Meetings & Information


Friday, September 30, 2011

Massachusetts as Debt Collector for Herb Strather

Some have forgotten the Jack Abramoff connection to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe gaining recognition and Glenn Marshall.

It's pretty pathetic that a wealthy investor expects the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to genuflect and collect his unenforceable debts for him.

It's even more pathetic that they genuflected, just as Senator Richard T. "Debt Collector" Moore did last year.

Investor calls Wampanoag on debt
By George Brennan

Herb Strather, the Detriot developer who first invested in the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe's casino efforts in 1999, is calling on the governor to help him recoup the millions he says he spent on the tribe.

In a letter to Gov. Deval Patrick, Strather says he raised in excess of $25 million from a wide variety of investors to help the tribe gain federal recognition and pursue a casino.

He also claims that the tribe has reneged on a handshake deal to make mortgage payments for Maushop Farm, a horse stable in Mashpee he purchased for $675,000 and planned to donate to the Wampanoag once a casino was built. He produced an email from a Bank of America employee stating the mortgage is in default because of slow payments. That bank employee declined to comment Wednesday.

"We are seeking a fairness inclusion in the gaming bill that will make the tribe pay their debts before they can get a compact," Strather wrote to the governor.

A compact is a deal between a tribe and a state that sets the ground rules for how an Indian casino will operate and what payments the state would receive in lieu of taxes.

Strather's letter asks the governor to include language that would require the tribe to disclose "any individual or entity which has made such investment to said tribe, its affiliates or predecessor applicants of the tribe for purposes of securing a gaming license" since 2005.

The Senate approved an amendment with similar wording during Monday's debate on the casino bill. Senators are expected to resume debate next week. There is no guarantee that language will make it into the final bill that goes to Patrick.

A spokeswoman for the governor's office said Strather's letter had been received, but declined comment on whether Patrick would consider his request to make debt repayments a condition in the compact. She said it was premature considering the Legislature is still debating the bill.

The tribe, through a spokeswoman, issued a brief statement: "Mr. Strather's claims are without merit."

It's been a tough week for the Mashpee Wampanoag. As happens every time the casino legislation gets debated, other state tribes have questioned the Mashpee tribe's ties to Southeastern Massachusetts. Now, Strather is opening old wounds with complaints about the tribe walking away from his investment.

In a phone interview, Strather said that as a casino investor not only is he losing his initial payments to the tribe, but also the return on that investment.

The Times reported last year that casino investors Sol Kerzner and Len Wolman cut a lucrative deal with the tribe in 2007 that would have paid the investors 6 percent of any casino take. Strather retained a 5 percent interest in that agreement.

But in 2010, the tribe wanted to break ties with Strather, Kerzner and Wolman and signed a deal with Kien Huat, a subsidiary of Genting Group, a Malaysian company that invests in casinos around the world — notably Foxwoods in Connecticut. The tribe renegotiated that if allowed to open a casino, they would reimburse Kernzer, Wolman and some of Strather's investors for their initial investment, although not pay them any of the casino profits, Strather said Wednesday.

Strather said his money was not included in that deal.

The tribe has declined to comment on its agreement to sever ties with initial investors, saying it is confidential.

"We funded this for nine years and for another group to come in and, after we got federal recognition, to take our investment and profits, that's very unfair," Strather said Wednesday. "I wonder how the commonwealth would like that."

Patricia Oakley, the tribe's former genealogist and a tribal elder, said Strather has the support of some tribe members.

"We don't want to be known as burning our bridges," Oakley said. "Tribal members are upset. They are upset about initial investors not getting paid and because there's no transparency with this leadership."

Much of Strather's negotiations, both for the casino and the farm, were with former tribal council Chairman Glenn Marshall. Marshall is serving a federal prison sentence after he pleaded guilty to taking some of Strather's cash and using it to make illegal campaign contributions and keeping it as a personal slush fund.

Marshall was forced to resign in 2007 after the Times reported he was a convicted rapist and that he had lied about his military record.

Still, Strather is harsher in his criticism of current tribal council Chairman Cedric Cromwell than he is of Marshall.

"I'm not here to distribute blame, there's plenty to go around. I am disappointed, but I still love the tribe," Strather said. "Glenn Marshall did more good for the tribe than bad. He negotiated a tremendous agreement with me, and I lived up to it. Through Glenn's efforts, the tribe received federal recognition."

Most of Strather's comments about Cromwell can't be printed. "No question, I feel terribly betrayed — not by Wampanoag tribe, but by the council that represented them," he said.

Tucker continues fight against gambling

Tucker continues fight against gambling
Finegold also against gaming bill, Baddour for it
By Jonathan Phelps

ANDOVER — While she no longer has a direct vote on Beacon Hill, former state Sen. Susan Tucker continues to battle against expanded gambling in Massachusetts at the grassroots level.

Tucker, an Andover Democrat, who did not seek re-election to her 2nd Essex and Middlesex district seat in November, has been working with United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts, a non-partisan organization opposed to "predatory gambling" in the state.

"As a former senator, I still have a microphone, and I speak for thousands of people who share the opinion that this is a rip off for Massachusetts," Tucker said in an interview with The Eagle-Tribune. "I couldn't sit on the sidelines on an issue I am passionate about. It's not my style."

State Sen. Barry Finegold, her successor, is also against the expanded gaming, while state Sen. Steven Baddour, supports it.

The Senate is currently debating the bill that would allow three resort-style casinos in different regions of the state and one slot machine license, to be bid on competitively across the state. The House passed its bill earlier this month, while the Senate is expected to continue discussion on its version of the bill on Tuesday.

A similar bill was killed last year when Gov. Deval Patrick sent an amended gambling bill back to legislators when they were already out of session.

Finegold, D-Andover, was among five senators to speak out against casinos Monday arguing the gaming facilities will cannibalize local businesses, encourage addiction, stoke crime, decrease property values and breed corruption.

Finegold said yesterday in a statement that expanded gaming won't have the economic returns as predicted.

"I worry about being a border community," he said. "If Massachusetts sanctions casinos, then it's very likely New Hampshire will do the same. I am fighting to get as much protection for border communities as possible, as we will get all of the pain and none of the gain."

Many of the states with casinos, like Nevada and New Jersey, have the worst budget problems, Tucker argued.

Tucker said the bill will also require the largest expansion of state government in years, with new bureaus and agencies through the state police and attorney general's office that will need to be added to oversee the casinos. Which means hundreds of new employees that the state can't afford, she said.

A gaming commission will be appointed to oversee and regulate gaming activity in the state.

"This is a very expensive bureaucracy this state is building that initially will be a huge drain," Tucker said.

Tucker said provisions in the bill that deal with addiction will be gone in a few years, because the industry is based on addiction. Other regulations will likely change after the casinos open, she said.

"What will happen when New Hampshire puts two casinos on the border with fewer regulations?" Tucker asked. "There will be enormous pressure to overturn any regulations that get in the way of their profit."

Material from the Statehouse News Service was used in this report.

Second suit filed alleging brutality at MGM Grand

Second suit filed alleging brutality at MGM Grand
Robert Snell/ The Detroit News

Detroit— A man sued Detroit police officers in federal court Thursday, claiming he was beaten with a billy club and choked into unconsciousness at the MGM Grand Casino, the second federal case filed in recent days against officers involving a skirmish at the downtown hot spot.

The lawsuit, filed by Detroiter DaJuan Moncrief, alleges officers beat him with a billy club, broke three ribs, choked him until he passed out and falsely accused him of crimes, since dropped, to cover up the alleged beating.

The lawsuit accuses Officers William Brewster and John Appling of excessive force and violating his due-process rights. Moncrief's lawyer, Jonathan Marko, seeks unspecified damages.

Marko subpoenaed the casino surveillance video.

"I saw the video and am shocked," Marko said.

A police spokeswoman declined to comment.

The federal lawsuit comes days after a Livonia man sued two Detroit officers, claiming he was sucker-punched while being escorted out of the MGM Grand Casino, an incident captured on a surveillance camera.

The Moncrief case involves an incident Jan 29 at MGM.

Moncrief, 34, who had rented a room at the casino hotel with his girlfriend, was waiting in the lobby for a cab.

The officers approached them and ordered him to go back to his room, according to the lawsuit.

They told him to go outside and use another entrance. Moncrief wanted to use the lobby because it was cold, but the officers pushed him outside, according to the lawsuit.

Moncrief said he was choked by the police, shoved to the ground and hit with a billyclub.

Also Thursday in a separate case, a jury cleared two officers, an investigator and the city in a civil lawsuit filed in federal court by a prominent Detroit businessman. The businessman, Town Pump Tavern and Centaur martini lounge owner Sean Harrington, alleged unlawful detention, excessive force and subjecting him to filthy jail conditions, according to a judgment filed Thursday.

The jury said Harrington failed to prove his case.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ten Reasons I Voted Against the Massachusetts Casino Bill

Ten Reasons I Voted Against the Massachusetts Casino Bill
BY Denise Provost

A “destination” casino at Suffolk Downs? A slots parlor at Wonderland? Both scenarios are possible under a bill just passed in the Massachusetts House that would authorize casinos in each of three regions of the state, plus a slots parlor at any of its race tracks. Residents of a casino community, but not neighboring communities, would get to vote on whether to approve a casino location. Unless, of course, you live in a big city like Boston, where only voters in the Ward that will host the facility get to vote on it.

What would it mean to have one or more expanded gambling facilities in Greater Boston? What local impacts would there be — on traffic, local aid, crime, gambling addiction? And what other goodies are buried in the 3,400 lines of this bill?

1. This bill creates an expensive new bureaucracy.
The casino bill appropriates $20 million to set up the five new regulatory and law enforcement agencies, and the casino industry historically requires intense scrutiny and constant policing. So why, exactly, do we want to invite it into our state?

2. This bill overpromises the revenue it will bring to the state.
The Patrick administration’s “comprehensive analysis” of casino revenue was published in August 2008 by Spectrum Gaming, an industry player. Its prediction of not quite $600 million in “total government revenue” was padded with an unspecified amount of “indirect revenue” and hasn’t been revised to reflect new economic realities. Have you read any firm casino revenue projections lately?

In looking at revenue projections, remember that not all measure the state’s cut: total amount wagered, adjusted gross revenue (AGR), gross new revenue, and net new revenue are all different things. When there’s too much attention on the bottom line, proponents tend to argue that this bill isn’t about revenue — it’s about jobs.

3. This bill will affect our unemployment rate little, at most — and at a cost.
In a 2005 study at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, economists found higher population growth nationally in counties with casinos. People move where there is employment, affecting local unemployment very little. Nor are casino states necessarily faring well: Nevada has 12.9 percent unemployment, and the Connecticut and Atlantic City casinos are all laying off workers.

Signaling how desperate we are for jobs can bring its own costs. How many times have Massachusetts taxpayers bailed out or subsidized businesses to create or retain jobs? From Fidelity Investments tot Evergreen Solar, Massachusetts has been far too willing to exchange financial concessions for the promise of keeping jobs — and I’m betting that this industry will be no different.

4. This bill offers special deals, not a level playing field.
This bill is loaded with preferences for particular industry players, and other sweet deals — there’s an expedited process for race tracks seeking the slots parlor license; an expedited process for applicants licensed in other states. There’s priority, in the southeast region, for a federally-recognized Indian tribe to negotiate a casino license directly with the governor.

Whichever new gaming facility can open its doors first — and probably second — will have a competitive advantage. So what are we prioritizing? A slots parlor that represents low capital investment, fewer jobs, less revenue, and a tribal casino that won’t be subject to state law — even the new casino bill, except to the extent it agrees to be.

5. Besides the four commercial licenses it creates, this bill will give federally recognized Indian tribes the right to conduct expanded gaming on tribal lands.
Massachusetts already has two federally recognized tribes, plus other potential claimants. They are subject to federal jurisdiction and enjoy the benefit of the federal Indian Regulatory Gaming Act (IGRA). IGRA allows tribes to operate “Class III Gaming” (table games and slots) in states that permit anyone else to do so.

Indian tribes are legally “sovereign” — separate nations, able to make and enforce their own laws. IGRA directs that Indian gaming be conducted under a negotiated “compact,” so states go after the best deal they can get, in a climate of legal entitlement. And, as Time Magazine showed in its 2002 investigative report, profits from this entitlement flow largely to the tribes’ financial backers, not to Indians themselves.

6. This bill subjects all wagering in Massachusetts to uncontrollable competitive forces.
Legal wagering in Massachusetts — the tracks and the lottery — gets competition from online poker, sports betting, and out-of-state casinos. Massachusetts’ move toward expanded gaming has led to a new casino being built in Oxford, Maine, plus talk of expanding gaming in New York, Maine, New Hampshire, and elsewhere. This market oversaturation is another national pattern, leading to struggling casinos looking to renegotiate better deals with host states.

Unleashing Indian gaming rights also creates new competition within the state as tribal operations disadvantage industry players. Last year, Florida lowered the tax rate on racetrack slots from 50 percent to 35 percent while giving the Seminole tribe exclusive rights to blackjack in three counties. Massachusetts will also be asked to make concessions, as tribal and non-tribal operators compete for profits.

7. Casino operator money will distort and dominate Massachusetts politics.
Casino bill proponents point to the limits it places on campaign contributions by casino operators. There is a case pending now that would, on free speech grounds, overturn limitations on campaign donations by casino licensees. Given the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, this appeal looks like a winner.

8. Casinos will be regulated by a politically appointed Commission, with vast discretion.
Three of the five members of the new Massachusetts Gaming Commission will be appointees of the Governor, the State Treasurer, and the Attorney General. Two of these three appointees will appoint the other two members. Commissioners — who will earn $100,000 each and have a complete staff and budget — will have almost standardless discretion to regulate the industry, even compared to other casino states.

9. Expanded gaming does not create economic development, and can devastate small business.
Many national studies, including the University of Massachusetts-based United State Gambling Study in the 1990s, have concluded that expanded gaming does not revitalize struggling local economies. Worse, it can interfere with real economic development. Local retail shops, bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues are particularly liable to suffer from competition with an industry that offers free drinks, and lower-cost food and shows, to get gambling patrons in the door.

10. The casino bill is the product of a deal among the Governor, House leaders, and Senate leaders, that gives little voice to most communities.
The predetermined nature of the deal can be seen in how few of the more than 150 filed amendments were adopted in the House. Though minimal, virtually all these changes were stripped out by Senate Ways and Means, before reporting out the bill. Direct voting for approval of casinos is limited to host communities — not neighboring affected communities — and only to host wards in our big cities.

How great is the appetite in Massachusetts for more autocratic government?

Top Robert DeLeo aide called casinos ‘fool’s gold’

Top Robert DeLeo aide called casinos ‘fool’s gold’
By Hillary Chabot And Chris Cassidy

A top staffer to House Speaker Robert DeLeo once warned that Bay State casino revenue would amount to “fool’s gold” that would cannibalize a successful state Lottery and would be an economic wash in which the commonwealth would “scarcely break even,” in a set of memos being circulated by critics of expanded gaming.

“It’s a great example of how, depending on who the speaker is, employees develop research that supports (the speaker’s) point of view,” said Tom Larkin, president of United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts.

James C. Kennedy — now DeLeo’s general counsel — blasted casino gambling in two memos while working for then-state Rep. Daniel Bosley, a high-ranking casino critic.

In the 21-page memo, which was written in 2004, Kennedy wrote: “In conclusion, the reemergence of the issue of expanded gambling can only be described as an unscrupulous move by the gaming industry toward exploiting our present fiscal vulnerability with the promise of ‘fool’s gold.’ ”

Despite the influx of gambling revenue, “we will, with a bit of luck, scarcely break even,” Kennedy wrote.

Another memo in 2006 claimed casino gambling would cripple the state Lottery in a chapter called “Killing the Goose that Lays the Golden Egg” and goes on to run counter to DeLeo’s assertion that casinos will boost the state economy.

“The reality is that expanded gambling does not lead to economic development and any tax revenue generated by expanded gambling is regressive and unstable,” wrote Kennedy.

A spokesman for DeLeo’s office did not return requests for comment.

“When we look at the turnstile in Massachusetts politics, including the number of rank and file legislators that have flip-flopped on this issue, it’s clear that it’s more than a trend, it is a toxic pattern of behavior on Beacon Hill, and that’s why citizens are disgusted,” said Kathleen Conley Norbut, a member of the anti-expanded gaming group Citizens for a Stronger Massachusetts.

Casino critics have dusted off and recirculated the memos in the weeks leading up to the debate in the state Senate, which wrapped up for a second day yesterday.

“I would just say that I think it’s important for all legislators to take a look at those memos,” said state Sen. Jamie Eldridge. “They’re still relevant today.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Supreme Court Ends Land Claims

Hurrah for New York and the entire US. land claims are dead!!!!! /thanks to CERA.

Supreme Court Order List from Long Conference: No Oneida or Navajo Grants
Here is today’s order list. Next week, the Court will issue the order list of denials.

Presumably, that means United States v. New York, Oneida Indian Nation v. Oneida County, EEOC v. Peabody Western Coal Co., Navajo Nation v. EEOC, and Peabody Western Coal Co. v. EEOC have all been denied, although that won’t be confirmed until later.

Casinos come to Massachusetts

Casinos come to Massachusetts
by Peter Ubertaccio

Casino gambling is in our future and The Massachusetts Great and General Court has handled the issue exactly as expected.

It has been evident for some time that casino gambling is coming to Massachusetts. As has been noted by others, we are a long way removed from both the Puritan heritage that influenced much of our political culture and the era when the Catholic Church and its moral authority influenced our public debates. And we have long since reconciled ourselves to increasing the public treasure on the backs of gamblers by aggressively marketing our state lottery and scratch tickets.

Still, we are told, this is not so much about gambling and casinos, but jobs. If that is true, we are in a heap of trouble. Resort style casinos will certainly boost jobs in the construction trades and then jobs in the tourist and service industry. They will also spur the usual sorts of consequences–crime and corruption–that every state hosting a casino insists in can handle.

But they don’t offer us a glimpse into the real economy of the future. They are throwbacks, quick “fixes” that depend on people throwing their money into the casino machine in order for the state to benefit. The permanent jobs created will be relatively low paying ones for the unskilled. The stuff of the future–entrepreneurship, high-tech, adaptability to a changing global economy–won’t be found among the rows of people hoping to win big but constantly losing to the House.

And speaking of the House, and Senate, well they continue to operate in ways we’ve come to expect. Casino gambling brings with it a lot of money to throw around and when you combine that unlimited cash with power, corruption will ensue. In a state that has its issues with high-profile cases of corruption, you might just think we’d want to be extra careful at how this process unfolds.

But not here! No, principles are put aside so political expediency can reign. Sixty four representatives who voted no last year were flipped by the Speaker. Yesterday, the State Senate Democrats killed an amendment forcing members of the Legislature to wait 5 years before getting a job at a casino they approve. In secret. From today’s Globe:

“We’re creating a presumption that the people in this body cannot operate with integrity,’’ complained Senator Gale Candaras, Democrat from Wilbraham. “It’s bad law. It’s bad precedent.’’

That laughter you here is not the nervous giggle of a state full of Red Sox fans worrying about tonight’s game. Seriously, while it is certainly true that many members of the State House are hardworking and honest, they clearly have among their ranks the occasional target for bribery (paging Speaker DiMasi and Senator Wilkerson).

Still, a new day dawns. I hope that the Legislature might now consider how we create a climate for the jobs of the future building on our strengths now that we’ve helped further a gambling addiction climate while lining the pockets of wealthy developers in a largely no-win deal for the people of the state.

Massachusetts: More Back Room Deals

Amidst scandals and indictments, it's clear: Beacon Hill doesn't get "IT" !

The public perceives lawmakers, leadership and Governor "Slot Barns" as untrustworthy and corrupt.

Excluding the public and the media merely adds to that belief.

Public officals elsewhere have left elected office to work in lucrative positions with the Gambling Industry after supporting Gambling legislation. Why should we expect anything different from Beacon Hill?

Senate kills five-year ban on taking casino jobs
One-year prohibition OK’d for legislators
By Mark Arsenault
Globe Staff /

A state Senate proposal to impose a five-year ban on former lawmakers taking casino jobs triggered an uproar yesterday by Democratic senators who abruptly broke off a heated public debate to rewrite the measure in secret.

An hour later, and with no further discussion, the Senate approved a watered-down, one-year restriction.

Lawmakers’ rationale for weakening the bill may be hard to explain outside the marble corridors of the State House: They said that a strong prohibition would only feed the public’s perception that lawmakers cannot be trusted.

“We’re creating a presumption that the people in this body cannot operate with integrity,’’
complained Senator Gale Candaras, Democrat from Wilbraham. “It’s bad law. It’s bad precedent.’’
[Evidence proves to the contrary!]

But the Legislature has not been without its high-profile problems. The past three House speakers have been indicted; the most recent, Salvatore F. DiMasi, was sentenced this month to eight years in federal prison for political corruption.

The five-year ban was proposed by James Eldridge, an Acton Democrat, who argued in the public portion of the debate yesterday that the bill authorizing three casinos and one slot parlor should only be an economic development program for the state, “It should not be an economic bill for legislators.’’ He said a five-year ban would address any perception or public cynicism that legislators might be motivated by personal interest to support the casino bill.

Members of Senate leadership were already working the floor to urge a no vote on the amendment. But when they met unexpected pushback from legislators, they tried a different course, signaling that they would go along with the ban, even though they didn’t agree with it.

“We will support this amendment,’’ said Senator Stephen Brewer, a Barre Democrat and Ways and Means Committee chair, in angry remarks from the floor, “but I reject and resent its implications.’’ He said “98 percent’’ of all the people he has served with in the Senate have been hard workers who served honorably.

But as the debate continued to simmer and tempers flared, Senate President Therese Murray inexplicably slammed on the brakes and called for a recess, so Democrats could hash out their differences outside of public view.

When the closed caucus emerged, the five-year ban had been shaved to one year, though the change was not publicly announced before the vote. The Senate quickly passed the amendment 36 to 1. Debate on the entire casino bill continues next week.

“Most people don’t pay attention or understand the political process,’’ said Peter Ubertaccio, a Stonehill College political scientist who watched the debate yesterday.
“But what people will understand is when a major political party goes into closed caucus and makes it easier for themselves to get jobs when they leave.’’

Legislators have tremendous power to influence private industry, Ubertaccio said, and the potential exists for them to profit personally from the decisions they make.

“People are going to perceive them as more corrupt because they have only put one year between themselves and jobs with the casino industry,’’ he said.

Senate Republicans, shut out of the private debate among Democrats, delighted in the inter-party dispute on the other side of the aisle.

“Nice to see a little passion here once in a while rather than a bunch of sheep,’’ said Senator Robert Hedlund, a Weymouth Republican, in comments to reporters. He said he favored the more severe five-year ban. “I sat next to Wilkerson for a while. I sat next to Marzilli.’’

He was referring to Dianne Wilkerson and James Marzilli who, along with Anthony Galluccio, left the Senate in disgrace amid a flurry of legal problems.

Republicans are outnumbered 36 to 4 in the Massachusetts Senate.

Brewer told reporters that a one-year ban is “the industry standard.’’ Five years, he said, was “an arbitrary number.’’ A casino bill passed by the House does not contain similar language; a conference committee would eventually have to reconcile the two bills.

After the vote, Murray defended her decision to usher her members into closed session to work out their differences. She said the same arguments the public heard on the floor were the arguments repeated in the private discussion.

Then why, she was asked, shouldn’t the public see that debate?

“I think they had a very hearty debate on the floor,’’ she said.

Following the vote, casino opponents were mum on what happened in the caucus. Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, a Boston Democrat and casino critic, said that she and several other senators made themselves available for interviews to account for their votes. “I think it’s a stretch to say this was done in secret,’’ she said.

Eldridge, the senator who started the whole debate, called the one-year ban progress.

He declined to say how his colleagues persuaded him to give up on the tougher language. “That’s part of the caucus process that is private,’’ he said.

Noah Bierman of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Adrienne Carrington embezzled $560,000 from ADA

City Woman Embezzled $560,000 From American Diabetes Association
Adrienne Carrington, 56, of Fredericksburg, could spend 20 years in prison for the crime.

Carrington used an ATM, check or debt card to withdraw the embezzled money and she used it to buy clothes, food at restaurants and at casinos.

PRESS RELEASE: Former American Diabetes Financial Analyst, Adrienne Carrington Pleads Guilty to Embezzling Nearly $570,000
Posted by FREDERICA CADE U.S. Attorney’s Office

Eastern District of Virginia
(703) 299-3700

Former American Diabetes Financial Analyst Pleads Guilty to Embezzling Nearly $570,000

ALEXANDRIA, VA—Adrienne Carrington, 56, of Fredericksburg, Va., pleaded guilty today to embezzling nearly $570,000 from the American Diabetes Association.

Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge (ADIC) of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by United States District Judge Claude Hilton.

“Adrienne Carrington abused her position of trust to rip off half-a-million dollars from the American Diabetes Association in an extremely callous crime,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “Instead of helping the 25 million Americans affected by this serious disease, she stole the organization’s money and spent it gambling, buying fancy clothes, and dining out.”

“Carrington’s nine-year scheme victimized the American Diabetes Association while fueling her spending habits,” said ADIC McJunkin. “Employers and consumers alike should be on the lookout for fraud and report suspicious activity to the FBI.”

Carrington pled guilty to one count of wire fraud and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 when she is sentenced on Jan. 20, 2012.

According to court documents, Carrington was employed as a senior financial analyst then treasury manager for the American Diabetes Association. From August 2001 through September 2010, Carrington used her access to an American Diabetes Association bank account and accounting documents to initiate unauthorized wire transfers to an account she controlled. During the nine-year scheme, Carrington initiated 133 separate unauthorized wire transfers and embezzled a total of $569,827.48. To conceal her embezzlement, Carrington altered internal accounting documents so that the unauthorized transfers appeared to be legitimate expenses for the American Diabetes Association, such as postage charges for publications or altering previously approved purchase request forms. Carrington withdrew the money she embezzled by ATM, debit card, and checks. Carrington spent the fraudulently obtained funds at clothing stores, restaurants, and casinos.

This investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office. Assistant United States Attorney Uzo Asonye is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

A cautionary tale of casino profits trailed by corruption

From Pennsylvania, a cautionary tale of casino profits trailed by corruption
By Noah Bierman

PHILADELPHIA - Few states have a more compelling story to tell about how casino gambling is helping to balance the government’s books than Pennsylvania. Just five years after its first slot parlor opened, Pennsylvania now has 10 full-scale casinos, paying an annual $1.3 billion in taxes. That’s more revenue than New Jersey, Nevada, or any other state in the country.

Yet Pennsylvania’s story is also about how badly things can go wrong within the halls of government when billions of dollars are at stake. The financial success of Pennsylvania’s casinos was built on the ambitious scope of the effort and the rich profitability of the industry, but also on a foundation of cronyism, patronage, and back-room deals, not to mention overlooked criminal histories and alleged mob ties, according to a grand jury report released earlier this year.

The report concluded that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board - which was created to protect taxpayers’ interests - had instead looked after the industry, that it had taken “the public policy objectives and essentially turned them on their head.’’

“It’s that kind of scandalous beginning that launched this experiment with casinos in Pennsylvania,’’ said state Representative Curt Schroder, a Republican who chairs the House Gaming Oversight Committee. “If you weren’t on the inside, you didn’t stand a chance.’’

As Massachusetts lawmakers prepare to embrace the riches that gambling venues can bring, the Pennsylvania experience could serve as a cautionary tale, a reminder of the vigilance necessary to protect the integrity of the casino development process. It’s a lesson that resonates in a state with its own rich history of patronage and public corruption, where just in recent weeks two former state officials were indicted and the former house speaker was sentenced to prison on corruption charges.

“The notion that somehow Massachusetts is going to do it differently is naive, and it’s not based in reality,’’ said Les Bernal, executive director of the Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation, which opposes the state’s casino legislation. Bernal points out that many of the casino operators in Pennsylvania have shown active interest in opening casinos in Massachusetts.

But lawmakers who crafted the Massachusetts bill say that they are cognizant of what happened in Pennsylvania and have taken steps to guard against the inevitable temptations that come when the government creates and begins regulating a multibillion dollar industry overnight.

In 2004, Pennsylvania’s Legislature - then led by Republicans - approved casinos, helping the Democratic governor, Ed Rendell, fulfill his top campaign promise: property tax relief through casino windfalls.

But powerful legislators were eyeing their own interests as well, through their role in creating the gambling commission - a panel given tremendous power to determine which developers would have access to the state’s lucrative market.

Legislative leaders appointed four of the commission’s seven members and - through language written into the initial legislation - each of those members was given a veto over the awarding of each of the state’s casino licenses.

Even before the casino bill passed, the senate minority leader had recruited his appointee to the commission, William Conaboy, who had close ties with a casino developer. According to Conaboy’s testimony, Senator Bob Mellow instructed him to approve a casino in his district.

“He said he was only going to say it one time,’’ Conaboy testified.

Critics said such deals were commonplace, that top lawmakers were working with the industry behind the scenes to make sure the favored players were taken care of. “There was no doubt that the casinos were working with our legislators to cut the pie in sections,’’ said Representative Paul Clymer, a Republican who led the opposition to casinos.

The board’s design, and its mission, set the stage for many of its problems. The veto power given to the legislative appointees encouraged horse-trading, because members knew if they killed a project supported by a colleague that their own favored project could be next.

Added to that was the political pressure to swiftly open slot parlors and begin collecting fees and taxes, which the grand jury said led to extensive corner-cutting.

“To recite all the examples of shortcomings in the process would require a report of unmanageable complexity,’’ the authors said in their 102-page report.

Once the board was formed, commissioners and lawmakers began seeking jobs within the new regulatory agency for friends and political supporters, without regard to qualifications or rigorous background checks. Five such patronage hires were subsequently charged with or investigated for crimes, including a press aide accused of tossing his girlfriend from the 23d story of an apartment building.

The board’s investigators were often hindered by commissioners and staff members beholden to politicians. When they raised questions about the financial backgrounds, mob ties, and ethical issues surrounding some casino developers, they were either stopped from pursuing them or their reports were scrubbed of key details.

“No applicant was ever deemed unsuitable, despite its clear existence in some cases,’’ the grand jury wrote.

For example, investigators found 15 people associated with the developer of Presque Isle Downs in Erie had questionable character, including gambling-related convictions, employment by known organized crime figures, embezzling, unfiled taxes, and even convictions for murder and other felonies. The full board never received a formal briefing and many of the questionable associates were simply carved out of the application.

Agents told the grand jury that they were not allowed to follow up on some tips about the developer of a second gambling facility, Mount Airy. But the developer, Louis DeNaples, who had close professional ties to Conaboy, was so sure he would get a license that he began building a casino before it was granted. Supervisors forced investigators to remove four pages of their report that detailed his alleged connections to organized crime, according to testimony. Though he was the only developer applying for a casino who had a prior criminal conviction, he easily won a license.

Massachusetts lawmakers say they have learned from other states, including Pennsylvania, and inoculated themselves against such problems by creating an independent commission, subject to the open meeting law, whose budget is not approved by legislators and whose members are appointed by the governor, the attorney general, and the treasurer. The state police will investigate everyone associated with any aspect of the gambling board or the industry, even outside vendors, renewing employee background checks yearly.

“The good news is we’re state number 37, not number one,’’ said Senator Stanley Rosenberg, an Amherst Democrat who helped write the state’s bill. “That means we get to pick the best practices all across the country.’’

A spokesman for the Pennsylvania board, Doug Harbach, said he and the board’s members would not comment on specifics of the report. But he said the board takes the report “very seriously’’ and had already begun implementing many of the grand jury’s recommendations.

Rendell, whose term ended in January, remains a strong advocate, saying casinos have had “virtually none of the downsides that people’’ predicted. He said the grand jury report was “overblown, if you look at the number of venues we had and the number of people who had ties to organized crime.’’

To Rendell and other boosters, the casinos have been an unmitigated success, employing 15,000 people, including 6,000 who came on last year when the state added black jack, roulette, and other table games.

But critics say the social and public safety costs outweigh the tax benefits. One casino, for example, had a rash of incidents in which parents left their children in cars so they could go in and play the slots.

Harbach said the state’s timing was lucky, because the first casino opened in 2006, before the economic meltdown. That luck did not extend to all the state’s casinos, however. The site of one of two casinos planned for Philadelphia’s waterfront remains a vacant thicket of weeds growing behind barbed wire. The developer, Foxwoods, faced intense neighborhood opposition and then missed several financing deadlines. The gaming commission finally revoked its license last year, and the matter is now in court.

In an industrial section of Philadelphia’s waterfront, across from a meat-packing plant and beside a set of new high-rise condominiums, a casino called SugarHouse is the newest of the state’s 10 casinos.

It celebrated its one-year anniversary last week with $5 cocktails, a chance to win a Mercedes, and live music yesterday from The Hooters, a pop act known for the 1980s hit “And We Danced.’’

Free “Sugar Express’’ trolley buses, painted with the slogan “Philly loves a winner,’’ roll all over town to pick up customers, competing against double-decker buses that charge to see the city’s historic sites.

Inside the casino, it feels like nighttime, even on a weekday afternoon. Amid the electronic blinging and clanging noises and heavy cigarette smoke, some players cheer at the craps table, while less animated patrons insert coins into a Wizard of Oz themed slot machine.

Work crews are reconfiguring the floor, to add more table games that have soared in popularity.

“It’s all right,’’ said Dave Melan, a 44-year-old carpenter who says he plays slots and craps once a week or so. “In the beginning, they’re all the same. They pay out pretty good.’’

But Melan is down $50 and his girlfriend, Debbie Ryan, said she’s done even worse.

“I don’t have any money left over,’’ Ryan said.

It’s time to go home.

Staff writer Casey Ross contributed to this article.

Casinos bring problems with them

Guest Essay: Casinos bring problems with them
By Jack Patterson

Legalizing casino gambling in New York isn't necessarily a terrible idea, but it is such a sufficiently bad idea that we should know the facts before we passively embrace this economic panacea.

Yes, New York is in trouble after almost 50 years of binge spending and bad economic policy. The solution to the state's debt problem is not casino gambling, however. Vice is not a solution for curing vice, and make no mistake, gambling is indeed a vice.

Casinos more often than not lead to economic loss in the communities in which they set up shop. Gambling in itself is an activity that does not add to the economy. Not one penny. It produces nothing of value. It is pure "entertainment," and any profit it may generate is through the service support industries, such as hotels, air travel and restaurants.

Any employment as a result of either the casinos themselves or the service support industry is typically low-wage, part-time or seasonal work. There is evidence that casinos actually damage local economies, in that they syphon workers from local markets making it difficult for locally owned businesses to find employees. If you believe that the local Walmart kills mom-and-pop shops, wait until a casino moves in. At least Walmart provides goods and services.

It is a fact that casinos attract criminality. One prominent study, (Grinols,, 2000,) found that 8 to 10 percent of crime in casino counties could be directly attributed to the presence of casino gambling in the county. All FBI level I crimes, (aggravated assault, rape,robbery, murder, larceny, burglary, and auto theft,) are escalated in communities in which gambling is legalized.

Casinos also attract prostitution, organized crime, money laundering and drugs. Generating work for law enforcement is never a good idea, but there are other problems.

The social costs of casino gambling are suffered by problem gamblers, and according to a report by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, the presence of a casino within 50 miles doubled the prevalence of problem gambling. Sixty-two percent of gamblers in treatment admit to committing illegal acts as a result of their gambling. About 21 to 36 percent of problem gamblers reported losing a job due to gambling. Other effects include bankruptcy and even suicide.

Add together the social services costs (treatment and therapy, unemployment, welfare and food stamps), local, state and federal government regulatory costs, the cost of increased expenses to local law enforcement, family burdens and illness, all as a result of gambling, and we begin to see that any positive cash flow generated to the state as a result of gambling is quickly drained away.

We have not yet considered the link between alcohol abuse and casino entertainment, and what a toll that has on local life.

If you have any doubt, the next time you visit Atlantic City, make a stop in the local supermarket, if you can find one. Take a ride downtown. It's not pretty. Some may argue that Las Vegas is the model New York would shoot for, not Atlantic City. The difference between AC and Vegas is that people lived in Atlantic City prior to the casinos. There was an infrastructure upon which a casino's presence had an effect. Las Vegas was a purely ex-nihilo economic construction project. And it still has problems. Thank goodness what happens in Vegas stays there, limited only by the Nevada desert.

Jack Patterson is an adjunct instructor of ethics at SUNY Adirondack.

Gambling vs. gaming: A guide to casino double talk

Gambling vs. gaming: A guide to casino double talk
By John Sowinski Guest columnist

You can almost set your clock by it.

Whenever we are in a down economy, the hucksters for casino gambling come out with a new plan to expand legalized gambling in Florida. This time they're calling it "destination casinos" and they want our legislators to pass a bill that would legalize full-scale casino gambling in Florida.

As usual, they promise that it will be "limited," in this case to certain areas of the state (for the time being).

There will be a lot of talk about this issue in the coming legislative session, so to help the casual observer of the politics of gambling, here are a few things that you need to know that will provide context to what you will be reading and hearing.

First, when casino interests say "gaming", they really mean "gambling." Gaming is what our kids do with Madden NFL 12 on their Wii or Xbox. Gambling is when you wager money.

No doubt the gambling industry did some focus groups and decided to cleverly rebrand what their business is all about. For the sake of intellectual honesty, let's call it what it is. It's gambling, and the "destination casino" bill is an effort to legalize gambling.

Second, when they say it will create jobs and tax revenue, what they aren't telling you is that most of these jobs and taxes are at the expense of jobs and tax revenues that already exist in our economy.

That's because gambling is a predatory industry, and in already developed business environments, it primarily cannibalizes economic activity from existing businesses.

That's why 40 percent of Atlantic City's restaurants closed and one-third of their retail establishments went out of business when casinos opened there. In the middle of a barren desert casinos might create commerce. But in the middle of a well-developed economy, it just creates problems.

Third, you'll never hear gambling interests talk about the social costs of more crime, more compulsive gamblers, more broken families, and more problems with teen gambling (except to shamelessly downplay them). Kids are subject to more advertising than any of us.

And you'll never see gambling interests admit that pervasive advertising for legalized casino gambling increases illegal gambling activity — often by teens — which in turn leads to higher levels of lifelongcompulsive gambling.

But these factors are all inevitable consequences of expanding legalized gambling. You'll also never hear them talk about who has to pay for all these problems. That's because we, the taxpayers, are forced to bear this burden.

Fourth, they won't talk about the corruption of public officials that is too often associated with expanding gambling, and even efforts to expand gambling.

We don't have to look too far to find examples.

The last major effort to legalize casino gambling statewide resulted in Bo Johnson, then speaker of the Florida House, being paid $250,000 from casino legalization supporters. He later went to federal prison for failing to report that and other income. There are numerous other examples around the country. More gambling equals more public corruption.

And fifth, casino interests say new gambling will be "strictly limited." Our legislators should ask them this: If it is such a great thing, why not have it everywhere?

The reality is this: from the broken promise of the lottery until today — every time gambling has been expanded in Florida, that expansion has snowballed into exponentially more gambling than was originally promised. In the history of gambling policy in Florida, there is absolutely no exception to this statement.

Gambling is a cancer on our society. It continues to spread, unless somebody draws the line and says "no more." It is time to draw the line, and stop the expansion of gambling in Florida.

John Sowinski of Orlando is the president of No Casinos. He ran the campaign to defeat a casino gambling initiative in 1994.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

More amendments added to casino bill

More amendments added to casino bill
The MetroWest Daily News

BOSTON — Three state senators from MetroWest have filed a pile of amendments to a bill that would allow three casinos and a slots parlor in the state, with the legislation expected on the Senate floor Monday.

Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, and Sen. James Eldridge, D-Acton, filed amendments that would increase how much say nearby cities and towns would have in planned casinos.

Sen. Susan Fargo, D-Lincoln, filed two amendments that would require casinos to hire Massachusetts residents exclusively.

"It's critical that residents across the state understand this casino bill," Spilka said yesterday. "I feel that there are some protections in the bill, but I would like to strengthen those safeholds."

Spilka filed 11 amendments that would increase community participation by including the host city or town, surrounding communities and "substantially impacted" communities, such as those with a major route running through them to a casino site.

Spilka's amendments would give such towns and cities a voice in a community mitigation commission, which would work directly with a gaming commission to determine community support or opposition to a planned casino.

The amendments would also give an automatic voice to cities and towns within a three-mile radius of a casino, while Eldridge's amendment increases that radius to five miles.

"That speaks to the fact that there are significant costs when a casino comes to a region - increased traffic," he said. "We want people to have an increased say in whether or not a casino comes to that region."

Eldridge also filed an amendment that would prohibit legislators from working for a casino within five years of leaving office.

"I think it's very important that when you are bringing an industry like casinos to a state, that it's being done for the right reasons," he said. "I wouldn't want the casino industry to be a reason for legislators to leave office and then get jobs there."

Another Eldridge amendment would require casinos to provide health insurance to their employees. Under Massachusetts law, any business that does not provide health insurance faces a $285 fine per employee. Eldridge is concerned that casinos would accept the fine and not provide insurance.

Fargo was more concerned with who the casinos would hire.

"Casino employees in other states are being laid off, and if they hear about job opportunities here in Massachusetts, they'll come here and try to get those jobs," she said. "The whole point of the casinos, according to its proponents, is to create jobs. We'd like to see those jobs reserved for Massachusetts residents."

Alaska Addict embezzles to gamble in Washington state, Las Vegas and New Orleans

The indictment alleges [Maggie Ahmaogak] spent the money to gamble in Washington state, Las Vegas and New Orleans.

Former whaling commission director indicted for embezzlement, accused of gambling
MARK THIESSEN Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The former longtime executive director of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury and accused of stealing about $475,000 from the organization.

The indictment was returned against Maggie Ahmaogak, 61, the second former whaling commission director to face federal charges.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Aunnie Steward said Ahmaogak was not in custody and a summons will be issued for her arrest.

The U.S. attorney's office listed her home in Barrow, but she has a phone listing in Anchorage. A man who answered the phone at the number confirmed it was for the former director but said she wasn't home. She didn't immediately return a message left by The Associated Press.

The commission was formed in 1976 to protect Eskimo culture and activities associated with subsistence bowhead whale hunting, according to a release from the U.S. attorney's office announcing the indictment.

The commission's current director, Johnny Aiken, told the AP by telephone from his Barrow office that the organization was aware an investigation was under way but didn't know that Ahmaogak had been indicted. He declined further comment.

Steward said it was the commission that first notified her office by letter that there were concerns funds might have been misused.

That letter came after another former whaling commission director, Teresa Judkins, was fired in 2008. Federal authorities last summer charged her with stealing more than $100,000 from the organization in a two-year span ending with her termination. She has pleaded not guilty and faces a jury trial beginning March 5 in Anchorage.

Authorities allege Ahmaogak stole $475,000 from 2004 until 2007, when she was fired. She is charged with wire fraud, theft, misapplication of funds from an organization receiving federal grant funds, and money laundering, according to the release. If convicted she could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.

Authorities allege Ahmaogak wrote checks to herself from the organization's account, never repaid paycheck advances, transferred commission account money into her own account, and used the commission's credit card for personal use, according to the release.

The indictment alleges she spent the money to gamble in Washington state, Las Vegas and New Orleans. Authorities also allege she bought three snowmobiles and put a down payment on an SUV.

In the separate case, authorities allege Judkins also used commission funds to buy a snowmachine, never paid back payroll advances and used funds to pay for travel.

The whaling commission receives a majority of its funds from federal grants, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration being the biggest benefactor. From 2004 to 2007, the time Ahmaogak is accused of embezzling funds, federal authorities say the whaling commission received $2.3 million from NOAA, a division of the Department of Commerce.

"Certainly it is a cause of concern, but we can't comment on it for legal reasons," NOAA spokeswoman Julie Speegle said.

The Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, the FBI and the Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General investigated the case.

Taj Mahal: Deadly Carjacking

2nd man surrenders in deadly NJ casino carjacking
WAYNE PARRY, Associated Press

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — A second of three suspects in a deadly carjacking from an Atlantic City casino parking garage surrendered to police Thursday, and authorities called on the lone suspect at large to do likewise.

Eric Darden, 20, of Camden surrendered at the Haddon Heights Police Department with a lawyer at around 3 p.m., Atlantic County prosecutor Theodore Housel said. Another suspect, 20-year-old Phillip Byrd, was arrested Tuesday at his Camden home.

The two men, along with 18-year-old Raheem Simmons of Camden, are charged with murder, carjacking and other offenses in Sunday's fatal shooting of 28-year-old Sunil Rattu of Old Bridge. His companion, 24-year-old Radha Ghetia of Sayreville, also was shot but is recovering from her wounds.

Simmons is still being sought by police. Housel addressed him directly during the brief press conference, held in a Taj Mahal conference room.

"I think Mr. Darden did the right thing by surrendering himself," the prosecutor said. "Mr. Simmons, I suggest maybe this is the time to surrender yourself if you want anyone to hear your version of what took place."

Authorities said the three men cased two other casinos — Bally's Atlantic City and ACH, the casino formerly known as the Atlantic City Hilton — early Sunday before settling on the Taj Mahal. At around 8 a.m., authorities say, they accosted the couple as they walked to their car after a night at the casino, robbed them of a small amount of cash at gunpoint and forced them into their vehicle.

The men forced the victims to drive to a nearby alleyway where both were shot: Rattu twice in the head, killing him, and Ghetia in the upper body, Housel said. She's recovering from her injuries, he said.

Darden will make an initial appearance in state Superior Court on Friday, the prosecutor said.

The fatal carjacking was the second in a little more than a year that began in the Taj Mahal parking garage. In May 2010, Martin Caballero of North Bergen was carjacked after dropping off his family at the main entrance and trying to park his vehicle. He was taken from the garage and stabbed to death.

Two suspects are awaiting trial in that killing.

Police seek suspect in Ken's Korner casino robbery

Police seek suspect in Ken's Korner casino robbery [video]

Robbery reported at Paradise Casino

Argus 911: Robbery reported this morning at Paradise Casino

A casino robbery this morning brings the city's total to 37 this year.

Police responded at 10:15 a.m. today to a report of a robbery at the Paradise Casino, 5109 W. 12th St.

The suspect was described as a white male in his 20s, 6-foot, 180 pounds, and wearing and hat and wig.

He gave the clerk a note informing her he was robbing the casino, according to a police report written by Sgt. Aaron Nyberg. After taking the money, the suspect left the casino on foot out the back door. The investigation is ongoing.

SD casino robbery suspect could face life

SD casino robbery suspect could face life

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A Nebraska man accused of traveling to South Dakota to rob Sioux Falls casinos at least four times this past summer could face life in prison if convicted.

The Argus Leader reports ( ) that Minnehaha County prosecutors have filed a motion to charge 49-year-old Terrance Davenport of Omaha as a habitual criminal, enhancing his possible punishment if he is found guilty. Davenport faces four counts of a first-degree robbery charge that normally carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.

Davenport is accused of using a handgun in the robberies, and using zip ties to bind the hands of clerks in some cases. He was on parole for 2004 robberies at Sioux Falls jewelry stores when the casino robberies took place. Prosecutors say he has an extensive criminal background.

Casino Values, Tax Revenues Plunge

Casino Values, Tax Revenues Plunge

St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman calls a decision by the County Board of Equalization to lower property value assessments outragous.

The assessments were lowered by a total of more than $300 million for Harrah's and River City Casinos.

The end result means the taxing districts for those casinos will not receive more than $10 million in what was expected tax revenue.

"This body of three lay people is not equipped to in a 15-minute hearing, to make a decision about the value of a multi-million dollar piece of commercial property," said Zimmerman.

"We came up with what we believe to be the fair market assessment of what the casinos were," said attorney Leslie Broadnax, chairperson for the board.

The Lemay Fire Protection district and Hancock school district say property owners in their communities should expect to make up the shortfall.

"The board wouldn't do that for your mom, they wouldn't do it for my mom, and they shouldn't be doing it for casinos either," said Jake Zimmerman, St. Louis County Assessor.

The Chair of the Board of Equalization stands by the decision saying the casinos made their case, "We only make our decisions based on what we're charged with by state statute and that is to provide what we believe is the fair market value of a property is."

She says the County has established new ways for dividing what is considered personal property and what is considered part of the real estate assessment.

She says those changes contributed to the new figures.

The Superintendent of the Hancock district was especially disappointed in the board's decision. He said he never knew the casino was appealing the decision. He questions whether the current process works.

"That's at least important for us to have a voice and a feel like our voice has been left out," said Dr. Kevin Carl, superintendent of schools.

Union Pay Cuts in Atlantic City

AC casino union willing to take 50-cent cut

Casino service workers in Atlantic City are offering financial concessions in order to help the nation's second-largest gambling market survive. But the proposed givebacks are far below what the casinos say they need to stay afloat.

In contract talks that resumed this week, Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union reluctantly offered to cut overall compensation for some 14,000 housekeepers, food and beverage servers and luggage handlers by 50 cents an hour. The cuts would not be made to base salary or benefits, but involve items like giving up a paid holiday for an employee's birthday, delaying pension eligibility for 90 days and other items.

But they fall far short of the $3 hourly pay cuts the industry is seeking, and both sides remain far apart. Contracts for 10 of Atlantic City's 11 casinos expired on Sept. 15. The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa's deal has one more year left.

The union workers average $12 an hour.

"This union has never put a concessionary proposal on the table -- they should acknowledge that," said Bob McDevitt, Local 54's president. "The workers in this union will only take the insult from this industry for so long. If the casinos believe the workers are weak, they do it at their own peril."

The union is in talks this week with Trump Entertainment Resorts, which owns two casinos here, and Caesars Entertainment, which owns four. The Trump proposal would cut worker pay by $2,000 in the first year, $3,000 in the second year, and $6,000 in the third year, McDevitt said.

"That's $11,000 that management would be rifling through the pockets of their employees and taking out," McDevitt said.

Bob Griffin, CEO of Trump Entertainment Resorts, said the casinos' request for wage cuts averaging $3 an hour is essential to the survival of the casino industry in New Jersey. Atlantic City casinos are in the midst of a 4 1/2-year revenue slump that has lopped $1.5 billion worth of revenue and thousands of jobs from the city.

Under the terms of the just-expired contract, which both sides are still honoring while talks continue, the casinos would have to pay $1.70 more an hour toward the union's pension fund and health insurance.

"We are in a position where we need a concessionary contract because we can't pay that type of wages and benefits and still survive," he said. "There's no way we can pick up $1.70 per hour per employee. We just don't have the money."

The casinos want union workers to contribute for the first time to their health care and pension benefits.

"What we are asking the union to do is just what all the other employees have had to do," Griffin said. "We've frozen salaries, instituted pay cuts for our salaried workers, and suspended our 401(k) years ago. Everybody's been sacrificing."

But the union notes it has sacrificed pay raises in order to preserve health insurance and retirement benefits, which it considers crucial to maintaining the kind of good middle-class living that New Jersey promised casino workers when gambling began here in 1978. Union members' pay has increased by only 55 cents an hour over the last seven years, largely because the union insisted on protecting health and retirement benefits.

Both sides say they want to reach a new contract and avert a repeat of the 2004 casino strike, which lasted 34 days. That work stoppage took place when Atlantic City was still doing well, with revenues nearing what would be their all-time high of over $5 billion a year before casinos started popping up in Pennsylvania.

The union and the casinos say they realize how much more a strike this year would damage an already fragile resort.

"We all realize the industry is in a precarious position and that a strike would hurt not just the industry but the entire community," McDevitt said. "But they need to be like the Borgata and improve their product to compete with new competitors and not try to get profits by destroying their workers."

Griffin said the talks, while difficult, have not been confrontational, and he credited McDevitt with keeping the tone professional.

"I expect we'll get a contract worked out, but because the situation is so tough, it's taking much longer to do it than it normally would," he said.

Students alerted for warning signs of addiction

Students urged to be on alert for warning signs of gambling issues

Sarit Mukhopadhyay doesn't gamble, but he said he's surprised at how broad the issue is defined.

"I don't think a lot of people notice that they gamble," said the first-year engineering student as he attended the kts2 display Thursday at the University of New Brunswick.

He said activities such as playing poker online or participating in betting pools are defined as gambling, but he thinks these activities are easy to overlook.

"While I don't think gambling is a big problem at this age, maybe they get into it now and then it develops into a real problem later on," he said.

"If you gamble once or twice, you might not notice or think you have a gambling problem, but then after a while it could develop into a problem."

Representatives from the not-for-profit organization kts2 are talking to students about the myths and realities of gambling as part of the group's 2011-12 campus tour.

Developed by Canada's Responsible Gambling Council, the group will visit 40 campuses across Canada this year and focus on four key messages: the chances of winning and losing; the signs of problem gambling; where to go for help; and how to gamble safely.

The Responsible Gambling Council said 1.3 per cent of New Brunswick's adult population falls into the category of problem gamblers, with the majority saying they started gambling before they turned 19.

Sarah Rothman, UNB's student development co-ordinator, said even though she doesn't see gambling addiction as a problem on campus, the statistics make it important to get as much information as possible out to students.

"We don't have any indication that problem gambling is a real issue on our campus, but we do recognize that this is the age group at which people who develop gambling problems later on tend to start," she said.

"That said, we still have a responsibility to educate our students."

Rothman said she thinks it's important to educate people at a young age about gambling so it will be easier for them to know when they've crossed the line into addictive behaviour.

"I certainly know a number of people, whether they're students or in my own age group, who do participate in betting pools sometimes, basketball pools, buying lottery tickets, you know, poker on Saturday night with a group of friends. Not necessarily in a problematic way, but certainly participating in gambling in some way or another," she said.

"So we want them (students) to know where the line is between a fun, recreational activity and when it becomes an issue."

Danielle Ayee, a kts2 representative who spent Thursday morning handing out surveys to students in Head Hall, said there's no indication in the research to suggest why most people who gamble for money start before they turn 19, but she thinks it has a lot to do with the nature of the age group.

"This age group is made up of greater risk-takers," she said.

"They're away from home for the first time, they're experimenting with different things, (so) gambling just may be one of those things."

Based on the two days she spent at UNB, Ayee said, she thinks students here have a good handle on the signs of gambling problems.

"We don't find that the majority doesn't know about gambling and the signs," she said.

"There were a few exceptions that needed a little more information on how to make their own informed decisions, so we provided signs related to students such as skipping class or work to gamble, borrowing money to gamble or lying about money or time spent gambling.

"But most people do know about the signs."

Former Oregon bank manager sentenced to 6 years

Former Oregon bank manager sentenced to 6 years

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — A former Coos Bay bank employee has been sentenced to nearly six years in prison for stealing more than $600,000 from customers, most of them ill, disabled or elderly.

A lawyer for Shawna Leimomi Saia, 38, said she was driven in part by a gambling addiction, the Eugene Register-Guard reported ( ).

Saia also must make restitution and explain her gambling addiction to Oregon's government leaders. U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken said she requires such letters to remind state leaders that "if we're going to have the availability of gambling, there needs to be a reciprocal fund that takes care of people who are addicted to gambling."

The restitution of $626,553 goes to Wells Fargo Bank, which paid that sum to the victims of the former assistant manager

Court records show that Saia used the identities of victims to create ATM cards, which she used to steal from their accounts. She also befriended and socialized with her scammed customers.

When Saia pleaded guilty in May to bank fraud, she acknowledged that several of her victims were vulnerable because of their age or medical condition or because they relied on her as a "personal banker." She also admitted that she fled to avoid prosecution — posing in California shelters as a victim of domestic violence, the U.S. attorney's office said.

"You were masterful at what you did ... and how you concealed it," Aiken told Saia at a sentencing hearing Wednesday. For that reason, Aiken said, bank officials "didn't pick up on this sooner, before so much damage had been done."

Aiken said the letters should go to Gov. John Kitzhaber, the head of the state Lottery Commission and Oregon's congressional delegation, explaining when and why Saia started gambling, how it got out of control, how much she lost, who she hurt and what she thinks she needs for treatment.

Nevada: Clerk who stole $202K in Washoe ordered to prison

Clerk who stole $202K in Washoe ordered to prison
Written by

Saying the court clerk who stole $202,000 in court funds to pay for her gambling addiction violated the public trust and damaged the court’s reputation, a judge on Thursday sentenced her to five years in prison.

Teresa Prince will be eligible for parole after serving one year under the sentence ordered by District Court Judge Michael Gibbons of Minden. Gibbons oversaw the case because Prince stole from the Washoe District Court, which impacted its judges.

Washoe County Chief District Attorney Dan Greco urged the judge to sentenc her to three concurrent terms of four to 10 years, but Gibbons opted for three concurrent five-year terms for each of the three felony grand theft counts.

Before the sentencing, Washoe District Chief Judge Connie Steinheimer testified that Prince’s theft of court funds “had a tremendous impact on the court” and on the “Washoe County citizens that entrusted her to keep the money safe.”

Prince’s lawyer, John Arrascada said he was disappointed that the judge declined to send her to a diversion program, saying he thought he had presented a solid argument for sentencing her to probation instead of sending her to prison.

Prior to sentencing, Prince apologized to her family, which filled half the courtroom, and said she was sorry to the judges and court personnel, “for the trust that was broken and the embarrassment my actions have caused the court.”

“I ruined my reputation and now I have to start over,” Prince told the judge. “My primary focus is to maintain my recovery and to pay back the money I stole.”

Prince was a supervisory clerk when she used old or closed case numbers to make checks out to her husband from a trust account that covered court-ordered payments.
The thefts involved 44 checks dating back to 2009 until the thefts were discovered in February.

Prince disclosed that she had a gambling addiction and used the stolen money to pay for her gambling habits. She went into treatment after the crime was discovered.
Two mental health experts testified that Prince is a gambling addict and that she has successfully addressed her problems.

Joe Mcellistrem, a clinical psychologist who has worked extensively on issues of addiction said Prince’s gambling addiction was similar to addictions to drugs or alcohol.
“She has been in treatment for over six months and has not relapsed,” he told the judge. If a diversion program was granted for Prince, “I think she would be successful,” he said.
In arguing for diversion and probation, Arrascada also said that Prince’s husband is disabled and she needs to be around to help him.

And Reno lawyer Marylou Wilson testified that Prince has been working in Wilson’s law office as a clerk and has done research and writing. Wilson said Prince has been remorseful and has vowed to repay the money she stole.

Judge Gibbons said it was important that Prince repay the funds and said that he was sure that she would still have a job with Wilson regardless of when she was released from prison.

The sentence is designed to have a deterrent effect, he said.

“This type of behavior can’t be tolerated,” he said. “The public does have a trust, and there has to be a high standard to show there is confidence that the system will work.”

Horse Racing Addict Embezzles $4 Million

Townsville lawyer Alex Baxter had a gambling addiction to horse racing, former partners say
Roanne Johnson
From: Townsville Bulletin

TOWNSVILLE solicitor Alex Baxter, under investigation for allegedly embezzling up to $4 million from clients, had a gambling addiction to horse racing.

North Queensland legal firm Ruddy Tomlins Baxter reported the 52-year-old to the Queensland Law Society and on July 15 this year an investigation was launched.

It is focused around the alleged misappropriation of funds and improper dealings with 24 clients' accounts by Mr Baxter, a 30-year partner of the predominantly family-run firm.

Ruddy Tomlins Baxter managing partner Sandra Clive said on Thursday that Mr Baxter, who worked out of the Walker St office in Townsville, had allegedly made the betting confession to law society investigators.

"It has become clear, during preliminary investigations conducted so far, that certainly gambling is a factor," Ms Clive said.

"I understand from the statement given (by Mr Baxter) that is was principally online gambling and predominantly the horses."

The partner said she was not aware of any particular betting habits of Mr Baxter or that he even had a gambling problem, until it was uncovered by colleagues.

But it is believed that the Annandale family man may have placed high-rolling bets, including an alleged million dollar wager on an odds-on favourite that was beaten.

Gambling suicides underreported, says expert

Gambling addict's suicide a 'wake-up call'
Voluntary program to keep compulsive gambler out of casinos failed

B.C. casinos need to do more to help addicted gamblers, says a man whose wife killed herself after running up more than a $100,000 in debt at a downtown Vancouver casino.

Yoo Choi was a second-generation Korean-Canadian from Camrose, Alta., who made her mark in Vancouver as the fun-loving owner of the once-popular Velvet Café on Broadway.

But according to her husband Mark Dawson, Choi had a secret and compulsive gambling habit which she battled for years to kick.

After eventually racking up $150,000 in debt, playing much of the time at Vancouver's Edgewater Casino, Choi registered herself in the casino's voluntary exclusion program.

She got counselling as she struggled with her addiction, and her husband thought she was in the clear.

Then on the night of June 16, she called him to apologize because she had started to gamble again, and then she disappeared.

Twenty-six days later her body was found floating in Lynn Canyon on Vancouver's North Shore.

Dawson says he wishes he knew then that problem gamblers are twice as likely to commit suicide as other addicts.

"If I had known, I might have been able to talk her home. It wasn’t on my radar at all," he said. "I might have been able to say, 'let me hear you start the car, stay on the phone with me while you drive home.'"

Gambling suicides underreported, says expert
Choi's story of a gambling addiction that led to suicide is unfortunately not as rare as many might think.

In January, a man killed his partner and then himself in a Richmond hotel. It was later revealed he had lost $200,000 at a local casino.

In 2002, a man murdered his wife, torched their East Vancouver home and then committed suicide. An inquest found he was in financial trouble because of casino losses.

In fact, the B.C. Coroners Service noted a total of 34 gambling-related suicides between 2003 and 2010. In 2010, there were 10 such cases – more than double the number recorded the year before.

'It breaks my heart that I know when I retrace Yoo's steps, she tried.'
—Mark Dawson, husband

Across Canada, at least 200 problem gamblers kill themselves each year, according to estimates from the Canada Safety Council.

But even that number underestimates the scope of the problem because suicides are rarely officially linked to gambling, according to Prof. Robert Williams, a teacher at the University of Lethbridge and an expert in gambling addictions at the Alberta Gambling Research Institute.

His study estimated 10 per cent of all suicides in Alberta have some kind of gambling component.

For every gambling-related suicide, there are four other problem gamblers who try to kill themselves but fail, he says.

"I think most people are shocked, because again, it's not most people's experience," Williams told CBC News.

Voluntary program did not work
The voluntary self-exclusion programs at the Edgewater Casino and others across B.C. include the use of facial recognition technology to help staff spot problem gamblers.

Gambling revenues

From problem gamblers for all kinds of gambling: 23 to 37 per cent.

From problem gamblers in casinos: 50 per cent.

Source: Alberta Gaming Research Institute
Yoo Choi was caught inside the facility and escorted out a couple of times, according to her husband. But the program was not effective enough because there was no penalty for her lapses and Dawson was never alerted, he says.

"It breaks my heart that I know when I retrace Yoo's steps, she tried," says Dawson.

When Yoo’s self-exclusion expired in November, she didn't bother to renew it and nobody else knew, he says.

"No one knew. And so that was of no help. If I had been notified, things could have been a lot different," said Dawson.

He says one solution to that shortfall would be for those signing up for self-exclusion to be given an option to provide the emergency contact number for a family member or a friend to be called if they're caught inside a casino.

Check your ID at the door
Williams has another solution that has already proven effective in Europe: all casino patrons should have their identification checked as they enter a casino. That way, problem gamblers are stopped before they even get in the door.

The Edgewater Casino is located at the old Expo 86 Plaza of Nations site in downtown Vancouver. CBC"European casinos show that you can have a healthy casino industry without shutting it down, but also minimizing your financial draw from problem gamblers,” says Williams.

Casinos and the B.C. Lottery Corporation — which oversees the industry — have cited privacy concerns in the past, saying casino-goers don’t want to be identified.

But Williams says arguments that people will stay away from casinos if they get their ID checked don't stand up.

"It's a belief that it's too intrusive to ask people for IDs. And again my argument is, that if that’s the case, we wouldn't have 20 IDs in our wallets already that we use on a daily basis."

Casinos are already using thousands of security cameras to scan faces and car licence plates in their parking lots, he notes, without driving problem gamblers away.

BCLC considers spot checks
The BCLC, which is responsible for B.C. casinos, says has it's considering spot checks to catch excluded gamblers.

"I think it's a direction that we're going to move down the road and determine the response, and ultimately if there's player acceptance, we would go down that road," said Paul Smith, communications director of the BCLC.

But Williams says casinos and the province appear to be resistant to changes because half of all casino revenues come from problem gamblers.

"We know what needs to be done. It's simply a matter of having the desire to do it," he says.

Choi's husband just hopes something good comes out of his wife's death.

"It's a wake-up call … If you know someone, be a little bit more aware of the repercussions," he says. "It can go, as I found out, beyond rock bottom."

With files from the CBC's Eric Rankin and Paisley Woodward Accessibility Links

Let's stop giving alcohol & gambling a pass

Maybe he has a point:

FIRST-PERSON: Let's stop giving alcohol & gambling a pass
Kelly Boggs

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP) -- Imagine driving by an abortion clinic and seeing half of the building covered with images of dead pre-born babies, their little bodies mutilated as a result of being ripped from their mothers' wombs.

Envision a beer can or bottle of liquor with half of the container plastered with pictures of wrecked cars, DUI arrests and diseased livers.

Visualize a gambling establishment with half of its entrance adorned with posters depicting destitute families and divorce proceedings.

Now imagine that the U.S. government mandated all that in an effort to curb the activities because they were deemed unhealthy and costly to the American public.

That is exactly what is happening to the tobacco industry.

The Food and Drug Administration recently unveiled new regulations for tobacco and tobacco-related products. The mandate entails that 50 percent of packaging and 20 percent of an ad be of vivid color image of the possible negative consequences of smoking. Additionally, the package and ad must carry a sober warning concerning tobacco use.

The new regulations will take effect in September 2012 and are a result of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The new law mandates that cigarette packaging and advertizing have more significant and "graphic health warnings in an effort to educated the public about the dangers of smoking."

Among the nine images the FDA has designed are a diseased lung, teeth damaged by tobacco and a man with a long scar running the length of his torso. The warnings include: "Cigarettes cause lung disease," "Cigarettes cause cancer," "Smoking can kill you."

Kathleen Sebelius, Health and Human Services Secretary, indicated that a major motivation for the new mandates was "targeting young people from wanting to smoke," CNN on its website.

"Somebody said when they first saw the warnings, these are really gross, and they are," Sebelius said. "We want kids to understand smoking is gross, not cool."

For the record, I believe tobacco use in any shape, form or fashion is disgusting. There is also no doubt that it is unhealthy and will kill. But if the government is going to demonize tobacco products because of adverse physical and fiscal effects -- some estimates put the cost of treating tobacco-related health problems at $95 billion annually -- then why doesn't it similarly highlight the negative aspects of abortion, alcohol or gambling?

Tobacco is estimated to claim the lives of approximately 440,000 lives a year. Comparatively, it is estimated that abortion ends the lives of 1.3 million pre-born children annually. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study in 2005 showing that alcohol kills some 75,000 Americans each year and shortens the lives of these people by an average of 30 years. Of that 75,000, 41,000 died in automobile accidents or other mishaps.

While there are no hard statistics for the health consequences of gambling, studies do reveal that, as a group, problem gamblers suffer from a variety of maladies most likely due to stress. Gambling addiction also is tied to broken families, lost jobs, and lost income. Millions of Americans are gambling addicts, and many state governments are accomplices by promoting lotteries and casinos.

A 2006 report by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that alcohol abuse costs the United States an estimated $185 billion annually. However, only $26 billion -- 14 percent of the total -- comes from direct medical costs or treating alcoholics. Almost half -- $88 billion -- comes from lost productivity. Additionally, in 2006 George Washington University researchers reported that excessive drinking adds $35 billion to health care coverage annually.

There is no doubt that tobacco use results in poor health and a drain on the economy. But so do abortion, alcohol and gambling.

If the U.S. government is really concerned about the long-term well-being of its citizens, why does it cherry pick tobacco to regulate in an effort to discourage its use while all but ignoring abortion, alcohol and gambling? Of the four, none help to make our nation more healthy, wealthy or wise.
Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press and editor of the Baptist Message (, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.