach of neighborhoods across the city, many of them low-income.
With the illusive promise of winnings, look for the casino to feed gambling addictions that will trouble thousands of city residents.
At the ribbon-cutting, don't look for any mention of the social costs of gambling - increases in personal bankruptcies, crime, family problems, and addictions. But the state's protections against problem gambling clearly aren't up to the challenge yet. In fact, state gambling regulators even rejected the sensible idea of requiring that regular patrons be sent monthly win-loss statements.
The former Jenkintown tax collector charged with gambling away tax receipts at Parx - not to mention the seven casino patrons arrested for leaving children outside the Bucks County slots joint - could be a mere warm-up for future problems.
No question, there will be winners in the SugarHouse debut aside from the casino operators, who own what undoubtedly will be a big moneymaker.
Jobs for 800 full-time and 200 part-time casino employees are nothing to sniff at in tough economic times. A special-services district will receive $1 million a year from the casino, starting in 2012, to fund community projects in Fishtown, Northern Liberties, and parts of Kensington. Vendors supplying the casino have a lucrative new business opportunity.
Of the two casinos planned in Philadelphia, SugarHouse's more remote location also has the least negative impact on hopes to transform the riverfront into a pedestrian-friendly setting for recreation, and residential and commercial development. That's in stark contrast to the traffic-clogged southern end of Columbus Boulevard, where the long-stalled Foxwoods Casino is slated.
And while it serves its own self-interest, SugarHouse at least will keep a few cars off the road by hauling casino patrons from Center City aboard a free trolley.
The vocal casino opponents who fought the good fight did delay SugarHouse's opening. That's a victory of sorts. Now, their vow to monitor inevitable problems stemming from casino gambling in Philadelphia must become the mantra of city officials, too.
A Memorial Service for Our City - SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia
Yesterday, you changed the story.
- On a day that was supposed to be about SugarHouse bringing wealth to Philadelphia, you helped remind the city that the casino will destroy twice as many jobs as it creates.
- At a casino that bills itself as harmless entertainment, you helped document the predatory tactics SugarHouse uses to purposely create addiction, through our first Casino Town Watch.
- In a moment when the city was instructed, in the words of Councilman Frank DiCicco in 2006, to "just sit back and take it," you demonstrated that our communities' voices still matters.
Take a moment to watch this inspiring video produced by our friends at the Media Mobilizing Project, featuring community leaders Lai Har Cheung and Rev. Jesse Brown:
Please share this video with your friends. Post it on your Facebook profile, and email it to those who want to know why you oppose casinos in Philly.
Reports on SugarHouse's opening in the news media demonstrate the degree to which your hard work over the past four years has changed the conversation. Yesterday morning, the Philadelphia Inquirer editorialized:
"The vocal casino opponents who
fought the good fight did delay
SugarHouse's opening. That's a
victory of sorts. Now, their vow
to monitor inevitable problems
stemming from casino gambling
in Philadelphia must become the
mantra of city officials, too."
We couldn't agree more. Our Casino Town Watch should serve as a model for what the city of Philadelphia should be doing: Keeping our children and families safe, reporting drunk driving, connecting patrons with addiction services and pushing SugarHouse to abide by the city smoking ban.
This morning, the Philadelphia Daily News followed up with their own editorial:
"There's another way to look at these
casino-revenue figures: These dollars
are what gamblers lost. In other words,
people visiting the state's casinos lost
$234 million in August. ... What are the
implications of those choices? Objective
data on these decisions don't exist. We
think getting this data is a job for the
House Gaming Oversight Committee.
The General Assembly brought gaming
to the state. It, and we, should be as
clear-eyed as possible on exactly what
that decision may mean."
We agree the state legislature must take action. Our state legislators should aggressively investigate predatory tactics -- like free alcohol and offering gambling on credit -- that SugarHouse uses to stoke addiction.
We still need you in this fight. The sooner SugarHouse is shut down, the fewer jobs in Philadelphia will be lost. The more effective the Casino Town Watch is, the less effective SugarHouse's addiction-producing tactics will be.
Your hard work has made a big difference this week. Thank you for all you do!
--Lily, Ivan, Dan, Kristin, Francesca and the Casino-Free Philadelphia working groups
P.S. We'll be publishing images and video from yesterday's events next week. In the meantime, check out some of the coverage we received from the Associated Press, Philadelphia Daily News, Phillyist, WHYY, and Phillyist (again).
Friday, September 24, 2010
Casino Gambling has been called the greatest transfer of wealth in history.
You might have missed these:
BUSINESS SEPTEMBER 17, 2010
Tribe's Roll of Dice Rattles Lenders
Flanagan's casino gag order derails planned meeting between council and development officials
This article is about a PA court decision:
Phony Beacon Hill Numbers and contained this quote:
To date, with nine of a maximum fourteen casinos in operation, legalized gaming in the Commonwealth [of PA] has created over 8,000 new living wage jobs
You might have missed this:
Atlantic City has an army of homeless beggars
who hit the night boardwalk. Crime is rampant
in Atlantic City. The police union erected a
billboard saying the resort was not safe.
As for the glitter and the fun, they are locked
in the mammoth self enclosed casinos. They
are too often viewed as fortresses in a dangerous
city, hope that is surrounded by despair.
Although it was widely reported that Mohegan Sun cuts 355 jobs,
this was ignored --
Mohegan Sun has cut 900 jobs through attrition since the recession began in the autumn of 2008.
Incidentally, I attend the DEP Hearing in Lakeville and each and
every person in the room supported and promoted the bottle bill.
What I witness is grassroots voices drowned out by lobbyists.
I have not met a single voter who opposes the bottle bill, but
New leadership is clearly needed and maybe new faces on Beacon Hill
is the requirement to be heard. But don't count on the Party of Big
Corporations to do it.
Published: Wednesday, September 22, 2010, 10:46 PM Updated: Thursday, September 23, 2010, 7:06 AM
Charles McChesney / The Post-Standard
Albany, NY -- A federal judge has thrown out the Onondaga Nation’s land-claim lawsuit.
The nation sued New York state, Onondaga County, Syracuse and five companies, including Honeywell International. The Onondagas claimed that land from the Canadian to the Pennsylvania borders had been illegally taken by the state in the 18th and 19th centuries when it negotiated treaties in violation of federal laws.
Lawrence E. Kahn, federal judge for the Northern District of New York, said Wednesday that similar cases brought by the Cayugas and Oneidas were dismissed because they were not brought soon enough and would disrupt areas that had been developed by generations of landowners.
Onondaga chiefs will meet this week to discuss an appeal, Onondaga Nation attorney Joe Heath said. “This is not the end at all,” he said.
Heath said that the Nation could take the case to the court of appeals and, if necessary, to the U.S. Supreme Court. International courts were also available, he said.
Heath said previously rulings seemed to force Kahn to decide the case as he did, but that the earlier rulings were not just. He said Indian nations did not take their cases to court earlier because the could not get access. "What we proved in our submission was that Indian nations could not get to court," he said.
The earlier decisions, he said, seemed designed to make it impossible for Indian nations to win in court. "I'm very pessimistic about the chances of justice in the U.S. court system he said.
Heath said that the case has not been disruptive and wouldn't be. The Onondaga Nation wants justice, not its land back, he said .
"We just need to admit these historic wrongs and figure out a way ahead," Heath said.
A group, Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation, has scheduled a candlelight vigil for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Clinton Square to "express our sadness, outrage and disappointment."
From a friend:
WE WON ANOTHER ONE BIG TIME. THANKS TO SHERRILL AND CAYUGA THE ONONDAGA LAND CLAIM IS DEAD AT THE HANDS OF JUDGE KAHN. I am sure that they will appeal but in light of the 1974 land claim decision I don't think that it is going to get any real traction.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
There are better options available than the "Something for Nothing Scheme" of SLOT BARNS.
State Sen. Eldridge backs tax changes over casinos
State Senator Jamie Eldridge speaks to editors at the MetroWest Daily News yesterday.
By Paul Crocetti/Daily News staff
The MetroWest Daily News
Posted Sep 23, 2010 @ 12:00 AM
Massachusetts should stop gambling with casinos and start discussions on altering the income tax structure for revenue, state Sen. Jamie Eldridge said yesterday.
Eldridge, an Acton Democrat, is running against challenger Republican George Thompson in the Nov. 2 election for his second two-year term.
Eldridge is an advocate for a progressive income tax that would reduce payments for the middle class and increase taxes for the wealthy, possibly earners of at least $500,000 per year.
"It would be a long-term effort" requiring a constitutional amendment, Eldridge said in a Daily News editorial board meeting.
Legislators could discuss changes to the income tax if voters pass Question 3, which calls for decreasing the sales tax to 3 percent. But Eldridge said he opposes the question because cutting the sales tax from 6.25 to 3 percent could lead to a budget deficit of billions of dollars. Slashing education funding would drive down property values, while cuts to police and fire personnel would make communities less safe, he said.
If Question 3 passes, the state could also review how much it gives out in tax breaks, such as large incentives for film studios, Eldridge said.
Eldridge, who previously served three terms as a state representative, is also an opponent of any expanded gaming.
"The social costs often outweigh the revenues raised," he said. "I don't think it's good economic development. ... I don't think casinos would bring in that much revenue."
Thompson, a Westborough selectman, endorsed Eldridge in 2008. But Thompson said on his campaign website that the senator has been "more passionate and interested in representing his political point of view, and blind to the real life consequences of his decision-making."
Eldridge shot back yesterday by saying he is concerned with the Middlesex & Worcester District's priorities, such as local aid. The senator said he has gone door-to-door and called voters during the campaign.
"I feel I have a good idea of the feelings of the people," he said.
Eldridge also talked about the need for transparency in state government spending. For example, he said the Legislature should make its budget public. The senator also supports successful legislation that will make business tax break figures public.
Gov. Deval Patrick recently appointed Eldridge as chairman of the Water Infrastructure Finance Commission. The commission, created by legislation that Eldridge sponsored, will analyze less expensive methods to treat sewage and ways residents can decrease waste.
The Middlesex & Worcester District includes Marlborough, Hudson, Maynard, Stow, Southborough and Westborough, as well as parts of Sudbury and Northborough.
(Paul Crocetti can be reached at 508-490-7453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Copyright 2010 The MetroWest Daily News. Some rights reserved
BY SCOT ANDREW PITZER Times Staff Writer
A group of veterans formed a new anti-casino group Tuesday morning in Harrisburg, in opposition to the proposed Mason Dixon Resort & Casino in Cumberland Township.
The group, calling itself Veterans for Gettysburg, includes the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the American Legion, and the Chief Historian Emeritus of the National Park Service. Veterans for Gettysburg describes itself as a “collection of service veterans from around the nation who believe that the presence of a casino operation so close to the scene of some of the nation’s most blood-soaked ground would disrespect the sacrifices made by previous generations of American soldiers.”
“If Gettysburg is truly hallowed ground, then it should be treated as such,” Vietnam Memorial Fund President Jan Scruggs wrote in a press release. “It should be a place for study, reflection and contemplation. It should not be a place for gambling.”
In a prepared statement, the veterans alliance specifically objected to the project “that would transform an existing, family-friendly hotel complex just one half-mile from the edge of Gettysburg National Military Park into a gambling resort.” The Emmitsburg Road property is zoned for commercial development, and is already home to a 35-year-old hotel with 300 rooms, a sports complex, and privately owned residences.
“We need to be sensitive to the fact that this is a hallowed resting place for our brothers-in-arms, and protect it from such inappropriate development,” American Legion Executive Director Peter Gaytan wrote in a statement.
The Gettysburg Times was not invited to Tuesday's press conference, hosted by Preservation Pennsylvania and the Civil War Preservation Trust. The national American Legion organization, which represents 2.5 million veterans, announced opposition to the Mason Dixon project Aug. 13, without consulting area organizations.
The veterans’ alliance also announced that it was launching a letter-writing campaign, aimed at generating opposition to the Mason Dixon project. State gambling regulators are accepting written testimony on the project through late October.
The seven-member gaming board is expected to award the license by the end of the year. There are four applicants, including LeVan and Lashinger, vying for the license, which permits up to 600 slot machines and 50 table games.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
A 27-year-old-man, described as a ‘gentle giant’ by colleagues was jailed for huge fraud at Dungannon Magistrates Court last week, according to Tyrone Times newspaper.
Leo McGirr has been sentenced to twenty months in prison after he swindled £326,000 out of his employers.
The man, who had racked up huge gambling debts, stole the money over a period of two years from Tyrone Tiling Services Ltd to fund his gambling addiction.
McGrirr started working for the company in 2004 as an administrative assistant, and in May 2007 he started writing fraudulent cheques to himself.
He forged his employer’s signature and made up fake customer names, forging the invoices to conceal the fraud.
Defence Barrister, Brian Fee, Q.C., said that McGirr had cooperated fully with the investigation, shown genuine remorse, and had demonstrated a determination to rid himself of his gambling addiction.
“This is a sad and frightening warning of the dangers arising from a gambling addiction,” he told the court.
The court also heard how before his debt problems he was a hard-working man, who contributed positively in the community and came from a well respected family.
A former employer of his gave a character reference and described him as ‘a gentle giant’ who enjoyed helping others.
When McGirr started gambling he used his own money from his earnings and savings, before borrowing from a number of banks and credit companies.
But when his addiction worsened he began to write fake cheques to himself to help fund his addiction.
Mr Fee said that the defendant believed when he wrote his first fraudulent cheque he thought he was going to get caught. However, when his crime wasn’t rattled his addiction got worse until he was betting more than £100 on various stakes everyday.
After discovering online casinos his situation deteriorated further, and he started making thousands of transactions on a daily basis, leaving him sinking into a ‘black hole’ of debt.
When his employer became suspicious, Mcgirr came clean and revealed the full extent of his fraud by showing his bank statements.
Sr Consilio Fitzgerald from the Cuan Mhuire Addiction centre, who was called up as a witness by the defence, told the court that gambling was one of the worst kinds of addiction, in her experience, and that it is almost impossible to beat.
McGrirr had taken part in a twelve week course at the Galway centre, and she said he had ‘taken to heart’ the ethos of the course.
The defendant had also helped others with their addictions and started volunteering two days a week at the centre.
Judge David McFarland recognised that the defendant had shown good character and contributed positively to society before he committed the fraud.
He blamed the easy availability of credit and gambling websites for contributing to McGrirr’s debt problems and downfall.
“There are many victims in this case, not only your family, who have suffered in terms of their reputation, but also your employers and the employees of the company,” he said.
“To some extent you are coming out of this abyss, but this will be a lifelong problem with which you will battle.”
McGrirr pleaded guilty to 169 counts of fraud from May 2007 to May 2009.
As well as twenty months in prison the judge said that he must be on probation for a year after his release.
However he did not impose any compensation order on the defendant.
By Dawn Murden
WILKES-BARRE - Prominent Wilkes-Barre restaurant/bar owner Patrick Patte Jr. pleaded guilty Monday to an illegal gambling charge that could send him to federal prison for six to 16 months.
Patte, 72, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the wire transmission of illegal gambling information. Under his plea agreement, he will pay $100,000 to keep the West Hollenback Avenue building that houses his business and residence from being seized by the federal government.
Prosecutors say payments related to an online betting ring were made at Patte's Sports Bar, which Patte has operated for 46 years.
Patte's attorneys acknowledged their client was involved in the gambling enterprise, but said he instructed his employees not to make payments at the bar.
"He gave specific instructions to everybody that there wasn't going to be any gambling at the bar," said defense attorney Michael Butera.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William Houser told the court that undercover agents had placed bets on the Internet site, collected winnings and paid losses as part of the investigation. A confidential informant had recorded conversations with Patte that "indicated Mr. Patte's clear involvement and knowledge of the operation," Houser said.
Patte's plea agreement calls for a prison sentence in the six-to-16-month range, but U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo is not bound by the agreement. The maximum penalty is two years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Defense attorney William Ruzzo said he is "hopeful" Patte could receive a sentence of probation because of his work for charitable causes through events linked to the sports bar.
"I certainly could make a good argument for it," said Ruzzo, who characterized Patte as "a hard-working guy who does a lot of things in the community."
Patte was arrested nearly 20 years ago on state bookmaking charges and entered a probationary program for first-time offenders. That arrest will not be considered when computing Patte's federal sentence because so much time has elapsed and Patte successfully completed the program, his attorneys said.
Patte and two other men were arrested in February on the latest charges. Federal prosecutors say they seized between $80,000 and $90,000 and paper and electronic records connected to the operation from one of Patte's co-defendants, Christopher Marion, of Archbald. Marion and Mark Fino, an employee of Patte's Sports Bar, have pleaded guilty and been sentenced to two years probation.
A press release issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office in March linked the arrests of Marion and Fino to an ongoing public corruption probe that has snared more than 30 people, including three Luzerne County judges and a county commissioner, since January 2009, but federal prosecutors have declined to elaborate.
Patte's attorneys said Monday that they are not aware of any link.
"As far as I know, this has nothing to do with any ongoing corruption probe in Luzerne County," Ruzzo said.
Ruzzo said Patte has not, to his knowledge, cooperated in investigations into matters other than his own case.
"I don't think the government needs any cooperation from Mr. Patte," Ruzzo said.
During Monday's plea hearing, Houser, the federal prosecutor, read excerpts from Patte's plea agreement, which remains sealed under court order. Houser did not mention any agreement by Patte to cooperate in other investigations.
Attorneys from both sides declined comment on the contents of the sealed agreement.
One part of the agreement that has been made public is the $100,000 Patte will pay the federal government to keep the building that houses his business and residence from being seized because of its role in the gambling case.
Houser told the court prosecutors agreed to the payment because the building, assessed at $177,000 by the county, is subject to a $250,000 mortgage. The government estimated it would have lost $38,350 if it seized the building and had to settle the mortgage, Houser said.
Patte has already paid $40,000 and will make three annual $20,000 payments beginning in August.
He remains free on his own recognizance pending his sentencing on Jan. 5.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
This comment was telling:
Lotteries were “bread and circuses,” said Dr. Dewar referring to the custom of Roman emperors to appease poor citizens with shallow diversions. Dr. Dewar said the government’s reliance on lotteries was no substitute for policies that improved the lives of its citizens.
Why aren’t PEI Islanders outraged over online gambling
Resignation or complacency in the face of government greed and corruption
Dr. L. George Dewar Conservative MLA denounced lotteries
The late MLA L. George Dewar wrote an opinion piece for the Charlottetown Guardian/Journal Pioneer 3 decades ago. He denounced the government’s entrance in the Atlantic Lotto scheme as a travesty of bad government policies.
Lotteries were “bread and circuses,” said Dr. Dewar referring to the custom of Roman emperors to appease poor citizens with shallow diversions. Dr. Dewar said the government’s reliance on lotteries was no substitute for policies that improved the lives of its citizens.
In the Guardian today, Dr. Peter McKenna of UPEI raises another cry denouncing the lack of outrage over government sponsored on-line gambling, a slide down the slope of moral turpitude.
“Now that the Ghiz government has tipped its hand that it intends to embrace online gambling,” writes McKenna, “where are the voices of civil society on P.E.I.?”
“Why have we not heard from the churches and the wider religious community on the scourge of online gambling, which will undoubtedly inflict serious harm on many of their flock?”
“Where is the P.E.I. Medical Society and its membership? Surely they have seen the damage inflicted on the health of Islanders from compulsive gamblers?”
“Why have we not heard from other groups like the Women’s Institute of P.E.I.? They were certainly outspoken before the November 1997 referendum on VLTs in Charlottetown. But where are they now — all of them? Strangely silent, it seems. Do they not care about the well-being of Islanders? What are they afraid of?”
Quite amazingly, a poll on the Eastern Graphic site says 69% (48 votes) of its readers are against on-line gambling. Even the Ghiz/Liberal supporter Tim Banks’ poll (110 votes) says 82% of Islanders oppose gambling.
Why are civic and community leaders silent?
I believe it is because in the past three years we have witnesses the almost total corruption of the Prince Edward Island middle class through the unabashed greed of our Liberal government and its leader Robert Ghiz.
Since none of the perpetrators of the PNP patronage scam have been brought to task, the public has either assumed anything goes with greed or have become resigned to a further decline in public morals.
When I first heard the PNP story – on the street and long before the papers – it seemed to be beyond the scope of any patronage scheme in PEI’s history, at least in my memory.
We heard that not only MLAs, but accountants, lawyers, judges, almost the complete ruling class of PEI had their hands dirty in a scheme of selling passports to the Chinese. It was free money for anyone on the good side of the government.
As the news broke, we discovered that the media were also implicated. CBC’s political reporter John Jeffery had to fess up he got PNP money. The Eastern Graphic got a bunch. Even long-time journalist Jack MacAndrew got a few dollops of free money.
There were no rules. 20% of the files audited by the Auditor General didn’t deserve to get any PNP but they did. Civil servants sent their wives in for a cheque. Deputy Ministers of the crown got some as did the Premier’s assistants. Some of lawyers, accountants and judges sent their spouses over for another bag full.
It was a corrupt scheme beyond any other. It permeated Island society so deeply no one in authority spoke out. Who is clean? Who hasn’t received a bribe from the government in the form of free PNP money?
The corruption of the PNP is deep in PEI society. It has feed the greed that perhaps existed but now is open knowledge. No wonder they don’t want the complete list of recipients printed in the paper. It would read like a Who’s Who of PEI.
The government is pretty well able to do what ever it wants at this stage, until PEI recovers it’s moral compass.
It’s interesting that one of the few politicians calling for a public inquiry into the PNP is Conservative leadership candidate Olive Crane.
By Stephen Pate, NJN Network
Officials tipped off about 'rigged run-rate' ahead of England's match on Friday – and then watched as the warnings came true
Cricket, the game which used to be a sport but is increasingly a body of litigation, suffered a further depressing blow yesterday. Claims were made that parts of Friday's one-day match between England and Pakistan were subverted, and the International Cricket Council, whose processes for this kind of thing are now well-rehearsed, duly announced an investigation.
This inquiry, which immediately triggered calls for Pakistan's remaining two fixtures to be abandoned, now joins the one of last month, when several Pakistan players were accused of accepting bribes to fix elements of matches against England. Police were called in, interviewed four players under caution, arrested a businessman, and an initial file of evidence has now been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service. And, on Friday, former Essex county cricketer Mervyn Westfield was charged with fraud at the conclusion of a separate inquiry. He will go on trial over claims that he deliberately played poorly during a match between Durham and Essex last year. There are also rumours that a recent match between Pakistan and Australia was rigged.
The allegations about Friday's one-day game, published by The Sun, centre on Pakistan's innings, and involved what the paper called "an illegal betting syndicate" having prior knowledge of the pattern of scoring. A popular bet by gamblers is on how many runs will be scored during a 10-over segment, and the paper claimed its "undercover team" had discovered a plan by bookies to fix the number of runs scored in one such part. It reported that the details were passed to ICC officials before the match, and added: "Cricket chiefs then watched as Pakistan's score mirrored the target that bookies had been told in advance by a fixer." England lost by 23 runs.
Those familiar with conventional betting may wonder why any bookie – however illegal – would accept a bet on a match involving Pakistan, such is their present reputation. But the suggestion in this case is that a Dubai-based "fixer" and a Delhi bookie paid for a certain scoring rate in one 10-over segment, and either backed this with other bookies, or adjusted their own odds so that gamblers were tempted to back other segments. The Sun said: "The probe centres on an individual within the team camp ... taking money from bookies and ensuring their orders are carried out." Such is the frenetic and widespread illegal betting on cricket on the sub-continent that practices like this can, apparently, be hugely profitable.
ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said: "Following information received by the ICC from a British newspaper and its source, the ICC now believes a full investigation is warranted. A source informed The Sun newspaper that a certain scoring pattern would emerge during certain stages of the match and, broadly speaking, that information appeared to be correct. We therefore feel it is incumbent upon us to launch a full inquiry into this particular game, although it is worth pointing out at this stage that we are not stating as fact that anything untoward has occurred. Only in the fullness of the investigation can that be established.
"The ICC maintains a zero-tolerance approach to corruption in cricket and, as a matter of course, follows up on all credible information that is received, whatever the source. Any player or official found guilty of an offence will face the full rigour of our robust anti-corruption code."
As far as the earlier allegations go, Scotland Yard said evidence that there was a conspiracy to defraud bookmakers will be considered by the CPS. Detectives interviewed four players under caution and arrested businessman Mazhar Majeed as part of the inquiry. Mr Majeed is accused of accepting £150,000 to fix the actions of several players during a Test at Lord's. The allegations, in the News of the World, accuse him of accepting cash to ask players to deliberately bowl no-balls during their tour of England. Captain Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz have all been interviewed under caution. They have been suspended by the ICC, but deny any wrongdoing. Some insiders believe the affair was a case of an alleged "fixer" trying to impress potential "investors" (in reality, undercover reporters), and that no bets were actually placed.
In the case of former Essex player Mervyn Westfield, the pace bowler faces claims that he acted dishonestly during a one-day, 40-over match between Durham and Essex on 5 September 2009. Police investigated allegations surrounding spot betting, a niche area of gambling where people bet on specific occurrences in a game. It is alleged that he agreed to bowl his first over in such a way as to allow a certain number of runs to be scored. Westfield conceded 60 runs in seven overs during the match, with four wides and two no-balls. It was broadcast live by Sky around the world. A second player, Essex and Pakistan leg spinner Danish Kaneria, 29, was questioned over the claims but has been told he will face no further action.
And so, as the sound of leather on willow fades from the summer scene, it is replaced by the crunch of approaching flat feet, and the rustle of lawyers' papers. For the forces of law and order, the cricket season is only just beginning.
There's a nasty smell, but the game is far from dead
Stephen Brenkley cricket correspondent
So, yet more evidence has emerged of dodgy goings on in the noble summer game. To listen to siren calls being made on almost an hourly basis there are more fixes taking place than in an inner-city back alley. Such has been the frequency and insistence of the allegations that the ICC had no option but to announce an investigation. Had it done otherwise there would have been a feeding frenzy.
Ten or so years ago when the fix was really in on cricket the ICC did nothing too often to try that one again. It had to act decisively. What this will elicit is difficult to tell but an early estimate would suggest not much. Pakistan's innings at the Oval on Friday might have followed a course that a newspaper's informant said it would, but – if so – it was achieved with extraordinarily good luck. The tourists lost three early wickets, one batsman edging a ball swinging away late, another being bowled off his pad and a third adjudged lbw which, on another day, might have been given not out.
There remain approaches to players by illegal bookmakers. There may still be elements of matches which are fixed – as they were, it is alleged, in the News of the World sting a few weeks back. But there is a danger of painting a picture of a game out of control. It is not.
Cricket scandal: Last roll of the dice
In the state of high moral dudgeon that has gripped the nation in the wake of the spot-fixing allegations that have bedevilled the Pakistan cricket team, rationality has been the first victim.
Former cricketer Aamer Sohail voiced a desire on live television that the players, if found guilty, be hanged upside down. A petition has been filed in the Lahore High Court requesting that the players be charged with treason. Cricket fans are not in a mood to be reflective, but reflect we must. Before we can even begin to fix the problem of corruption in cricket, we have to understand what motivates our players to risk their reputations and livelihood. And even more importantly, we need to understand the global gambling industry — both legal and outlawed.
No one denies that a massive, outlawed gambling industry exists in Pakistan, with its hub in Lahore. What is in dispute is the size of the industry. Those connected with it bandy about numbers in the trillions of rupees. The police say it is closer to Rs50 billion a year. Since gambling in Pakistan takes place in the shadows it is hard to give, with any authority, an exact figure.
While sports betting is currently making all the headlines, gambling in Pakistan encompasses just about every human activity that is conducive to wagering. Betting on the numbers that will be drawn on State Bank prize bonds is particularly popular, especially on Chaand Raat. The night before Eid happens to coincide both with the announcement of prize bonds by the State Bank and a time when people are in need of quick and ready cash. Prize bonds are identified by four-digit numbers and those who bet on those numbers win cash equal to the amount of the prize bond, with the bookie taking a 10 to 15 per cent commission from that amount.
Lahore is not just the centre of gambling but also coincidentally, of Pakistan cricket. Last year, SP Lahore Zeeshan Asghar admitted that there were over 800 gambling joints in the city and said that the police had been unable to take action against them as the police was fighting militancy in the city. He promised that a drive would be launched against gambling in the city soon. This hasn’t happened yet.
These gambling joints, though a hive of card games and betting on cricket and horse racing, are not big enough to have the clout or financial means to bribe players into throwing matches. The true powerhouses of gambling in Pakistan, who accept bets in the millions of rupees, hide behind layers of technology and middlemen. Odds are transmitted and wagers placed by SMS. Money changers, in the employ of the bookies, accept bets and pay out winners. These faceless men, who are believed to be based in Pakistan, India and Dubai, are believed to be those who can influence the results of matches.
India is finally taking its first tentative steps to tackling the problem of match-fixing by floating a suggestion that sports betting be legalised. Just like with the repeal of prohibition in the US in the 1930s, this would drive organised crime syndicates out of the sports betting business and allow the government to regulate the industry.
While the popularity of sports betting in Pakistan has undoubtedly played a role in the current crisis, unlike India, legalising and regulating the industry here is improbable due to custom. In Britain, for example, sports betting thrives and bookies make so much money legally that they have no incentive to fix the outcomes of sporting events.
There are two main venues for sports betting in Britain: bricks and mortar betting shops and online sportsbooks. Both are legal and regularly audited under law. Some bricks and mortar betting companies like Ladbrokes and William Hill and online sportsbooks like BetFair have become so large that their shares are floated on the London Stock Exchange.
It is the respectability of bookies in Britain that make them potential allies in the fight against sports corruption. They know that if they are caught trying to fix matches for financial gain they will lose their licenses and a billion-pound industry will be brought to its knees.
Additionally, legitimate sports betting enterprises make their data-gathering abilities available to law-enforcement officials. Thus, if betting patterns vary from the norm, it provides the police with information to act on. This is exactly what happened in 2007 when there was a surge of betting against a top 10 tennis player Nikolay Davydenko who was a set up against a player who was not even in the top 100. After the bets were placed, Davydenko suffered a surprising meltdown and lost a match he should have comfortably won. Although police investigations into the match were inconclusive, Davydenko’s reputation suffered and the tennis world took a closer look at match-fixing.
This approach would not have worked in the case of spot-fixing for which three Pakistani cricketers, Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamir, have been credibly accused. The incidents of the no-balls at Lord’s involved the subcontinent betting mafia, which can only be brought down by police work. For honest punters, though, a legal alternative exists in Britain, one that can allow for the thrills of gambling without ruining the integrity of sports.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 19th, 2010.
From multi-million dollar state-run lottery programs to glitzy Indian casinos to online slots that can be played in the privacy of one's own home, gambling has become an entrenched part of American life.
It isn't an interest of mine, frankly, so I haven't paid much attention. But when the new book "She Bets Her Life" came in the mail, and the accompanying press release noted that there are an estimated 6 to 8 million gambling addicts in the United States today, I had to sit down - first to recover from the shock of that number, and then to take a look at the book.
Author Mary Sojourner is a pioneer in women's mental health counseling.
Now based in Bend, Oregon, she is a commentator on National Public Radio and the author of four books as well as many essays and short stories that have appeared in regional and national publications.
But most germane to this discussion is the fact that Sojourner is, as she describes herself, "a hard-core slot machine gambling addict."
Sojourner gambled for well over a decade. As the years piled on she began to understand that her compulsion was way out of control, but every time she tried to quit she experienced debilitating physical symptoms.
Once Sojourner realized she was contending with very real withdrawal symptoms, she scoured the internet looking for resources on how to cope.
Finding very little, the writer in her took over - she immersed herself in researching the problem.
The result is "She Bets Her Life" - part memoir, part handbook, part psychology text.
The book begins by drawing readers into the experiences of a circle of women who meet weekly to support one another in their efforts to stay away from gambling. The women are a diverse group in terms of age, ethnicity, and educational background, but they share a compulsion that has a higher rate of recidivism than any other addiction.
Sojourner believes that women and men become addicted to gambling for different reasons. Males tend to get hooked on the thrill and the risk, while women crave the chance to retreat into a zone of their own. (Virginia Woolf does Vegas!)
So while this book has helpful information for all compulsive gamblers - and the people who care about them - it is crafted specifically for women.
Sojourner investigates the brain chemistry of an addict - fascinating stuff - and takes a hard look at issues concerning denial and enabling. She writes with candor and tough humor about withdrawal, recovery, slip-ups and healing.
She talks about what the family and friends of a compulsive gambler can do - and about what only the gambler can do for herself.
Sojourner knows firsthand that the road to recovery is precarious. But with a suicide rate higher for compulsive gamblers than for any other kind of addict, she was motivated to show that there is a better way out, and that throughout the journey there is help to be found.
She Bets Her Life - Mary Sojourner
Seal Press - 288 pp - $17.95
BARBARA LLOYD MCMICHAEL writes a weekly column focusing on the books, authors and publishers of the Pacific Northwest. Contact her at email@example.com
Saturday, September 18, 2010
LITTLE ROCK — A federal judge Wednesday denied defense requests to suppress wiretap evidence in the public corruption case of a North Little Rock alderman and a former colleague.
U.S. Magistrate David Young decided to allow federal prosecutors to submit into evidence electronic surveillance recordings against North Little Rock Alderman Sam Baggett, former alderman Cary Gaines and three others.
Baggett and Gaines are named with reputed mobster George Wylie Thompson in a wide-ranging indictment alleging public corruption, weapons violations and other charges.
The ruling covered separate indictments against Thompson’s son, George Allen Thompson of Jacksonville, and Ralph F. Deleo of Massachusetts.
Lawyers for Baggett and Gaines had argued that evidence against their clients was obtained illegally as federal agents targeted George Wylie Thompson’s dealings.
In his ruling Wednesday, Young said he found “persuasive” the government’s counter that agents got court approval to intercept the elder Thompson’s phone conversations and that Baggett and Gaines injected themselves into the investigation.
The probe began in 2007 when a cooperating witness, identified in court filings as former Blytheville police officer Thomas Charles Warren, informed the FBI’s Little Rock office of a gambling operation allegedly run by George Thompson and how it involved public officials.
Gaines’ lawyer, Chuck Banks of Little Rock, argued that Warren was unreliable.
But in his ruling Wednesday, Young said FBI agents independently corroborated some of the information Warren provided through video surveillance and other methods, and that was “sufficient to establish probable case.”
Baggett and Gaines are charged with George Wylie Thompson in a wide-ranging indictment that includes allegations of a kickback scheme involving North Little Rock public works projects and illegal weapons dealing.
Gaines faces two counts. He is accused of involvement in a kickback scheme related to city public works projects and of lying to the FBI about his dealings with the elder Thompson.
Baggett faces six counts, including accusations that the former licensed weapons dealer knowingly sold guns and ammunition to a convicted felon, George Thompson.
The George Wylie Thompson faces a wide range of charges — from gambling to drug trafficking to marriage fraud — in addition to the public corruption and weapons counts.
Baggett and Thompson are scheduled to be tried together Dec. 7. Thompson will be tried with Gaines in 2011.
The elder Thompson and Deleo are scheduled to appear before U.S. District Leon Holmes on Oct. 18.
Deleo is considered by authorities to be one of the bosses in the Colombo Mafia crime family, while George Wylie Thompson is alleged to have worked under Deleo transporting large quantities of cocaine across state lines, along with running an illegal gambling operation in central Arkansas.
George Allen Thompson was indicted following his arrest in March on drug and gun charges.
Penn National has consistently opposed competing casinos in states where it operates and has spent millions to fight new casino proposals. In 2008 in Ohio, Penn National spent more than $40 million on ads to help defeat a casino initiative.
The Casino Vultures will spend lavishly to protect their wallets.
Oxford casino might hurt Hollywood Slots
BANGOR, Maine — Consistent revenue month after month suggests that Hollywood Slots has developed a successful business model, but those flush numbers could be in jeopardy if voters decide to expand gambling in Maine this November, a University of Maine economist said.
Question 1 on the ballot asks: “Do you want to allow a casino with table games and slot machines at a single site in Oxford County, subject to local approval, with part of the profits going to specific state, local and tribal programs?”
University of Maine economist Todd Gabe recently released an economic impact study on the proposed casino in southern Maine. While his research relied on Hollywood Slots revenue as the basis for projection, the study did not indicate whether the Bangor facility would lose income if competition comes to Oxford. But this week, Gabe said that could be the case.
“There is certainly the possibility that they would take a hit,” Gabe said. “It depends on what market you assume. If you’re talking one hour [driving time], there is no impact. If you assume three hours, there likely would be impact.”
In the past, Hollywood Slots General Manager John Osborne and others have said that the biggest market for the Bangor casino is the 100-mile radius around the city, but the facility has made marketing pushes into the Portland area and Atlantic Canada.
If there is widespread concern that a new Maine casino would take big chunks of revenue from Hollywood Slots, its executives are showing a good poker face. Osborne said he couldn’t predict what a yes vote on Question 1 would mean for his operation, although Hollywood Slots and its parent company, Penn National Inc., have opposed the Oxford County casino initiative.
Penn National has consistently opposed competing casinos in states where it operates and has spent millions to fight new casino proposals. In 2008 in Ohio, Penn National spent more than $40 million on ads to help defeat a casino initiative.
Hollywood Slots, the only gambling facility that has been approved by voters to date, has become almost machine-like in its revenue generation. From August 2009 to August 2010, the average monthly net revenue at Hollywood Slots was just over $5 million, and revenue never dipped below $4 million in any month. Any concerns that Maine’s only gambling facility would see a financial drop-off in a weak economy have been exaggerated, Osborne said.
“Thanks to a strong first quarter this year, we’re projecting a 4 percent increase over last year,” he said. “And we believe there is growth still on the slots side because of recent success in reaching new markets.”
Dan Cashman, a spokesman for Citizens Against the Oxford Casino, a coalition that includes the owners of Hollywood Slots, said the opposition is not from a fear of competition but from fear of creating an unlevel playing field.
The Oxford County casino as proposed would allow both slot machines and table games such as poker and blackjack. Hollywood Slots currently is licensed only for slot machines.
“The coalition is not opposed to healthy competition; it’s the unfair advantages that have us concerned,” Cashman said. “Our goal is to educate voters. On the surface, it sounds good. It has the potential for jobs and new construction, but at what cost?” Earlier this month, Gabe projected that the proposed Oxford County casino would generate $127 million in annual revenue and visitors would spend an additional $51 million on food and services.
Gabe’s study also said the economic contribution of a casino in Oxford, including multiplier effects, would be $282.6 million in sales revenue, 2,784 full- and part-time jobs, and $80.7 million in wages, salaries and benefits.
The study was commissioned by Maine Taxpayers Taking Charge, a political action committee supporting the casino effort. Cashman said Gabe’s study overlooks some things, such as the differences between rural Oxford and the more urban Bangor. Dennis Bailey, representing the group CasinosNO!, which has opposed gambling initiatives in Maine for the last decade, said Gabe’s report doesn’t say whether the generated revenue is new to Maine or existing revenue.
Gabe said it’s true that he didn’t assess where the projected revenue would be coming from, but he offered this example: If building a new casino in Oxford County prevents Mainers from going to Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, that’s keeping money in Maine that would have been spent out of state. Of the $67 million generated in net revenue at Hollywood Slots in the last 13 months, $23 million has gone to various state taxes.
Supporters and opponents of the Oxford County casino have been battling in television ads and through various websites in recent weeks. On Thursday, a local citizens group calling itself OHNO1 (Oxford Hills No on 1) formed to reject the casino planned for their backyard.
“There’s much more to the casino issue than the proponents are telling,” said Zizi Vlaun, a businesswoman in Norway and one of the organizers of the local group. “This has the potential to change our quality of life in the Oxford Hills, and once it’s here, it’s here for good.”
Each major party candidate for governor has opposed the proposed Oxford County casino. Many in Bangor, though, say Hollywood Slots has not changed the quality of life in their community. In many cases, the racino has become a valued member of the business community, including its recent backing of the Waterfront Concert Series.
“Penn has a strong commitment to be active in the communities in which it operates,” Osborne said. “We recognize that Bangor’s success is our success and the success of many other businesses.”
The city of Bangor also plans to rely heavily on its own share of Hollywood Slots proceeds to help fund a new arena and renovated civic center. That facility, which is still in the design stage, is projected to cost anywhere from $50 million to $75 million. City Council Chairman Richard Stone said Hollywood Slots is an important business in Bangor, and the city supports it.
Osborne, who has consistently advocated for adding table games at Hollywood Slots, said if the Oxford County casino is approved, he would heavily petition the state to allow table games in Bangor
To date, with nine of a maximum fourteen casinos in operation, legalized gaming in the Commonwealth has created over 8,000 new living wage jobs
Massachusetts taxpayers' hard-earned dollars were used for flawed reports that casino proponents could wave like a banner promoting numbers they know are phony.
Evidence proves otherwise.
PA Commonwealth Court Rules in Favor of Gaming Control Board and Denies Trump Effort to Get Foxwoods License
HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court issued an opinion on Thursday which rejected claims by one of the losing applicants for a Philadelphia casino license that it had a right to intervene in Gaming Control Board proceedings relating to the Foxwoods casino project in that city.
In rejecting claims by Keystone Redevelopment Partners, led by investor Donald Trump and Trump Entertainment, Commonwealth Court thereby affirmatively recognized that the Gaming Control Board has the broad discretion over the licensing of casinos.
Keystone was one of five applicants for the two available Category 2 slot machine licenses in the City of Philadelphia in 2006. The Board, on December 20, 2006, awarded the licenses to HSP Sugarhouse and Philadelphia Entertainment and Development Partners/Foxwoods, while at the same time denying the applications of Keystone and two other applicants. Another applicant denied a license, Riverwalk Casino, appealed the matter to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court (see Riverwalk Casino v. PGCB, 592 Pa. 505, 926 A.2d 926 - 2007), Keystone Redevelopment Partners did not.
Nonetheless, Keystone petitioned the Board with a request to intervene more than two years after the Board's initial decisions by attempting to interject itself in licensing matters relating to the Foxwoods project and that licensee's request for an extension of time to commence operation of slot machines.
In addition, Keystone also filed a second petition to reopen the 2006 licensing proceedings and to revoke the license issued to Foxwoods asserting that it was now entitled to the slot machine license based upon the Board's 2006 determination.
The Board denied Keystone's requested relief and issued three separate orders, each of which held that Keystone lacked standing and other authority to seek or obtain the relief requested. Keystone then appealed each of the Board's Orders to Commonwealth Court.
In its ruling, available on the Gaming Control Board's web site at this link http://www.pgcb.state.pa.us/files/decisions/Keystone_v_PGCB_decision_20100916.pdf, the Court held that by not appealing the denial of its application more than two years ago, any interest that Keystone might otherwise have had ceased and its status as an applicant terminated. Moreover, the Court found that Keystone had mischaracterized the Board's prior holding and that Keystone was not otherwise entitled to the license.
"The Commonwealth Court's decision confirms what the Board has stated all along -- Keystone is just a disappointed applicant that lost in the competitive process for a license nearly four years ago," said Gaming Control Board Chief Counsel Doug Sherman. "We hope that the matter is now settled and Keystone will not continue an effort to inhibit the development of gaming in Philadelphia and the creation of jobs and revenues which will flow from that process."
In addition to the standing analysis, the Court affirmed that only the Board, upon recommendation from the Board's Office of Enforcement Counsel (OEC) and the Board's Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement (BIE), has the regulatory authority to revoke a license. It further noted that nothing in the Gaming Act or the Board's Regulations authorizes Keystone to act as a prosecutor to revoke a license. Instead, the sole discretionary authority to bring enforcement actions is in OEC and BIE.
About the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board was established in 2004 with the passage of Act 71, also known as the Race Horse Development and Gaming Act. Pennsylvania's first new state agency in nearly 40 years, the Gaming Control Board is tasked to oversee all aspects of the state's casino industry. To date, with nine of a maximum fourteen casinos in operation, legalized gaming in the Commonwealth has created over 8,000 new living wage jobs, revenue that has provided property tax reduction in each of the past three years for all homeowners, funds that have reinvigorated Pennsylvania's horse racing industry, and new revenue to local governments that has funded scores of community projects. A wealth of information about the Gaming Control Board and Pennsylvania's gaming industry can be found at www.pgcb.state.pa.us. At this web site, visitors can view videos of Board meetings and the operation of the PGCB, obtain information on identifying a gambling problem and gaining assistance, look up future meeting schedules and past meeting transcripts, access an interactive map of casino locations, request a speaker for their group, along with much more information.
Doug Harbach or Richard McGarvey
Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board
SOURCE Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board
A Dream for Atlantic City
Atlantic City, NJ -- Dreams without passion are useless. That's fantasy. A waste of time.
Raised in the infamous North End, a section of Atlantic City blanketed with poverty and hopelessness, riddled with drugs and violence, young John Paxton saw up-close how quickly passion dies and dreams fade away. He saw it every day, everywhere. But John had two good parents and some good luck. At Rutgers University, then as a writer and a filmmaker, his dreams did not die, they grew larger. Now John Paxton has returned to Atlantic City with a really huge dream.
"The arts are a way out," John's soft dark eyes burn with intensity, "my dream is to make a film and music festival in my hometown. This is about community, about place. It's not about money and fame. It's about making a bridge out for the kids."
The inaugural Atlantic City International Film and Music Festival was held from Wednesday to Sunday with venues at Bally's, Caesars, Harrahs, and Showboat Casinos. The number of attendees was not as large as hoped, the more than 80 films and nearly 20 musical groups varied in quality, the festival's organization made some mistakes. But this first festival was not about hitting a home. It was about laying a foundation.
"Next year," Paxton proclaimed at the Awards ceremony, "our festival will be bigger and better. This is just the beginning. The beginning to reinvigorate the arts and culture for young people who live in Atlantic City and who come to this city." Next year, Paxton went on to say, jazz will be added to the rock and hip-hop music. And later, possibly, a red carpet will be laid on the boardwalk with search lights shooting into the night sky for arriving guests. After all, this is Atlantic City.
Settings are important for film festivals. The Woodstock Film Festival utilizes the beautiful fall foliage of the Catskill Mountains, the Woods Hole Fest Film Festival offers popular Cape Cod during the summer. Both are excellent festivals enhanced by their locations. Sundance is in the snowy Rockies, which seems to only elevate the intensity of America's premier festival. Prestigious Telluride is in the summer Rockies, the gorgeous mountain scenery enhancing contemplation.
But Atlantic City is about rolling the dice and jumping into the ocean. Atlantic City has an army of homeless beggars who hit the night boardwalk. Crime is rampant in Atlantic City. The police union erected a billboard saying the resort was not safe. As for the glitter and the fun, they are locked in the mammoth self enclosed casinos. They are too often viewed as fortresses in a dangerous city, hope that is surrounded by despair. The city's reputation can be summed up two words: greed and sleaze. This heavy materialism and pervasive plight makes Atlantic City a tough setting for a film and musical festival.
Falling into two soft cavernous chairs in the Blue Martini lounge, with slot machines pinging-panging on Bally's casino floor -- a sudden a roar, probably from a craps table -- John says much of the advice he has received has been negative. He ticks off a litany of reasons why others say he should not be doing what he is doing: "This is a gaming place... people here aren't interested in cultural events... there was a film festival before and it failed... the town is downright dangerous..."
But his enthusiasm is not dampen, not in the least. And it has reasons. "Atlantic City is no longer the exclusive gambling center for the region," he points out. "There is now gambling in Philadelphia, New York, Delaware. And there is online gambling. So Atlantic City can't survive on only gambling. It needs to capture new markets, it needs new events. A film and music festival can bring more people to Atlantic City."
John envisions people in the morning going to the beach, after lunch seeing a movie at the festival, in the late afternoon hitting a casino, after dinner talking a stroll on the boardwalk and then listening to live music at the festival, and finally returning to the casino for some late night gambling. Beach and boardwalk and casino intermingled with films and music. This would highlight Atlantic City as an entertainment hub that includes more than gambling, that includes the arts, while providing a forum for independent filmmakers and musicians to showcase their talents.
Since Atlantic City has more than 30 million visitors a year -- it's the fourth-largest destination stop in the United States, after Las Vegas, New York and Orlando -- John Paxton is betting a sliver of these millions want more than gambling and beach.
Not unexpectedly, our conversation weaves back to what fires John's passion: "the youth of Atlantic City ... the neighborhood I came from... the lack of viable alternatives for the kids... the power of art." His large body inches forward, eyes narrow, intensity jumps. "This will be a festival that is a bridge to a better world."
For more than three decades, since casino gambling was legalized in Atlantic City, the impoverished residents of this seaside resort have been waiting for a better life. For the vast majority, certainly for the poor and downtrodden in the North End, a better life has not arrived. With the lingering economic recession and the increased competition from regional gambling casinos, bad has turned to worse. Dreams are dying even faster. More youth are viewing crime as the only alternative. John Paxton, however, sees another way out. That is his dream. That is his passion. It's called the Atlantic City International Film and Music Festival.
Tribe's Roll of Dice Rattles Lenders
By MIKE SPECTOR And ALEXANDRA BERZON
Financial troubles at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, above, have led to debt-restructuring talks between the Pequots and their lenders.
LEDYARD, Conn.—Michael Thomas, a Pequot Indian with a brash leadership style and a checkered past, was a driving force behind turning Foxwoods Resort Casino into one of the world's largest casinos, and for making tribal members rich in the process. These days, he's being cast as the man who triggered a financial crisis.
With gambling revenues sinking and a showdown with lenders looming, Mr. Thomas vowed last summer to protect dividend payments to tribal members—as high as $120,000 a year for some—before reimbursing creditors owed more than $2 billion.
That audacious move spooked banks and bondholders. Other Pequot leaders, fearing a backlash, disavowed Mr. Thomas's comments and ousted him as chairman of the tribal council. As the crisis worsened, the tribe stopped making debt payments. In July, tribal leaders did exactly what Mr. Thomas said he wouldn't: They said they will halt the payouts that have put two or more BMWs in the driveways of some tribal members, and have made the Mashantucket Pequots the envy of the Indian gambling world. Lenders are now trying to hammer out a debt-restructuring deal with the tribe.
The financial mess on this tiny reservation in rural eastern Connecticut has rattled the once-booming business of casinos run by American Indians, drawing attention to the ramifications of their unique legal status. Tribal-owned casinos can't be forced into bankruptcy, many experts say, because tribes are sovereign nations. And federal law allows no one but Indians themselves to operate casinos on reservations, which effectively prevents creditors from seizing them and selling them off.
The showdown between the Pequots and their lenders, which include Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co., has raised what was once an unthinkable question: What happens if a sovereign tribe defaults?
"The usual route through which these problems are resolved is that equity disappears," meaning that owners are wiped out, said Mr. Thomas, 42 years old, during an interview at his reservation home. "My people are not equity."
Mr. Thomas's vow has stoked fears among other Indian leaders that it will become more difficult for tribes nationwide to borrow money. His letter to fellow Pequots "was a statement that investments in tribes are not safe and that tribes will try to figure out some way to get out of them, and that is not the case," says Bob Garcia, chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians in Oregon.
Wall Street used to shy away from lending to tribes. But in the late 1990s, after lawyers crafted language in loan documents waiving tribes' sovereign protections from being sued in state or federal courts, the Indian-gambling debt market took off. Loans were secured by cash flow from the casinos.
Over time, the Indian lending market grew to an estimated $20 billion in outstanding debt. The easy money encouraged the Pequots and other tribes to keep building.
Then the national economy hit the skids and gamblers pulled back, putting pressure on casinos nationwide. Now lenders are tightening credit for tribes, asking more questions and charging higher interest rates.
The Mohegan tribe, which operates the Mohegan Sun near Foxwoods in Uncasville, Conn., had to pay a higher interest rate than originally expected on $200 million in bonds issued last fall, casino executives say. During meetings with potential investors, Mohegan tribe and casino officials tried to distance themselves from the Pequots, in part by saying Mohegan tribal members receive smaller dividends, the executives say.
Michael Thomas was ousted as tribal council chairman after irking lenders.
Another development that alarmed investors occurred in April, when a federal judge in Wisconsin ruled that a $50 million bond deal was invalid because it violated federal Indian casino law.
The decision, which is under appeal, could mean that the 3,500-member Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians won't have to pay back its lenders. That worried investors, even though the bond terms that the judge found problematic are unique to that deal, Indian-gambling lawyers say.
Many tribes haven't amassed debt burdens as large as the Pequots did for Foxwoods. Only a handful have defaulted on debt.
Still, lenders and other tribes are following the Foxwoods restructuring closely. If creditors are forced to take big losses, investors could pull back from lending to the roughly 240 tribes that run casinos, bingo halls, lotteries and poker rooms, according to both lenders and other tribes.
That, in turn, could hurt the tens of thousands of Indians across the country who rely on casino revenue to fund local governments and economies, says Mr. Garcia of Oregon's Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians.
"We use the money from casinos to fund scholarships for students and health-care benefits, pay for things for elders," he says. "Once we're done with that, there isn't anything left" for tribal-member dividends. "That's the way for most tribes."
Members of the Pequot tribal council declined interview requests, and the tribe divulges only minimal information about its finances. Moody's Investors Service recently stopped rating the Pequot tribe amid a dearth of financial information.
The Pequots were among the first tribes to encounter European settlers, and were all but killed off in various battles centuries ago. In the 1970s, their descendants began trying to revitalize the tribe's sparsely populated reservation. By 1983, the Pequots had federal recognition and a $900,000 trust fund for land acquisition and economic development. Several early stabs at businesses—a pig farm, maple-syrup production and firewood sales—failed.
Mr. Thomas was connected to a group of outsiders initially denied entry into the tribe. The group, black descendants of the Narragansett tribe in Rhode Island, eventually gained admittance to the Pequots by claiming a distant family connection to a prominent Pequot.
Mr. Thomas's own link was convoluted: His cousin was a distant relative of a woman named Elizabeth George. Ms. George was the grandmother of Richard "Skip" Hayward, the man who revitalized the Pequot reservation and helped start Foxwoods.
Mr. Thomas moved to the Pequot reservation as a teen. The wooded reservation was "the most boring a place a 15-year-old could be," he recalls. He moved back to live with his family in Rhode Island.
By 1986, the Pequots had opened a high-stakes bingo hall, getting their first taste of gambling profits. Mr. Thomas, meanwhile, was living in a tough neighborhood outside Providence, R.I., where he embraced "the fast life" and "fell in with all the wrong folks," he says.
In 1987, when Mr. Thomas was 18, Rhode Island police pulled him over and found several bags of cocaine in his car. Mr. Thomas says he was in the "grip" of drugs and spent nearly a year in state prison. When he got out, he returned to the Pequot reservation, eventually landing a job in the bingo hall.
In the early 1990s, the Pequots won a battle against Connecticut politicians to build the casino. With banks skittish about tribes, the Pequots got initial financing from Lim Goh Tong, a Malaysian gambling mogul.
The business was structured so that revenue from the casino was distributed to creditors on a tiered basis—an arrangement the tribe refers to as a "waterfall." Revenue not used to pay debts or plowed back into the business went to tribal government and to members via dividends.
Banks and potential bond investors at first were wary of the business. "There wasn't a sense for what these things are, for the power of the cash-flow generating machine," says William Newby, a recent managing director at UBS who once directed casino investments for Bank of America, which worked on the first Foxwoods bank loan. When Foxwoods began to boom, those concerns melted away.
In 1994, when Mr. Thomas was in his mid-20s, he won a seat on the tribal council, following in the footsteps of his mother and grandmother. Mr. Thomas and his allies wanted a greater say in Foxwoods' operations. Among the ideas Mr. Thomas pushed: putting more of the casino's profits into the pockets of tribal members.
After serving as the tribe's treasurer, Mr. Thomas was elected tribal-council chairman in 2002. He pushed relentlessly to expand Foxwoods, believing competition from the Mohegan Sun necessitated growth.
Investors were happy to finance it. The Pequots' investment-grade debt was a rarity among Indian tribes.
Life was good for tribal members. In addition to their dividend checks, they received free health care and college educations.
Mr. Thomas believed he could deliver lasting prosperity to the tribe through major expansions—just as Las Vegas for years staved off competition from nearby California casinos by building increasingly glitzy casinos.
The result was a three-year, $700 million expansion. The tribe licensed the MGM brand name and built "MGM Grand at Foxwoods," a casino hotel. In 2007, it spent another $55 million to add restaurants and shops to MGM. It built two new golf courses.
Its total debt soared above $2 billion, with each new bond issue falling further down the repayment waterfall.
In spite of the expansion, business at Foxwoods began tumbling in 2007. Total revenues dropped to $1.36 billion in 2009, down 14% from their 2006 peak.
"Look, at that time I was looking at it offensively, rather than defensively," Mr. Thomas says of the expansion. "Certainly, given what we've been through in the meantime, I'd look at it defensively in retrospect."
Mr. Thomas faced his own financial problems. In 2008, Sovereign Bank of West Hartford, Conn., sued him in state court for failing to repay $5.2 million in personal loans.
His lawyers argued the loans were an illegal attempt at a bribe to "influence or reward an agent of an Indian tribal government," according to court records. The lawsuit remains unresolved. Sovereign Bank declined to comment.
By August 2009, with the tribe's finances fraying, Mr. Thomas sent a letter to tribal members. In it, he blamed the tribal council for failing to expand faster to attract more customers. Instead, he wrote, "our development has stagnated, our earnings have fallen and the living standards of our tribe have been cut and put in jeopardy."
He promised in the letter to put tribal members' dividends in a "lock-box" that creditors couldn't touch. He said he wouldn't accept dividend cuts or reductions in the tribe's budget. "There are those who would eliminate or almost eliminate both items to curry favor with bankers and bondholders," he wrote. "I will not allow them to succeed."
The letter worried Wall Street lenders, who already harbored concerns that tribes might favor tribal members over lenders in times of financial distress.
The tribal council responded to Mr. Thomas in writing that it was "appalled" by his letter, and it orchestrated his ouster.
At the end of last year, the Pequots failed to pay about $7 million of interest on $500 million in bonds, putting the tribe in default. They also missed a July 13 deadline to repay a $700 million credit line from banks. The banks have agreed to forbear to give the tribe time to cut a deal with bondholders, who rank below the banks in the pecking order of creditors.
In most debt restructurings, lenders agree to forgo some or all of the money they are owed, often getting new stock in return. But because federal Indian gambling law bars anyone but tribes from having ownership stakes in casinos, Foxwoods' lenders can't take equity. That removes a big enticement for them to forgive debt. Federal law also bars Foxwoods' lenders from operating a casino on Indian land, making foreclosure an unattractive option.
Those restrictions have given the tribe leverage in negotiations. The Pequots have asked bondholders to slash the total they are owed.
Bondholders don't want to do that, but some of them have offered to stop receiving interest for a time and to push back repayment deadlines. Last week, a committee of bank lenders proposed a middle ground, according to people familiar with the talks.
Mr. Thomas is no longer involved in the negotiations. He says his controversial letter was misinterpreted. It represented, he says, the kind of opening salvo typical in restructuring negotiations. "My friends on Wall Street understood that what I was doing was…making sure that my people understood they were being defended through that long process," he says.
At the same time, Mr. Thomas says he meant what he wrote. "For us, community comes first, period. Period. Ahead of everything—lenders, everything."
—James Oberman contributed to this article.