Meetings & Information


Friday, April 30, 2010

Gambling a hidden addiction

Gambling a hidden addiction
By Deborah Froese Mennonite Church Canada
WINNIPEG, Man. — Gambling has a broad range of appeal, from dreams of ending financial struggles to the spark of an adrenalin rush or a temporary escape from everyday challenges.

Christians are not exempt.

Barry Andres, executive director with Addiction and Mental Health for Alberta and a consultant for the development of a Mennonite Publishing Network pamphlet, Dealing with Gambling, says no statistics are available for the number of Christians who gamble. He suspects that, as with other social issues, they would be similar to national statistics.

It’s hard to tell. Compulsive gambling has been called “the hidden disease” nobody wants to talk about.

Gaming is a multibillion-dollar industry that permeates all segments of society. According to Statistics Canada, gambling drew in about $13 billion in 2008 after paying off prizewinners. Over half of that income was profit.

Andres says problem gamblers generate about one-third of Canada’s gambling income and estimates they comprise 3 percent to 5 percent of those who gamble.

Based on those estimates, chances are that in a congregation of 100 adults, at least two may have experienced problems with gambling. If 47 percent of Canada’s 25 million adults engage in gambling, Canada could have more than 325,000 gambling addicts.

Byron Rempel Burkholder, editor for the “Close to Home” pamphlet series, notes that the series steering committee discerned gambling to be one of 20 personal problems Christians may try to hide. Others include pornography, bullying, child abuse, addictions, debt, depression and eating disorders.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Stein Gets It Right!

Stein Stands Alone Against Gambling

By Maureen Turner
Earlier this month, as the Massachusetts House took up—and quickly passed—Speaker Robert DeLeo's bill to build two casinos and add slots machines at four racetracks, Jill Stein, the Green-Rainbow party's gubernatorial candidate, headed to the Statehouse with other opponents to deliver a petition calling for a casino and slots boycott.

The online petition ( calls on the Legislature and Gov. Deval Patrick "to reject attempts to establish a government-endorsed program of predatory gambling in Massachusetts.

"The predatory gambling industry is harmful to local businesses, undermines sound job growth, and fosters addiction, bankruptcy, crime, divorce and other social problems," the petition reads. "Building casinos locks us in to high greenhouse gas emissions and make[s] our economy vulnerable to oil price shock. In the final analysis, these problems will consume more tax dollars than we can recover from gambling taxes."

Signers also pledged to not go to casinos or slots parlors and to "strongly encourage my children and family members to avoid such establishments. Instead, I pledge to direct my discretionary expenditures into locally-owned, productive businesses that are good neighbors in the community, that do not exploit people with addictions, workers, or the environment, and which are the best way of creating permanent jobs in a sustainable economy."

The petition was posted on April 6, and by the end of last week had collected about 500 signatures.


In announcing her support of the effort, Stein had especially harsh words for DeLeo, who declined to hold public hearings on his bill. (Senate President Therese Murray, who in the past has supported casinos but not slots, has said that body will hold public hearings before it votes on any casino bill. The Senate is expected to take up its own version of a casino bill in the next couple of months, after the passage of the new state budget.)

Stein accused the speaker of "attempting to ram [the bill] through the House," just days after accepting campaign contributions from casino lobbyists. DeLeo held a major campaign fundraiser the week before the House casino vote. The list of donors won't be available until Sept. 7, the next filing deadline for legislators' campaign finance reports.

According to the Associated Press, in 2009, DeLeo received $8,000 in donations from lobbyists for firms that count casino interests among their clients. Murray received $7,800; Patrick, $4,900; Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, $8,100.

Stein also took on the claim, made by gambling supporters, that casinos will create much-needed jobs. "Rather than letting casinos suck money out of our economy, we should be supporting local small businesses, and creating good wage green jobs that will be here for the long haul," she said. "We can create more jobs per dollar spent by avoiding casinos and slots. And we can also avoid the burden of permanent casino blight, which includes failed small businesses, gambling addiction, bankruptcies, broken families, crime, sprawl and pollution.

"Casinos kill more jobs than they create. And coping with the problems caused by casino gambling will cost taxpayers more than will be received in tax revenue. This is a bad deal for the people of Massachusetts, and truth needs to be told before an irreversible mistake is made by the Legislature."

Among the other gubernatorial candidates, Patrick supports casinos but opposes racetrack slot machines. His opponent for the Democratic nomination, Grace Ross (the Green-Rainbow candidate in 2006), neither supported nor opposed DeLeo's bill "because it pits 'different good forces against each other'—advocates for jobs and revenue against people concerned about the social impact," the Boston Globe recently reported. Independent Tim Cahill and Republican Charlie Baker both support casinos, while Republican Christy Mihos opposes the creation of casinos but does support racetrack slots.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Gambling Addict Steals Millions

SEB, HVB Appeal Ruling on Brewer’s ‘Gambling Monster’

April 27 (Bloomberg) -- Bayerische Hypo-und Vereinsbank AG and SEB AB appealed a Singapore court ruling that Asia Pacific Breweries Ltd. wasn’t responsible for $57 million in loans taken out by a former executive to fund his gambling addiction.

Chia defrauded four banks including Japan’s Mizuho Financial Group Inc. and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. of S$117 million ($85 million) by forging the signatures of Asia Pacific Breweries directors to get loans in the company’s name between 1999 and 2003. The Tokyo-based banks withdrew their case against Asia Pacific Breweries on the seventh day of the trial.

In addition to the loans, Chia also embezzled S$53 million from the brewery, according to court filings.

False Job Creation

With 3,000 slot machines, Rivers Casino employs 1,000 people.

That certainly makes one wonder about the "Job Creation" offered by Beacon Hill.

Rivers Casino is one of nine operating casinos in Pennsylvania and employs about 1,000 people.

Casino Seeks To Cut Number Of Slot Machines; Public Absent At Hearing
Games Set To Begin This Summer

PITTSBURGH -- The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board wanted to hear from the public as it considers a proposal to add table games to the Rivers Casino on Pittsburgh’s North Shore.

But, according to Channel 11 News partner TribLive, no one showed up at a public meeting Monday in Pittsburgh to speak in favor of or against the proposal.

Holdings Acquisition Co. L.P., the operator of the Rivers Casino, hopes to add about 60 table games, in addition to a poker room with roughly 20 tables.

Rivers Casino officials, however, told board members that they want to get rid of some underperforming slot machines to make way for table games.

The board has to permit the casino to drop below the current level of 3,000 slot machines because state law requires casinos to maintain the number of slots in place as of Oct. 1, 2009. Table games are taxed at a lower rate than slot machines.

Casino officials said they would submit an application Tuesday to reduce the number of slot machines to 2,874.

Rivers anticipates hiring about 300 people to operate those table games, which would be available sometime this summer.

Last week, the casino held its first day of on-site school for prospective table game dealers.

Dealer school kicked off with orientation and an introduction to the gaming industry.

The casino's on-site school facility includes training for table games such as blackjack, roulette and craps.

Rivers Casino opened in August and features 3,000 slots, nine distinctive restaurants and bars, a riverside amphitheater, live music performances, free parking and multiple promotions and giveaways daily.

Rivers Casino is one of nine operating casinos in Pennsylvania and employs about 1,000 people.

New Hampshire kills bill for slot machines

New Hampshire kills bill for slot machines
By Jarret Bencks

CONCORD — The House of Representatives has rejected a bill that would have allowed slot machines at six venues in the state, including Rockingham Park.

The House voted, 212-158, favor of a recommendation by the House Local and Regulated Revenues Committee to kill Senate Bill 489. The bill would have allowed up to 17,000 slot machines in the state at six locations, including Rockingham Park in Salem.

It was approved by the Senate, 14-10, in March. The revenue committee voted it inexpedient to legislate by a 13-7 vote earlier this month.

The bill was debated on the House floor today before legislators voted it down.

Gov. John Lynch previously said if the bill was approved by the House he would veto it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

GOP voters oppose slots 3 to 1

New NH Poll: Republicans & Women Solidly Oppose Slot Casinos

You've all heard about the slanted opinion poll paid for by Millennium, the Las Vegas gambling company using Washington-style earmarks and back-room influence peddling to finagle itself a no-bid slot casino monopoly.

Now, check out the results of this
March 31 ARG poll which asked this straightforward question: "Do you favor or oppose a bill that would allow slot machines and table games at six casinos in New Hampshire?"

By 40 to 43 percent (oppose-support), NH voters are split almost down the middle on slot casino legalization, even after 3 solid years of Millennium's pro-gambling advertising and PR assault.

By 48 to 40 percent, NH women oppose slot casinos.

By 63 to 19 percent, NH Republican voters oppose slot casinos.

Remind GOP Reps that GOP voters oppose slot casinos by more than 3 to 1.

The Demise of Greyhound Racing

The Worlds Fastest Dogs Are Riding Out D.C.’s Weather Just Fine

Turbo, Point of Rocks, Md.

There's a glut of greyhounds up for adoption these days. At least
half a dozen dog tracks closed in the U.S. last year, including established racing outposts like Raynham Park in New England and Dairyland Racetrack in Wisconsin. That's caused a relocation of thousands of greyhounds to still-viable circuits, mainly in Florida. And dog racing is a survival-of-the-fittest realm, meaning a lot of Sunshine State racers have been forced into retirement by better-performing immigrants.

Retirement hasn't historically been a pretty place for greyhounds. So rescue groups will take displaced dogs and give them homes wherever they can get them. Even if it means the animals have to leave Florida for D.C. during the worst winter ever.

"A load of six dogs from Daytona arrived on Friday," says Meredith Dowell, an organizer with
Greyhound Welfare, a rescue group that operates throughout the D.C. area. "They left 60 degree weather for a blizzard. But we're trying to pull as many dogs out of Florida as we can."

Dowell says the six arrivals taken in by Greyhound Welfare -- out of a total haul of 33 being delivered from the Daytona kennel -- were immediately placed in separate foster homes here.

And while they showed some signs of being bummed at the change of scenery and diet -- "Three had diarrhea after they got here," Dowell says -- they have settled down nicely already.

Even though greyhounds are
the fastest dogs on the planet, they're better equipped for being snowed in than other breeds. "Greyhounds sleep 18 to 20 hours a day, and they conserve energy," Dowell says. "They don't mind being shut in at all. It's not like having a lab or a border collie. Those dogs would go crazy in this."

Dowell's own greyhound, Turbo, who she got several years ago out of Wonderland Racetrack, a recently closed track in Massachusetts, has ridden out the recent snowstorms on the floor of her Point of Rocks, Md., home.

"Turbo is fine with doing nothing all day," Dowell laughs. "I had to literally shove him out the back door today to get him outside. He came running back in as fast as he could."

And that's fast.

For more information on how to adopt a greyhound or help out during this glut of displaced dogs, visit

Cheap Seats Daily: Dan Snyder’s Looking for a Few Good Collections Agents?

Balser: No to slot machines

Balser: No to slot machines
By Guest Column/Ruth Balser

Newton — As the House prepares to debate Speaker DeLeo’s proposal to license two resort casinos and install slot machines at the state’s four race tracks, I am reminded of the tale about the seven blind people who are asked to describe an elephant. Each touches a different part of the animal, and “sees” something different. Like those blind people, we approach the casino debate from different perspectives. Some see the possibility of job creation during a time of high unemployment. Others see a revenue stream for a government facing record budget deficits. Still others see this as an issue of individual liberty, the right to choose one’s pleasures. To me, this is about a threat to the public’s health and safety, a threat posed by slot machines. To me, this debate is about gambling addiction.

Gambling addiction is a serious disorder with profound consequences. Compulsive gamblers will gamble until they have nothing left. They will exhaust their savings, their family’s assets and their personal belongings. They will borrow from others, but they will rarely admit it is for gambling. Bankruptcy is a common outcome. Studies show that two out of three pathological gamblers commit crimes to continue gambling. Rates of domestic violence increase. Many become homeless or are incarcerated. The rate of suicide for gambling addicts is higher than for any other addiction. Gambling addiction is an illness that is devastating to individuals, their families, and their communities.

Proponents of expanded gambling acknowledge that gambling addiction is serious, but they assert that those who are addicted can already drive to Connecticut. Massachusetts may as well get the revenue, they argue. However, studies demonstrate that rates of gambling addiction increase with proximity. By expanding gambling in Massachusetts, we will increase the number of individuals who will suffer from this illness, and the number of families who will be destroyed by it.

Proponents of expanded gambling argue that most people who gamble do not become addicted. However, the fact that not all become addicted does not preclude a public policy of discouraging use based on recognition of the dangers. Most users of illegal drugs also do not become addicted. Health and Human Services Secretary Judy Ann Bigby testified at a hearing I chaired that only 1 out of 10 heroin users become addicted, and others testified to comparable ratios between use and addiction in the gambling population. The comparison between compulsive gambling and substance abuse does not end there. At the same hearing, Dr. Hans Breiter, a neuropsychiatrist from the Massachusetts General Hospital, presented images of a cocaine-addicted brain and that of a gambling addict that were virtually indistinguishable!

Proponents of expanded gambling argue that there is already opportunity to become addicted — race tracks, the lottery, sports and Internet betting. However, I would argue that the slot machine is more toxic. At the hearing I chaired, MIT sociologist Dr. Natasha Schull pointed out that in a society that regulates most products, the slot machine is completely unregulated. She went on to say in her testimony: “Every feature of gambling machines — mathematical structure, visual graphics, sound dynamics, seating and screen ergonomics — is geared to increase ‘time on device’ and encourage gamblers to ‘play to extinction,’ as the industry jargon goes (in other words, until their funds are depleted.)”

The slot machine, an unregulated product, designed to addict and impoverish, is being offered up as the engine of the state’s economic recovery.

I am not opposed to gambling. I would not oppose a casino that had no slot machines — one that featured card games, roulette wheels and traditional games of chance. But no one would develop such a casino, because the money is in the slots! Studies have shown that 80 percent of the profits from casinos come from slot machines. The studies further show that most of the profits from the slots come from problem gamblers.

And we are not just talking about slots at casinos, but at the race tracks as well. Massachusetts race tracks are in danger of closing because so few people attend. If this legislation is enacted, machines that are built to addict and impoverish will be installed to put a dying business on life support.

Not all who gamble become addicted. But the profits depend on compulsive gambling. What is driving this proposal is the need for revenue and jobs. The revenue and jobs will come from a business that creates and exploits a serious illness that wreaks havoc on individuals and communities.

Many in Massachusetts are unemployed, and our essential government services are being cut. These are serious problems that cry out for serious solutions. Our response to these problems should be thoughtful, and we need to avoid creating worse problems than we already face. Does the proposal before us meet that standard? I will be voting no!

Ruth Balser is a state legislator representing parts of Newton and a clinical psychologist.

Gambling against democracy

From a friend and regular reader:

Gambling against democracy

How nice that things are looking rosy for Mr. Piontowski ("Gamble on law pays off for owner of Plainridge owner" Sunday, April 4, 2010). Apparently, his interests were heard by House Speaker DeLeo. Promoters of gambling can afford the best PR, the loudest lobbyists, the best polling firms to determine which words to use to elicit support and the biggest shills to loudly promote their false claims.

Speaker DeLeo's bill was crafted behind closed doors and will not be afforded a public hearing. The Speaker insists he already met with opponents. Really? He did NOT meet with the long-time statewide organizations that have opposed legalizing slots and casinos like the Mass Council of Churches, Mass Family Institute, National Association of Social Workers, Western MA Substance Abuse Providers, Mass Catholic Conference or the citizen’s group United to Stop in Massachusetts. Mr. DeLeo's prevarications and lack of transparency are beginning to look very much like those of his (indicted) predecessors.

So what is Speaker DeLeo hiding?

Slots gambling sucks discretionary income from the local economy. The jobs created are low wage, dead end jobs, cannibalized from existing jobs. (The great majority of jobs at casinos can regularly be found on the Forbes list of worst paying jobs in America - including that of 'gaming dealer'.) The National Gambling Impact Study determined that gambling addiction escalates, along with crime, within a 50 mile radius of gambling facilities. Research from the University of Nevada Las Vegas regarding the effect of gaming facilities on suburban neighborhoods in Philadelphia found that a typical Philadelphia home owner living within a mile of a casino saw her home's value decline between $9,638 and $2,032. This is a claim echoed in every state where gambling has expanded into suburban neighborhoods.

No state has ever solved its economic difficulties by expanding gambling. Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island all have casino gambling and all have higher taxes than Massachusetts. Under the ruse of property tax relief, Pennsylvania passed a bill to legalize slots two years ago and today their Governor is calling for a major increase in the sales tax rate. These states pay higher taxes in part because they need to make up for the unmet revenue needs that were promised by the casinos. Non-gamblers pay for the massive social costs like child neglect and bankruptcies that the casino gambling industry brings along with it. The industry certainly doesn't pay the bill.

With gambling facilities going bankrupt across the country (just Google 'casinos bankrupt' to see), gambling is a particularly bad industry on which to hang our hopes for economic stability. When Twin River Casino — the first "racino" in the country — was going bankrupt, they asked R.I. taxpayers to pick up anywhere from $4 million to $11.4 million of the slot parlor's annual marketing and management costs.

The Governor's revenue estimates, with numbers provided by the casino industry, do not account for the reality that New Hampshire would put two casinos right on the state border if we legalize them here — Rockingham Park in Salem, NH (already owned by a casino developer) and Seabrook Dog Track on Rt. 95. Rhode Island would also expand its slot machine locations into full scale casinos in response to Massachusetts.

On a personal note, I worked on a Paiute reservation in Nevada some years ago. Every week, when I went to Reno for supplies, I stayed in a hotel where I saw the same people playing the slots. I saw the same children waiting outside in cars or playing on the sidewalk. Pawn shops, used car lots and same day cheque-cashing and payday loan stores had replaced small businesses killed by the casinos. There were cash machines to max out credit cards and businesses offering "instant" mortgages. Poverty was everywhere I looked. There's a reason slot machines are called the "crack cocaine of gambling".

They tell you it's "inevitable" because they don't want you to ask questions or speak up. Ask questions! Speak up! Call or email your representatives. Speak with members of your local government. Go to
to get the view of the people and organizations excluded from the "democratic process" by Speaker DeLeo. Act now, before it's too late.

Casinos and Crime Rates

Casinos and Crime Rates

William Reece has published* an extraordinarily detailed analysis of the relationship between the opening of casinos and crime rates, using a unique data set for Indiana,....

The economic model of crime [also] suggests that colser proximity of potential criminals and potential victims would increase local crime rates...lowering transportation costs between potential criminals and victims...increases crime rates..." (p. 146)

What he finds may be disconcerting for advocates of casinos as a tool for economic development. For several classes of property crimes (larceny, burglary, and robbery), crime rates rise significantly over the five years following the opening of a casino. Thefts of motor vehicles apparently rise in the first year, but then experience no significant change in the following years. So it appears that casinos do, on balance, lead to increaed rates of property crimes.

On a more hopeful note, assault rates apparently fall in the five years following the opening of casinos, and the incidence of rape is apparently unchanged. (These results are derived from his Table 2, on p. 153, and Table 3, on p. 155.)

Economic Development, Poverty and Casino Gambling

Casino Gambling: What has it done for Mississippi?

Is legalized casino gambling, with its associated state and local tax revenue, really a silver bullet to solve our state's economic woes?

When I wrote about
poverty in Perry County, Alabama a while back I was intrigued by this figure from the U.S. Census Bureau. It appears that poverty in Mississippi -- land of gambling tax revenues -- is even worse than here in Alabama. And in fact it is. How can that be?

Casino gambling was legalized in Mississippi back in 1990 and the first casino opened in August, 1992. If gambling is such a great economic driver, shouldn't they be doing better than we are by now?

Let's take a closer look at this, starting with the situation in Mississippi before gambling was legalized. Since 1989 figures are readily available, we'll start then, just before gambling was legalized. According to U.S. Census data, 13.1% of Americans lived in poverty in 1989. That figure was 24.1% for Mississippi residents and 17.7% for Alabama.

In 1989, 80 of 82
Mississippi counties (97.6%) exceeded the national average for residents living in poverty. The poverty rate topped 40% in 14 Mississippi counties, with a whopping 56.8% of residents in Tunica County living below the poverty line. The median household income (see this page for median income tables) was $20,136, just 67% of the national average.

At the same time, 64 of 67
Alabama counties (95.6%) exceeded the national average for poverty with 3 counties over 40%, the highest was Greene County at 45.6%. The median household income was $23,597 or 78.5% of the national average.

Fast forward to 2008. How have the two states fared, one with casino gambling (Mississippi now has 29 casinos) and one more or less without? Bear in mind that Mississippi has done gambling right; their casinos are tourist destinations, not just gambling parlors dedicated to harvesting money from local residents. The US Census data says 13.2% of Americans lived in poverty in 2008. That figure was 20.8% for Mississippi residents and 15.9% for Alabama.

Still, 80 of 82 Mississippi counties (97.6%) exceeded the national average for residents living in poverty. The poverty rate topped out at 48.1% in Issaquena County and exceeded 30% in 15 others. The median household income was $37,790 or 72.6% of the national average.

In 2008, 57 of 67 Alabama counties (85%) exceeded the national average for poverty with 6 counties over 30% (none over 40%) the highest is Bullock County at 33.6%. The median household income was $42,666 or 82% of the national average. It may have seemed like Alabama was standing still, but we've made real progress since 1989.

Different approaches to economic development.

While the state of Mississippi opened casinos and built riverboats, Alabama built
automobile plants – Mercedes, Honda, Hyundai, the Toyota engine plant – a rocket plant in Decatur, aviation and aircraft maintenance in South Alabama, not to mention catfish farms throughout the Black Belt and biotechnology in North Alabama. Those industries create things, they employ people for good wages and they come with a network of smaller support businesses that also employ people. To put it in old fashioned terms, they grow the local economy.

After construction, except for the tourism component, casinos don’t grow the local economy. They harvest dollars that are already available in the system. Most of the jobs created are service jobs, with relatively low wages. The economic impact is localized, not spread around in a network of suppliers.

Alabama started off in a stronger economic position than Mississippi in 1989 and has at least kept pace with Mississippi’s progress since then, even without casino gambling. There’s a lot to be said for good, old-fashioned economic investment to create jobs and improve lives. It isn’t as sexy as casinos, but Alabama should be thankful for the industrial recruitment of Governors like Jim Folsom, Jr. and Don Siegelman and the increased prosperity their vision has brought to our state.

Now, what's the next step to keep us ahead of Mississippi? Is it widespread casino gambling or high tech/green tech/smart tech industries?

New Hampshire: "It's going to suck all the business out of Manchester"

"It's Going To Suck All the Business Out Of Manchester"

So said Manchester businessman Steve Talarico to the Union Leader in joining several leading Manchester businessmen, who want a casino in Manchester but object to the Senate's lobbyist-written, earmark-studded SB489 casino bill.

And here's what Marie from Hookset said about the rotting mess SB489 has become:

Good God now this is getting ridiculous, like vultures circling a gut wagon. OK, if Manchester's gonna get in on the action then we residents of Hooksett want a piece of this too ...Comon give us the slots, we can put a few machines in the new Ocean State Job Lots, maybe a few in Shaws and Kmart too. Yeah and the now empty Auto Wholesale lot and showroom would make a nice casino.

Maybe the fog is starting to lift on this train wreck casino bill.

SB489 would award no-bid slot casino monopolies to the owners of three race tracks and one golf course who have hired batteries of lobbyists and public opinion manipulators. They have apparently succeeded in tricking the majority of Manchester House members into believing that SB489 would somehow help their city.

Not only will the 5 or 6 casinos proposed under SB489 suck business out of Manchester, they would saturate New Hampshire with slot machines and suck hundreds of millions out of the existing New Hampshire economy.

Using casino business consultants' own numbers, the proposed casinos would drain $800 million in gambler losses from the New Hampshire and Massachusetts border economies. Using mid-range estimates of casino business cannibalization (substitution) effects of
50 percent ...

Existing New Hampshire businesses will suffer losses of $400 million per year.

Maybe the Manchester delegation ought to stop drinking from the casino lobbyists' punch bowl and start listening to Manchester business leaders: "It's going to suck all the business out of Manchester".

Even better, maybe New Hampshire is discovering that we don't want Washington-style earmarks in our legislation and special-interests circling like vultures in our statehouse. Maybe we want our legislators to think rationally and to find a budget solution that will not hurt the New Hampshire economy and corrupt New Hampshire politics.

Demand that they vote NO on both business-killing slot casino bills, SB489 and SB490.

Reasons we oppose SB489, saturating the state with 5 or 6 slot casinos.
Reasons we oppose SB490, legalizing 3 "historic racing" slot casinos.

23 Reasons we oppose any type of slot casino anywhere in our state.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Patrick still against track slots

Patrick still against track slots

Governor, at campaign cookout, says veto talk premature
ATTLEBORO - Gov. Deval Patrick reiterated his opposition to slot machines at racetracks Saturday, but stopped short of issuing a veto threat during a campaign appearance in Attleboro.

Patrick repeated his position of supporting legislation to legalize casinos, saying they create more jobs and higher paying jobs than slot machines at racetracks.

The governor said that despite the current hard times Massachusetts is excelling across a broad range of fronts and its economy is turning around.

He also said: The Federal Reserve has found that Massachusetts is recovering faster from the recession than 48 other states.

Massachusetts' fourth- and eighth-graders have scored first in national assessment tests in math and English three years in a row.

The state's bond rating is AA, one of the highest in the nation.

There has been an unprecedented investment in road, bridge, school and college construction over the past two years.

The Legislature has passed landmark ethics, pension and transportation reform.

Alabama: Slots Still Illegal

Bingo's future in courts, but it remains campaign issue

MONTGOMERY — Bingo’s temporary death in the 2010 legislative session puts the issue of electronic gambling machines back in court and doesn’t change anything in the 16 counties with bingo constitutional amendments.

Gov. Bob Riley, who is attacking electronic bingo in court and with law enforcement agencies, said he’ll continue to push to eradicate bingo that he believes is being played on illegal slot machines.

“I don’t know if we’re going to change anything,” Riley said Thursday, the final day of the 2010 session when the nail was hammered into the bingo coffin. “As long as they try to operate slot machines in the state of Alabama, it’s
incumbent on us to enforce the law.”

Folly to rush into expanded gambling

Folly to rush into expanded gambling

The full report of the New Hampshire Gaming Study Commission should be released in a few weeks, but the commission's draft report raises plenty of questions about gambling's potential impact. Even if permitting slot machine and casino gambling were a good idea - it isn't - to proceed at anything close to the pace gambling proponents would like would be folly.

New Hampshire's gambling regulations are not strong enough to adequately regulate the gambling that exists now, the commission found. That suggests that the structure and expertise necessary to properly regulate a massive new enterprise that involves casinos and thousands of slot machines can't be put in place quickly.

The revenue gains from expanded gambling are neither reliable nor stable. The New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies concluded that the additional economic wealth created by expanded gambling would be small, relative to the state's overall economic activity, and would decline with time. There is also no good method in place to spread that economic wealth. A community with a casino, for example, could reap a huge tax windfall while the cost of educating children and providing municipal services to the casino's modestly paid workers falls on other communities.

The vital question of what economic impact casinos and racetracks with slot machines would have on existing businesses is unanswered. When casinos are relatively isolated, as with Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, the effect on businesses in other communities is small. But Atlantic City's casinos sucked the life out of existing businesses.

Since visitors and vacationers usually have a relatively fixed amount of money they're willing to spend, it's logical to assume that money pumped into slot machines or wagered in a casino is money that won't go to New Hampshire restaurants, retailers and tourist attractions.

The commission called the proliferation of gambling, should it be legalized, "a deep concern, but one with no clear solution." Once legalized, gambling is almost never repealed. "Absent a constitutional amendment, it may not be possible to prevent proliferation," the report said.

Gambling proponents have been overselling the number and value of the jobs expanded gambling would create, the report said. "Slots-only facilities generally offer the fewest numbers and lowest wages; full-scale casinos offer more and better employment possibilities, though still not at high wages," the commission said.

Big questions remain about how expanding gambling would affect crime rates in the safest state in the nation. Similarly unanswered is the question of how big the increase in problem and pathological gambling would be, and how well the state would address the issue.

The commission's testimony included the findings of what was described as the most exhaustive study on the relationship between casinos and crime ever conducted. The study, which looked at two decades of information, found that all crimes save for murder increased when casinos were opened. Casinos, in counties where one was located, accounted for a crime increase of 5.5 percent to 30 percent.

"Overall, 8.6 percent of property crime and 12.6 percent of violent crime in counties with casinos was due to the presence of the casino," the study concluded. Much of the increase was the result of crimes committed by problem and pathological gamblers.

West Virginia, which relies heavily on casinos for income, has the best-funded gambling treatment program in the nation. Its director told the commission that only 5 to 10 percent of problem gamblers reach out for help. As gambling expanded in West Virginia, the profile of the typical problem gambler changed. The average hotline caller used to be a 55-year-old man. Now it's a woman between 45 and 50. Youth, the program discovered, are two to four times more likely to become problem gamblers than older adults.

Unanswered, too, is the impact the immense spending power of the gambling industry would have on New Hampshire's government. The Legislature is exceptionally large, but the industry's pockets are deep. The money available for lobbying would be enormous. Connecticut's two casinos each spend about $60 million annually on advertising. A fraction of that spending would drown out New Hampshire's tourism budget.

Finally, no one knows how expanding gambling would affect New Hampshire's "brand" as a family-friendly state of scenic beauty and outdoor recreation. Some studies suggest that when gambling is expanded, the area's social capital - time spent serving one's community or participating in church and volunteer activities - declines. Expanding gambling, it's clear, would turn New Hampshire into a different place, a place from which it couldn't return.

Opposition Group Forms to Fight Casino Proposals

Opposition Group Forms to Fight Casino Proposals

April 20, 2010 AP A group opposing possible ballot proposals that would expand gambling in Michigan is kicking off its campaign.

The opposition group being announced Tuesday includes some law enforcement officials and anti-gambling groups along with some state lawmakers. Opponents to the new gambling plans also likely will include operators of Michigan's existing casinos.

Two separate ballot proposals that would allow more casinos to open in Michigan are in the preliminary stages of trying to qualify for the November ballot.

One would allow casinos to be opened in Benton Harbor, Detroit, Flint, Lansing, Muskegon, Port Huron and at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

A separate ballot proposal would allow casinos at Michigan horse tracks.

Wynn Weighs Move to Macau

Wynn Resorts (WYNN) Weighs Moving Headquarters
Filed in Wynn Resorts (WYNN) on Apr.24, 2010
Gaming Giant Wynn Resorts (WYNN: 89.50 -0.47%) may be making things worse for U.S. based gambling operations and the economy if Steve Wynn’s idea of moving their headquarters overseas comes to light.

“I love it out here (Macau),” Wynn said on Wednesday “I’m going to bring it (the potential relocation of Wynn Resorts’ headquarters) up at our board meeting in May. But I have to persuade my staff first.”

Wynn had said that he wants to make Wynn Resorts a “Chinese Company”.

“It is not improbable or unrealistic considering so much of our revenue is from China that it makes sense that I spend most of my time here,” said Wynn. “I’m seriously considering that and I am weighing the implications of how I engineer that.”

The Las Vegas Strip that currently houses Wynn Resorts head office has long since seen its gambling revenues far eclipsed by Macau, which has drawn on the China’s growing economic might and passion for punting.

Wynn Resorts makes more than half of its operating cash flow from its Macau unit.

The story was broke by interviewers at the grand opening of Wynn Resorts $600 million major expansion Wynn Encore, this week.

A Losing Bet

Who would have thought we’d be missing Sal DiMassi?

For several years, the former speaker effectively blocked gaming proposals from getting any traction in the House of Representatives. Now with a sputtering economy, a state government running in deficit, and a governor desperate for reelection, the easy way out button is being pushed again with proposals for legalized gambling back on the table.

The House has already passed a proposal, and the state Senate is now turning its focus on the issue. With big money supporting the cause, the gambling wolf has never strayed far from our legislative door, and it has never looked friendlier to our politicians.

From a business standpoint, we think casino gaming is a bad deal. The arguments for gambling are few: It brings in jobs and it feeds state tax coffers. There is also a long held fear in our state that Connecticut’s two major casinos have been robbing Massachusetts blind, and that we’re not getting our fair share of the regional gambling pie.

But on balance, based on the effect of gaming over time in other states, the proposal’s limited benefits are being oversold, and its liabilities are being swept under the rug or ignored by those supporting the legislation. Gambling is not good business for the state and its existing taxpayers, and going down that seductive but slippery slope will only lead to disappointment in what it yields in tax revenues, and further troubles in the years to come.

High Impact

Massachusetts is already in the gambling business. Currently, the state lottery generates some $950 million in net tax revenues, which have become a critical annual subsidy to cities and towns. However, since the program is run and administered by the state, and the winnings paid out are a much lower percentage than in the casino business, the return to the taxpayer on each lottery dollar is 27 cents.

The return to the state on casino and slot revenues, with Indian tribes and for-profit gaming operators in the mix, plus a higher payout to winners, is projected to be a fraction of the 6 or 7 cents on the dollar that casinos collect in net margin.

Building a high volume casino is exceedingly difficult to do. While Las Vegas and Connecticut have boomed, Atlantic City has struggled mightily, and many states who jumped into the casino business with both feet have found it was not the panacea sold to them in the frothy, well-funded days of the political process.

They have found the cost of mitigating local impacts to be much more onerous than planned, the increase in gambling addiction a real and present problem, the jobs not as plentiful, or not as high paying as advertised, and so on. In addition, the large sucking sound of a casino as it locks its patrons in fantastic play rooms has had a direct negative effect on surrounding entertainment venues from restaurants to theaters. Entertainment dollars are not increasing when casinos arrive; the pie is simply redistributed.

Massachusetts is a state with incredible natural resources, and a world class group of educational institutions and a highly educated and skilled workforce. We need jobs, but we need to be targeting those jobs in industries that have a future, where our young people, and those out of work and looking for opportunities, can grow a career. Advanced manufacturing, life sciences, green industries, high technology and health care are all well-paying growth sectors in our state. If we could intensify our focus and energy on helping these and other promising industries grow and prosper here, and align the skills and training our workforce is receiving to these promising areas, we’ll assure that Massachusetts maintains its leadership position, and its strong economy.

The siren song of casinos is at its most seductive in difficult times. Let’s have the resolve to say no to that industry, and invest in the sectors that have made Massachusetts such an attractive place to live and grow a business.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Couple overcomes gambling addiction

Couple overcomes gambling addiction

TRAVERSE CITY -- Like some lucky couples, Karen and Dale Paakola found an activity they liked doing together.

Unluckily, that mutual pursuit was gambling, and it became a compulsion that threatened everything that mattered most.

"If you continue unarrested, it does take over your entire life," Dale said.

Karen, known by the nickname "Mike," and Dale have been married for nearly 41 years and live in Williamsburg. Their gambling troubles started with Dale. He made small-time wagers: the Lotto, a friendly game of poker, sports bets.

About 13 years ago, Dale stopped work as a pharmaceutical representative and went on long-term disability. He made significantly less money and suffered from severe depression. He turned to casinos, in part to replace lost income with winnings. At first, he didn't gamble a lot, but the sum -- and the problem -- grew.

Around 2002 to 2003, a concerned Mike started to accompany her husband to the casino to monitor his activity. Dale encouraged Mike to play, and within a few years she, too, was gambling. They primarily played video poker, often "tag-teaming" one machine.

"It tore me away from everything I believed in," Mike said. "I stopped going to church. We stopped going to our grandchildren's parties. You don't realize until you looked back at your life."

They tapped into retirement savings.

"You never win enough. Money has no value; it's just a means," said Dale, whose personality changed as he became more angry.

Then the loudest alarm sounded, and this time, the couple heard it. Mike was charged with embezzling money from a Traverse City schools employee union she helped found. She served as the group's treasurer, which gave her access to its funds. Mike said she wasn't thinking when she took the money. The only thing she considered was doing "whatever I need to do" to keep gambling.

"When you are in that, you don't have a conscience," she said.

She pleaded guilty in 2008 and was ordered to pay about $31,000 in restitution and fines. She spent more than three months in jail and several more months on a tether.

"We were just in a daze. We went and talked with family. We told them what we had done," Dale said. "To me it was a big bang. To see her go off in shackles. It's devastating."

Mike is embarrassed and remorseful, but her arrest exposed their venomous vice.

The couple joined Gamblers Anonymous and received help from Munson Medical Center's Behavioral Health Services. The gamblers' support group was "very friendly, very open, non-judgmental," Mike said. They banned themselves from the casino and have not relapsed since they committed to quit gambling.

Behavioral Health Therapist Barbara Fasulo-Emmott counseled the Paakolas. People who seek help are asked two initial assessment questions. The first is, "Have you ever felt the need to bet more and more money?" The second is, "Have you ever had to lie to people important to you about how much you gambled?" Those who answer yes are asked more detailed follow-up questions.

Fasulo-Emmott said people can receive free, grant-funded services from Behavioral Health for problem gambling. Behavioral Health also plans a free seminar Friday on the topic.

Problem gambling is rising among the elderly, who may be grieving losses or trying to escape loneliness or boredom, and adolescents, for whom a casino trip is a "new rite of passage," said Fasulo-Emmott.

The Paakolas finances have started to improve since they quit gambling. They cannot, however, recover the time lost to their addiction. Mike tries to live life one day at a time, and the couple's new calling is to make their struggle count for someone else.

"Through our experience, we've seen the devastation," Dale said.

"Our life has changed so much for the better. We have so much peace," Mike said. "Our ministry right now is to help any compulsive gambler."

Bad Bet

Bad bet

State shouldn’t expand its gambling game

The state’s at the table holding the dice. It reaches out its fist over the green felt, finally ready to roll. Players of every description lean in, keenly eyeing the hand that shakes their fate.

The gambler hesitates. What will happen?

If Massachusetts is wise, it will gently place the clinking cubes back on the table, get up and walk away.

With its April 14 veto-proof vote of 120-37, the House has cleared the way for two resort casinos and slot machines at the state’s four racetracks.

The matter is now up to the Senate.

But what is the state proposing? To welcome enterprises whose purpose is to entice residents into losing their money, the more of it the merrier. There is no actual product, no necessary service, no cultural advancement, no shared joy or prize in exchange for that money. Yes, there is some fun and amusement for players who choose to spend their money at a casino — and can afford to budget an almost sure loss — but residents who go to the slots or the casinos are also fueling a system that will ruin the lives of some.

That is no game for government to play.

We recognize this state already sanctions gambling via a lottery. That’s no reason to expand its role in gaming. The Lottery, at least on its face, encourages small-time bets, has low administrative costs, and returns a portion of its proceeds as local aid to cities and towns.

With casinos and slots, there is no guarantee the state’s take would be spent carefully; the net outcome could be to bloat a bureaucracy that will have to deal with added addiction and weakened families.

The House’s bill proposes putting some gaming revenue into rainy day reserves, education funds, local aid and other positive pockets, but members failed to enact any of dozens of amendments to give the state greater control over casinos.

Job-creation claims are also suspect. Many of the new jobs touted would be temporary construction jobs. Others would depend on the success of the casinos. Connecticut’s experience shows that a prolonged recession such as the current one can severely tarnish the get-rich-quick glitz and glam of gambling. Revenues have been down at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. And New Hampshire legislators this week rejected a proposal to add video slots in that state.

Gaming, in short, is neither inevitable nor universally acknowledged as a sound financial move for states.

Alarm bells should have been ringing for residents over a series of measures the House recently voted down — not so much because of the “no” votes but because of the seamy nature of the decisions. Casinos won’t be required to have clocks. They won’t be prohibited from pumping in extra oxygen or synthetic pheromones. There will be no “gamblers’ bill of rights,” no open bidding on slot machines, no requiring insurance companies to cover pathological gambling.

We believe casinos and slots are a losing proposition in terms of the state’s time, attention, morality and perhaps money. For residents who teeter on the edge of desperation, more gaming could spell disaster. Some folks will enjoy the occasional trip to a conveniently sited casino, but any money they take would be paid for in pain and problems by their neighbors, including existing entertainment venues, such as Worcester’s Hanover Theatre.

The Senate needs to get the state on its feet, turn it away from the tables and guide it firmly to the door.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Questionable Campaign Contributions

DCI questions donations from Fort Dodge casino supporters

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation is examining whether an Iowa company aligned with a casino proposed for Fort Dodge made improper contributions to Gov. Chet Culver’s re-election campaign, a state official and a target of the investigation have confirmed.

The key players are Dubuque-based Peninsula Gaming and three Fort Dodge casino supporters who made the contributions to Culver.

Spokesmen for Peninsula Gaming and the three contributors said nothing improper occurred.

Spokesmen for Culver’s administration and campaign said neither Culver organization has done anything wrong.

“I can confirm that we are working with the DCI in the investigation of this matter,” Bob Brammer, a spokesman for Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, said Sunday.

Steve Daniel, one of the contributors facing DCI scrutiny, said Peninsula Gaming paid him and two partners $25,000 for their work on the license application process and for approaching the company as a potential backer. Campaign finance records show that the three gave $25,000 to Culver’s campaign late last year; Daniel says they have since given another $5,000. Daniel insists there is no link between the payment and contributions.

In Iowa, it is illegal to make, or knowingly receive, a political contribution in another’s name.Daniel said that he and his two partners in the Webster County project, James Kesterson and Merrill D. Leffler, contributed to Culver because they support him, and that they were not instructed to do so.

“I’ve never been told by Peninsula or anybody to make a contribution to Governor Culver,” said Daniel, a tire shop owner who has been trying to land a Fort Dodge casino for 10 years.

“We didn’t do anything wrong,” he added. “What I’m more concerned about is the perception and how that might harm our application.”

The investigation comes as the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission is planning to rule May 13 on applications from Webster County and three other communities pursuing new casino licenses. It also comes as Culver, who is facing a difficult re-election challenge this year, has publicly urged the commission to approve all four licenses.

Making contributions in another’s name is a serious misdemeanor, not a felony offense.

But a finding of impropriety could jeopardize the Fort Dodge project, said Diane Hamilton, a former chairwoman of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.

If Peninsula is found to have acted improperly, it could also jeopardize the company’s existing Iowa gambling licenses, she said. Peninsula operates Diamond Jo casinos in Dubuque and Worth County.

Senior aides to Culver declined to say whether Culver, Lt. Gov. Patty Judge or members of their official or campaign staffs had been interviewed by DCI. They also said they could not comment on an ongoing investigation.

“However, neither the governor’s office nor the governor’s campaign has any reason to believe that anyone with either organization is a target in the investigation,” Culver’s senior legal counsel, Jim Larew, said in a statement Sunday.

Larew said that contributions from proponents of the Fort Dodge casino had had no influence on Culver, who has supported the proposed casino since 2006. As a candidate for governor that year, Culver said that if new casino licenses were issued, Ottumwa and Fort Dodge should be next in line, because voters there had passed ballot measures to proceed with the applications.

Larew also said that Culver “has not made or taken any campaign contribution calls from any party associated with a license application once such a license application was submitted.”

Culver campaign officials said Sunday that the campaign on April 9 donated the $25,000 from the three Fort Dodge casino supporters to charity, one of two possible methods of dealing with questionable contributions, after it became aware there were questions about the money.

Peninsula money called ‘a consulting fee’

It’s routine for the DCI to check the personal and business backgrounds of all of the principals involved in casino applications. Questions relating to the Fort Dodge casino supporters’ campaign contributions arose during the course of the review of business and financial records, said Daniel and Matt Eide, a Des Moines lobbyist assisting with the Fort Dodge project.

Daniel, Kesterson and Leffler are among 10 Fort Dodge-area casino backers who formed Webster County Gaming last October and submitted the group’s application for a casino license Nov. 10. The group capitalized the limited partnership by investing $525,000. Daniel, Leffler and Kesterson invested $100,000 each, according to their application.

Daniel said the group had hoped to line up its own financing for the project, but went looking for a corporate entity after the Racing and Gaming Commission announced in October an expedited timeline for obtaining license approval.

That timeline required financing commitments for the casino project to have been obtained before Jan. 14, according to commission minutes.

Daniel’s group settled on Peninsula after first talking with the company in early November and after considering at least two other companies, he said.

Daniel said Peninsula paid him, Kesterson and Leffler the $25,000 last fall in part for inviting the company to the project, but also for the trio’s work as the local agent for the application. The three formed Webster County Entertainment, which aims to manage the proposed casino.

“It was a consulting fee,” Daniel said. “We take care of all the local issues. We have an office. We did all the application process. We did all the local work.”

Carrie Tedore, director of public relations for Peninsula Gaming, said that the $25,000 payment to Webster County Entertainment was “a payment of a consulting fee after a review by our external legal advisers and counselors.”

“The payment served as reimbursement to Webster County Entertainment for legal expenses they incurred during the initial stages of the application process,” Tedore said.

Tedore also said that the company has retained Mark McCormick, a Des Moines lawyer and former Iowa Supreme Court justice, to conduct an independent review of the issues involved with the payment.

Bonnie Campbell, a lobbyist for Peninsula and longtime Culver adviser, could not be reached for comment.

Fort Dodge investors are longtime Culver donors

Daniel has been a regular contributor to Culver. Kesterson and Leffler also have contributed to Culver’s campaign.

The three men, along with James Moench, another investor in Webster County Gaming, contributed a total of $8,000 during 2007 and 2008, but the largest contribution by any individual was $1,000.

Kesterson and Leffler could not be reached for comment.

Opponents of the Fort Dodge casino have also given to Culver. For example, Gary Kirke of West Des Moines, owner of Wild Rose casinos in Emmetsburg and Clinton, contributed $25,000 to Culver’s campaign last year.

Daniel said Culver asked him last fall to contribute to an annual fundraiser at the Wakonda Club on Nov. 20 in Des Moines.

According to Daniel: Donors were encouraged to spend $25,000 per table for the event, hosted by Des Moines lawyer Jerry Crawford. Daniel, Kesterson and Leffler combined for half of a table, $12,500. Daniel and Kesterson attended the event and talked with Culver.

Two weeks later, the three contributed to another Culver campaign event, this one hosted by Lt. Gov. Patty Judge at the Val Air Ballroom in West Des Moines. The three spent a combined $12,500 and, again, Daniel and Kesterson attended.

Eide said the three have since contributed another $5,000 to Culver’s campaign. Records of any contributions made this year will not be made public until after May 19, the deadline for campaign fundraising since the first of the year.

Culver campaign manager Donn Stanley said Sunday that the campaign had made contributions of $8,334 each to Door of Faith, Churches United and St. Vincent de Paul.

FBI investigates gambling corruption in Alabama

Alabama bingo investigation intensifies

Federal officials are probing corruption in Alabama's bingo battle, yet another twist in the convoluted saga over whether the state should allow electronic bingo machines to raise money for local governments or charities.

Agents from the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney's office and the FBI say they have found "substantial evidence of corruption" around a legislative battle to formally legalize the bingo machines, which look similar to slot machines, according to The New York Times. On April 11, the Birmingham News reported that at least two lawmakers had worn wires as part of the investigation after they had received offers from bingo lobbyists that they considered bribes.

Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican opposed to gambling, has been targeting bingo machines in his state for the past year. His task force on illegal gambling which has gone after bingo operators, in some cases raiding them in the middle of the night and hauling away the machines. About 100 parlors have already shut down, according to a report last month, and employees at the remaining operations are fearful for their jobs. The task force has sparked lawsuits and counter suits and suffered a black eye when its head was forced to step down following revelations that he had won $2,300 at a casino in neighboring Mississippi. The Rev. Jesse Jackson has led a march and somebody hired a plane to fly over the Rose Bowl in California with a banner that read "Impeach Corrupt Ala. Gov. Bob Riley."

Lotteries are illegal in Alabama but 16 counties have allowed bingo as a way to raise money. Riley's campaign has prompted bingo supporters in the legislature, mostly Democrats, to craft a constitutional amendment that would legalize, regulate and tax bingo parlors in the state. The Senate approved the amendment last month. If the House follows suit this week, the motion will go before voters in November.

A state senator told the News that a bingo lobbyist had offered him $250,000 in campaign contributions to support the amendment. Another senator, who said he was working with federal investigators, also revealed that he had been offered unusually large contributions. Proponents of the bingo amendment say the federal investigation is politically motivated.

Chicago: ...suspected extortion and gambling activities of the Mob

Chicago Crime Commission Calls FBI Raid on Calabrese Home Major Blow to Organized Crime

CHICAGO, March 28 /PRNewswire/ -- The relentless pursuit of organized crime by the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation has delivered a major blow against the Crime Syndicate and its band of mobsters and killers.

On March 24, 2010 FBI agents acting on a federal search warrant raided the former home in Oak Brook of mob hit man Frank J. Calabrese, Sr., and recovered $728,000 in cash, mostly in $500 and $1,000 bills and approximately 1,000 pieces of jewelry many in retail store display boxes and others with store price tags attached.

The FBI agents discovered seven firearms wrapped in clothing and towels and a dozen microcassettes containing recordings. Other items recovered were handwritten notes and ledgers that detailed suspected extortion and gambling activities of the Mob.

These seizures will dramatically add fuel to the federal attack on this band of predatory hoodlums who use criminal activities and violence to secure their ill-gotten goods.

The money, jewels, recordings, guns and written documents were found in a compartment behind a picture frame containing family photographs that covered a secret panel screwed onto the wood paneling.

Chicago Crime Commission files show that in January 2009 Federal District Court Judge James Zagel sentenced Calabrese to life imprisonment ordered him to pay $27 million dollars in forfeiture and restitution. The jury in the "Family Secrets" trial found Calabrese guilty of thirteen crime syndicate murders.

Commission files reveal that Calabrese has been involved in criminal activities in Chicago since he was a teenager. Calabrese, a former mob loan shark who demanded interest as high as 520% a year from his helpless credit victims, was convicted in 1954 in federal court for possession of stolen cars in interstate commerce. He has arrests for robbery, stolen autos and illegal use of firearms. His loan sharking ring operated from 1970 to 1990s. In his rise from petty hoodlum and mob errand boy to the top level of the Crime Syndicate, Calabrese headed the 26th Street Crew of Mob members who oversaw gambling and loan sharking in the Chicago area.

The organized crime squads in the Chicago FBI office have focused on the Crime Syndicate for more than a quarter of a century. Their numerous investigations have resulted in the convictions of dozens of members of the Mob's hierarchy and their hit men and street crews. The result of their dedicated work speaks for itself in terms of the dramatic decline in power of the once haughty and ugly band of mobsters and killers that operated the Crime Syndicate in Chicago.

Gambling Addiction

Samoans over-represented in NZ's gambling addiction statistics

AUCKLAND, New Zealand ---- A Pacific service for gambling addicts in New Zealand says their problem gambling statistics indicate that Samoans are more at risk of developing an addiction to gambling than other Pacific ethnicities. Pesio Ah-Hone Siitia manages the Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand's Mapu Maia. The Samoan-born manager is raising concerns over legislation being proposed by the Samoa government which paves the way for a casino, saying its negative impact on families outweighs any economic benefits. She says around 7-percent of people who have sought help in New Zealand for problem gambling are of Pacific origin and of those, almost half are of Samoan ethnicity. For a small population as in New Zealand it's a huge number. And we also know that for every one person that is a problem gambler for Pacific, it affects up to ten other people around them. So it negatively affects their family, their workplace, their children, their communities, their partners. Ms Siitia said the pokey machine [slot machines] is the most popular form of gambling among Pacific communities in New Zealand and the source of many addiction problems.

Brendan Fevola Approached Mobsters

Brendan Fevola Approached Mobsters

Self confessed gambling addict Brendan Fevola was so desperate for cash he approached gangland king of the kids Mick Gatto for financial assistance, says Australia's underworld grapevine.

Informers allege Fev telephone to Mr Gatto last year asking for tens of thousands of dollars in short-term cash loans in attempt stave off loan sharkies. Gatto runs a construction and "consulting" business.

A Gold Coast underworld heavy made death threats Fev. Incidentally Australia's Surfers Paradise will be featured in an upcoming Underbelly series - slot 5 or 6 as Gambling911 understands.

Mr X claims the illegal moneylender threatened Fevola over an outstanding $70,000 grand.

"When they found out the loan shark had form, they paid up that day," Mr X said.

We understand that loan sharks from Victoria and the Gold Coast are on the hunt for Fev over a seven-figure debt, however proof of this is not in the public domain, unlike Fev's gambling addiction.

The self-confessed addict is understood to be paying a daily interest payment of $1,250 a day, or $8,750 a week!

"Even if Fev pays one debt, he owes money all over the place - it's a house of cards," a source said.

The rumour mill also says a Sydney based debt collector contacted the Carlton Football Club last September on behalf of an online betting agency to which Fevola owed a modest $5000. The call and flow on effects saw the situation resolved within hours after it looked like media leaks were about to factor in.

Gambling Addiction

Woman admits Sands scam: Shoumin Chai blamed her crimes on addiction to gambling
The Associated Press
By Riley Yates
The Morning Call, Allentown, Pa.

Apr. 13--Shoumin Chai once had a promising future. A law school graduate, she was hired by a New York firm with the promise of a $250,000-a-year job if she passed the bar, her defense attorney said.

Then, she went to Atlantic City with a couple of friends.

''My life stopped the first day I started gambling," Chai said Monday in Northampton County Court as she admitted to the latest in more than 15 years of casino-related crimes.

Chai will serve two to five years in state prison and five years of probation for tricking ATM users at the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem into letting her into their bank accounts. The plea deal came as she was slated to face trial on 118 charges relating to a 13-hour stretch in June in which she bilked Sands patrons as they withdrew money.

Under Monday's plea, Chai admitted to three counts of access device fraud, three of identity theft and three of theft. One of the charges is a felony, the rest misdemeanors.

When she was charged, Chai, 55, of New York already had a 50-page rap sheet that included 13 felony convictions in New Jersey, where she was barred last year from casinos. Defense lawyer James Connell said her arrests began in 1992, and all involved gambling.

''She never did pass the bar. She never sat for the bar," said Connell, who called her story a warning to others. "She lost all of that because someone introduced her to a casino."

But one of her victims, Anthony Alfano, said Chai was blaming casinos for her own problems, and he noted that New Jersey courts gave her several chances but she continued to gamble and steal.

''People have gambling problems; she was blaming the casino for that," said Alfano, who had $400 taken from him. "I just think she was looking for someone to blame."

The plea and its agreed-upon sentence resolves a case that captured much public attention. Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli had highlighted the criminal record of Chai, a Chinese national, and had criticized that she has not been deported.

In January, Chai withdrew an earlier guilty plea after Morganelli asked the court to sentence Chai to a maximum of 53 years in prison.

In her scam, police said Chai would approach people as they stood at a bank machine and pretend to help them withdraw their cash. Chai would get them to insert their cards twice, which creates two windows, and look over their shoulders as they typed in their password.

When the people left, she would use the second window to withdraw money from their accounts. Police said two dozen people were victims, but only three came forward. The charges she admitted to involved those three, from whom she stole $1,100.

Smith ordered her to pay them back, as well as pay a $2,500 fine. Under a state recidivism reduction program, she could become eligible for parole after 18 months, he said.

Chai said she hopes to return to New Jersey once released, so that she can get treatment. Connell said none is available in Pennsylvania despite laws mandating it.

''Do you think I can change?" Chai asked. "I don't know, that's honest. I don't know because I have 1/8an3/8 addiction."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Spectrum: $144 Million Lottery Loss/Local Aid Cuts

In the Speaker's haste to ram (pardon the pun) a Slots bill through at any cost, even at the cost of ignoring important things ...oh, like the $144 Million Spectrum Gaming predicted would be cut from cities and towns and the willingness of Representatives to follow like sheep (with a 37 impressive exceptions), where's the $144 Million?

Photo by Tackling Groupthink: red flags and solutions How appropriate?

USS Mass has been using the conservative figure of 90 million loss to lottery/local's Spectrum Gaming's analysis. This is addition to the FY 11 local aid cuts that have been announced.

With that in mind, we suggest the following: For the first three years following the opening of each destination casino, the revenue required to ensure that the lottery‘s ability to distribute funds should be the responsibility of the casino operators, rather than requiring that it be funded from the Commonwealth‘s share of gross gaming revenue, as presently proposed.
The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation assumes that lottery net profits before distribution (the amount returned to the Commonwealth) would be about $1.07 billion in 2012,
The Impacts of Expanded Gaming on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts p.136

the base year. Thus, each 1 percent annual increment would be $10.7 million. If we accept the foundation‘s analysis, which assumes a 5.5 percent decline in lottery revenue followed by a 1.5 percent growth rate in 2013, the annual amount needed to ensure that the Lottery maintains its 3 percent growth rate is not adversely affected, as per the proposed legislation, would be $144 million, under the legislation as constituted.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Casino Related Crime

Another three foreigners arrested for casino-related crimes

Singapore has seen a spate of casino-related crimes committed mostly by foreigners since the Resorts World Sentosa casino was opened in February this year.

The first crime was committed by an Indonesian who stole the handphone of a Singapore student after losing money at the casino.

A month later, two Chinese nationals were fined $1,500 each for using someone else’s credit at a jackpot machine.

Last Saturday, three foreigners were arrested after being caught cheating at the roulette tables of Resorts World Sentosa’s casino, the Straits Times reports today.

They were a Spaniard and two French between the ages of 46 and 64 who almost made off with $13,400 in winnings.

A police spokesman told the media:

“Police do not tolerate any attempt by criminal elements to cheat and carry out criminal activities in the casinos and thereby affecting the safe gaming environment enjoyed by legitimate gamers.”

Resorts World Sentosa has become embroiled in a series of controversies since its opening.

There were questions raised about the number of Singapore citizens it employed as visitors to its casino revealed that most of them are foreigners.

RWS refused to make public the exact percentage of Singaporeans on its payroll except a vague statement that “70 percent” of its staff are “Singapore citizens and PRs.”

Two weeks ago, RWS’s Universal Studios Singapore theme park’s main attraction has to be shut down indefinitely due to a technical glitch found in the Battlestar Galactica roller-coaster ride during an inspection.

A series of concerts by celebrity singer Tom Jones scheduled at RWS were cancelled in the last-minute due to his purported ill-health.

With Marina Sands casino due to open later this month, RWS will have to contend with a strong competitor in a limited gaming market.

Not that all is going well with Las Vegas Sands either. The parent company was mired in debts and almost had to filed for bankruptcy in the midst of the global financial crisis last year.

One of its “person in charge” of a VIP room in Sands Macau Cheung Chi-tai was implicated in a murder plot.

According to testimony in previously undisclosed court transcripts obtained by Reuters, a witness identified Cheung as a leader of the Wo Hop To — one of the organized crime groups in the region known as triads.

The sensational news made international headlines with Reuters, Washington Post and New York Times carrying the story last week.

The two casinos are a brainchild of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong whose political fortunes may now hinge on how well the two perform in the coming months ahead.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Loser-friendly casinos

Loser-friendly casinos

BERNIE MADOFF picked the wrong line of work. Even though his Ponzi scheme eluded investigation for a long time, he would not be sitting in a North Carolina jail today if he had gone into casinos and lotteries — the most effective something-for-nothing scheme ever devised.

What other commercial venture besides a casino makes its money from the heavy financial losses of its clients? What other entity besides the Lottery is exempt from truth-in-advertising laws so it can deceptively dangle the prospect of life-changing riches?

And what other business would still be operating today if its core product was designed to get every user “to play to extinction’’ — until all their money is gone — by using technology that has been labeled a “high-tech version of loaded dice’’? These observations are from research findings of Natasha Schull, associate professor in MIT’s Program in Science, Technology, and Society, who has testified three times before the Legislature.

As a gambling operator, Madoff would have evaded nearly all scrutiny because many well-intentioned people know almost nothing about the business practices behind casinos and lotteries, the “products’’ and “services’’ they offer, or the marketing behind all of it. They do not regularly visit casinos or frequently use the Lottery.

If they did, they would learn that casinos and lotteries are the most predatory business in America today. The business model is based on people who are addicted or heavily in debt, which explains why Harrah’s found that 90 percent of its gambling profits come from the financial losses of 10 percent of its visitors, according to Christina Binkley’s book, “Winner Takes All.’’ Matthew Sweeney, author of “The Lottery Wars,’’ found that in some states 70 percent of lottery sales comes from the financial losses of 10 percent of its users.

To make so much money from so few people, gambling operators rely on such practices as issuing loans to drunk patrons or using casino staff to act as “hosts’’ to lure out-of-control gamblers back into the casino after they have left. The Lottery pushes $20 scratch tickets and speeds up its Keno games to every four minutes so people will lose more money at higher wagering amounts at faster speeds than ever before.

To keep the focus away from the real questions about how their business works, gambling interests have spent $12 million in Massachusetts promoting a fictional “jobs, revenues, and inevitability’’ narrative over the last decade. If every legislator on Beacon Hill was outspent 5 to 1 during his or her campaign, never mind 500 to 1, nearly all of them would lose reelection regardless of their merit. Yet we allow casino operators to tout polling numbers as genuine evidence of public support, despite their incomparable spending advantage. The latest Globe poll showed casinos clinging to support from 52 percent of those polled. In the modern annals of political history, is there any other individual or group that has spent so much for so long with so little to show for it?

Even the prodigious spending of gambling interests, however, cannot hide the most revealing truth of all: this is a product or service that the people who own it and promote it do not use. Nearly every leader of the three constituencies who advocate for casinos and the Lottery — gambling operators, labor union officials, and political officeholders — has publicly acknowledged they rarely lose their own money in casinos or on Lottery tickets.

Yet they still push the “jobs’’ message. Bernie Madoff employed people and he produced a lot of revenue but who believes his kind of phony prosperity is the right direction for our state and for our country? After a decade of housing bubbles and financial speculation, the era of casino capitalism is over.

A vote for casinos is not a vote for jobs. A vote for casinos is a vote for a something-for-nothing scheme that veils the most cut-throat business in the country. But above all else, a vote for casinos is a vote about who we are as a people.

Leslie Bernal is the executive director of Stop Predatory Gambling and a resident of Lawrence.

$634,250 to feed gambling addiction

The cost of Gambling Addiction is the same everywhere.

Ex-addictions counsellor stole to feed gambling addiction

EDMONTON – An Edmonton judge must now decide whether or not a former high-ranking Alberta civil servant who pilfered $634,000 from the province should be put behind bars.

On Monday, the Crown argued Lloyd Carr - the former executive director in charge of the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission’s tobacco reduction unit - should get a prison term of between three and five years.

However, a lawyer for the 46-year-old disgraced bureaucrat, now living in Manitoba, suggested he be given a two-year conditional sentence to be served in the community.

Ironically, the ex-addictions counsellor claims he committed the massive fraud to fuel his gambling addiction.

But, the Crown disputes that and points to a civil trial spawned from a lawsuit against Carr launched by AADAC in which Carr falsely argued he was coerced into stealing the money by then AADAC CEO Murray Finnerty to illegally finance a bid by former Alberta treasurer Jim Dinning for the leadership of the provincial Tories.

Carr pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000 on Feb. 19.

According to agreed facts, Carr worked for AADAC from prior to 2001 until

2005 when he was appointed executive director responsible for AADAC’s tobacco reduction unit.

Between 2003 and 2006, AADAC entered into grant agreements with Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and the Alberta Lung Association and payments were made.

However, Carr set up fraudulent contracts for work that was never done to divert the cash from the commission and into his own pockets .

In total, AADAC was defrauded of $634,250. After various payments were made to the Lung Association and a friend of Carr’s who was a go-between for payments, Carr netted $481,413. That money has never been accounted for.

The fraud was discovered after AADAC officials became suspicious of Carr’s behaviour and advised the Auditor General’s office, who began an investigation.

A 2006 report by Alberta Auditor General Fred Dunn detailed the scam and also found Carr had a prior criminal record for theft and did not have a bachelor of social work as he had claimed in his job application.

Court heard the AADAC lawsuit was settled when Carr agreed to pay $375,000 in restitution from the sale of the St. Albert home he owned with this wife.

Crown counsel Greg Lepp argued Carr stole an “enormous amount of money” over a period of years and said the theft was a breach of trust and “motivated by greed.” Lepp also said it was aggravating that Carr “spun a web of lies” about who stole the money and why and used others as pawns to aid him in the theft and to “cover his tracks.” Defence lawyer Daryl Royer said Carr, the father of two teens, has been working as a painter in Swan River and is heavily involved in his church. He noted his guilty plea and the restitution made and said a community-based sentence would allow him to support his family.

Carr told court he accepts responsibility for his actions and is prepared to pay his debt to society.

A sentencing decision is slated for Friday.

Gaming bill poses risk, high costs

Brian Watson: Gaming bill poses risk, high costs

The proposal to build two casinos somewhere in Massachusetts and install 3,000 slot machines at the state's four racetracks, would fold quicker than a pair of twos in a back-room poker game if it were subject to the kind of scrutiny and analysis it should be receiving. But House Speaker Robert DeLeo and the track owners, casino developers and lobbyists who favor this proposal will try to get the legislation passed this week.

Proponents of the gambling bill have touted the recent report by the Spectrum Gaming Group, which outlines the anticipated revenues that could come from the new casinos and slot machines. The state would receive licensing fees and a yearly percentage of the casino and slot winnings.

But nowhere in the 78-page document are there estimates for the costs to the state and its taxpayers that would accompany legal gambling. There is indeed a substantial financial downside to the proposal that supporters of the legislation have refused to tally.

The experiences of other states with casinos also show that the costs increase over the years while revenues decline. The licensing fees, for example, are one-time, one-year, gains. And invariably, after a few years, casino owners renegotiate sweeter deals for themselves, with smaller revenue percentages for the state.

Meanwhile, as costs associated with problem gambling expand over time, the state is left to address them. Gambling can cause some degree of hardship or disruption in up to 30 percent of players, and these problems spill into society in many costly ways.

The worst cases — addicted gamblers — lose their jobs; destroy their families; default on loans, bills, and credit cards; and steal and commit crimes. Their actual financial burden on the taxpayers is significant. You and I pay for the extra costs that they place on financial institutions, insurance companies, the medical system, law enforcement agencies, the court system, social service agencies, and the prison system.

In milder cases, where poor people simply gamble away their paychecks, society pays in subtler ways. First, there are the losses to the gamblers themselves. Their money won't be used to support more constructive endeavors in their own lives that would have a much bigger economic multiplier effect for the growth and productivity of society as a whole.

Secondly, other members of their families then often need financial assistance and other help to compensate for the lack of family savings and resources simply to pursue normal, educated, productive lives.

Want numbers? If we end up with roughly 40,000 problem gamblers (or families) every year, each of whom requires an average of $10,000 in state services — ranging from brief counseling to full incarceration — that would total $400 million a year in costs, which is exactly the average annual revenue that the state would receive from the casinos and slots.

Furthermore, the casinos and racetracks themselves require oversight and regulation. Hundreds of new state officials would be added to the Attorney General's office, the State Police, and to a new "Gaming Commission." Incredibly, an entire new prison could become necessary.

Add all the costs together, and the gambling legislation is a money-loser for the commonwealth. Not in the first few years, to be sure, but for all the years thereafter.

Speaker DeLeo is fond of saying that this is a jobs bill. I say let's take the more than $400 million that casinos and slots would cost the state every year and use it to build jobs programs that are much more constructive and economically productive.

Brian T. Watson of Swampscott is a regular Salem News columnist.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Atlantic City Casino Gambling Revenue Down In March

Atlantic City Casino Gambling Revenue Down In March

The Atlantic City casino industry simply cannot afford to have many more months like the past few. This week, more bad news was delivered when revenue figures for March revealed a 5.6% decrease from the same period in 2009.

Table games at the city's casinos took the biggest hit, dropping 6.8%, to $207.3 million. Slot revenue for AC casinos was down to $207.3 million, a drop of five percent. The total revenue for the casinos was $300.8 million.

Although the news brought declining revenue, it was not as bad as the past year. Over the past year, Atlantic City casinos have experienced double digits declines in revenue many times. The single digit decline represented hope at several casinos.

"I feel pretty darn good," said Don Marrandino, Eastern Division President of Harrah's Entertainment. "i think we're turning the corner here." That optimism could be found in several of the casinos, but some believe that AC still has a long way to go."

"The fact that their not dropping as much as in the past is a good thing, but it certainly does not mean that casinos in Atlantic City can exhale," said Gaming Analyst Steve Schwartz. "The competition in the Northeast is becoming fierce, and all states have their eyes on toppling the New jersey casino industry."

One of those states is Pennsylvania where casinos had higher slot revenue than AC casinos for the first time ever in December. Pennsylvania lawmakers also upped the ante earlier this year when they legalized table games for casinos in the state.