Meetings & Information


Monday, August 29, 2011

The Legacy of the Slot Barn Governor

During one of the sham Beacon Hill hearings in which they pretend to be formulating an opinion based on evidence presented, KG Urban Enterprises brought with them an attorney - expert in Tribal Gaming.

In an embarrassing display of ignorance the legislators asked the attorney endless questions about IGRA and surrounding issues.

The breadth of Beacon Hill ignorance seems to know no limits.

Beyond the issues raised at this time, the Governor met with other Native Americans and appeared to have made concessions. [Like the Governor's agreement to support an INDEPENDENT COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS, don't hold him to it!]

There are 6 or 8 other Tribes that have applied for federal recognition, along with the Aquinnah who are already a recognized Tribe. This Governor, with no ties to the Commonwealth and sights on other office, will leave behind federal lawsuits up the wazoo, and more Tax Free Tribal Slot Barns than you can shake a stick at.

Who is foolish enough to support this Folly?

This is the legacy of the Slot Barn Governor who took office with an unspoken agenda!

Developers challenge Indian preference in casino bill
By Steve Urbon

NEW BEDFORD — Lawyers for casino developers are objecting to the state's proposed casino gambling legislation's preference for Native Americans as an unconstitutional breach of the equal protection clause in the Fourteenth Amendment, a special deal based on ethnicity.

KG Urban Enterprises, which is proposing a casino at the abandoned NStar plant on Cannon Street, hired attorney Marsha Sajer to look into the matter. She claims "the states have no power to enact a state law preference for tribes" and that only the federal government can deal with tribes as sovereign nations.

The opinion, a copy of which was given to The Standard-Times by KG Urban, signals that a legal battle lies ahead even if the Legislature and Gov. Deval Patrick enact by the end of September as expected a compromise bill that would authorize three casinos and one slot parlor statewide.

The bill state carves out a narrow opportunity — only in Bristol and Plymouth counties, plus the Cape and Islands, an area called Region C — for tribes to find land, win a local referendum and negotiate a compact with the governor.

Tribes (likely the Mashpee Wampanoag, who are scouting for land) have only until next July to get all of this done.

The casino developers complain that they are being put at an unfair and illegal disadvantage for the first year, because Regions A and B (Boston and Western Massachusetts) can begin their casino projects almost immediately while in Region C everyone has to wait a year, and could be shut out altogether if a tribe wins a no-bid contract.

In setting such tight deadlines, the state's top political players heeded the request of several SouthCoast lawmakers and gave Native American tribes very limited preferential treatment in a proposed casino bill, said state Rep. Antonio F,D, Cabral, D-New Bedford.

Casino watcher Clyde Barrow at the UMass Dartmouth Center for Policy Analysis said that the Mashpee Wampanoag are virtually certain to make the attempt together with their commercial partner, Genting of Malaysia, the largest casino company in the world.

But even with all that backing, the tribe needs Congress to pass legislation allowing that land to be put into trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, something that has never happened before.

Cabral said that if the new state gaming commission doesn't think the tribe is on track to get congressional approval by next fall, it will go ahead with casino license auctions in Region C.

John Toohey, an equity partner in KG Urban Enterprises, which proposes a casino resort at the Cannon Street NStar site, was upbeat about the prospects despite the tribal angle. "We've always looked for an opportunity to bring some of those jobs and open up the waterfront and clean up what would otherwise be a Superfund site for who knows how long."

Finally, the tribe, having withdrawn from Fall River after the city reverted to its biotech park project where a casino might have been, continues to shop around in Bristol and Plymouth counties, most recently in Raynham, where discussions with racetrack owners reportedly fizzled.

Barrow said he isn't concerned that a casino or two elsewhere along with a slot parlor will saturate the market before Southeastern Massachusetts can get into the game.

That is because the state must create a gaming commission, which ultimately would accept bids ($85 million minimum) for a commercial casino. And that will take time.

Barrow said, "It will six months to get the gaming commission up and running, hiring staff and employees. They will probably have to hire 100 people or more.

"Then they're going to have to lay out a detailed process for submitting a bid. And anyone who wants to bid will have to have a referendum in place as part of a bid application. And there are requirements for public review and 30-day waiting periods. I can't see them actually awarding a license in less than a year."

In 2011, Senator Rosenberg indicated that it would require 18 months. What does he know? Clyde's the expert after all.

Barrow pointed out that if the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe makes make a deal with the governor, and the land can be put in trust, it will remove the possibility that someday the tribe would assert its rights under the Indian Gaming Rights Act and Massachusetts could have an unwanted fourth casino.

State Rep. Robert Koczera, D-New Bedford, called this the tribe's "window of opportunity," and he expects them to use it.

"Cedric Cromwell, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoags, was pretty adamant in conversations with me that the tribe has rights and wants rights to land," Koczera said. "I believe he needs an act of Congress but Congress won't act anytime soon."

The proposed legislation, he said, gives the tribe the fair chance it has been looking for. Otherwise, luck will run out next August.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Breaking News From the Land of Duh - MA Casino Edition

Worth reading in its entirety --

Breaking News From the Land of Duh - MA Casino Edition

The Globe's front page today has one of those articles that just makes a careful reader want to pound his head against the nearest wall. Titled "Gambling projections for Mass no sure bet," the basic conclusion of the lengthy analysis is that the 2008 gaming-industry-generated "study" on which Massachusetts political leaders are relying for jobs and revenue projections in their latest rush to pass a casino bill, a study that assumes a pre- recession economy and ignores growing gaming competition from surrounding states, might just not be a reliable basis from which to draw reliable numbers.

“No matter where you look across America, the government policy to expand gambling has failed to deliver on its revenue promises and its job promises,’’ said Les Bernal, executive director of the national group Stop Predatory Gambling. “It has left us with a smaller middle class and hundreds of thousands of Americans in much deeper debt.’’

Beacon Hill business as usual

Beacon Hill business as usual

The casino legislation unveiled this week on Beacon Hill came together in the usual fashion that invites cynicism from Massachusetts voters. Follow the money to see how it goes from here.

The bill authorizing three Las Vegas-style casinos in three regions and a fourth gambling hall with slot machines that can be located anywhere in the state was evidently crafted by House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Senate President Therese Murray, Governor Deval Patrick, the staffs of the three political heavyweights and a couple of key legislators. It has been dumped in the laps of the rank-and-file as a fait accompli. Legislative leaders were admirably frank this week in saying the intent was to avoid the debate that surrounded gambling legislation a year ago, but debate is a part of democracy, and the crafting of legislation behind closed doors Beacon Hill-style is the antithesis of democracy.

To his credit, Governor Patrick rejects donations from gambling lobbyists, and when some have gotten through the money has been returned. Speaker DeLeo and President Murray don't feel compelled to do so, and as the Boston Globe reported Thursday, both have received a portion of the $1 million in donations spent by gambling lobbyists in Boston already this year. President Murray told the newspaper that lobbying donations "will have no bearing on how we approach gaming legislation" and she may sincerely believe that, but why would any resident of Massachusetts given the success lobbyists have enjoyed in pushing special interest legislation over the years?

Ideally, lawmakers will rise up against this bill because of the many negatives associated with gambling and because of the way the bill was crafted and presented, but that may be too much to hope for. Failing that, as many provisions as possible must be included to protect communities. Unfortunately, there are no safeguards in place for the weeks and months ahead when the big casino interests will be descending upon the state.

Gambling interests in Holyoke and Palmer are competing for the western casino and the chosen site will have an impact on Berkshire County, particularly its entertainment venues, should the bill become law. Damage will be done, but the Berkshire delegation must step up to help minimize it as much as possible.

52 Killed in Casino Attack

Ex-Mexico prez suggests truce with drug cartels

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Former President Vicente Fox suggested Friday that Mexican authorities consider calling on drug cartels for a truce and offering them amnesty, speaking out a day after an apparent cartel attack on a casino killed 52 people.

Fox, who served from 2000 to 2006, has since advocated legalizing drugs as a way to reduce violence. At least 35,000 and as many as 40,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against the cartels in late 2006.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Kathleen Norbut on MA casino proposal

Kathleen Norbut on MA casino proposal

(NECN) – If you like fast tracks, you’ll love watching the latest action on Beacon Hill.

On Tuesday, a House Committee caught everyone by surprise by reporting out a bill that would establish three resort casinos and one slots facility in Massachusetts.

And sometime Friday, just three days later, house leaders expect the bill to be approved for debate after Labor Day.

If all goes according to plan, it will be sent to Governor Deval Patrick for signing in October.

Broadside guest Kathleen Norbut, a spokesperson for United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts, hopes to put a stop to the legislative express train.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Keller @ Large: What If Casinos Fail?

Keller @ Large: What If Casinos Fail?

BOSTON (CBS) – For something that’s supposed to provide answers to some of our worst economic problems, casino gambling sure does raise a lot of questions, doesn’t it?

For instance: while there’s no question we have plenty of people who would love to grab one of the jobs produced by the casino bill they rolled out yesterday at the State House, just how many net permanent jobs would that produce?

The construction jobs involved, while certainly welcome, will all be temporary.

The permanent net job count will surely fluctuate depending on how successful the casinos and slot parlor prove to be, and how many current jobs are wiped out by casino competition.

Speaking of future success, it’s troubling how casino proponents dwell on accounts of the rich harvest of gambling dollars that have recently become outdated.

Between the recession and an oversaturation of gambling options, the casino industry is in a tailspin across the country, especially in the east, where Atlantic City is in its 35th straight month of declining casino revenues, and even the money machines in Connecticut are down sharply year to year.

And it takes about two minutes of searching on the web to come up with a fistful of stories about the boom in online and mobile gaming, two cutting-edge technologies that could quickly render the casino and slot parlor business models obsolete.

(Excuse me, “resort casinos.” As if anyone wants to visit a resort in Massachusetts during the late fall, winter and early-spring months.)

You can argue all you want about the impact of expanded gambling, the legitimate desire to keep those dollars here vs. the legitimate fear of undercutting lottery proceeds and existing tourism revenues, the social benefits of fresh economic activity vs. the social costs of gambling addiction and sleaze.

But if bringing the slots and the table games here isn’t going to deliver the greenbacks, why on earth do we want to do it?

Now there’s a question Beacon Hill ought to answer before we go ahead and roll the dice.

Keller @ Large: Casino Warning Signs

Keller @ Large: Casino Warning Signs

BOSTON (CBS) – Supporters say casinos and slots will create new jobs in Massachusetts.

Opponents say the social and economic costs will outweigh the benefits.

Nationwide, casinos are not doing well.

In part because of the weak economy, but also because if you look around the country, it seems the era of booming casino revenues may have come and gone.

Just last week, Mohegan Sun reported a five-percent drop in slot revenues over last year.

Connecticut neighbor Foxwoods is down five-and-a-half percent, both feeling the heat from a huge slot parlor at New York’s Yonkers Raceway.

That pattern of competitive cannibalizing is being repeated around the country.

Indiana casino revenues are at a three-year low, and they’re bracing for a 30-percent drop when Ohio opens new casinos over the border.

Experts in Illinois warned of a casino revenue plunge when the state banned smoking, a ban that would apply to any new Massachusetts casinos.

Nevada’s been courting non-gambling revenues for years now, but while visitor traffic is up, casino revenues keep falling.

And nowhere is the gambling balloon more deflated than in Atlantic City, where gaming proceeds have declined for 35 consecutive months.

Experts there predict the year will end with revenues off a staggering 40-percent from their 2006 peak.

And even if an economic recovery leaves gamblers with more disposable income, they won’t necessarily be spending it at casinos.

Among the fastest growing forms of betting these days are online wagering and smart phone gambling.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Massachusetts: Open Government = Public Spectacle

Lawmakers Set To Introduce Casino Bill

The effort to bring casinos to Massachusetts takes center stage on Beacon Hill Tuesday.

After months of quiet negotiations
[Do you mean Secret Back Room Deals?] with Gov. Deval Patrick, legislative leaders, somewhat unexpectedly, are set to introduce a new bill that calls for three casinos and one slot machine parlor.

The Boston Globe reports that lawmakers worked with Patrick on the plan, as it was Patrick who torpedoed gambling last year. The negotiations have been between a small group of lawmakers and have been kept mostly out of the news, according to Kyle Cheney of the State House News Service.

Their idea was to streamline their negotiations behind closed doors and not let it become this public spectacle,” Cheney told Morning Edition’s Bob Oakes.

Debate on the legislation is expected to take place next month.

Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe Questions Unanswered

Judge orders Milford man to pay $300K

By Brian Benson, Daily News staff
Milford Daily News

MILFORD — A federal judge this month ordered a Milford man to forfeit $300,000 that he earned illegally through gambling activities.

Worcester Judge F. Dennis Saylor also sentenced John Pizzillo, 73, of 32 Claflin St., to two years of probation, the first year of which will be served in home confinement under electronic monitoring, according to court documents.

Investigators seized almost $1.1 million from Pizzillo, but determined that only the $300,000 was earned illegally, according to court documents.

"I think it was the right decision," said Peter Ettenberg, a Worcester attorney who represented Pizzillo. "I think his age and the fact that he's never been in trouble before (played a role in the sentencing). I think he was, to some respect, taken advantage of by friends."

Ettenberg said he thinks people who asked to borrow money from his client may have misled him by not saying it would be used to run gambling operations. Pizzillo could have received five years in jail on each count of three counts and a $250,000 fine.

Pizzillo plans to remain retired and spend time with his grandchildren, Ettenberg said.

He pleaded guilty in April through a plea agreement to three counts of financing illegal gambling businesses. He was sentenced Aug. 3.

Pizzillo was involved in three gambling businesses between 2005 and September 2009, including ones operated by Dennisport resident Adam Hart and Marlborough resident Robert Duplessis, according to a federal grand jury indictment issued in September 2010.

Duplessis has pleaded guilty to allegations that he operated an illegal sports gambling business. Christine DiIorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office, said he was sentenced last month to three years of probation and a $3,000 fine.

Hart, of Dennisport, along with two other Cape Cod men - William Neofgistos of Dennisport and Timothy Reardon of Barnstable - were charged in April with running an illegal gambling business and agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with investigators, according to a press release from the U.S. attorney's office.

The three men allegedly ran the operation from about 2000 through 2009. Hart and one man allegedly conspired in late December 2006 through May 2007 to obstruct a state police investigation into their criminal activities and were also charged with that offense, the release said.

Hart is due to be sentenced Sept. 22, DiIorio-Sterling said.

A federal grand jury, while investigating Hart, obtained information from a wire tap of one of Hart's relatives that raised the possibility that Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe may have protected gamblers in the past.

O'Keefe has denied any wrongdoing by himself and his office and Pizzillo's indictment did not mention O'Keefe.

Casino Capitalists Swallow $500 Million in Foxwoods Deal

In the heady Go-Go Days of Casino Capitalism, no one questioned "Sovereignty" - the ability of Tribal Slot Barns around the country to simply stop paying their debts with no legal recourse available to lenders.

The 2 Connecticut Slot Barns, at one time, rolling in cash, are among numerous Tribes to default or be unable to fulfill future debt obligations.

Bankruptcy is not an option.

Mashantuckets may pay price for debt deal
By Lee Howard
Publication: The Day

Analysts say tribe could be forced to waive immunity

The Mashantucket Pequots have staved off potential bankruptcy but will likely have to waive claims to sovereign immunity in their attempts to restructure $2 billion in debt obligations related to Foxwoods Resort Casino, analysts said Monday.

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that the Mashantuckets were expected to close a deal by year's end that would reduce the tribe's debt load by half a billion dollars while refinancing $1.5 billion in obligations at favorable terms of 6 percent and 8 percent interest.

The Mashantuckets own Foxwoods, the largest casino in North America, which, like many gaming enterprises across the country, has been struggling in the midst of a prolonged economic slump.

Heather Rupp, a certified financial analyst for Peritus Asset Management in Santa Barbara, Calif., said Monday that the interest rates worked out for Foxwoods obligations are much lower than what might be expected for yields on D-rated junk bonds - a rating that the Mashantuckets obtained after defaulting on some of their debt.

Rupp said these rates would be expected for companies with a higher-quality bond rating than the tribe currently enjoys and are surprising for an entity just about to emerge from restructuring.

"It looks like even if they eliminate $500 million in debt, they're still running at a fairly high leverage (debt) rate," she said.

Other analysts said the only way creditors would be expected to agree to terms so favorable to the tribe would be if the Mashantuckets, granted sovereign-nation status in 1983, agreed to waive sovereign immunity.

Sovereign immunity gives the tribe a right to avoid civil suits that makes it difficult to collect on debts in the event of a default.

"Creditors are not going to do deals these days unless they can guarantee that they can go after the money," said Roger Gros, publisher of Las Vegas-based Global Gaming Business magazine.

Gros said other Indian casinos also have had to waive sovereign immunity to get their debts restructured. When the Mashantuckets initially sought money to finance expansion of their gaming empire, he added, no one thought to question sovereign immunity because Foxwoods had been such an enormous success story and no one envisioned a time when the tribe wouldn't be able to pay back its debt obligations.

Steven Lanza, a University of Connecticut economist, said the alternative to waiving sovereign immunity would have required the Mashantuckets to pay a much higher interest rate on their debt - which would have increased their costs and may have made any restructuring prohibitive.

Lanza said the Mashantuckets were able to negotiate lower rates on their debt partly because they had creditors up against the wall. Lenders were not sure they could collect on any of their debt because of the sovereign-immunity question, he said.

Even if they could take the tribe's casino operations in a bankruptcy proceeding, the property might prove to be worthless because in Connecticut, only Indian tribes can run a gaming business, he said.

"There's a sort of hostage situation going on here," Lanza said.

Gros gave credit to newly appointed Foxwoods' chief executive Scott Butera for his role in the expected debt restructuring. Butera had helped turn around other casino operations swimming in debt, including Tropicana Entertainment and Trump Entertainment Resorts, while similarly making large wads of financial obligations quietly go away.

"He's a magician when it comes to refinancing," Gros said. "I don't see them going into bankruptcy now."

Gros added that he expects that Butera, as has been his pattern, will give up his position at Foxwoods once the restructuring is finalized.

Hud Englehart, a spokesman for Butera, had no further comment Monday on the debt restructuring.

Lanza said the debt deal will likely have a snowball effect on casino operations around New England.

For the Mashantuckets, the effect will be higher rates for any further borrowings, he said, probably crimping Foxwoods' ability to expand anytime in the near future.

"We probably won't see them in our lifetimes return to the status where they'd be considered any kind of prime asset," Lanza said.

For Mohegan Sun, which also has been looking to refinance some of its $1.6 billion in debt, there may be an opposite effect, he said, as the Mohegans point to the low rates given to the Mashantuckets in an attempt to gain favorable financing terms.

And for the proposed expansion of casino gambling in other states, the effect of the restructuring may be to scare investors away, he said, thereby eliminating some of the potential competition that both Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods might otherwise have expected.

"The pots are getting smaller in the poker game, and it's costing more for a seat at the table," Lanza said.

Analysts agreed that the overall effect of a debt restructuring would be good for Foxwoods and good for the Connecticut economy. The casinos have been a drag on the economy over the past few years, they said, but debt restructurings could help ensure that the gambling meccas won't be reducing jobs in large quantities over the next year or so.

"The casinos are in better shape because now they have a new deal and debt they can more easily manage," Lanza said.

"And for the creditor, they get a good deal, too, because they get a certainty of getting some of their money back without the uncertainty of possibly getting none of their money back," he said.

It remains to be seen, though, when the casinos will regain their foothold. Both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun have seen encouraging signs of recovery in the most recent quarters, but the gains often have been difficult to sustain.

Mitchell Etess, chief executive officer of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, operator of the Mohegan Sun, said casinos won't bounce back entirely until the U.S. economy shows more vitality, including job and home-price stability.

"There are times when I feel that things are turning the corner. Then the stock market goes down by 2,000 points," Etess said in a phone interview.

Etess wouldn't comment on Mohegan Sun's negotiations to refinance its debt but said he has been following closely news about the Mashantuckets' attempts to restructure its obligations. He said Indian tribes are in uncharted waters when their casino operations go awry because of questions over how the issue of sovereign immunity plays out in debt negotiations.

"There's no doubt that all of the North American gaming sector is watching what happens in the Foxwoods situation," Etess said.

Inadequate Calder Security Leads to Guard's Death

Four held in shooting of security guard

By Mike Welsch
Daily Racing Form

Four people have been arrested by the South Florida Violent Crimes Task Force in connection with the fatal shooting of a Brinks security guard at Calder Racecourse and Casino on Sunday afternoon, the FBI announced Monday.

The unidentified victim was shot around 5 p.m. during an attempted robbery outside the track's casino. The guard was airlifted to the Ryder Trauma Unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where he later died. Sunday's racing program at Calder was nearing completion at the time of the incident.

Vladimir Louissant, 25, Victoria Barkley, 26, Byron Kyler, 23, and Reginald Mitchell, 26, all of Miami Gardens, were arrested by the South Florida Violent Crimes Task Force and are expected to face federal charges in connection with the crime, according to a report in Monday's Miami Herald. Initial reports did not indicate how much, if any, money the four may have stolen in the crime.

Authorities believe the suspects initially spotted the armored truck in the parking lot of a Walmart store less than two miles from the racetrack. They then allegedly stole a pickup truck from the parking lot and followed the Brinks vehicle to Calder, police said.

A surveillance video from the track shows a man walking toward the casino. After the robbery, the man jumped into the pickup truck, which police found later at El Palacio Sports Hotel, located adjacent to the northwest corner of the Calder parking lot.

"The staff and management of Calder Casino and Race Course share the grief and sorrow that the victim's family, our team members, guests, and community are feeling following this tragic act of violence. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim," said Calder's president, Austin Miller, in response to the shooting.

"As we express our condolences," Miller said, "we also want to thank the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department, the Miami Gardens Police Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their swift actions on this case. We are fully cooperating with the law enforcement agencies during this ongoing investigation."

Monday, August 22, 2011

Governor Deval Patrick's Legacy

Governor Patrick NEVER discussed Predatory Gambling while campaigning and pretending a new false image of 'transparency.'

Yet, once in office, he genuflected to the Gambling Industry and now pretends 'Destination Resort Slot Barns' make fiscal sense, while he negotiates behind closed doors.

While he focuses on the 'pretense' of numbers, included in the 2010 legislation that passed both houses (without having been read), was FREE ALCOHOL, a Give-Me to the Gambling Industry.

Drunks continue to gamble, wager more, are more likely to sign on the dotted lines for those loans to continue to feed cash sucking machines. And they're more likely to leave the Slot Barn drunk, making each of us an innocent target - any hour, any day, 24/7/365.

So, once out of office, moved on to greener pastures, Governor Deval Patrick will leave a legacy of DRUNK DRIVERS behind, along with the casualties of those drunks.

"Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign begins today

CAPE COD - Several Cape Cod police departments, including the Falmouth and Dennis Police Departments, are participating in the drunk driving crackdown "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over". The campaign begins today and continues through Labor Day Weekend. Around 200 Massachusetts police departments will be participating this year.

Patrol officers will be searching for impaired drivers on Cape Cod roads. According to participating departments, all drivers found to be driving impaired will be arrested.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2009, 108 people died in Massachusetts in crashes involving a drunk driver.

Not only is drunk driving dangerous, it can be costly. First offenders may face loss of license and jail time. Offenders are impacted financially as well, by insurance rate increases, attorney fees, court costs and loss of time at work.

More information is available on the state highway safety division website here.

Source: Falmouth Police Department; Dennis Police Department.

Gambling Addict Returns to Prison at 24

Stolen gear mum blew £100k prize

GREEDY mum who nabbed designer gear looted in the riots won £100,000 on bingo at the age of 19 - and blew the lot within four months.

Gambling addict Ursula Nevin, 24, who was released from prison on Friday, became one of Britain's wealthiest teenagers when her numbers came in.

But last night her mother told how she frittered the cash away on the bingo hall's slot machines.

Lucille Blakeley said: "She is a very, very, very bad gambler.

"The whole 100 grand went back on gambling in the bingo hall. She spent it on £2 slot machines with £100 jackpots. When she went back to the bingo hall we thought she was back playing bingo - we didn't know she was on the machines.


"Five games would cost a tenner. She was there from 5pm until 11pm so imagine how much money went into the machine and how quickly.

"She gambled the lot in three or four months. They loved her in there for putting money in the machines. They thought she was great."

Mum-of-two Nevin was in bed when looters ran amok in Manchester city centre earlier this month.

But when flatmate Gemma Corbett, 24, returned home from the disorder with a haul worth £625, Nevin picked out a pair of designer Vans shorts for herself.

Police arrested the pair after raiding the house in Stretford, Greater Manchester, a few hours later.

Nevin, who admitted handling stolen goods, was jailed for five months at Manchester Magistrates Court.

She appealed and walked free last week after her punishment was reduced to 75 hours unpaid work, prompting fears that judges were returning to soft sentences.

Call centre worker Corbett admitted burglary on Friday and was jailed for 18 months.

Oklahoma: $7 billion annual cost of Gambling Addiction

Oklahoma's gambling addicts put life on line for big win

Serious gambling can begin innocently. Between 35,000 and 105,000 pathological gamblers live in Oklahoma, experts say. People accessing state-sponsored gambling treatment services has grown about 150 percent from 2007 (139 clients) to 2011 (347 clients).

While he stole a million dollars from Oklahoma schools and gambled most of it away, Roger Q. Melson couldn't imagine one day wearing a gray uniform stamped with “inmate” and scrubbing toilets for $7.50 a month.

Everyone thought for years that he was just a lucky gambler.

“It was really tearing me up,” Melson said, sobbing into a prison phone.

“I kept telling myself I would finally hit the big one — whatever that is — and it would take care of everything.”

Then he decided something really could take care of his lies and the hurt he caused others. He met a man in the parking lot at his workplace at the Commissioners of the Land Office to buy a gun.

“I was going to kill myself ... when I was caught,” he said.

Months before a grand jury in June 2009 handed down a 174-count indictment for embezzlement, to which he later pleaded guilty, the former state-employed auditor chose not to join the 13 percent of Gamblers Anonymous members who try suicide.

He confessed to one of his sons that he'd embezzled and gambled for years. He mentioned the gun and handed it over to his son.

Melson, 57, is one of the estimated 35,000 to 105,000 pathological gamblers living in Oklahoma. In 2004, voters authorized gaming at racetracks and expanded gambling at tribal casinos, as well as the state lottery, to help fund education. The number of people accessing state-sponsored gambling treatment services has grown about 150 percent from 2007 (139 clients) to 2011 (347 clients).

“It's a brain disorder. What happens is people really do get hooked on gambling. People who don't understand it underestimate the strength of it,” said David Swope, Nationally Certified Gambling Counselor and Licensed Professional Counselor.

“I've heard stories of people so engrossed in gambling they wore diapers. They didn't want to leave the machine.”

Innocent roots

People sometimes get into serious gambling by innocently joining friends at a casino, said Jo Ann Pearce, A Chance to Change Foundation executive director.

The innocent roots of Michelle's gambling addiction began at age 16 in a sweaty gym in El Reno, where she first joined her mother to play bingo.

Her addiction was sealed with a kiss at age 26. She married her second husband, a heavy gambler, and after the ceremony, they went straight to a casino. “We didn't leave for our honeymoon until two days later,” she said.

She picked up almost $1,000 for their honeymoon — and an addiction she's still fighting at age 38.

She once found a MegaMania machine with a glitch that kept giving money back. At one point, she put her children in day care and treated her machine playing as a job, devoting eight to 10 hours a day to it until the casino fixed the gusher.

“It's like giving a cocaine addict an endless supply of cocaine,” said Michelle, who asked that her last name not be used.

Swope said a big win can be like crack cocaine to a problem gambler.

“One of the worst things that can happen to a gambler is they win. Once that happens, it's an exciting event. It's thrilling. It gives them such a sense of euphoria they want to repeat that again,” Swope said.

Lies and deception

Though most are upstanding citizens, they'll often begin lying and deceiving as the habit grows.

At the worst of times, Melson would say he was going to a meeting but sneak off to gamble three or four days of the week.

He said he's miserable about deceiving family, co-workers and the state over the more than five years he covered for his gambling. It went hand in hand with his creation of bank accounts where he deposited checks intended for the Land Commission and then helped himself to the money.

Michelle ditched hairstyling classes to gamble. After becoming a stylist, she had cash and excuses handy. She'd claim a client canceled, and she'd go play the machines.

Once she was 15 minutes late from gambling and found her daughter, who was in second grade, sitting on the porch.

“What does that do to a 6- or 7-year-old? You can't go back and fix it. All I can do is do better in the future,” Michelle said.

She used to leave the porch light on when she left with the children in the morning so she'd know that evening whether the utilities had been turned off without upsetting the children. “I didn't have to explain why we were going to their grandmother's house to spend some time,” she said.

They got evicted from homes and had cars repossessed for lack of payment, Michelle said.

The Melson family had to move to a smaller home and sell many possessions. His wife continues to work at their church's child care facility and takes on baby-sitting and other jobs to supplement their income.

Regaining control

“A person out of control with gambling can, and many do, use all the funds they can get their hands on, usually in the belief that they're going to win it all back,” said Pearce, with A Chance to Change, which has a gambling treatment program under contract with the state.

Gambling clients often are broke, have mortgaged their homes several times or lost them to foreclosure and don't have insurance. So, the program there costs just a $3 co-pay per treatment.

Michelle credits the program, along with divorcing her gambling husband and establishing a relationship with a man who never gambles, with her road toward good health.

Melson is getting addiction treatment as he serves his 10-year-sentence in minimum security at the Jim E. Hamilton Correctional Center in Hodgen in southeast Oklahoma. He said inmates and prison personnel are nice, but he thinks constantly about what he's done to others.

“I will be making (restitution) payments again, when I can, until I die,” he said. “I regret the harm I've caused ... every day,” he added tearfully.

Michelle said excessive gambling can be devastating, but addicts shouldn't give up.

“There's hope. No matter how desperate anybody is feeling and thinks there's no way out, there is help,” she said.

Gambling Addiction — Did you know?

People Accessing State-Sponsored Treatment Services
2007 — 139
2008 — 243
2009 — 331
2010 — 309
2011 — 347

There have been almost 18,300 calls made to Oklahoma's Problem Gambling Helpline since 2007.

The Problem and Compulsive Gambling Helpline: 800-522-4700
For more gambling treatment options, go to

$7 billion — Last year's estimated social cost to families and communities from gambling-related bankruptcy, divorce, crime and job loss.

48 percent — Gamblers Anonymous members who considered suicide.

57 percent — Gamblers Anonymous members who admitted stealing to finance their gambling.

85 percent — Approximate percentage of adults in the United States who have gambled at least once.

60 percent — Approximate percentage of US adults who gambled within the last year.

100 percent — The presence of a gambling facility within 50 miles roughly doubles the prevalence of problem and pathological gamblers.

Number 5 — Oklahoma's ranking among states with the most casinos.

More than 80 — Tribal casinos in Oklahoma, three Oklahoma racetrack casinos and the statewide lottery.

About 60 — Number of casinos each in Canada, England and Central America.

About 50 — Number of casinos in both France and Germany.

About 13 — Number of casinos in Australia.

Problem gamblers also: Have high rates of co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bankrupt Casinos blight Las Vegas Strip

Steve Wynn, whose personal greed knows no bounds, is getting mighty testy about those skeletal casino buildings in Las Vegas, in spite of statistics that don't bode well for the Gambling Industry.

Las Vegas has the worst bankruptcy and foreclosure rates in the United States, so casino owners are edgy about the recession still clouding business in the city.

Las Vegas contractors have sued for unpaid work in a city with the highest unemployment in the U.S. (Officially, it’s 15 per cent; unofficially, it’s likely higher than 20 per cent, according to vocational experts.)

In Massachusetts, Beacon Hill leadership is waving the magic wand of Slot Barns and promising wondrous job creation to the delusional tune of 15,000 new jobs with 3 small Slot Barns.

These were Las Vegas' projections for luxury facilities:
Echelon = 10,000 jobs = Cost = $4.8 BILLION
Fontainbleau = 6,000 jobs = Cost = $2.9 BILLION (68 Stories)

‘See-through’ casinos blight Las Vegas Strip
Kathleen Kenna
Special to the Star

LAS VEGAS—Prepare for a battle of some of America’s richest men over desert ruins.

Billionaire Steve Wynn is so angry about unfinished “see-through” buildings on the famous Strip (Las Vegas Blvd.) that he’s preparing to sue.

But the casino mogul’s research so far shows there might be little he can do about two stalled projects, worth an estimated $8 billion, in the worst economy this city has suffered.

Las Vegas regulations do not punish anyone for leaving billions of dollars of unfinished business on The Strip, Wynn complained in an interview.

“The planning commission never had a rule about completion or removal—it’s extraordinary,” he said.

“There is no ordinance that says once you start a building, you have to finish it. We are all now taking action ... it can just stay there forever. It sure is a pain in the butt.”

Las Vegas has the worst bankruptcy and foreclosure rates in the United States, so casino owners are edgy about the recession still clouding business in the city.

They are also voicing private concerns about the addition of 3,000 rooms to an already-battered Strip, when the Cosmopolitan opens Dec. 15. That $3.9-billion project is the only major casino project opening in Las Vegas this year.

Wynn has been credited with spearheading the revival of the Vegas Strip in the 1990s with such projects as Bellagio, The Mirage and Treasure Island. He

is putting the finishing touches on a $200-million reno of Wynn, only five years after the luxury casino-hotel resort named for him opened.

Guests in $1,000-plus rooms in this ultra-makeover get spectacular views of the Mojave desert, some of the Strip’s neon, and mountains surrounding Las Vegas.

They also stare straight at the “see-through” hulk of Echelon, a $4.8-billion project stalled for two years, and the $2.9-billion Fontainebleau, apparently about 70-per-cent complete.

The low-level Echelon, owned by Vegas-based Boyd Gaming Inc., looks as though it’s rotting.

Echelon was touted as an “ultra-luxurious, uber-mega-resort” in 2006, before the historic Stardust was imploded to make way for a casino, four hotels with 5,300 rooms, 25 restaurants and bars, convention center, retail and more.

One of the few high-rises in Las Vegas, the 68-story Fontainebleau was supposed to open in 2007, but was stalled again and again by financing woes.

Fontainbleau’s original Miami owners, Turnberry Associates, filed for bankruptcy on the project last year, and billionaire Carl Icahn, known as a corporate raider, snagged it earlier this year for a reported $156 million.

The Miami bankruptcy judge declared, “This case is a total disaster.”

Las Vegas contractors have sued for unpaid work in a city with the highest unemployment in the U.S. (Officially, it’s 15 per cent; unofficially, it’s likely higher than 20 per cent, according to vocational experts.)

Echelon was promoted as producing 10,000 jobs, and Fontainebleau, 6,000, in a city dependent on tourism and construction.

Requests for comment from Boyd Gaming and Turnberry were unsuccessful.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Gambling Addiction: Ex-financial adviser gets 6 years for stealing $1.9M

Ex-financial adviser in E. Hanover gets 6 years for taking $1.9M
Written by Peggy Wright Staff Writer

A former financial adviser for an East Hanover company was sentenced Friday to six years in prison for stealing $1.9 million from investors, including his grandparents, to support an online gambling addiction.

“I’ve done a lot of harm,” said Hawthorne resident Daniel J. Trolaro, 35, as he apologized for his 20-month theft spree during sentencing before Superior Court Judge Thomas V. Manahan in Morristown.

“The addiction is a tough one to battle,” Trolaro said, adding that he now is heavily involved in Gamblers Anonymous and finds solace in his church. He is married and the father of three children, including a 16-month-old.

Trolaro pleaded guilty earlier this summer to the theft of $1.9 million between June 2008 and February 2010. While a financial planner, licensed insurance producer and securities dealer employed by Prudential Insurance Co. of America’s West Essex Agency in East Hanover, he bilked nine families, including people from Long Hill and Rockaway.

After Prudential caught Trolaro, he worked as a bartender but has largely been dependent on his wife to support the household, defense lawyer John Bruno said.

State Assistant Attorney General John Kennedy had recommended 10 years in prison. Under the six-year term, Trolaro first will be eligible for parole after serving one year, two months and 14 days. The judge emphasized that he wants Trolaro to start paying restitution.

He was ordered to start paying back his grandparents their stolen $75,000 at the rate of $500 a month within six months of his release from prison. Prudential spent more than $2 million making restitution to victims and wants that money back, so the judge ordered Trolaro to sign a civil consent agreement to restore those funds.

The victims included two widows and a disabled woman who received a settlement from a malpractice lawsuit and trusted Trolaro to invest that money, Kennedy said.

The judge noted how rampant white-collar crime is and how Trolaro betrayed and caused stress to many people.

“There are people who steal money with their hands. There are people who steal with their brains. The impact on the victim doesn’t much change,” the judge said.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

63 Year Old Gambling Addict Sentenced to Prison

Springfield Township's ex-secretary gets six to 18 years for embezzlement
By ED PALATTELLA, Erie Times-News

Nancy J. Brown had one number working in her favor as she stood in court for sentencing -- 63, her age.

Brown had a much larger number working against her -- $388,770.75, the amount of public money she embezzled over eight and a half years as secretary of Springfield Township in western Erie County.

Erie County Judge Shad Connelly considered the two numbers, as well as several other factors, and applied them to his calculus of justice on Tuesday.

Connelly announced his final sum: six to 18 years, the length of Brown's state prison sentence. She must pay restitution to the township, which spent $6,500 in out-of-pocket expenses to investigate, and its insurers, which covered the loss of the embezzled amount.

"The extent of this criminal activity is almost staggering, almost incomprehensible," Connelly told Brown, who gambled away most of the money. "For eight and a half years, you never said, 'I need help.'"

Brown, thin and frail and speaking softly, apologized.

She told Connelly she could not stop writing checks to herself from the township's general fund until the supervisors caught her in June 2010 and fired her. Brown, whom state police charged in September, said she was a good person.

"I was so out of control," Brown said.

The sentence was in the standard range of the sentencing guidelines for Brown, of the 6300 block of Wheeler Road, who had no prior record and had worked for the 3,300-person township for 19 years. She pleaded guilty to nine felony counts of theft in July, and faced a statutory maximum sentence of 63 years.

Brown's lawyer, Damon Hopkins, asked Connelly to sentence her to house arrest and probation, mainly because of her age, health problems and what Hopkins said would be her inability to help others if she were incarcerated.

"Locking her up will prevent her from making this right," Hopkins said.

He said Brown started taking money to pay for medical expenses for her daughter. To try to recoup the initial amount, Hopkins said, Brown stole more money and gambled at Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel in Niagara Falls, N.Y., and then Presque Isle Downs & Casino, which opened in 2007 in Summit Township.

Hopkins said Brown's debts deepened and her gambling worsened. In 2009 alone, she embezzled nearly $76,000.

"It was basically the gambler's creed: I'll get it back," Hopkins said.

District Attorney Jack Daneri took no position at the sentencing, and no one spoke on behalf of the township.

Connelly recounted how the supervisors' trust in Brown enabled her to write the checks to herself. The township requires two signatures on each check, so Brown signed her name and used a signature stamp to sign a supervisor's name.

Brown, paid $17,000 a year, controlled the oversight of the township's $600,000 annual budget. Connelly said she stole from the township nearly every day for eight and a half years, or about 3,000 days.

"It is hard to overlook all these facts," Connelly said. "What is very disconcerting to the court is she basically stole money from her friends and neighbors -- these are the people that pay taxes to the township."

After Brown's arrest, the Springfield Township supervisors eliminated the signature stamps and mandated all checks be signed in person.

While those kinds of safeguards are meant to prevent white-collar crime, Connelly said, his sentence of Brown should be considered deterrence as well. The penalty of six to 18 years showed how quickly the numbers can add up against someone in an embezzlement case.

"White-collar crimes," Connelly said, "are perhaps the only crimes in which the courts actually have an impact on others in the community."

The Business Model

The success of the Gambling Industry relies on creating New Gamblers and creating New Gambling Addicts using whatever means possible including Vibrating Seats.

Harrah's [now Caesars] determined that 90% of their profits originated from 10% of their patrons. That's ADDICTION. They know their patrons and know when they Gamble beyond their financial capacity.

The Gambling Industry resists any effort to protect the consumer: monthly statements, daily loss limits, posting odds on Slot Machines, because they would no longer 'profit.'

And the states, as Addicted to the false promises of revenue as the Gambling Addict becomes a partner promoting Addiction, denying culpability.

Roselle priest avoids prison in gambling scandal
Judges sentences man to jail, probation, labor
By Josh Stockinger

A DuPage County judge said he aimed to teach a Roman Catholic priest “a little humility” Tuesday in sentencing him to a mix of jail, probation and menial labor for gambling away hundreds of thousands of dollars belonging to a Roselle parish.

Judge John Kinsella also ordered Father John Regan, 47, to pay $295,000 in restitution to St. Walter Catholic Church, saying his crimes constituted an “indescribable level of betrayal” against those who trusted him most.

“You basically went out in the dark of night with other people’s money and fed an addiction,” Kinsella told Regan. “No sentence I can impose on you can undo the harm you did to that parish. If I thought the world would be a better place locking you up for 30 to 40 months in a cell in southern Illinois, I would.”

Regan faced up to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty in June to felony charges that stemmed from his two years as pastor at St. Walter.

He told the court in tearful testimony Tuesday that a gambling addiction led him to repeatedly raid a “special needs fund” at the parish for hundreds of thousands of dollars, which he spent at riverboat casinos in Elgin and Joliet. He apologized and vowed to make amends.

“Every day was a good day to go to the casino, and that’s the insidious nature of the disease I have,” Regan said, breaking down in tears. “I can’t imagine anybody wanting to do what I’ve done.”

Kinsella ordered Regan to immediately begin serving a 60-day jail sentence. After that, Regan will serve 150 nights in jail in a program that requires him to hold a job — “as menial as possible,” the judge said — by day. He also was ordered to complete 500 hours of community service, four years of probation, and 40 days on work detail for the county sheriff’s office, in addition to restitution.

Kinsella warned that any infractions could result in prison. “I don’t want you betting on whether the sun comes up tomorrow,” he told Regan, who said he hasn’t placed a bet in three years.

Regan was ordained in 1989 and went to work for St. Walter in July 2006. Within two months, Assistant State’s Attorney Helen Kapas said, he created a secret “special needs fund” for which he was solely responsible and used to feed his gambling habit.

“That a person could do this to their own church is unthinkable, unimaginable and unbelievable,” she said. “There will be different judgment days for John Regan, but today is a day for justice in DuPage County.”

State’s attorney investigator Ray Bradford testified that records showed Regan withdrew more than $117,000 on nearly 400 occasions from the account at casino ATMs. About $295,000 altogether in parishioner contributions moved into the account under Regan’s watch. And the priest also wrote about $115,500 in checks to himself from that account, Bradford said.

Regan admitted gambling away at least $264,000, though prosecutors put the number closer to $410,000. The defense attributed the difference to winnings that went back into the mix and were unaccounted for.

At a five-hour sentencing hearing Tuesday, several St. Walter parishioners took the stand and gave alternate assessments of Regan. Some said they believed he deserved another chance, in part because of his work on programs for children, seniors and missionaries. But others said they felt betrayed and saddened that he took advantage of their generosity.

“They’re divided,” said Bryan Mraz of Roselle, who has attended St. Walter most of his life, outside of court. “I can live with (the sentence). I liked what Judge Kinsella told him. I hope (Regan) takes what he said to heart.”

Prosecutors, who dubbed Regan the “riverboat priest,” had sought a 10-year prison term, saying probation would “deprecate the seriousness” of his offense. But defense attorneys Jim Ryan and Jack Donahue contended that Regan never enriched himself or bought cars, condominiums and other big-ticket items common in embezzlement cases.

“We’re not dealing with a sociopath. We’re dealing with a good man, a charitable man, who was possessed by a demon of gambling addiction,” Donahue said. He later called the judge’s ruling “fair and wise.”

“Obviously John Regan is not jumping for joy being in the county jail,” Donahue said. “But he understands what he did was egregious.”

Regan was removed from St. Walter in summer 2006 after an internal audit uncovered the thefts. He is barred by the Diocese of Joliet from saying Mass or offering communion publicly, and any future employment would be restricted, said the Rev. William Dewan, vicar of priests.

“We’re not sure what the future holds,” he said.

In a statement, the Diocese said it remains “committed to proper stewardship of any money donated to its parishes and agencies.”

“We have an effective financial reporting system for parishes in place, and audits are conducted on a regular basis,” said diocesan spokesman Doug Delaney. “We constantly strive to make sure that any financial irregularities are caught and reported to local authorities.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

When will Beacon Hill do its job?

Massachusetts 'leadership' (if we can call it that!) is again negligent and the cost is the lives of disabled individuals.

The focus for far too long had been on back room deals and secret meetings to address "Slot Barn Gambling."

The Gambling Industry has held the Commonwealth of Massachusetts hostage, stroking egos, providing undisclosed promises revealed during those secret discussions, monopolizing the media and providing campaign contributions.

Obsessed with the blinding lights of Slot Barn Glitter, leadership has ignored the rest of their responsibilities. The Governor, following the path set by his Republican predecessors has jeopardized the lives of those 'least among us.'

The system supposed to protect those unable to protect themselves has been sacrificed on the altar of "Slot Barn Gambling" by a Governor obsessed.

When will Beacon Hill do its job?

Lawmakers: Group-home deaths merit 'harder look'
By Joyce Tsai

Several of the area's state legislators are questioning the Patrick administration's plan to close four of the state's six institutions for people with developmental disabilities in the wake of a report over the weekend that two developmentally disabled men died in state-run group homes in Tyngsboro and Tewksbury.

The deaths, said state Sen. Eileen Donoghue, raise important questions about the men's quality of care and whether they received adequate supervision at those facilities.

"In my estimation, that certainly bears investigation," the Lowell Democrat said.

Although some argue that the cost of keeping open such state-run institutions for the severely developmentally disabled, such as the Fernald Development Center in Waltham, is astronomical, "it's not a dollar-and-cents issue," Donoghue said.

It's a complicated question, she acknowledged, adding, "Let's look at how the state can best care for people who are the most vulnerable in our society."

State Rep. Jim Miceli also said that the deaths -- especially that of a man who died after eating a plastic bag in Tyngsboro this summer -- simply should not happen.

"It's horrific," the Wilmington Democrat said, "and obviously we hold these agencies to the proper care of the citizens that are entrusted to them.

"Certainly, I want to see an investigation of the manning of those homes and what happened," he added.

The deaths have raised concern that the governor's plan could cause a lot of problems of a similar nature in the future, he said.
"Everyone likes to talk about our most vulnerable citizens, and these are our most vulnerable citizens," he said. "We should take a harder look."

According to reports from the state's Disabled Persons Protection Commission, obtained Friday by the Associated Press, a man living in a state-run group home in Tyngsboro died July 6 after he was taken to Lowell General Hospital on June 19 after swallowing a plastic shopping bag. No one at the facility saw him swallow the bag, even though the man required total care and had been flagged as someone who suffered from pica, a desire to eat inedible items.

Weeks later, on July 24, a man at a state-run home in Tewksbury died of a sudden undetermined illness that is still being determined by an autopsy. Although staff called 911 and tended to the man, who required minimal assistance, after he collapsed in a bedroom, he could not be revived.

Both had been transferred from state-run institutions that the Patrick administration plans to close. The man at the Tyngsboro home had been there for about a year after being transferred from the Fernald Center, and the man at the Tewksbury home had been there for four days, after moving from the Templeton Developmental Center in Baldwinville.

The state Department of Developmental Services, which runs the homes, said the deaths are under investigation.

But state Sen. Susan Fargo said it is crucial "to determine their causes, so they can be avoided next time."

The Lincoln Democrat, who represents Carlisle, Chelmsford and Concord, was saddened by the deaths and said she has been "very, very concerned about plans to close the Fernald center," which is in her district.

She believes commercial and residential interests have influenced the desire to shut the center.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney was among the first to push for closing the center because he wanted that land to be developed, she said.

"It's on an almost 200-acre plot of a prime real estate in Waltham, inside of Route 128, so it's a very desirable location," she said.

Although those reasons are "not stated" by advocates of the center's closure, Fargo said they have played a role in the debate.

"And in the meantime, those who don't have a voice were kind of shoved and moved around," she said, adding that keeping the center open "hasn't been a winning cause."

Fernald, which was the first center scheduled to close, on June 30, 2010, still has 14 residents in the facility.

A judge in a federal court case involving Fernald ruled that patients "cannot be forced to move against their will, unless they are getting equal or better care," Fargo said.

She added that although she supports community-based programs and has a sister with Down syndrome who has thrived in one of those programs, she is concerned that there have been other deaths for which the causes are unclear, and said that may indicate that those with developmental disabilities do not like a change in surroundings and don't thrive after such a move.

Many have lived in those facilities their whole lives, and such a move is "traumatic," said David Kassel, spokesman for the Massachusetts Coalition of Families and Advocates, an advocacy group for people with developmental disabilities and their families, who has argued against the plan.

Fargo agreed, noting that it's especially hard for people with complex medical conditions.

"To be picked up and moved at 50, 60, 70 or 80 years old is very hard on them," she said. "And we are concerned it's not just these two people, but others, that may not be getting equal or better care."

"Never Enough"

Former Compulsive Gambler Now Helps Others with Addictions at MDL
Written by
denise connelly
Reader Submitted

The Marshall District Library will host Michael J. Burke as he presents "Never Enough" Addiction Minefields: How Addictions Changed His Life, from 7-8:15 pm on Tuesday, September 13 in Meeting Room. Space is limited. MDL cardholders may register on August 30 and all others September 2. To register, pick up a FREE ticket at the library Information Desk.

Burke was a successful lawyer, loving husband and father, and respected member of the business community in Howell but was also a closet alcoholic and gambling addict, to the tune of $1.6 million of other people's trust funds, according to a HelpNet news release. He ended up spending three years in prison, starting in 2001.

Burk's story is told in the book "Never Enough: One Lawyer's True Story of How He Gambled His Career Away," published by the American Bar Association. He will not benefit from any of his book royalties until all his victims have been reimbursed. Speaking engagements have taken Burke across the nation as he tries to help others face their problems.

The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) funds the Neighborhood Service Organization Gambling Treatment Program and Help-Line. It is a statewide program for pathological gamblers and their families. Through this program, consumers needing assistance with problem and/or pathological gambling can receive a referral to a trained treatment provider. The Michigan Problem Gambling Help-Line, 1-800-270-7117 is available 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. For more information please visit

Alalbama: Judge wants October Retrial

Judge wants to retry corruption case in October
Written by Sebastian Kitchen

The judge presiding over the federal corruption trial of VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor and six other remaining defendants is strongly leaning toward beginning the second trial Oct. 3, according to defense attorneys.

The first trial ended with the jury finding two defendants innocent and a mistrial being declared for the other seven when the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict.

Prosecutors also want to separate the remaining seven defendants into three trials, said defense attorneys, although the judge denied efforts to separate the trails when defendants pushed for it before the first trial.

Jim Parkman, attorney for Sen. Harri Anne Smith, said the prosecution wants his client to be tried by herself, and for McGregor and former legislative analyst Ray Crosby to be tried together while the other four are prosecuted together.

The other defendants are former state Sens. Larry Means of Attalla and Jim Preuitt of Talladega; lobbyist Tom Coker; and former Country Crossing spokesman Jay Walker.

The seven defendants are accused of participating in a scheme in which casino owners and their lobbyists bribed state lawmakers to support gambling legislation that, if passed by voters, would have allowed VictoryLand, Country Crossing, and other casinos to stay open.The senators were accused of trying to extort campaign contributions from gambling interests as the vote on the gambling bill neared.

A jury acquitted two defendants, state Sen. Quinton Ross of Montgomery and lobbyist Bob Geddie. Three people already have pleaded guilty in the case including Country Crossing developer Ronnie Gilley and two of his lobbyists, Jarrod Massey and Jennifer Pouncy.

While several of the defense attorneys asked for their clients to be tried separately before the beginning of the June 6 trial, which lasted two months and concluded Thursday, Parkman and Walker attorney Susan James said they now oppose separating them.

Parkman said he expected the prosecutors to want to retry all seven remaining defendants, but there was a "little bit of a shock" when they said they wanted to have three separate trials.

(Page 2 of 3)

Parkman and James said Oct. 3 would be a quick turnaround after the two-month trial.
"The court is pushing strongly to go Oct. 3," Parkman said.

James said the defendants have had their lives on hold since before the June trial started, and the trial followed months of listening to thousands of wiretapped conversations and looking at the thousands of documents and filing and arguing motions.

"I think there is a consensus of the defense lawyers that we would prefer having the trial after the first of the year," James said. She said they could then regroup with their families and law practices.

"Unfortunately, we've got other cases we've got to handle," Parkman said.
James and Parkman said that the defense attorneys will meet with prosecutors today and they will talk to Thompson again at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

James said that U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson appeared eager to move forward, telling attorneys while all of the mechanisms, which she believed meant the setup in the courtroom and security, are already in place. During the first trial, the courtroom had to be rearranged and more tables brought in because of the nine defendants and the number of attorneys involved.

James said there are a lot of issues that must be dealt with in pretrial including some evidentiary matters that need to be addressed.

Parkman said there are motions that would need to be filed.

"There is a lot to do to get ready even though we just went through it," James said.

Parkman said having the trial after the first of the year would give them some time to recuperate.

"That's what we were kind of hoping for," he said. " ... We did not feel it would be this quick. The court wants to get this off its docket."

Parkman said he does not expect the issue to be resolved at 10 a.m. Wednesday and that the judge could even listen to oral arguments on the issues.
"He's going to want to move fast," Parkman said.

James said prosecutors suggested they could try McGregor and Crosby in two weeks.
"That puzzles me a little bit," she said.

(Page 3 of 3)

James said they still could convince the judge to move back that October date.

Parkman and James said they also have learned new information that wasn't explored in the first trial, so it wouldn't be as simple as just repeating what they did in the earlier trial.

Prosecutors have not talked to the media throughout the process or during the two-month trial, but defense attorneys said their major argument for having three separate trials was to simplify the case for the jury.

"They said that in substance that the jury had a lot to consider and that they thought there were complicated issues and complicated jury charges and by separating it, it would make it easier to reach a conclusion or a verdict," James said about the prosecution's arguments Monday.

James said she could not remember how many times she asked for a severance from the other defendants leading up to the first trial. She mentioned it regularly during the trial.

"I would have had my severance about November of last year," James said of her original requests for a separate trial. "That's a lot of water under the bridge."
Now, James said they know how the case will unfold, that there could be some evidentiary issues created if the defendants were not tried together, and she said they worked once together with what she said was a "good collective defense approach."

"All of the different personalities brought something to the table," James said.
Given that, Parkman said he was not surprised they wanted to try Smith separately because her case was different from the others.

Parkman said the Smith legal team also filed motions for severance initially.
He said his request was denied and that there are now two fewer defendants, which should make the case easier.

Parkman said they already have been through a trial together, "it worked," and there is no cost effectiveness in separate trials.

"It would be more time consuming," Parkman said.

If the cases are not severed, Parkman said he expects much of the case to be a retread of the first one. He said, especially with prosecutors already knowing his arguments, that he would try a different strategy during the second trial, including putting on a defense.

Cordaro: Claims Convicted By Lies of Gambling Addict

Cordaro seeking new trial
The former Lackawanna County commissioner was found guilty of corruption.
By Terrie Morgan-Besecker
Law & Order Reporter

SCRANTON – Former Lackawanna County Commissioner Robert Cordaro is seeking a new trial, arguing the government withheld information about a prosecution key witness that would have been helpful to Cordaro’s case.

Attorneys for Cordaro also argue U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo wrongly precluded the defense from presenting evidence that would have challenged the credibility of that witness.

Cordaro was convicted in June of 18 counts, including bribery, extorting and money laundering for demanding money from several contractors who did business with the county. His co-defendant, former Commissioner A.J. Munchak, was convicted of seven counts.

In a post-trial motion filed Friday, Cordaro’s attorneys, William Costopoulos and Allen Johnson, argue the verdict should be overturned because the government knew or should have known that a key witness, Al Hughes, had lied on the stand when he said he stopped gambling in 2004.

Hughes had testified he was the go-between who delivered thousands of dollars of the extorted money to Cordaro. Cordaro denied taking any bribes from Hughes, whom he said was a compulsive gambler. If Hughes did take any money, he used it to feed his addiction, Cordaro claimed.

In its motion, the defense alleges prosecutors failed to disclose all financial information regarding Hughes, including the existence of casino markers – lines of credit casinos extend to gamblers – that were issued to him. That information would have shown Hughes continued to gamble after he said he quit.

“This was important impeachment material and critical to Mr. Cordaro’s defense that Hughes was a liar and had squandered the tens of thousands of dollars he claimed to have given him on his gambling addiction instead,” the attorneys wrote.

The defense also argues Caputo erred in forbidding the defense to present witnesses who would have testified about two $10,000 bets Hughes made with Cordaro – one regarding the outcome of a college football game, the other regarding whether the county would succeed in selling the Montage Mountain ski resort.

That evidence was key to Cordaro’s defense because it explained some of the checks Hughes had written to Cordaro. It also offered further impeachment of Hughes’ credibility.

The defense also raised several other issues, including Caputo’s refusal to allow Cordaro to call other vendors who did business with the county who would testify they were never extorted.

Federal prosecutors will have an opportunity to reply to the motion. Caputo will issue a ruling at a later date.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Beware of government fixes

Beware of government fixes
Written by Seth Grossman

Republican Gov. Chris Christie said the new Revel Casino is the “key” to Atlantic City’s rebirth. Christie worked with Republicans and Democrats in the state Legislature to give this casino project $261 million in state tax breaks over the next 20 years. Those future tax breaks were then used as collateral to borrow about a third of the $1.2 billion needed to finish the project.

But existing casinos like Resorts and Trump Marina that were worth more than $400 million a few years ago were just sold for less than $40 million each. The Hilton is for sale and can’t find a buyer. And MGM needs another year to unload its half of the Borgata.

How will the taxpayer bailout of the failed Revel Casino project play out? Will the new Revel Casino lose money and go under because it has six times the debt burden of competing casinos? Or will it “succeed” and knock four or five older casinos out of business? Either way, Atlantic City will soon have vacant casinos to go with its empty baseball stadium and near-empty Boardwalk and Convention Halls – all paid for by taxpayers to “create jobs” and “fix” the local economy.

Last March, Republican Lieutenant Gov. Kim Guadagno was in Atlantic City with a plan for state government to “save” the tourist business in New Jersey. State government is spending $9 million this year “to promote tourism,” and another $15.8 million on grants to dozens of “arts” organizations around the state. Where is this $24.8 million coming from? From a new 5 percent tax added to the 7 percent sales tax on every hotel and motel bill in the state.

Hotel and motel visitors already pay higher prices in New Jersey than in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia because our real estate taxes are so high. The 12 percent total tax on top of that adds insult to injury. Every hotel and motel owner I know tells me they would much rather do without any “help” from the state if they could knock off half of the 12 percent tax on their customers.

Price Waterhouse Coopers Quits Choctaw, Moody's labels "Junk Bonds"

Mississippi Choctaw’s Audit Firm Quits After FBI Raid

After more than a decade of serving as an outside auditor for casinos owned and operated by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Price Waterhouse Coopers has stepped down, reported the Clarion-Ledger.

A spokesperson for the auditing firm would not comment on why, although the company’s decision coincides with the time FBI agents subpoenaed records from the tribal chief.

On July 12, some 40 FBI agents raided the Mississippi Choctaw’s Pearl River Resort, which includes two gaming facilities: Golden Moon and Silver Star casinos in Choctaw near Philadelphia, Mississippi, and seized hard drives and documents.

The raid came during a turbulent period for tribal leadership. Phyliss J. Anderson would have taken office July 12 in the chief’s $466,000 salary position except for a council vote that negated that election and called for a new one September 6. In the July 5 runoff election, Phyliss J. Anderson was expected to be declared the new Tribal Chief with 1,971 votes to former Chief Beasley Denson’s 1,618 votes. While Denson conceded that day, two days later, the Choctaw Tribal Council cited voting irregularities and negated the results of the June 14 regular election and, thus, the runoff as well.

Another newspaper, The Neshoba Democrat, quoted “multiple sources” as saying the FBI investigation could have been about alleged election fraud.

According to WLBT in Jackson, Mississippi, the raid was “likely” related to Denson and Mercury Gaming of Atlanta, Georgia. Its affiliated marketing arm, The Titan Agency, manages the tribe’s Pearl River Resort. A website report by the station’s Cheryl Lassiter says that sources told her Denson had been paying Mercury Gaming chief executive Doug Pattison $60,000 per month, a amount that increased to $250,000 in February, and tribal council was unaware of these payouts.

Two days following the July 12 raid, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded money borrowed by the Choctaw Resort Development Enterprise, $200 million in securities, to junk bond status, reported the Clarion-Ledger.

The FBI’s investigation may “indicate potential internal control weaknesses and could affect Choctaw’s casino operations in the future,” Moody’s report stated, reported the Clarion-Ledger.

When Anderson and Denson face off again September 6, they will compete against a new candidate who qualified to race, Shirley Berg. “There is a need for a leader who is trustworthy and has integrity to lead the tribe into the future,” Berg told the Clarion-Ledger. “… My vision is to empower the tribe’s legacy of self-determination, bringing the voice of the people back into tribal government.”

Anderson says when she takes office, she will cancel tribe contracts with Mercury Gaming. Recent events “have been difficult for our tribal people,” Anderson said in a statement. “With an overturned election, FBI raid and downgrade of the tribe’s bonds, we have some serious challenges to overcome, no doubt.”

Recently, Chief Beasley Denson has been touring Choctaw communities on his re-election campaign.

The tribe also operates the Hattiesburg, Mississippi-based Bok Homa Casino.

Pitting States Against Each Other in Race to the Bottom

Our View: State needs to think long-term on casinos

Gov. Andrew Cuomo raised some eyebrows last week when he disclosed that his administration has been exploring the possibility of expanding legalized gambling so commercial, non-Indian casinos could operate within New York's borders.

Cuomo went as far as to suggest that allowing casinos might not require a constitutional amendment - which is a lengthy and costly process. He said the restriction in the state constitution on traditional casino games and slot machines may not apply to electronic versions of many games and video slot machines.

Cuomo's words were quickly seized upon by casino operators, who have been spending millions of dollars lobbying state governments around the country to legalize gambling.

The casino supporters have been quick to cite the revenues they could bring to state governments, most of which are struggling financially right now.

What they fail to address in this lobbying effort is the source of this revenue that goes to the states - taxpayers.

Casinos, first and foremost, are built to take people's money. A lot of it goes to the casino owners; some of it goes to the state.

"The more people that lose money, the worse off the economy is," said Tom Larkin who leads an anti-casino group in Massachusetts. "The worst thing you can do is say, ‘Look, we have an economic problem, let's have more people lose more money.'"

A similar casino push is happening in Massachusetts, where, not surprisingly, the casino operators last week began pitting both states against each other, saying one cannot afford to let the other go forward with legalized gambling.

We urge the governor and Legislature to be thorough in their analysis of this issue.

Don't allow a short-term desire for more money to play with in the state budget lead to long-term problems that can come with widescale legalized casino gambling.

"Casino" Gambling: No Economic Growth, Jobs Lost

Hold that bet, Mr. Cuomo

Governor Cuomo, normally so thoughtful and disciplined, seemed a bit more like a gambler himself when he said last week that New York needs to consider the further legalization of casinos.

Gambling is here already, he was saying. And it's in neighboring states, too, notably Connecticut and New Jersey.

So why not double down here, he was suggesting. In a for a dime, in for a dollar. Such are the possibilities to which he's now open.

Mr. Cuomo does make the point that the days of saying that there's no place for government-supported gambling are past.

"It's really not an issue anymore of 'Well, if we don't officially sanction it as a government, it's not going to happen,'" he says. "It is happening."

True enough. Upstate New York has five Indian-operated casinos. There are slot machines at eight, soon to be nine, of the state's racetracks. A hastily passed 2001 law, and a subsequent court decision upholding that law, long ago made a mockery of the state constitution's ban on slot machines.

The result is that New York gets substantially more of its revenue (3 percent) than the national average (2.4 percent) from gambling, according to the
Rockefeller Institute of Government. And now Mr. Cuomo has made it clear that he's at least open to the idea of amending that constitution to remove any obstacles to commercial, non-Indian casinos.

Staunch opponents of gambling would, of course, urge the governor to fold. But all New Yorkers would be wise to urge him to pause. It's time to ask again what removing constitutional restrictions to casinos would mean for New York. How much more gambling would be too much?

That puts a burden on the forces -- particularly the owners of the so-called racinos and their slot machines -- urging the governor to support a constitutional amendment to allow more casinos.

Let's await the economic impact study the racino operators plan to give Mr. Cuomo next month. Let's compare previous research on the economic benefits of casinos with the prediction by Assemblyman
Gary Pretlow, D-Westchester County, chairman of the Racing and Wagering Committee, that the further legalization of casinos would be an economic boon for New York.

There's not much evidence supporting the notion that casinos pay off that way, certainly not over the long term. Typically, they'll produce a notable increase in revenue in their first year or two of operation before leveling off sharply, says Robert Ward, deputy director of the Rockefeller Institute.

"The casino industry does not have an impact on economic growth at the state level," concludes a 2007 study by economics professors
Douglas Walker of the College of Charleston and John Jackson of Auburn University. "The average state should not expect any long-term growth effects from legalizing casino gambling."

That, however, fails to consider the costs of casino gambling. Research by
John Kindt, a business professor at the University of Illinois, concludes that nationwide, 1.5 jobs are lost for every job casinos create.

Maybe, then, five casinos already, along with slot machine at the racetracks, are quite enough. Maybe the governor who's open to amending the constitution to allow more casinos should think again.


The governor considers allowing more casinos.


Is that what's best for New York?