Meetings & Information


Monday, May 30, 2011

Shady shenanigans shouldn't surprise

Shady shenanigans shouldn't surprise

Editor: In issuing a scathing report against the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and its slimy practices after a painstaking two-year investigation, a state grand jury has delivered enormous rhetorical ammunition to those who were opposed to the initiation of casino gambling in the commonwealth.

The grand jury found sloppy practices and inexcusable occurrences including patronage, the arrests of some of the patronage hires, failure to properly scrutinize vendors and potential licensees, acquiescence to political pressure, failure to safeguard the public, and that casino tax revenue to be used for property tax relief has not achieved the promised levels.

The body did not issue any criminal indictments but urged significant changes in the law and in the means by which casinos and those associated with them are scrutinized and regulated.

Only in the twisted world of state government could the report be seen by anyone as good news and vindication, but Gaming Board chairman and Rendell appointee Gregory Fajt considers it a "spectacular success." Unbelievable.

Individuals should have the right to lose their money in gambling casinos and I supported legislation to allow casinos to operate, enabling us to keep gambling tax revenue in Pennsylvania.

I suppose all of us should have known, though, that placed in the hands of a new, expensive state bureaucracy, particularly one assembled under the slippery Ed Rendell, would place the fox in charge of the hen house and spawn calamity for those who believe in open, honest, citizen-friendly government.

I am still waiting for my property taxes to be slashed by the 30 percent Mr. Rendell promised.

The credo of today's brand of elected official is: "Promise them anything, get elected, get re-elected, break your promise, and pledge to do better in the future. The electorate will lap it up."




Applicants' unsavory links 'scrubbed,' investigation finds

Applicants' unsavory links 'scrubbed,' investigation finds
By Brad Bumsted and Mike Wereschagin

HARRISBURG — Nine days after then-Gov. Ed Rendell signed the law legalizing casinos, a convicted felon with alleged mob ties formed a company to build a casino for which he had no license on land he did not own.

He bought the land six months later, in December 2004, about the time the state's Gaming Control Board met for the first time. He broke ground on the $400 million casino in July 2006, six months before the first $50 million licenses were awarded.

"You would have to be, I guess, pretty rich or pretty sure that you were going to get a license if you were going to do that," a former investigator for the gaming board told a state grand jury, according to a report it released last week.

The person who was pretty sure, pretty rich or both was Scranton millionaire Louis DeNaples, former owner of Mount Airy Casino Resort in the Poconos.

DeNaples could not be reached. A spokesman for Mount Airy said the casino and officials named in the grand jury report declined comment.

The report provides a glimpse into the inner workings of the gaming board, as officials worked at a frantic pace to award 11 casino licenses in 2006 and make good on Rendell's campaign promise of property tax relief.

The report accuses the board of putting casino applicants ahead of the public. It alleges that controversial information about applicants was "scrubbed" from reports and that supervisors thwarted investigators as they looked into casino owners' backgrounds.

Investigators checking into Presque Isle Downs in Erie found casino associates with alleged mob ties and convictions for gambling, tax evasion, theft and murder. All of it was left out of Presque Isle's final suitability report. Supervisors told investigators not to interview certain employees, blocked requests for information and, after the license was awarded, told them to back off because if they found anything else, "it would make the board look bad," according to the grand jury report.

A spokeswoman for Presque Isle could not be reached.

The grand jury recommended no criminal charges, but said DeNaples' casino bid "was treated differently almost from the start."

According to the report, Donald Shiffer, a gaming board lawyer assigned to vet one of DeNaples' competitors, took an early and persistent interest in DeNaples' application.

Though repeatedly told he wasn't assigned to look into Mount Airy, Shiffer tried to insert himself into DeNaples' licensing process, according to the grand jury. Shiffer exchanged dozens of phone calls with DeNaples' daughter, Lisa DeNaples, who now owns the resort, according to the report.

Board member Ray Angeli brought Shiffer into closed-door meetings about Mount Airy. Witnesses told the grand jury Shiffer would hand notes to Angeli, and whisper in his ear during the hearings. "Everybody knew he was there for Louie DeNaples," according to grand jury testimony.

Angeli could not be reached.

Shiffer left the gaming board in August 2007, eight months after DeNaples got a license. He claimed his practice would be "absolutely unrelated to gaming," and went to work for a law firm representing Mount Airy — even getting an office in the casino, the grand jury said. He became the casino's vice president and general counsel.

The Mount Airy spokesman reiterated there would be no comment from anyone at the casino.

The grand jury cites nine individuals, mostly lawyers, who left the board to work for casinos or law firms representing them.

The report shows the board operating in a gray area, "a landscape between something criminal and something inappropriate," said Christopher Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown.

Although the grand jury makes 21 recommendations to improve the board, "the problem is it's after the fact — the genie is out of the bottle," Borick said.

One license remains unawarded, and it must go to a harness race track; another, for a stand-alone casino, may be available but it's tied up in litigation.

"I don't think it's ever too late to get it right," said Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre County.

Sen. Jane Orie, R-McCandless, who is filing a bill to address the grand jury recommendations, said the information the panel unearthed could be used against casino owners in annual license renewals and potentially, in new appeals by losing applicants.

The hurried atmosphere at the control board to license casinos by December 2006 was aimed at getting property tax relief rolling -- a key initiative of Rendell's. His hand-picked chairman, attorney Tad Decker, drove the staff toward a nonnegotiable date for license awards.

It was in this climate that Louis DeNaples won a license despite a 1978 felony conviction for fraud.

The state's gambling law prevented barring people with a conviction more than 15 years old, though the grand jury said the board still should have considered DeNaples' conviction. In DeNaples' application, top board officials deleted information about alleged ties to organized crime, infuriating casino investigators, according to the grand jury.

DeNaples was charged with perjury in January 2008, accused of lying about reputed mob connections. The charges were dropped in return for DeNaples bowing out of the casino.

Last week, the perjury charges against DeNaples were expunged in Dauphin County court.

Recovering gambling addict: Casinos a bad bet

Recovering gambling addict: Casinos a bad bet
By Casey Toner

It’s easy to envision a casino and imagine the flashing lights, ringing bells and the clicking sounds of a hundred slot machine arms, all generating huge payouts.

State lawmakers are betting that the glitz and glamour of five new casinos in Illinois, including possible locations in the south suburbs and Chicago, will create millions of dollars in tax revenue and thousands of jobs.

A measure pending in the Illinois House also would allow slot machines at both Chicago airports, the Illinois State Fairgrounds and racetracks — turning them into “racinos.” The legislation could be voted on today.

While the proposal has garnered the support of politicians such as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, not everyone is on board.

“It would be a devastatingly bad idea, a mistake for already impoverished areas,” Daniel Stribling said. “Even if there is high unemployment, it still wouldn’t benefit the residents. People are looking for the end of the rainbow quickly and it doesn’t work like that.”

Stribling, the clinical director at the Elite Treatment Center in Chicago Heights, lost two houses, $50,000 and nearly his marriage to his gambling addiction. The center treats substance abuse.

The 63-year-old resident of Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood got his first taste of gambling when he was 18 at a casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. A blackjack player, Stribling won $2,000 his first time out.

“That solidified the nature of the beast, the reward and adrenaline rush,” he said. “I enjoyed the feeling, the emotional highs.”

Stribling, who quit heroin in 1972 and alcohol in 1984, said gambling filled the void created by the absence of other drugs.

He recalled visiting a casino on a Friday with plans to come home on Saturday, only to return on Monday. Stribling would bring a couple hundred dollars to the casino and end up spending thousands.

“You’re doing something you know you shouldn’t be doing, and you’re getting away with it,” he said. “The endorphins kick in and you feel like you’re getting away with something. Especially when you win.”

Stribling quit the addiction in 1978 after his wife promised to leave him if he continued. He sought treatment through Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous and has been in recovery since. He has relapsed, but said the last time he gambled was in 2002.

He is not alone in fighting the addiction. A total of 8,202 people have volunteered to ban themselves from all Illinois casinos since 2002 by putting themselves on the Illinois Gaming Board’s self-exclusion list.

No one on the list is legally allowed to enter a casino. Those who try anyway can be kicked off the premises or charged with trespassing, and all of their winnings must be turned over to one of three gambling recovery organizations.

According to records kept by the Illinois Gaming Board, municipalities with casinos tend to have more people on the list than those that don’t.

A total 202 people from Joliet have joined the list, as have 211 people from Aurora, and 218 people from Elgin. Orland Park, which is about 17 miles away from Joliet, has 48 people on the list.

Peter Bradley, the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery corporate services clinician at Ingalls Hospital in Harvey, said he has read studies linking an increase in suicide rates and other gambling-related problems to the opening of a gambling boat in Biloxi, Miss.

Stribling said this is exactly the problem. Although he hasn’t played Blackjack for almost a decade, he can still easily recall the ups and downs of casino life with a cautious flicker in his eyes.

“You’re completely disoriented as time passes,” he said. “It’s always the next hand. You’ll leave the casino after the next hand.”

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Restructure gambling law, board

The Slot Barn Industry spent buckets of cash...was it $60 million? convincing the Pennsylvania legislature to pass slip shod legislation at midnight on the Fourth of July.

That legislation neglected any provision addressing children and pets left in vehicles by the Gambling Addict because everyone, it seems, failed to conduct their due diligence into a known problem created by this predatory industry.

A few were even content to proclaim their ignorance of the Industry for the record:

"One thing that we never expected was for people to leave their kids inside their cars while they went inside to gamble," said Fred Harran, Bensalem's public safety director.

"Of all the problems we thought about that were going to happen, this is one thing that was probably inconceivable," State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R., Bucks) said at a noon news conference Thursday in Bensalem.

From: Smack into the face of addiction

"It's amazing to me that legislators are surprised at this stuff," said Paul Boni, a Philadelphia lawyer who has represented anti-casino groups. "You are looking smack into the face of the addiction.

"They are surprised because they haven't thought about it and haven't looked into the issue."

During the 10 years ending in 2003, collected accounts of more than 30 cases of parents' leaving children in locked cars outside casinos.

That was shown to be a lowball count when the Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal studied Indiana Gaming Commission records to reveal 37 incidents in which 72 children were left unattended at casinos in that state in 1999 and 2000.

News stories contain dozens of accounts of gamblers across the nation who left children in vehicles.

A few cases have proved fatal.

In 1997, a 10-day-old girl died in a car while her mother gambled for hours in a South Carolina casino.

The next year, a 3-year-old Louisiana boy died in hot van while his nanny played video poker for five hours.

In 2004, a 9-month-old Florida girl died in her car seat outside a track where her father was betting on horses.

This comment should surprise no one and parallels the process in Massachusetts-

The law was written to serve the casino industry....

Restructure gambling law, board
For all of the 21 major recommendations made by a statewide investigative grand jury in its withering critique of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, it stopped short of the most fundamental one.

After a two-year investigation of the board's award of casino licenses and its related operations, the grand jury did not recommend any criminal charges. That, however, does not validate board Chairman Gregory Fajt's self-serving assertion that the board's work has been an unmitigated success. Like many other public officials, Mr. Fajt mistook the lack of criminal charges for proof of effective public service.

The board might well have operated in accordance with the law but the problem is that law itself is deeply flawed. Mr. Fajt crowed that much of what the grand jury found previously had been reported in the state's newspapers, calling it "old news." Unfortunately, that just indicates that lawmakers will pay no more attention to the grand jury report than they did to previous revelations of the law's many profound shortcomings. The Legislature, after all, has ignored most of the recommendations by a separate grand jury that made a host of sensible suggestions for the Legislature's reform in the wake of the "Bonusgate" corruption investigation.

Some of the needed reforms have been obvious from the beginning. Foremost among those is the need for investigations related to casino regulation to be conducted by an independent body rather than by an in-house bureau that reports to the board.

No gamble for some applicants

But the principal problem is one that afflicts much of what the state Legislature does. The law was written to serve the casino industry, the politicians who advocated for it and specific narrow interests within that industry, rather than the public interest. For example, Pennsylvania's casino law is the only one among the states that allows someone with a felony conviction to obtain a license - a provision that applied to a single applicant and eventual licensee, Dunmore businessman Louis DeNaples.

Because of its structure, the seven-member board is a political extension of the Legislature. The governor appoints three members and the leaders of each of the major party caucuses in the House and Senate appoint four - one each. Although a simple majority is needed to approve license awards and policy decision, all four of the legislative appointees have to agree. Thus, each legislative appointee has veto power. A 6-1 vote is meaningless unless the majority includes all four legislative appointees.

That is a formula for chicanery. As the report pointed out, attorney William Conaboy of Scranton, who was appointed to the board by then-Senate Minority Leader Robert Mellow of Lackawanna County, was badgered by the Democratic caucus after he said he would recuse himself from voting on the DeNaples license application. Mr. Conaboy was friendly with Mr. DeNaples and had represented him on several matters. Recusal was the appropriate course.

Mr. Conaboy testified that Mr. Mellow had told him that he wanted a casino in his senatorial district. Mount Airy Casino Resort, Mr. DeNaples' project, was the only application to meet that description.

Establish independent board

Reform is needed even though only one casino license remains to be awarded. The Legislature should begin by making the board answerable to the public rather than to individual politicians and their patrons. An independent commission should recommend appointees to the governor, whose nominees then should be subject to confirmation hearings and votes in the Senate. There should be no individual veto among board members; each vote should count.

Such a board would undertake needed reforms without the embarrassment of having to be cajoled into doing so by a criminal grand jury.

For additional information:
Casino-Free Philadelphia
Stop Predatory Gambling
United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts

Saturday, May 28, 2011

How addictions interact

How addictions interact
By Tom Larkin / As you were saying...

“It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It is that they can’t see the problem.” — G.K. Chesterton

Gambling and drinking alcohol interact and reinforce one another.

For most people, gambling and drinking are not self-defeating. However, about 80 percent of alcohol is consumed by about 20 percent of the drinkers and about 80 percent of money lost comes from about 20 percent of the gamblers. Disproportionately they are returning veterans, the less educated, minorities, the formerly incarcerated and mostly working people with moderate to low incomes.

Nevada has the highest per-capita alcohol consumption rate. Lottery revenues in Massachusetts would decrease significantly if Keno machines were removed from drinking establishments. Lottery and casino managers understand full well that increased drinking leads to increased gambling profits.

Proponents of expanding gambling in Massachusetts attempt to minimize the gambling and drinking connection. They use outdated projections suggesting gambling addiction is insignificant, unique and manageable compared to alcohol problems. That is not true. According to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, about one of three active gamblers has some level of mild, moderate to severe problem and the prevalence of this behavior will increase as availability increases:

■ Mild (at risk gamblers) — about 18 percent of active gamblers
■ Moderate (problem gamblers) — about 9 percent of active gamblers
■ Severe (pathological gamblers) — about 4 percent of active gamblers
Irrational instant gratification thinking drives all addictions. Alcohol disinhibits. It is considered a gateway to gambling and other related self-defeating behaviors and feelings, including smoking, drug abuse, domestic violence, child neglect, suicide, increased debt, criminal behaviors and the intensity, duration and frequency of many emotional problems.

More than 50 percent of people with gambling problems are estimated to have alcohol and other drug problems. About one-third of people with drinking problems are estimated to have gambling problems. Alcohol and/or drug use are involved in about 80 percent of arrests and incarcerations. About 30 percent to 40 percent of the incarcerated are estimated to have gambling problems. Repeated criminal activity is “a gamble.” It can be defined as a persistent, hard to change pattern of risky behaviors. About two out of three of the formerly incarcerated are rearrested within three years, according to a 15-state, 2002 U.S. Justice Department study. For those who stay sober, recidivism rates drop to about one out of three. Therefore, recidivism is clearly related directly to relapse.

Self-referrals for gambling problems are much lower (3 percent) when compared to people who self refer for alcohol (15 percent) and drugs (25 percent). It is reasonable to assume self-defeating gambling behaviors are underreported. The commission study found the number of pathological gamblers double within a 50-mile radius of new casinos.

Many elected officials fail to understand how addictions are acquired, interact and reinforce each other. Therefore, they can’t see the problem.

Tom Larkin is a psychologist and president of United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts.

Corruption at Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board

From our friends at Stop Predatory Gambling [worth clicking on the link to read the additional source information.] :

Corruption at Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board
by Nathaniel
Yesterday, a grand jury responded to alleged corruption at the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board by recommending a major overhaul of personnel and procedures at the Board and strengthened casino regulations. It also suggested dramatically reducing the number of secret meetings the Board holds.

The former communication director for the Board testified to the grand jury that at least five people who were hired because of their political connections “ended up getting arrested or investigated for conduct that he ultimately had to try to explain to the public.”

The grand jury’s report stated that the Board “failed to thoroughly protect the public from unlawful gaming practices; failed to maximize potential new revenue to the commonwealth to support property tax relief … and otherwise engaged in activities which eroded, at a minimum, this grand jury’s confidence in the system.”

Sadly, this is just one of many examples of political corruption that occur when state governments decide to partner with the predatory gambling industry.

Read the full news story below:

Pa. grand jury calls for overhaul of casino laws
By Mark Scolforo, May 25, 2011
Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania’s casino regulations should be strengthened and personnel and procedures at the Gaming Control Board should be overhauled, a grand jury said in a report issued Tuesday.

The grand jury spent two years investigating how licenses were awarded to casinos, but the probe has not led to any criminal charges and the jury did not recommend them.

But the panel’s 102-page report was highly critical of how agency lawyers, administrators and board members handled their duties. It made 21 recommendations, among them that the board needs more experienced employees, particularly among its lawyers, and should sharply limit the number of secret meetings it holds.

The board “failed to thoroughly protect the public from unlawful gaming practices; failed to maximize potential new revenue to the commonwealth to support property tax relief … and otherwise engaged in activities which eroded, at a minimum, this grand jury’s confidence in the system,” the report said.

The licensing process “became pre-occupied, fixated and singularly focused” on fairness to applicants “at the expense of adequately protecting the citizens of the commonwealth.”

Much of the grand jury findings explored the process by which the board granted licenses to casinos in Erie and the Poconos, pointing out problems in how background investigations were conducted and the close relationship that sometimes existed between the applicants, legislative leaders and the casino agency.

Former board communications director Nick Hayes testified that at least five people who were hired because of political connections “ended up getting arrested or investigated for conduct that he ultimately had to try to explain to the public.”

The board responded to the grand jury report with a statement that called its efforts an “unmitigated success.”

“After this grand jury met for more than two years, there were no arrests, no presentments, no indictments,” board chairman Greg Fajt said. “They found no criminal activity because there was, in fact, no criminal activity to be found.”

Fajt said the board provided 2.7 million pages of documents to the attorney general’s office, which ran the jury, and spent more than 4,000 man-hours to comply with the probe.

Investigative grand reports are often used by prosecutors as probable cause affidavits in filing charges, but that did not occur in this instance. Prosecutors make final decisions about charges, and attorney general’s office spokesman Nils Frederiksen declined to say whether any might result from the gaming investigation.

“As for whether your definition of an outstanding success is that nobody’s been arrested, that’s a very interesting definition of success,” Frederiksen said. “If that’s your definition of success, what’s your definition of failure?”

The grand jury recommended that an outside agency conduct annual audits and inspections of the gaming board and said clear rules are needed to prevent board members from applying for or holding slots licenses.

It found violations of nondisclosure rules, hiring restrictions and nepotism prohibitions.

“The Pennsylvania Crimes Code and related criminal statutes are inadequate to the job of combatting public corruption,” the Pittsburgh-based panel wrote.

It said the board’s Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement should be established as an independent law enforcement agency and that all employees should have to wait four years after leaving employment before they could work for a gaming entity or any firm that represents or conducts business with a gaming entity.

The board conducted significant business behind closed doors, the jury found, a practice that undermined the public’s trust in its decisions and kept people from voicing their opinions.

The 2004 gambling law led to the establishment of 10 operating casinos that have so far generated more than $5.1 billion in fees and taxes, according to the board.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Alabama Gambling Corruption Case: Judge to Allow Wiretap Evidence

Alabama Gambling Corruption Case: Judge to Allow Wiretap Evidence

MONTGOMERY, AL: — The judge who will preside over Alabama’s gambling corruption trial said Wednesday that prosecutors can use recordings from FBI wiretaps as evidence.

The defendants contended that the FBI didn’t follow its own rules when tapping the phones of casino operators Milton McGregor and Ronnie Gilley and that agents listened to calls they should have avoided, including those between the casino operators and their attorneys.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled that “the government has met the requirements for admissibility of the wiretap at issue.” He left open the possibility that the defendants could raise the issue again after the trial if they are convicted.

A ruling for the defendants would have been a huge blow to the prosecution, which has already played a few of the recordings during a pre-trial hearing.

The FBI recorded hundreds of calls to and from Gilley’s and McGregor’s cell phones in March 2010 when they were trying to pass legislation designed to protect their now-closed electronic bingo casinos from raids by state police.

McGregor, four present and former state senators and four others are scheduled for trial June 6 in Montgomery on charges of buying and selling votes on the pro-gambling legislation. Gilley has pleaded guilty and agreed to testify for the prosecution.

McGregor’s VictoryLand in Shorter is operating with dog racing, but as of June 1, live dog racing will be suspended and only simulcast dog and horse races will be shown. Gilley’s Country Crossing in Dothan is completely closed, but investors are trying to reopen two of the restaurants.

Make cheating a crime, says AFL

Make cheating a crime, says AFL
Melissa Jenkins

The AFL is urging the federal government to make cheating in sport a crime, punishable by up to 10 years' jail.

The league's general manager of football operations Adrian Anderson says bribery and corruption have cast a shadow on other sports abroad and the government should introduce laws to protect the integrity of Australian sport.

"We have seen countless examples of international sports brought to their knees by gambling-related corruption," Mr Anderson told reporters at the launch of Responsible Gambling Awareness Week on Sunday.

"Gambling advertising is pervasive," Mr Anderson said.

"You pick up ... any newspaper, any television station, there's advertising of gambling.

"Gambling has become normalised," he told AAP.

Lally and Gambling Addiction

Defense attacks witness in Mass. corruption trial

Lally acknowledged having forged checks from a previous employer in the 1990s and admitted that he had once tried to avoid paying Massachusetts sales taxes on a boat by saying it would be moored in Rhode Island.

Lally also readily conceded his gambling habit, acknowledging that he had lost huge sums of money betting on sports and at casinos. But he also had successes, testifying that he made $275,000 in 2 1/2 hours at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut.

Asked why he had failed to include a $70,000 line of credit in an application for government assistance in paying his legal bills, Lally said he was "embarrassed" because he had borrowed the money to pay off a debt to a Las Vegas casino.

Charges against Tuttle dismissed

Charges against Tuttle dismissed

Thirteen state charges against former Freeborn County Commissioner Linda Tuttle were officially dismissed earlier this month after she pleaded guilty in federal court in April to one count of wire fraud, a felony.

The charges included one felony count of racketeering and 12 felony counts of theft by swindle.

Linda TuttleTuttle has admitted under oath to taking funds from escrow accounts of her company, Albert Lea Abstract, and diverting them to pursue a gambling addiction. She reportedly took the money both before and after she was elected as Freeborn County commissioner in November 2008.

During a federal court hearing in April, her lawyer, Kevin O’Connor Green, contended she spent $920,000, while the government said it was $1.1 million. The two sides have to negotiate a final dollar amount based on claims.

Under the plea agreement for the federal charge, Tuttle cannot withdraw her plea and cannot appeal. She surrendered the right to a trial by jury of her peers, the right to a speedy trial and the right to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Tuttle resigned as county commissioner on Aug. 1, 2010, amid allegations. Green stated Tuttle has since taken gambling-addiction treatment at Project Turnabout in Granite Falls.

He also noted that his client’s use of prescription drugs to treat restless-legs syndrome played a factor in how a successful businesswoman and county leader could “just run off a cliff.” The prescriptions have a side effect of compulsive behavior.

The date for Tuttle’s federal sentencing has not yet been scheduled.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mohegan Sun downgraded on debt concerns

Conn.'s Mohegan Sun downgraded on debt concerns

HARTFORD, Conn.—Moody's Investors Service has downgraded the ratings of the Connecticut-based Mohegan tribal casino operator on debt concerns at a time of slumping consumer spending.

The New York-based ratings agency said Monday the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority has not refinanced a $675 million line of credit set to expire in March 2012 and separate debt of $250 million coming due the following month. It also cited weak consumer demand for gambling in the Northeast and the possibility of increased competition if casino gambling is legalized in Massachusetts.

Moody's downgraded the corporate family rating and probability of default rating to Caa3 from Caa2. Moody's also downgraded all long-term debt ratings to a "negative" outlook.

The authority operates the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut and Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania.

A spokeswoman for Connecticut's Mohegan Sun did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Gambling it all away

Gambling it all away

If you think that legalizing casinos in Massachusetts will create the "good" jobs that proponents claim they will, you need to read the report that Spectrum Gaming Group prepared for Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell a few years ago. It showed that 49.4% of Mohegan Sun employees were paid less than $23,504 per year (with just 13.3% earning over $36,700 per year). The numbers at Foxwoods were similar: 44.1% of Foxwoods employees earned less than $26,185 (with just 16.2% earning over $28,930 per year).

Oddly, the company that was hired to prepare the report on gambling for Massachusetts (Spectrum Gaming Group) is the SAME company that prepared the above information for Connecticut. They either just "forgot" to include the above wage information when preparing the report supporting legalized gambling in Massachusetts -- or they weren't asked to include it. They "forgot" to include other negatives, too.

Before the taxpayers of Massachusetts get stuck with the bill for failed casinos (see proposals in Nevada and New Jersey), we deserve to know the facts -- pro and con -- that can only be found in an independent, non-partisan study -- not one prepared by a company whose purpose (and profits) depend solely upon the existence of legalized gambling.

I've spoken to several of our legislators and I was shocked to learn that NOT ONE OF THEM had spent ANY time reading the studies (like the enlightening study from New Hampshire which was conducted by independent researchers -- and not by industry insiders). That study concluded that pro-gambling reports prepared by firms with a vested interest in legalized gambling significantly underestimate the real costs to cities, towns and taxpayers -- and it spells out why.

The citizens of Massachusetts deserve better. This permanent change to the laws of Massachusetts should not be made as a knee-jerk reaction to current economic conditions or for political gain (or profit). And it certainly shouldn't stick Massachusetts citizens and taxpayers with the tab while casino operators and supporters make out like bandits.

As leaders of the people of Massachusetts, our elected representatives have the responsibility to do what is right. Before putting every current and future citizen of the Commonwealth on the line for the unanticipated effects of this major change, they should thoroughly conduct and review research and demand truthful responses to unanswered questions. That's just the reasonable, and prudent, thing to do.

The decision on casinos will have an effect on State of Massachusetts and her citizens for all-time.

Will we be able to say, years down the road -- and in a future context, that our decision was the right one?

Maintaining casinos: a cost we can't afford

Maintaining casinos: a cost we can't afford

What is the threshold of financial sustainability of potential slot barn/casinos?

When is the onset of Internet gambling championed by Massachusetts' own Congressman Barney Frank going to be factored into the downgrade of proposed gambling revenues?

When is Beacon Hill going to conduct a transparent discussion of the costs and impacts of expanding predatory gambling by an industry that is and has been in decline?

Gov. Deval L. Patrick proposed $1 billion capital investments almost four years ago
and those revenues were proven to be wrong. The jobs numbers were stated
by Spectrum Gaming in its report to him (2008).

Today's proposals are half the investment, and a fraction of the jobs with the only economic development being the building/construction phase.

The Economic Crime Bill that was touted by Attorney General Martha Coakley, key politicians and district attorneys as absolutely necessary before expanding gambling in the commonwealth disappeared!

We don't have the wiretapping, gang and money laundering laws or a regulatory structure for slots/full-scale casino gambling.

-Kathleen Conley Norbut, Monson

Chicopee Gambling Addict repaying stolen funds

Woman repaying library money

CHICOPEE - The former treasurer of the Chicopee Friends of the Public Library, who pleaded guilty to stealing $115,000 from the charity, has paid back about half of the money she took.

Friends President John L. Michon said he received a check for $71,000 from Elizabeth Wilk's lawyers on Thursday.

"We want the people to know we are doing everything we can do to restore those funds," Michon said.

In March, Wilk, 57, pleaded guilty to siphoning the money from the Friends of the Library accounts by using her positions as vice president of mortgage lending for Chicopee Savings Bank and treasurer of the charity. She no longer holds either position.

The money was donated to the Friends of the Public Library to be used to provide children's programming and to purchase equipment which cannot be financed in the regular budget, Michon said.

The thefts took place between Dec. 22, 2007, and Sept. 16, 2010. Her lawyer said Wilk has a gambling addiction and spent the money at casinos and to buy scratch tickets.

Wilk was scheduled to be sentenced today on one count of larceny over $250 by a single scheme, but the appearance was postponed until May 31. Because Judge C. Jeffrey Kinder will be sitting in Hampshire Superior Court, the sentencing will in Northampton.

"I just deposited $71,000 with the full expectation of getting full restitution by May 31," Michon said.

The Friends of the Public Library has asked that Wilk to pay a total of $130,000 to the organization to cover lost interest and the cost of fees for a lawyer and financial officials who assisted in balancing the charity's books after the theft was discovered, he said.

The judge has not ruled on whether it will ask Wilk to pay for the lost interest and professional fees, Michon said

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Casino proposals for Massachusetts need cost-benefit analysis

Letters to The Editor: Casino proposals for Massachusetts need cost-benefit analysis

Casino proposals for Massachusetts need cost-benefit analysis

Recently I have heard many statements about the popularity and economic viability of casinos from politicians and so called experts. A professor from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth who appears to be advocating on behalf of casino owners reports that the recent survey indicating a majority of residents in the state support casino gambling is evidence that the electorate approves.

However, in the last two years alone roughly $6 million has been spent by lobbyists for the casino owners. People have not heard the whole story about the economic and social pitfalls of casinos.

Similarly, I heard a local state senator equate slot machines with scratch tickets. How could an elected official say such a thing? According to abundant and easily accessible research, slot machines are designed to be the most addictive form of legalized gambling available.

How do we know that casinos will help our state’s economy? No state in the country has ever solved its budget problems with gambling revenues. We need good jobs, but claims of the jobs that would be created made by politicians and casino executives vary greatly, indicating uncertainty. The state Lottery and local businesses, both significant sources of state revenues, would be put at risk.

Sen. Stephen Brewer, D-Barre, has introduced a bill requiring a detailed cost-benefit analysis as a prerequisite to the introduction of slot parlors or casinos. I encourage readers to contact their legislators to encourage them to support the senator’s bill.

Gambling preys on the poor, the elderly and the addicted, and the only clear beneficiaries are wealthy casino owners. Before we make a decision to go down this path we need to hear both sides of the story.

– STEVEN ABDOW, Finance Officer, Episcopal Diocese of Western Mass., Springfield

RI: Crime & Corruption

RI police arrest 24 alleged mobsters, associates

SCITUATE, R.I.—State police in Rhode Island arrested two dozen suspected mobsters and their associates Friday following a wiretap investigation into what authorities say was an illegal sports-betting ring.

State police say the people arrested include three reputed members of the Patriarca crime family, including Frank "Bobo" Marrapese, Jr., Edward Lato and Alfred "Chippy" Scivola. They're all charged with racketeering, and Marrapese and Scivola are also charged with extortion conspiracy.

"What today proves is that organized crime and corruption in the state of Rhode Island never sleeps," Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin said at a news conference following the arrests. "Thankfully today we have brought to a conclusion an investigative phase into organized crime in Rhode Island."

Police say Vincent Tallo, 49, of Johnston, ran the ring, which took illegal bets on professional and college sports. He's charged with racketeering, criminal gambling, bookmaking, drug and other charges.

The investigation began in fall 2010 and ultimately included wiretaps on cell phones owned by Tallo and Marrapese, according to police, who say information from the Marrapese wiretap led to evidence of extortion and other criminal acts.

Police say the wiretaps showed evidence that nearly $400,000 in illegal bets were placed over the course of the investigation.

Marrapese was convicted in 1987 of killing a fellow mobster and is on parole after being released three years ago.

"Three of the top-ranking officials from the Patriarca organized crime family were arrested today. I think we made a big dent," Capt. James O. Demers of the state police said.

The arrests come only months after reputed former Patriarca boss Luigi "Baby Shacks" Manocchio was arrested in a sweep of suspected mobsters and mob associates in January on charges he extorted protection payments from Rhode Island strip clubs. He has pleaded not guilty.

Friday's arrests were not related to the charges in that case, Demers said.

Scivola was arrested Friday morning in Las Vegas, where police say he was on vacation. The rest of the suspects were arrested in Rhode Island.

The suspects were arraigned Friday afternoon and a judge ordered Marrapese held without bail Friday for violating his parole. Tallo, who police say was the ringleader, was also held without bail. Lato was granted $25,000 surety bail, and Scivola is awaiting extradition from Nevada. The remaining 20 people were released on bail.

RI: Cheap on Gambling Addiction Treatment

Fighting the addiction to gambling
$75,000 dedicated to treat RI's gamblers

Bill Tomison
with reporting by Walt Buteau
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - The pull to spend your money on gambling is more high tech than ever. The technology of slot machines, card table games and more is designed to stimulate certain areas of your brain.
But in Rhode Island, less than a quarter of one percent of gambling revenue is spent to treat addictive gamblers.

In most casinos or slot parlors, it's a cacophony of sound from morning till night. Sitting in front of a slot machine, it's ringing electronic bells, dinging musically as the virtual tumblers on the screen fall into place. The flashing lights -- and maybe, just maybe, coins dropping into the bin -- may actually be changing the chemistry of your brain.

Yes, casinos and the like are money makers. And they'll also encourage you to get help if you feel the gambling is controlling you.

"There's a lot of stimulation. You can play this -- once every three to five seconds, at least," said Bob Breen of the Rhode Island Hospital's Gambling Treatment Program.

It became a $100 a day hobby for Scituate resident Sandy Hall. She's a recovering gambling addict.

"I went through in excess of $40,000. Probably close to sixty," Hall said this week.
[This highlights the need for monthly statements.]

"I turned from this moral, ethical person -- into a lying, cheating, decitful [sic] manipulative person that I didn't even recognize."

Rhode Island's gambling venues will rake in hundreds of millions of dollars this year -- but the state dedicates only $75,000 for the program at Rhode Island Hospital to treat addictive gamblers in Rhode Island. And of course, that's only if they come forward, and that only happens if they or someone they know recognizes they have a problem.

"Some of the receptors in your brain -- misfire," said Hall. It's a lot like a drug, she said. "It is as addictive as cocaine and heroin."

"You need to either use more of your drug -- or you need to spin the wheels on your slot machine to keep it going," added Breen.

Hall found a way to stop, but even after two years without gambling, she doesn't dare even flip a coin anymore.

"If I let this disease open up one small door, it will consume me again, and I cannot risk that because my life was horrible," said Hall.

A recent study shows while only two percent of the population gets addicted to gambling -- those addicted gamblers contribute about half the revenue to casinos.
[There is no indication for the source of this study, but other studies have indicated higher rates of Gambling Addiction.]

Billings man sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for mail fraud

Billings man sentenced to almost 2 years in federal prison for mail fraud
By the Associated Press

BILLINGS - A 37-year-old former claims adjuster who acknowledged stealing more than $150,000 from his employer to feed a gambling addiction has been sentenced to almost two years in federal prison.

Ryan Paul Shipman appeared in court in Billings on Thursday, and U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull sentenced him to 21 months in prison and ordered him to pay $155,015 in restitution.

Shipman, of Billings, pleaded guilty in February to one count of mail fraud for stealing that amount from Mountain West Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co., headquartered in Laramie, Wyo.

Prosecutors say the scheme ran from October 2008 until last September, and Shipman submitted false claims and invoices to the company and split the money with an unindicted co-conspirator.

The Billings Gazette reports the investigation into the scheme is continuing.

Hide that report!

When you don't like the bad image a report paints about the impacts of GAMBLING, what do you do?

Hide the report!

Nova Scotia agrees to release shelved gambling report
The Canadian Press

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia's freedom of information review officer says she's pleased the provincial government has decided to release a draft report on gambling.

The study was shelved 18 months ago and the government refused to release the draft document, saying there were problems with its research methods.

The study was expected to delve into the costs to society of gambling addiction tied to VLTs.

The Canadian Press and an anti-gambling group appealed to the review officer in a bid to get the report released by the Labour Department.

Dulcie McCallum later recommended the release of the full draft report.

Yesterday, the government said it would oblige within 30 days and include comments outlining its concerns.

McCallum says she's pleased the province has acknowledged there is a public interest in the topic of VLTs and the gambling report.

Fraudster sent to jail for theft of $180,000

Fraudster sent to jail for theft of $180,000

A Palmerston North woman who stole money from her employers – and at the same time claimed the domestic purposes benefit to fund a gambling addiction – has been jailed for two years and two months.

During five years Debra Kay Price, 49, fraudulently obtained more than $180,000.

At Palmerston North District court yesterday, she was sentenced on three obtaining by deception charges and one of wilful omission.

Between March 23, 2009, and January 24, 2010, she received $16,517 taxpayer money she was not entitled to in domestic purposes benefit, accommodation supplement and disability allowance payments from Work and Income.

At the same time, she was an office administrator for Manawatu's failed Signature Homes franchise.

While fraudulently claiming benefit money, she took $31,397.04 from the building company.

Her offending started in 2005, when she worked in the office at related companies, Mag and Tyre Direct and Fore Cars Manawatu.

Until she resigned in December 2008, she stole $134,327.12 from the companies, making more than 100 payments to her bank account.

Price has not paid the benefit money back, but has paid her former employers about $61,000, which included a final settlement of about $28,000 with Signature Homes, Judge Nevin Dawson said.

"I need to take into account the victims who have suffered as a result of what you have done," the judge said.

"You were placed in a position of responsibility that you abused.

"You and other people in similar positions to you need to know that there are consequences that are serious for this type of offending, especially for this amount."

Defence lawyer Mark Alderdice, who represented Price on the three obtaining by deception charges, said the woman now had no job or financial prospects, but had taken responsibility for her offending.

Mike Ryan, who represented her on the wilful deception charge, said Price's gambling had brought about her downfall.

Price was supposed to be sentenced on the obtaining by deception charges in March, but Judge Dawson delayed proceedings to allow reparation to be sorted.

In the meantime, the benefit fraud charge was added.

In March Mag and Tyre and Fore Cars director Craig Laird, of New Plymouth, read a victim impact statement where he said Price's offending had forced him to lay off staff and borrow to keep the business afloat.

Mr Laird had said he and his partner were expecting their first child in July, which should be the happiest time of their lives.

Instead, the couple were unable to afford their own home.

Ad Feedback Speaking to the Manawatu Standard, Mr Laird welcomed the prison sentenced imposed on Price.

He called for a fund to be set up to compensate victims in his position, where problem gamblers had stolen from them to fund their addiction.

Price's offending had affected Mr Laird's ability to trust other staff.

"It certainly makes you wonder if it's all worthwhile, being an employer," he said.

After a court appearance in March, Price had said her gambling addiction had forced her to sell her house.

- Manawatu Standard

SHNS Misinformation and Myth and Cedric's Hallucinations

It would be a pleasant surprise if someone conducted their research and offered the facts.

As a consequence of Carcieri v Salazar, Mr. Cromwell's comments are untrue.

In addition, posted here:

..."Within weeks of the 8-1 Carcieri v Salazar.
decision, a second strike on.
fee to trust was issued. This time it came from a case.
originating in the state of Hawaii.
In the 9-0 decision on Hawaii v. the Office of.
Hawaiian Affairs. Justice Alito wrote, "It would.
raise grave constitutional concerns" Congress sought.
to "cloud Hawaii's title to its.
sovereign lands" after it had joined the.
"We have emphasized that Congress cannot,
after statehood reserve or convey....lands that.
have already been bestowed upon a state".
How many readers of this paper.
could be effected by issues concerning.
land that has been "bestowed upon.
a state"; as an original colony, through.
disestablished territory or.
when the territory entered into.

How much simpler could this be? The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe does NOT have land in trust, nor does it have any legal authority to conduct Gambling. The Tribe owns land in Mashpee. It does not own the land in Middleboro or Fall River.

Wampanoag chairman: tribe could skirt gambling law
Boston Business Journal - by Galen Moore

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe plans to move ahead with a Massachusetts gambling operation, State House News Service reported today - even if state legislators don't act to expand gambling in the Bay State.

The chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoags, Cedric Cromwell, said the tribe already has legal authority to operate video lottery terminals like the ones in use at Twin River in Rhode Island, State House News reported. According to the report, Cromwell told the news service he hopes to avoid taking that step by negotiating an agreement with Governor Deval Patrick

Crown Casino targeting seniors

Crown Casino targeting seniors
Richard Willingham

CROWN Casino is luring senior citizens and cash-strapped community clubs to the casino by offering rebates, exposing vulnerable people to problem gambling, gambling researcher Professor Linda Hancock says.

Professor Hancock, from Deakin University, will today release her book Regulatory Failure: The Case of Crown Casino, in which she argues that the regulation of the casino is failing people because of ''weak sanctions'' on the irresponsible service of alcohol and on those failing to implement the Responsible Gambling Code of Conduct.

In the book, Professor Hancock said seniors and people from non-English-speaking backgrounds were being targeted by Crown's ''Red Carpet Program'', which was promoted to social clubs as an outing. Bus packages are available for groups and clubs can earn a rebate but only if they stay for at least four hours, or six for a non-gambling function.

Patrons are given gambling vouchers, as well as lunch coupons, upon arrival.

Visitors on tours are also signed up to loyalty programs, which exposes them to marketing for other gambling products.

In her book, Professor Hancock quotes a survey of 204 participants on six Crown bus packages from northern suburbs social clubs, which found evidence of ''at-risk'' gambling behaviours with 42.9 per cent spending more than they had planned and 23.7 per cent saying they planned to return to the casino to win back money.

The Age contacted Crown Casino's media department but received no reply by deadline.

"LOSS LIMITS" to reduce Addiction

Devastated by Gambling Addiction and its accompanying costs: "bankruptcy, the loss of the home, domestic violence, mental illness, suicide and even murder", Australia is proposing sensible "LOSS LIMITS" as a way to curb the damage.

It might be wise for Massachusetts to heed the experiences of others.

Limit pokies loss to $120, report urges

Pokie players would be limited to losing a maximum of $120 per hour unless they signed up to pre-commitment schemes, under reforms proposed by a federal parliamentary committee.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie is confident Parliament will pass the proposed reforms, despite opposition from the Coalition and the clubs industry.

The committee chaired by Mr Wilkie recommended that gambling venues be given two options for addressing problem poker machine gambling.

Under the first option, machines would programmed to ''low intensity settings'' with a maximum of $1 per bet with jackpots of no more than $500.

Alternatively, pre-commitment schemes could be established which required players to set a limit on how much money they could lose during a gambling session.

The schemes would come into force in 2014 but smaller clubs with up to 15 machines would not have to comply until 2018.

Mr Wilkie said the measures were necessary because 95,000 Australians were problem poker machine gamblers.

''We are talking about millions of Australians who are in some way touched by poker machine problem gambling. Problems that routinely result in bankruptcy, the loss of the home, domestic violence, mental illness, suicide and even murder,'' he said.

Mr Wilkie was confident he could win support for the measures from the Government and a majority of cross-bench MPs.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the Government would analyse the committee's report before responding to its recommendations but she was personally committed to taking acting to address problem gambling.

ClubsACT chief executive Jeff House said there was no evidence that the measures proposed by the committee would reduce problem gambling.

''Mr Wilkie is already on record as saying that if he had his way there would be no poker machines in Australia and the report that we have seen him hand down is a reflection of his prejudicial position against poker machines.''

Friday, May 6, 2011

Gambling Addict Robs Bank to Play at Mystic Lake

Prison for bank robber who laundered dyed cash in Mystic Lake slot machines
Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune

A day short of one year after his crime, a former St. Cloud State University student has been sentenced to nearly five years in prison for robbing a St. Cloud bank and trying to launder dye-stained cash through casino slot machines.

Salamo Nam Rakotojoelinandrasana, 23, of St. Cloud, was sentenced Wednesday in federal court in Duluth to four years and nine months in prison after admitting that he held up a TCF Bank branch at 200 25th Av. S. of $6,053 on May 5, 2010.

At the time of the robbery, Rakotojoelinandrasana was a junior and enrolled as a half-time student at St. Cloud State, the school said.

According to his plea agreement:

Rakotojoelinandrasana displayed a handgun, demanded money and fled with the cash and a concealed dye pack.

Five days later, Rakotojoelinandrasana was arrested after he was seen inserting dye-stained money into slot machines at Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake.

A search of his residence turned up clothing identical to what the robber wore. Officers also found $2,304 in dye-stained cash. An air pistol was recovered from his vehicle.

Police say Rakotojoelinandrasana admitted to FBI agents that he pulled the heist.

Maryland Shirks Responsibility

Maryland to fund gambling addiction programs
State to train counselors, promote toll-free help line
By Annie Linskey, The Baltimore Sun

With two casinos operating in Maryland and more on the horizon, state officials on Thursday unveiled new programs — including training counselors and promoting a toll-free help line — to strengthen the social safety net for people addicted to betting.

The programs, overseen by the new Maryland Alliance for Responsible Gambling, mark the first major influx of state money for gambling addiction since the mid-1980s. And they present an intriguing paradox: The presence of casinos in Maryland might, in a backhanded way, provide help for problem gamblers.

"This is an effort that is long overdue," said Del. Kirill Reznik, a Montgomery County Democrat. He noted that state residents have been encouraged to bet for years on Keno, Powerball, instant lottery games and, of course, at the racetracks.

Mental health advocates agree. They've said the problem here has been ignored, in part because gambling is not as obvious an addiction as alcoholism or drug abuse.

The advocates note that Maryland has only two nationally certified gambling addiction counselors and half the state's counties do not have anyone with even cursory training in gambling addiction. An existing help line is so poorly promoted that one advocate said it is practically a secret.

"We would say that the state of Maryland has shirked its responsibility," said Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling. "They are either ignorant of the true rate of gambling problems in Maryland, or they are indifferent."

The prospect that casinos would cause a spike in social ills — divorce, bankruptcy and crime — was a key reason many Maryland lawmakers gave for opposing state-sponsored gambling. So far there's been no evidence that the two casinos have frayed the social fabric in their communities, though experts say it will take years to know the impact of gambling.

The 2007 state law that laid the groundwork for five casinos included provisions for stemming gambling addiction. Gamblers have already lost $77 million playing slots here.

Maryland will use some of that revenue to pay for and promote a toll-free help line, the state's health department will train substance abuse counselors to treat gambling addiction, and the department will make some money available to pay for treating the uninsured.

The Maryland Lottery is adding resources, too. The agency paid for a website with information about problem gambling and will put the help line's 1-800 number on all tickets.

"It is not in anyone's interest to have people with a gambling problem in casinos," said Stephen L. Martino, director of the lottery agency. A pathological gambler — one who can't stop betting — can cost the state about $12,000 in social services costs, according to a 2008 University of Maryland study on the impacts of slots.

The agency is also overseeing an "opt-out" program that allows self-identified addicts to ban themselves from casinos. Anyone on the list caught on the gambling floor will be charged with trespassing and any winnings will be confiscated.

The opt-out program was officially launched Thursday, but 12 people had already signed up. The idea is modeled after programs in other states. Pennsylvania, with five casinos, has 2,100 people on its list, Martino said.

Maryland has a toll-free number for gambling addiction, but it's not funded through the state. Calls are routed to a national center in Shreveport, La., where staff have a list of counselors or can refer people to free support groups.

In the first 10 months of last year there were 3,000 calls from Marylanders, said Joanna Franklin, president of the Maryland Council on Problem Gambling. "At this time we are operating something that looks like a secret help line," Franklin said.

She does not yet have data from November, after the first casino opened, but she does not expect the numbers to change significantly.

The largest chunk of calls — 936 — came from Baltimore, where a 3,750-machine casino is planned. Typical calls come from wives worried about their husband's habits, or siblings who say they can't continue to bail out a brother or sister.

Experts say the severity of problem gambling tends to increase within a 50-mile radius of a casino. "The more access you have to higher stakes and higher-speed gambling, the worse your problems are going to get," said Whyte, with the National Council on Problem Gambling.

Maryland's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene surveyed state residents to determine a pre-casino baseline of gambling habits. Preliminary results show that 90 percent of those surveyed have gambled at least once in their lives, and just over 15 percent gamble once a week.

The same study — conducted a month before the first casino opened in Perryville in October — identified 2.5 percent to 4 percent of respondents as problem gamblers.
Those are people who will "chase their winnings" and continue to bet even after they've lost more than they can afford.

Those results mirror national data, experts say. The study will be done again in five years to look for trends.

Local officials in Perryville and Berlin, where the Ocean Downs casino opened in February, have not detected any spike in gambling-related social ills such as divorce, bankruptcy or theft.

But local officials and mental health experts say that six months of casino play is too soon to know what and where the negative impacts will be.

Those seeking information about gambling addictions can call 1-800-522-4700 or visit

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Beacon Hill: Costs Greater Than Anticipated

Incapable of walking and chewing gum at the same time, Beacon Hill combined a much-needed crime bill with grossly flawed predatory gambling legislation. Maybe it was a political ploy or merely consistent with Beacon Hill's non-productive performance or maybe, the Speaker's willingness to cater solely to vested interests and allow the People's House to be held hostage.

The Crime Legislation should have been presented and voted on separately, but never expect House Speaker "Racino" DeLeo to succumb to reasonableness. [Remember that the Speaker recommended campaign contributors, incompetents and 'no-shows' for Probation Dept. jobs before providing a budget larger than requested.]

Attorney General Martha Coakley wisely was quoted as commenting:

...warned lawmakers that the cost of making it happen may be larger than anticipated. New regulations must be drawn up and new agencies created to enforce the regulation, she said.

The Speaker is incapable of providing the COSTS because of their willingness to be blinded by the false promises of Predatory Gambling. [See Las Vegas or Atlantic City]

From: Speaker Flunks Arithmetic

Maybe this is why an Independent Cost Benefit Analysis is needed?

NEW GAMBLING REGULATION TO COST $5 MILLION, ACCORDING TO SPEAKER’S OFFICE: The expanded gambling market called for under legislation proposed by Speaker Robert DeLeo would require $5 million in costs to cover new state regulatory and enforcement expenses, but the industry would pick up the tab, according to a DeLeo aide.
DeLeo spokesman Seth Gitell said the estimate of state costs the gambling industry would reimburse is $5 million.

The bill creates a five-member Massachusetts Gaming Commission to oversee the expanded industry, establishes a Division of Gaming Enforcement in the attorney general's office to work with the gaming commission to enforce criminal violations of gaming laws; creates a gaming enforcement unit within the State Police; and establishes new crimes of money laundering and enterprise crime in connection with industry expansion.

The Racing Commission costs ~ $4.4 million supervising 4 tracks, 2 of which no longer have live racing.

Speaker "Racino" DeLeo would have us believe that adding 3 24/7 365 casinos and converting 4 race tracks into 24/7 365 slot parlors, adding 3 enforcement agencies will only cost an additional $600,000? Or does he mean that taxpayers will pick up the rest of the tab?

From: Coakley speaks on foreclosures and immigration
By Jesse Roman

On the proposal to allow some form of legal gambling in Massachusetts, Coakley did not weigh in on the policy or moral aspects of the decision but warned lawmakers that the cost of making it happen may be larger than anticipated. New regulations must be drawn up and new agencies created to enforce the regulation, she said.

Coakley said Massachusetts is overdue to adopt legislation against human trafficking — the state is one of just four that doesn't have a law on the books.

"In every community on the North Shore, there are people selling other people, mostly for sex, but also for labor," she said.

Translation: This means it's going to cost you buckets that they are hiding.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fall River's Financial Fiasco

In a dazzling display of fiscal irresponsibility, debts were racked up by an entity lacking funding or adequate revenue stream for the Mayor's Pipe Dream, not unlike the Middleboro Mega Monster.

Blinded by Wild Fantasies and False Promises, the Fall River folks ignored:
1. A deed restriction on the land
2. Gambling was not legalized at the time
3. 2 SCOTUS decisions prevent land from being taken into trust. [Carcieri v Salazar and Hawaii]
Prior to those SCOTUS decisions, the LIT process required 5-7 years.
4. No Inter-Governmental Agreement was ever reached with the Tribe to ensure that Fall River residents got slots participation. Had this wrong-headed deal proceeded, Fall River would have received NOTHING.
5. Even Senator Rosenberg has acknowledged that should Predatory Gambling be approved by the Commonwealth, it will require at least 18 months to establish the bloated regulatory bureaucracy required for oversight.
6. No consideration was given to the impacts and costs of a Slot Barn, including public safety costs.

Casino legal fees just one part of Redevelopment Authority's debt equation
By Michael Holtzman
Herald News Sports Editor

FALL RIVER — The gamble that a casino resort could be lured to the city in some legalform likely will cost some local entity at least $100,000, but it wasn't one of the chips pushing the Redevelopment Authority to borrow $500,000 from the Fall River Office of Economic Development two weeks ago, officials said.

“It was mainly for operating salaries and debt service, not for legal fees,” RA Chairman William Kenney said Friday.

The interview with Kenney followed a summary sheet furnished last week by FROED Executive Vice President Kenneth Fiola Jr. on the RA’s debt and management obligations owed to the same city agency that serves the authority.

Fiola also reported fees of $54,000 owed to the Boston law firm of Max Stern, which represented the Redevelopment Authority against a lawsuit and appeal over selling its 300-acre parcel for an envisioned casino to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.

Mayor Will Flanagan urged the casino deal for a good part of last year and received backing for it from a majority of the RA. Two of those members — both of whom he appointed — resigned from the board after short stints.

The bill from the firm that drew up the agreement with the Mashpees, Pannone Lopes Devereaux and West LLC in Providence, has not been finalized, Fiola said.

In November, those fees were pegged at more than $45,000.
Kenney, at that time, noted the $500 million destination resort casino proposed by the Mashpees and Flanagan, and said $45,000 was “miniscule” for an investment that size.
[Maybe not so "miniscule" if it wasn't legal at the time and you can't pay for it. And then there's the little matter of 2 - not 1, but 2 SCOTUS decisions that prevent land from being taken into trust. But don't fret those silly legal details.]

The state never legalized casino gaming as anticipated, and the land deal fell apart after several months of litigation by a taxpayer group that successfully stopped the sale.

Flanagan, Fiola and the RA are, instead, pursuing the original plan the land the RA acquired from the state: A biomanufacturing park near Route 24 at the Freetown border.

Fiola last week had no further details on what the Providence law firm is owed. He said it was “in the $50,000 to $100,000 range.” That would be in addition to Stern’s $54,000 billing.

“The total bill,” Fiola said, “is not reflective of what’s being paid. I’ll report out once it’s totally agreed to.”

Fiola said it was possible there would be “a city portion,” or the RA could owe the entire amount to Pannone. “I’m just looking for a breakdown,” Fiola said of an unresolved issue for the past six months.

He had discussed at a RA meeting the possibility the Mashpees would pay a portion of the legal fees generated during the attempted sale.

Kenney said he spoke a couple of months ago to Fiola about that possibility. “That never happened. They just said no,” Kenney said of the Mashpees.
[And that surprises who?]

“It’s probably time to see if we can button up these things a little more definitively,” Kenney said. “The legal fees should eventually be resolved.”
Kenney and Fiola reiterated the RA’s stated intention regarding the two law firms — that they would be paid once land sales for properties being marketed were completed.

According to the RA financial breakdown Fiola provided, the authority’s land ownership is “conservatively” valued at $17.6 million
That is based upon 230 developable acres in the SouthCoast BioPark ($16.1 million) and 22 developable acres in Commerce Park ($1.5 million), based on a sales price of $70,000 an acre, Fiola reported.
In making the case for borrowing $500,000 from FROED, Fiola listed RA annual management and debt expenses of $356,449.
That is based upon the RA owing FROED $22,204 monthly on $1.85 million in prior loans, and $7,500 in monthly management fees paid to FROED as its service provider at Government Center.
All but $120,000 of the $1.8 million loan was used toward the SouthCoast BioPark purchase from the state several years ago, Fiola reported.
The cash-strapped RA has not paid FROED its management fees for six months as of the end of April — a $45,000 debt.
Principal, interest and late fees on loans the RA owes to FROED totaled $154,603 as of March 31.
The new $500,000 loan at 5 percent interest for two years — which the FROED Board of Directors authorized approval for at its April 7 meeting — brings the total the RA has borrowed from the nonprofit agency to $2.3 million.
The RA has operating revenue from two sources. They are $10,000 monthly from Commerce Park payments and just under $4,800 from payments for the downtown parking garages from Business for Better Parking.

The annual revenue of $177,506 would leave the RA about $180,000 short of paying its expenses prior to the new loan, the data provided shows.

[This accounting makes sense to whom? And next year, you're gonna do what?]

Owing FROED nearly $200,000 would enable the RA to pay its bills, operate for a year and have roughly $100,000 in reserves, according to officials and the data sheet.
Paul Medeiros, the newly elected president of the FROED board of directors, said the recent $500,000 loan approved for the RA “is a relatively large loan for us,” adding, “we have done much larger loans.”
He emphasized the RA’s significant collateral land. “It’s the right thing to do,” said Medeiros, senior vice president at BankFive, who’s been a FROED director for about 15 years.

Former bank office manager spared prison for larceny

Former bank office manager spared prison for larceny
By Matt Gryta
News Staff Reporter

Joseph D. Schneck, a former HSBC back office manager whose gambling addiction lead to him stealing almost $54,000 from the bank, today was spared a prison term by State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang. But the judge barred him from entering any Western New York casinos.

Schneck, 41, of Unionvale Road, Cheektowaga, was placed on probation for the next five years on his Jan. 25 guilty plea to two counts of third-degree grand larceny. Wolfgang also placed him on a government-imposed "exclusion list" that will be posted at local casinos.

Schneck, now working for a relative's construction company, admitted to stealing $53,710.70.

At the request of prosecutors, the judge ordered him to make 120 months of restitution payments of $250 beginning June 1, which would cover $30,000 of his thefts. The judge also fined him $375 in court costs.

Prosecutor Brian P. Dassero said Schneck, an HSBC employee for 18 years before he was fired a year ago, began embezzling funds at the bank's downtown Buffalo office in February 2008 and continuing until January 2010 to cover him gambling losses.

Schneck, who pleaded guilty to the highest counts a grand jury could have lodged against him, did not speak during the sentencing and declined comment afterward.

Alabama: Shuttering Indian Gambling

Anti-gambling issue fades in Alabama Legislature
By George Altman, Washington Bureau Press-Register

Leaders from both parties agreed that a federal corruption probe, arising out of lobbying efforts last year to legalize electronic bingo, has discouraged and stifled gambling supporters.

But gambling opponents have also done little on the matter. That is despite a letter from the federal agency in charge of Indian gaming suggesting that Alabama might have a chance to shutter Indian electronic bingo casinos if it banned old-fashioned paper bingo.

Such a ban was proposed last year. This year, however, Republicans, who won control of the Legislature in elections in November, maintain that existing law already prohibits electronic bingo machines at Indian casinos.

"I don’t think we should ever let any federal agency dictate to us what Alabama law should be," said Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville. "Especially when I believe the federal agency’s interpretation of federal law is erroneous."

Taylor is one of the few lawmakers to introduce a bill that addresses gambling at all. He would upgrade the punishment for possessing a gambling device from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class C felony, punishable by one to 10 years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine.

...a search of last year’s bills turns up 25 containing the word "bingo."

But bingo’s momentum collapsed in the closing days of the 2010 session, when the FBI revealed an ongoing probe of gambling-related lobbying.

A month before the November election, federal officials arrested 11 people, including lawmakers, lobbyists and the men behind two of the state’s largest gambling venues.

Democrats, who largely supported gambling legalization, were trounced at the polls, and Republicans, most of whom opposed gambling, swept to power.

"The makeup of the Legislature changed dramatically in the 2010 election, and the Republican leadership is simply opposed to expanding gambling — particularly slot machine gambling — in Alabama, so it’s a non-starter," Stacy said.

He added that no anti-gambling bills are needed because the slots-like electronic bingo machines at the center of the controversy are, in his view, clearly illegal.

Solving Atlantic City's Homelessness

In an attempt to solve one of the many poverty-related problems, Atlantic City seeks to rid itself of the homeless:

Atlantic City looks to bus more homeless back home
Mel Evans

In an April 27, 2011 photo, a large group sits in a church hall that serves as Sister Jean's Soup Kitchen in Atlantic City, N.J. , where hundreds of homeless and indigent people line up each day at lunch time. Reducing Atlantic City's homeless population is a key element of a new effort to help the struggling casino resort get back on its feet after more than four years of plunging revenues, lost market share and layoffs. A state agency plans to allocate just under $100,000 to a local homeless shelter to buy bus or plane tickets back home for any homeless person who wants to leave. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

DA Gives OK to Gambling Machines, Then Orders Bust

DA Gives OK to Gambling Machines, Then Orders Bust

By Phil Williams
Chief Investigative Reporter

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. - NewsChannel 5 Investigates went undercover to investigate gambling in one Middle Tennessee community, and it has now forced the local district attorney to do an about-face.

That exclusive investigation discovered that the law was letting one man get away with operating video gambling machines in the Bedford County area, while literally crushing his competition.

But luck finally ran out for the machine's operators.

Last week, Shelbyville police fanned out across town, seizing dozens of machines from local convenience stores and confiscating thousands of dollars in cash. The raids came just three weeks after NewsChannel 5 caught up with District Attorney Chuck Crawford, who had insisted there wasn't a problem.

"Gambling seems to be wide open in your district with his machines," NewsChannel 5 Investigates noted.

Crawford answered, "I don't so."

But police got clearance to move in after the DA's tone suddenly changed.

"I just know what he told us, and he told us that they were illegal and to go get them," said Shelbyville Police Chief Austin Swing.

For more than a year, NewsChannel 5's hidden cameras had discovered virtual electronic casinos -- with video poker and slot machines of all sorts -- being run with the DA's blessing.

At one store, a $5 bet hit the big jackpot, resulting in a $102 payout.

Another store where we found gambling in full view was right across the street from the police department. Yet, when we returned, the store's operator didn't seem too worried.

"Have you ever been told that this is illegal gambling?" we asked, getting a shrug from the operator.

Swing admits police didn't know what to do.

"To me, they're all illegal and that's what the law says, but then it seem to come down to who did you ask," Swing explained.

In fact, last fall, the DA got court orders to destroy other gambling machines that had been seized in raids eight years ago -- at the same time he entered into an agreed order returning so-called "Free Spin" or "Free Draw" machines owned by Keith Heflin.

Heflin is a wealthy Shelbyville businessman who travels the world with a former director of the DA's drug task force -- one of the agencies responsible for investigating gambling in the district. That man, Chris White, had unsuccessfully tried to convince Metro Police back in 2007 not to investigate Heflin's machines.

The current task force director, Timothy Lane, counts Heflin among his Facebook friends.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates told DA Chuck Crawford, "You returned his machines to him, while destroying other people's machines."

"I returned the machines that there was still some dispute about whether or not they were gambling devices," Crawford said.

But the problem is that the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals ruled more than seven years ago that Heflin's machines -- the same kind that the DA returned -- were indeed illegal gambling devices. The court specifically reject Heflin's claim that people weren't paying to gamble, that they were really just buying the sports cards that his machines dispensed.

The Tennessee Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of that decision.

But the DA's agreed order declared that Heflin's "collectible card dispensing system" does not meet the criteria of the state Supreme Court decision that outlawed video gambling in Tennessee.

"What you've got is a criminal offense going on in that county and the district attorney has blessed it because he thinks that it is a legal activity, which I suggest it is not," said Nashville attorney David Raybin, who helped write Tennessee's criminal code.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates told Crawford, "I've got a decision from the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals that says that they are illegal gambling devices."

"Well," the DA answered, "if that is the case, maybe we ought to go pick them up."

Some of the machines just seized by police appear to match serial numbers of the devices that the DA had put back on the streets. Officers also confiscated the cheap phone cards that the machines now dispense -- cards that patrons had simply left behind after gambling.

"I'll remember your name Mr. Williams because I won't be talking to you anymore today or any other day," Crawford said emphatically. The DA had failed to return numerous calls to his office.

Still, Crawford refused to say why, for years, his office had ignored the higher court ruling, leaving the gambling laws in his district non-existent when it came to one man and his machines.

"Are you essentially giving one man the license to gamble in your district, sir?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked.

The DA walked away without answering, pulling the courthouse door to slam it behind him.

Heflin and his lawyer refused to go on camera to answer our questions. But late last week, they filed a lawsuit against the DA, asking a judge to order Crawford to stick with their original agreement. The judge is expected to rule later this week.

As for that seven-year-old ruling, Heflin claims that people are buying phone cards that have some real value.

But we discovered $400 of his phone cards that had been left behind in just one store. Heflin claims his games are just like McDonald's Monopoly games, although it's not clear that anyone has left $400 of Cokes just laying on the counter after getting their Monopoly pieces.

In addition, Heflin's phone cards provide 30 minutes of service for $5. Yet, one of the stores busted last week advertised that it sold almost 1,000 minutes for $10.

Nashville authorities have also prosecuted people in Nashville for gambling with Heflin's machines.

The man who bought rights to distribute the machines here has now sued, claiming that Heflin misrepresented that his machines were legal.

Which Arizona casinos have most violations?

Which Arizona casinos have most violations?
By: Joe Ducey
By: Maria Tomasch

PHOENIX - Going to the casino may be a favorite Arizona past time, but when you lose, is it just about bad luck?

The ABC15 Investigators are taking the first-ever look at years of slot machine reports to discover which casinos have the most problems.


The Arizona Department of Gaming does regular inspections of slot machines checking for evidence of tampering or mechanical failure that could affect your game.

We asked for records of every violation found in all 22 casinos across the state for the past three years, and found a total of 260 deficiencies or violations.

According to the state, the most common violation is when casinos do not replace revoked software. That happened more than 100 times. Old software could have a glitch, or it could just mean the machine needs upgrading.

Inspectors also found 86 issues with the belly doors. The concern here is that someone could be tampering with the machines. It's why filling out maintenance logs is required.

But inspectors cited 47 deficiencies where information was missing from logs, such as who went into the machine and why.

The ABC15 Investigators discovered not every slot machine receives a yearly state inspection. The Gaming Department picks about 50 machines from each casino to see if they are in compliance; 15 actually get tested for coin operation and working doors.


So, which casino has the most violations in Arizona over the last three years?

1) Casino del Sol just south of Tucson had the most with 67 violations. The biggest problem was revoked software.

2) Tonto Apache's Mazatzal casino in Payson had 58 violations, mostly having to do with hold percentages. That's how much the machine will pay out over its lifetime.

In Arizona, a machine has to pay out a minimum of 80% of what it takes in. The state has to approve any changes in the hold percentage of a machine.

3) The casino with the most violations in the Valley is Fort McDowell near Fountain Hills.

It had 21 violations over the last three years. The big problem there was revoked software.

Here are the casinos with the most violations in the state.

Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation-Fort McDowell Gaming Center, near Fountain Hills - 21 violations

Pascua Yaqui Tribe-Casino del Sol, Tucson - 67 violations

Pascua Yaqui Tribe-Casino of the Sun, Tucson - 10 violations: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Quechan Indian Tribe-Paradise Casino, Fort Yuma - 11 violations: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Tohono O'odham Nation-Desert Diamond Casino II, Sahuarita-south of Tucson - 30 violations: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5

Tonto Apache Tribe-Mazatzal Casino, Payson - 58 violations: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6