Meetings & Information


Monday, October 31, 2011

Tropicana let 14-year-old play

NJ regulators eyeing fines for casinos, say Tropicana resort let 14-year-old play slots
WAYNE PARRY Associated Press

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — He walked the casino floor on a warm Friday night in August as the clock neared midnight.

He sat down at one slot machine, played for a while, then moved to another one and played there, too. He kept playing as a security guard walked right past him.

And he was only 14 years old.

That teenager's nocturnal foray into the world of casino gambling has the Tropicana Casino and Resort in hot water with state casino regulators.

The state Division of Gaming Enforcement is weighing fines against the Tropicana and several other casinos for allowing underage or self-excluded gamblers to play. The cases also involve other violations of casino regulations.

The state attorney general's office has filed against the casinos complaints that are being considered by the DGE.

In the Tropicana case, the boy, identified only as Jersey resident CG, was spotted by DGE investigators playing slots on Aug. 12 at 11:20 p.m. As they were watching him play, according to the attorney general's office, a casino security guard walked right past him and did nothing.

"Due to CG's youthful appearance, the division investigators requested that he produce identification," Deputy Attorney General R. Lane Stebbins wrote in his complaint against the casino. "CG then admitted to the division investigators that he was 14 years of age."

The boy was detained and turned over to his parents. It could not immediately be determined if the boy had accompanied his parents to the casino or if he was there alone. The complaint did not specify how much money the boy had won or lost.

New Jersey law says patrons must be at least 21 years old to gamble at casinos in Atlantic City, the nation's second-biggest gambling market after Las Vegas. People under 21 can only be on the casino floor if they are walking through it on their way to another room where gambling is not taking place, such as a restaurant or concert hall.

The law also says that anyone who signs up for the state's voluntary self-exclusion list must be barred from entering the casinos. The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa is accused of running afoul of that law regarding a person identified only as state resident YZ, who signed up for the self-exclusion list in 2007.

The list is a way for problem gamblers to help ensure they don't give in to their addiction by obligating the casinos to recognize and stop them at the entrance to the casino floor.

While playing baccarat on Feb. 19, YZ was approached by a Borgata pit manager. YZ refused to give his name, but the manager checked the self-exclusion list and had YZ ejected. The $13,228 in gambling chips YZ had with him were confiscated.

The DGE is likely to order that the money be split between programs to help compulsive gamblers and the state Casino Revenue Fund, which helps pay for programs for senior citizens.

Decisions had not been reached in either case as of Monday. The Tropicana declined to comment, and a Borgata spokesman did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Other casinos are facing lesser fines or forfeiture orders for underage or excluded gamblers or record-keeping violations.

Moratorium on casinos

Moratorium on casinos
By Mary Perham

I am voting against any more casinos in Maine.

I do not believe that the state of Maine can sustain five casinos. If there are five or even three casinos, each one will take away from the others. Therefore, there will not be the money for all the programs that each casino claims will be available. It will go to the backers of the casinos and there will be very little left for anything else.

I believe there should be a five-year moratorium on all casinos. By then, it can be determined if the state can sustain two.

Let Oxford get up and running without any more interference from outsiders.

I am voting "no."

Mary Perham, West Paris

Cost of Gambling Addiction: around $4.7 billion annually

Gillard's gambling problem
Michael Mullins

Tara Moriarty, secretary of the NSW branch of the Liquor and Hospitality Union, has made perhaps the most useful contribution to the current debate on poker machine reform.

She distanced her union from clubs industry claims, insisting the union was 'certainly not buying into' the 'probably over-stated' campaign. But she stressed that 'it doesn't mean that the workers shouldn't have a seat at the table during this process to make sure that their jobs are protected'.

Her comments reflect an appreciation that care for problem gamblers needs to be balanced against care for workers whose jobs are threatened.

The Federal Government, on the other hand, is open to the accusation that it regards the jobs as expendable because its survival depends upon the successful passage through parliament of the mandatory pre-commitment legislation. Moreover the Prime Minister's ostensibly empathetic assertion that 'too many people would know a family torn apart by problem gambling' could be disingenuous.

Many people also know families torn apart by unemployment, and there is an onus on Julia Gillard to demonstrate that she is primarily motivated by an ethic of care for the wellbeing of her citizens, and not her own political survival. If this is the case, it follows that she will look after workers affected by the pre-commitment technology.

Assistance provided for workers to make the transition to alternative employment is not the same as the compensation packages that will be sought by the clubs industry and affected gambling entrepreneurs such as James Packer, whose business models rely on profiting from the misery of problem gamblers and their families. 40 per cent of the clubs' profits come from people addicted to poker machines. These profits should be regarded as ill-gotten, and therefore not deserving compensation.

That figure is quoted by Rev. Tim Costello, who chairs the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce. He suggests that clubs dependent upon problem gambling revenue are 'operating [on] an unsustainable business model and should seek advice from Western Australia, where there are no poker machines outside the casino, yet communities and clubs thrive'.

There will be ambit claims for compensation if the ethic of care is obscured by the greed of the clubs and gambling entrepreneurs.

There are arguments that pre-commitment technology is a sign of the 'nanny state' at work and therefore a threat to civil liberties. Nanny state rhetoric is a ruse that gives licence to those who are greedy, or psychologically robust, to prey on the weak and vulnerable.

The so-called nanny state is actually a euphemism for a state that cares for its citizens. Certain powerful interests perceive that as a threat.


Michael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street.

Poker machine reform debate needs cold facts not hot air: churches

ACGT Media Release

Rev Tim Costello, Chair of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce Chair said too many people have been caught by the poker machine lobby’s propaganda and it’s disappointing to see the Opposition supporting their campaign.

Rev Costello made the comments today following Clubs Australia’s rally in Sydney last night which was addressed by Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott and Member for Werriwa, Laurie Ferguson.

“The fact is that 40 per cent of clubs’ profits come from people addicted to poker machines.

“And because not all clubs profit equally, only those that rely on profits from problem gamblers will feel the pinch”, Rev Costello said.

“It’s these clubs that are operating an unsustainable business model and they should seek advice from Western Australia, where there are no poker machines outside the casino, yet communities and clubs thrive.

“Australians spend twelve billion dollars a year on pokies.

“Only 600,000 Australians play poker machines at least weekly, and of those 95,000 are poker machine addicts.

“This group of people loses on average up to $21,000 a year. Some lose a lot more. Another 95,000 are at risk of becoming problem gamblers. This second group loses on average up to $8,000 a year.

“So poker machines are a problem for around a third of regular players. It’s a very unsafe product for some.

“Church agencies help individuals, families, friends and colleagues deal with the impact of poker machine addiction. Problems include relationship breakdown, mental health problems, unemployment, debt, financial hardship, theft and other crime, social isolation and all too often, suicide.

“The social cost to the country is around $4.7 billion annually.

“Mandatory pre commitment will require all poker machine players to determine ahead of time how much they are prepared to lose in any sitting. This, as part of a range of measures, will help problem gamblers who are ready to help themselves and help protect a significant number of at risk players from becoming problem gamblers.

“It’s mandatory to wear a seatbelt, to wear a helmet on a bike. It’s illegal to serve alcohol to someone who is already drunk and there are limits on where people can smoke, to prevent the impact of passive smoking.

“This is not the nanny state in action. It’s good public policy that has lead to healthier communities. Australia’s churches call on all people of goodwill to support the reforms,” Rev Costello said.

Members of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce include the heads of Australian Christian Churches and the heads of their social services agencies nationally, united by a commitment to make poker machine gambling safer.

Gambling Addicts among Athletes

Below is an interesting compilation of Athletes and Sport Professionals who have sadly gotten sucked into the losing game of Gambling Addiction and suffered the tragic consequences.

In 12 years, Antoine Walker made more than $110 million playing professional basketball ...Did he loose it gambling ?
Sunday, October 30, 2011

Former Boston Celtics All-Star Antoine Walker—who earlier this summer pleaded guilty to felony bad check charges in Nevada after piling up $822,500 gambling debt.

—will play for the Idaho Stampede in the upcoming D-League season, the team announced Thursday.

By Arnie Wexler CCGC

When you look at the headlines about professional athletes, coaches and referees on the perils of gambling, odds are very good that might be looking at the tip of the iceberg. Here are several from the recent past:

= Pete Rose [on the Donahue show, November 1989]: "I didn't seek help for my gambling problem until the middle of September, and I know it's something I can't lick by myself. I need help."

= Charles Barkley troubled by gambling addiction problem.

Barkley said he has lost "probably $10 million" gambling, adding, "It is a problem for me."

= Dolphins' Will Allen investigated for pulling out gun in dispute over gambling debts., the big problem here is that Allen has gambling debts.

= Antoine Walker has a scheduled court in Las Vegas in a case involving an $822,500 gambling debt.

= An arrest warrant for Shawn Chacon as a result of his alleged failure to pay Caesars Palace $150,000 in gambling markers.

= John Daly says gambling problem will "ruin me" and says he has lost between $50 million and $60 million during 12 years of heavy gambling .

= Russia's Nikolay Davydenko was at the center of the match-fixing controversy in tennis.

= Michael Jordan was spotted at the baccarat pit of an Atlantic City casino in the wee hours of the morning before game two of the Eastern Conference Finals.

= Art Schlichter spent a decade in prison: "Ten years, seven months and two weeks, inside 44 various jails or prisons" because of gambling addiction.

Sep 15, 2011 Art Schlichter will spend 10 years in prison

NBA referee Tim Donaghy went to jail because of his gambling addiction. (From Tim Donaghy's book if ever released: "I kept waiting for a Knicks game when Stafford, Bavetta and Kersey were working together. It was like knowing the winning lottery numbers before the drawing!")

= March 1991: Lenny Dykstra, a notorious high-stakes bettor, was linked to a gambling probe in Mississippi. Dykstra was indicted in May on federal bankruptcy charges for allegedly removing, destroying and selling property that was part of a bankruptcy estate without the permission of the trustee.

= Paul Lo Duca says he bets with off-shore bookies, which, he claims, is legal. Running up big gambling debts -- or even being perceived as a heavy gambler -- leads to serious trouble. (What's interesting about is that neither Major League Baseball nor the Mets seem bothered about the reports. Oh, the commissioner's office mumbled something about gambling being bad.)

FORMER Cardiff striker Michael Chopra has revealed he was plagued by a gambling addiction in his final year with the Bluebirds, and that it affected his performances on the pitch.But the ex-England Under-21 forward, who has said he would get up in the middle of the night to bet on football matches in South America

Wayne Rooney Just 25 years old, it's difficult to imagine that Rooney has been an international soccer star for several years. It's even more difficult to imagine that he's gambled away almost £1 million.

And for some its to late --- Denver Broncos wide receiver Kenny McKinley who had a gambling problem and was deep in debt when he commited suicide

When Will Sports Confront Gambling Problems of Its Own Athletes?

Athletes may be more vulnerable than the general population when you look at the soft signs of compulsive gambling: high Levels of energy; unreasonable expectations of winning; very competitive personalities; distorted optimism; and bright with high IQs

It is time for college and professional sports to outline and executive a real program to help players who might have a gambling problem or gambling addiction problem. Yet college and professional sports still do not want to deal with this. They do not want the media and public to think there is a problem.

TWELVE years ago, as a compulsive-gamblers counselor, I was sent an airplane ticket from the National Basketball Association office in Manhattan and met with league officials, players and union officials, concerned about players' gambling. I was told, "We have a problem, and we're trying to find out how bad the problem is." Officials asked me to keep my calendar open for the spring of the following year and said to me that they hoped that I might address every team in the league.

When I hadn't heard from the NBA, I called and asked, "When do we start?" The talked were cancelled, and the response I got was this: "They said that the higher-ups didn't want the media to find out."

And over the years, I have spoken to many college and professional athletes who had a gambling problem. One NCAA study a few years ago reported: "There is a disturbing trend of gambling among athletes in college." You can't think that these people will get into the pros and then just stop gambling.

Compulsive gambling is an addiction just like alcoholism and chemical dependency, and all three diseases are recognized by the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic and statistical manual. Nevertheless, we treat compulsive gambling differently than the other two addictions. Society and professional sports treat people with chemical dependency and alcoholism as sick persons, send them to treatment and get them back to work. Sports looks at compulsive gamblers as bad people and gets barred them from playing in professional sports.

If colleges and professional leagues wanted to help the players, they would run real programs that seriously address the issue of gambling and compulsive gambling. Education and early detection can make a difference between life and death for some people who have or will end up with a gambling addiction.

One sports insider said to me: "Teams need to have a real program for players, coaches and referees, and they need to let somebody else run it. When you do it in-house, it's like the fox running the chicken coop. You must be kidding yourself if you think any player, coach or referee is going to call the league and say, 'I've got a gambling problem, and I need help.' "

When you look at the headlines about professional athletes, coaches and referees on the perils of gambling, odds are very good that might be looking at the tip of the iceberg. Here are several from the recent past:

There are people in various sport's halls of fame who are convicted drug addicts and alcoholics, yet compulsive gamblers are unable to get into these halls of fame. In fact, as far as professional sports goes, an alcoholic and chemical dependent person can get multiple chances, whereas a gambler cannot.

I am a recovering compulsive gambler who placed my last bet on April, 10, 1968, and I have been fighting the injustice of how sports, society and the judicial system deal with compulsive gamblers for the last 43 years.

Trying to Sack the Expansion of Gambling for a Vikings Stadium

Trying to Sack the Expansion of Gambling for a Vikings Stadium

ST. PAUL, Minn. - A group of lawmakers and religious leaders is voicing its opposition to any gambling expansion for revenue to help fund a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. Brian Rusche, executive director of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, says once all the glitter is gone, the social ills will remain if a state-authorized casino is approved.

"I don't doubt that there would be some razzmatazz and a wonderful ribbon-cutting ceremony with searchlights and stars and all that stuff – but my concern is, three to five years down the road, what does it do to a community? What's it like to have pawnshops and check-cashing storefronts, and more drug trade and more prostitution? I mean, that's what you get when you have a casino sited in the center of an urban area."

Rusche believes approval of new gambling facilities, or even a single casino, would open the door statewide.

"If they authorized a casino in downtown Minneapolis, what would be the rationale for saying 'no' to the Brainerd Lakes Area, or to Worthington or to Crookston? My concern there is, I don't think it would be possible for them to authorize just one."

In addition to the coalition, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle also are opposing the idea of using gambling expansion or revenue for the stadium. State Sen. Dave Thompson (R-Dist. 36, Lakeville) thinks the state would be on the losing end, financially.

"The studies that have been done have demonstrated that, as gambling expands and more and more people get into it, the social cost is so high. Depending on what study you look at, it's about a two or three-to-one ratio of losing money because of the fact that your human services demands go up so dramatically. So, it really isn't a good budget solution."

Others point out that there's already gambling in Minnesota and that the state should share in the proceeds. They also note the plan would create jobs.

The Vikings want to build a $1.1 billion stadium in Arden Hills with $300 million from the state. Gov. Mark Dayton is expected to call a special session for consideration of a plan next month.

John Michaelson

Once legalized, THEY own you!

At one of the Massachusetts State House Hearings, one of those testifying explained that once legalized, the State of Massachusetts would become a PARTNER, vested in the success of Slot Barns (otherwise incorrectly known as 'Destination Resorts').

It makes no difference where Predatory Gambling is conducted, the Business Model is the same: Create New Gamblers, Create New Gambling Addicts.

Attempts to control, limit or reduce Gambling Addicts are met everywhere with resistance.

And why should any politician, who depends on the largesses of a wildly profitable Industry, support anything other than meaningless rhetoric?

A policy jackpot for wily leaders
By Katharine Murphy

Malcolm Turnbull made a nuanced contribution on pokies reform this week. The day after Tony Abbott ''predicted'' the Coalition would oppose and then rescind mandatory pre-commitment reforms if they actually managed to get through this all-singing, all-dancing Federal Parliament, Turnbull was asked to advance his own view.

He duly endorsed Abbott's prediction about the prevailing anti-nanny state mood of the Coalition party room, deeming the observation from Abbott ''well informed'', before pointing out that the Coalition didn't actually have an official position. The blueprint being proposed by Labor and Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie had not been debated in shadow cabinet, or the party room.

Turnbull declined to share his own view on pre-commitment - a system that forces gamblers to set a limit on their losses. ''I won't give you a personal view on it because I haven't actually seen [the legislation]. I do want to see the legislation first,'' he said.

Sensing equivocation, the radio interviewer persisted.

''I'm not a fan of the pokies,'' Turnbull offered as the conversation went on. ''In my state, in NSW, one of the worst things the Carr government did was to let pokies into the pubs. I've known people who have been gambling addicts and it's not pretty. It's a very, very, very destructive addiction.''

But the nub question for the Coalition, he felt, was this: would the pre-commitment scheme being sought by Wilkie actually work, and did problem gambling actually warrant significant government intervention?

''At the end of the day, the real question is how much interference do we want to make on how people live their lives?''

Mandatory pre-commitment, despite the fact the gambler sets the limit, is a tough ''yes'' for genuine libertarians. There are many inside the Coalition who believe that voluntary curbs, and a model that focuses on treating addiction, is more appropriate to address problem gambling.

A variation of this idea has also kicked around in Labor's ranks: hit problem gambling with a big-spending mental health package, funded by a levy on the clubs.

Further complicating the picture for a voting public that is not so much hostile, given opinion polls showing that most people support reforms to curb problem gambling, as increasingly bamboozled about who is actually proposing what, is a Greens proposal to impose $1 bets. Proponents say this is a simpler and less costly transition for the clubs (although the clubs naturally beg to differ).

Abbott may have believed that his ''prediction'' in Campbelltown this last week - lawyerly as it was - deftly validated the squall of the pro-pokies crowd, while leaving the opposition sufficient room to manoeuvre; a bloodless oath if you will, subject to a transfusion in due course. But the timing was interesting. Abbott had been dead-batting questions from journalists for months. He clearly judged it was time to step the pokies issue up a notch, making the philosophical cleavage between the major parties more distinct during a visit to Labor's traditional outer-suburban heartland.

The public will get a more comprehensive fix on the Coalition's problem gambling policy over the next few days.

With Parliament set to resume next week, Abbott will release a discussion paper scoping out new policy options covering pokies, and beyond, broadly in line with the dominant Coalition philosophy - problem gambling is an addiction, so let's treat it like that, keep the curbs voluntary.

This foray will doubtless make life more difficult for the Gillard government. So far the pokies issue has hurt Labor politically far more than the Coalition. The clubs are playing a brutal grassroots game. Labor MPs are under siege from aggrieved clubs in New South Wales and Queensland. The clubs are also expanding their ''no'' push in Victoria to target 13 federal electorates.

The restiveness in Labor's ranks has been building for some time. The dissent is both about the substance of the mandatory pre-commitment policy (Labor has its fair share of libertarians, not to mention good soldiers for the clubs); and the damaging appearance of a weak government being seen to be led by the nose by Wilkie.

This week Kevin Rudd refused to buy in to the debate - triggering a run of speculation about whether he would use the issue as part of his platform for resuming the Labor leadership.

If Rudd is actually positioning himself as the saviour of the clubs (and more pertinently Labor's marginal seat holders in at least two critical states), this would be ironic in the extreme. It was in fact Rudd (taking regular private counsel from anti-pokies campaigner Tim Costello) who set Labor on the path to pre-commitment.

The Productivity Commission was tasked to provide advice on gambling reform when Rudd was prime minister. The Wilkie scheme is the Productivity Commission's scheme, although Wilkie's timetable for implementation is more uncompromising.

A Rudd comeback based in part on junking or modifying a policy he helped create is intrinsically so nuts it could actually happen.

But the release of Coalition policy options this coming week will not only apply a boot to the neck of Gillard's minority government - it will also allow a focal point for mild internal discussion within the opposition. And the leadership is not in a mood to tolerate much internal debate, read division, with opinion polls in landslide territory.

Tony Abbott is perched daily on the edge of his seat, straining with anticipation, a heartbeat away from stealing The Lodge.

When the independently minded West Australian Liberal Mal Washer this week repeated a view he had advanced in February that a profits tax on the mining industry (Labor's policy) wasn't actually a bad idea, he was smacked down publicly by Abbott, who issued this less-than-genial threat about the importance of maintaining esprit de corps: ''Mal is a good bloke and he's a smart bloke and I am sure he is going to get the message one way or another.''

Alabama: Tip of the iceberg

Republican witnesses, who taped conversations in the Vote Buying/Corruption Trial sadly revealed that they were not so much concerned about Corruption or firm in their opposition to Predatory Gambling with its negative effects, but rather more concerned about surpressing the Black Vote.

A pathetic commentary!

This letter to the editor says it all:

Tip of the iceberg

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson’s 44-page written opinion on the gambling corruption trial left me puzzled on some issues. One thing he made perfectly clear was his credible opinion of Sen. Scott Beason and former Rep. Benjamin Lewis and at what lengths they and other members of the Republican Party would go to assure white Republicans were elected to the Legislature.

Judge Thompson, thank you for your honest and unbiased statements regarding these unsavory individuals. Sad to say, but they are just the tip of the Republican iceberg.

Billy Ferguson

Jefferson Parish Courthouse corruption investigation

FBI records shed light on Jefferson Parish Courthouse corruption investigation
By Drew Broach, The Times-Picayune

The FBI's nine-year inquiry into Jefferson Parish Courthouse corruption and the ensuing prosecutions convicted 14 people of federal crimes, imprisoned two judges and removed a third from office through impeachment. And it grew out of a simple tip that the Metropolitan Crime Commission received on June 15, 1998, according to FBI records.

On that day, a disgruntled bail bonds agent unloaded the dirt on the dominant bonding company in Gretna, Bail Bonds Unlimited, telling a crime commission investigator that owner Louis Marcotte III was paying off judges and justices of the peace, covering one's gambling debt and picking up the tab for their vacations, as well as buying food and drinks for the sheriff's deputies who worked in the parish jail. In return, says a crime commission summary of the interview, "Bail Bonds Unlimited is never turned down for any request they make of a judge."

Intrigued, the FBI soon launched what came to be a relentless investigation that employed live and electronic surveillance, an undercover agent from Brownsville, Texas, and covert trips to Biloxi, Miss., and Las Vegas.

Those are among the tidbits found in newly released FBI records of its investigation, which sent district judges Ronald Bodenheimer and Alan Green to prison, obtained guilty pleas from 12 others, including Sheriff's Office jailers, and culminated last December with the Senate kicking U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous out of office.

The FBI began releasing the records this month in response to a four-year Freedom of Information Act effort by The Times-Picayune. The first 676 pages, although heavily redacted and often less illuminating than previously disclosed aspects of the investigation, nonetheless provide a few new details.

They suggest the FBI traces its investigation to the 1998 tip that the Metropolitan Crime Commission passed on to the bureau. With some initial spade work and the help of a cooperating witness, who secretly wired up to record conversations with others, federal agents came to hypothesize that Bail Bonds Unlimited was paying judges, lawyers and jailers in order to help it boost its business and freeze out competitors.

The cooperating witness' name is masked in the released records, but the circumstances suggest it was Martha Sassone, a state district judge who was suspicious of Bail Bonds Unlimited and Marcotte. Sassone had just lost a 1998 race for the state appeals court in Gretna to District Judge Susan Chehardy, whose 1994 wedding to lawyer Bruce Netterville included Marcotte as best man. The Times-Picayune has previously disclosed Sassone's role in the investigation.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

By Jan. 26, 1999, the special agent in charge of the New Orleans office, Charles Mathews III, had seen enough preliminary evidence to authorize a full investigation, the records show, and the inquiry received its code name: Operation Wrinkled Robe. Two years earlier, when Mathews took command of the FBI office in New Orleans, he told his public corruption supervisor, Charles McGinty, that he wanted "high impact" cases. This would be one.

It become obvious within five months that the investigators were onto something big. One analyst determined that Bail Bonds Unlimited had insurance agreements with bond agents throughout Louisiana and surmised, according to a June 22 handwritten memo, "If this isn't racketeering, I don't know what is."

The early phase seems to have centered on laying the investigation's groundwork, including its budget and accounting. Agents also began obtaining pen registers, to determine what numbers were called from certain suspect phones, and securing various approvals from headquarters. U.S. Attorney Eddie Jordan signed off on use of undercover techniques on March 1. And a conference call was held April 28 with Carolyn Dineen King of Houston, who was chief judge of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. King appointed then-Chief Judge A.J. "Buddy" McNamara of the U.S. District Court in New Orleans to handle requests for court orders during the investigation.

In July, agents set up surveillance at the Beau Rivage hotel and casino in Biloxi, having heard that one of the subjects of its investigation would be there on someone else's nickel, the FBI records say. That was during a convention of bail bond agents, where Bail Bonds Unlimited spent $541 to enter Green, Bodenheimer and Porteous in a deep-sea fishing tournament and $963 on Cirque du Soleil tickets for Green, Bodenheimer, state District Judge Kernan "Skip" Hand and Justice of the Peace Steve Mortillaro and their wives, according to company records that were introduced at Green's criminal trial. Green and Porteous skipped the fishing tournament, so Hand and Mortillaro took their places, according to Bail Bonds Unlimited records.

In a 2005 interview, Mortillaro denied receiving an invitation or ticket to the fishing tournament or the circus performance. Neither he nor Hand was charged with a crime.

It was the first of two such Wrinkled Robe surveillance efforts at Beau Rivage, the other coming in April 2001, according to the records.

View full size

The Times-PicayuneAn interactive history of Operation Wrinkled Robe.

By the fall of 1999, agents had grown interested in Porteous, a former state district judge. A newspaper clipping in the FBI file recounts Porteous' controversial court ruling in the struggle for control of a Kenner hospital, which later figured into Porteous' impeachment. Mathews asked the Justice Department's public integrity division for a background investigation of a federal district judge, and soon the FBI sent two agents to Las Vegas to investigate a "bachelor party weekend," according to the records. Two of Porteous' lawyer friends had helped pay for his son's wedding and for Porteous' hotel room in Vegas.

In 2000, the FBI began to implement an undercover operation. The bureau transferred its resident agent in Brownsville to New Orleans to assume a fake identity and infiltrate Bail Bonds Unlimited's operation. After seven months, the agent returned to Texas, "successful in acquiring detailed information concerning subjects of the investigation."

That information later went into a crucial affidavit that the FBI used to secure warrants from McNamara for wiretapping phones and secreting video cameras in the chambers of Bodenheimer and Green. Five days after losing a court challenge to use of the electronic surveillance, Bodenheimer plead guilty to three corruption charges. The recordings also played a important role in convicting Green at trial of mail fraud in 2005.

Editorial: Casino gambling will need careful look

Editorial: Casino gambling will need careful look

The mere fact that the Georgia Lottery Corporation commissioned a study of the potential for casino gambling in Georgia is an indication that the issue might surface sooner rather than later in the state legislature.

That conjecture is only strengthened by the fact that the study, reported last week in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, concludes that three casinos — one each in Savannah, Atlanta and Jekyll Island — equipped with a total of 10,000 video lottery terminals could generate $1 billion in state revenue by 2014.

That $1 billion would represent nearly 5 percent of the current state budget, a windfall that’s certain to catch the attention of lawmakers who’ve been dealing with declining state revenues for the past few years (although recent months have seen comparative upticks in tax receipts) as the economy has languished in an ongoing downturn.

Of course, if discussions of casino gambling did gain some traction in next year’s legislative session, that enthusiasm for having a relatively easily obtainable source of new revenue would be tempered by the socially conservative forces holding sway with much of the Republican-dominated state legislature that would oppose any extension of gambling in the state beyond the Georgia Lottery, although the libertarian argument against governmental delineation of what citizens should be allowed to do might also enter the debate.

Outside of those philosophical arguments, however, there may be some reason for lawmakers — if they do take a look at casino gambling — to proceed with care.

Here, for example, is some back-of-the-envelope noodling to compare the 2010 general fund budgets in three states where casino gambling was adopted in the 1990s, and where proceeds are designated for the general fund, with the revenue generated by casino gambling in 2010:

• In Delaware, the $243.12 million in casino gambling revenue in 2010 represented 7.8 percent of the general fund budget of $3.1 billion.

• In Rhode Island, casino gambling receipts of $296.3 million represented 3.8 percent of the $7.8 billion general fund budget.

• In New Mexico, casino gambling revenue to the state totaled $64.3 million, just 1.16 percent of the general fund budget.

Admittedly, none of the above examples are statistically rigorous, but they do provide some suggestion that casino gambling revenues aren’t necessarily going to be the panacea for declining tax revenues that some legislators might expect.

And in fact, a 2009 study by the Rockefeller Institute, which tracks and analyzes state fiscal conditions and tax policies, references just that sort of problem with gambling dollars.

The report notes that the “historical tendency for revenues from existing gambling operations to grow at a significantly slower pace than other state revenues may hold important lessons for states as policymakers consider further expansion of casinos, racinos, and other gambling activities. Expenditures on education and other programs will generally grow more rapidly than gambling revenue over time. Thus, new gambling operations that are intended to pay for normal increases in general state spending may add to, rather than ease, long-term budget imbalances.”

We are, of course, a long way from any concrete consideration of establishing casino gambling in Georgia. But if, as it appears, that day will soon be upon us, lawmakers should resolve to take a careful look at it before taking any action.


In one of the most distressing polls that defines the public cynicism that Beacon Hill ignores,


Surrounded by scandals, indictments, cronyism, backroom deals.....lawmakers are rallying around a flawed Slot Barn bill that will explode corruption.

Is anyone listening?

Surely not leadership.

Blogging under the golden dome
By Hillary Chabot and Chris Cassidy

The clock is ticking for legislators trying to wrap up two major bills — casino gambling and redistricting. Lawmakers depart for their holiday break Nov. 16, leaving about two weeks for a joint conference committee to iron out the details of the expanded gaming bill, send it to both the House and Senate for final votes and drop it off on Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk. Likewise, pols and observers are eagerly awaiting the release of the new congressional map.

Last week’s question:

Do you trust lawmakers to handle congressional redistricting in a fair and transparent way?

Yes: 5%

No: 95%

“Trusting a lawmaker to redistrict is like trusting a bank robber to guard a bank.”

-- — Herald reader

Re-look problem gambling approach

Re-look problem gambling approach
Letter from Kwan Jin Yao
The report "New measures to curb gambling" (Oct 22) explains the present strategies by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports and the National Council on Problem Gambling to curb problem gambling and its negative effects here.

The measures might appear adequate now, but there are limitations to monitoring advertisements and expanding exclusions.

The latter - family, third-party and self-exclusion orders - has been heavily relied upon, following the opening of the casinos, to prevent certain individuals from gambling in Singapore, including in jackpot rooms and the Singapore Turf Club.

But commentaries from other countries that use these forms of exclusion have explained its disadvantages.

Pathological and problem gamblers may head overseas or to cruise ships to address their gambling needs and might even turn to illegal gambling to counter the enforced exclusion.

If the urges are left to manifest without a structured counselling pedagogy in place, exclusion could potentially aggravate the condition.

Given the challenges and complications in actually managing the exclusion programme - from updating the lists to the involvement of security personnel - a study should be commissioned to evaluate its overall effectiveness and to make amendments if necessary.

As for the monitoring of casino ads, it will be of little consequence, given the primary aim of casino operators to maximise profits; consideration for the ramifications of gambling or attention on social responsibility will still take a back-seat.

It is, therefore, imperative for the MCYS and the NCPG to implement awareness campaigns through the education system and review existing services - along with the exclusion policy - to make them more holistic and applicable, especially with the reported proliferation of the gambling situation.

For instance, therapy or recovery organisations and frameworks should be strengthened, and families should be more cognisant of help-lines and services. Additional manpower and resources should be committed wherever possible.

Most importantly, for the rehabilitation process to be more sustainable, families should participate more proactively as partners.

The other aspect that has been overlooked is the importance of discourse in schools on the subject and perceptions of gambling.

Rather than dismissing it entirely, incorporating the issue in the moral education syllabus would allow students and educators to fairly evaluate it.

The former would gain the appropriate knowledge to know where to draw the line and simultaneously comprehend the concept of risk-taking.

These forms of public awareness, built up over a substantial period of time, would then extend to households and to activities such as stock market investments.

Prevention is better than cure; if stakeholders choose the comforts of the status quo, the problems might get complicated in the long run.

Casino workers down chips

Casino workers down chips

ABOUT 130 employees of the Hemingways Casino stopped work at the weekend following a wage dispute between their union and the company.

The casino brought in staff from Queen’s Casino in Queenstown to ensure continuity in operations, the Future of South African Workers’ Union (Fosawu) said yesterday.

Fosawu represents the striking workers, who are demanding a nine percent wage increase while the company is offering six percent.

Fosawu spokesman Big Boy Motha said the wage demands, which had been ongoing since June, were just the “tip of the iceberg”.

He said employees had a long list of other crucial demands.

These included workers needing permanent contracts, equal pay among employees whether black or white, guaranteed basic wages, and job security.

Motha said the strike would continue until management met the union’s demands.

Yesterday, the casino said in a media statement that its employees were among the highest paid in the industry, while they enjoyed favourable terms, conditions and benefits.

However, Motha said the employees, who were the company’s “money making machines”, were currently being paid at an hourly rate.

“The employee can never know how much they are going to get at the end of the month,” Motha said.

As a result, he said, the union had also demanded a minimum of 140hours a month for its members instead of the company’s current 96hours.

“If a worker is at home as a result of sickness, he or she earns nothing,”

He said job security among staff members was also not guaranteed.

“Time and again the company dismisses workers simply because they stand up for themselves when being abused by customers who have just lost money while gambling.”

Motha said the company also had wage discrepancies among its staff.

“Some of our white colleagues are being paid more than the black colleagues although they are doing the same job.”

He said the union, through one of the negotiations, had advised the company to revise its decision on paying high salaries to three white colleagues who were fresh from training.

“There were employees who had [joined the company] many years before the three but were still being paid meagre salaries.”

He said the union was aware of “certain departments within the company that still practise wage discrepancies”.

He said the company was currently making use of Queens Casino employees from Queenstown to stay afloat.

Innocent couple led into sin

Innocent couple led into sin
Written by Mark Kinsler

I began my exploration of Las Vegas Boulevard at 8:30 Sunday morning. Natalie was in her finance professors' meeting this weekend at Harrah's Las Vegas, 35 stories of hotel rooms built atop a casino the size of River Valley Mall.

We don't gamble. Never have. I've studied enough about lightning to understand that luck doesn't come in streaks. If the customers won very often there wouldn't be gambling casinos built in the shape of pirate ships and the Eiffel Tower across the street from us. Even if you do win, there are branches of Gucci and Tiffany's nearby to relieve you of excess cash.

The main hall of Harrah's contains row after row of elaborately-decorated slot machines, including poker machines, Wheel of Fortune machines and Magic Fishbowl machines. These have bill acceptors ($1 to $100) instead of coin slots, and lists of rules I don't understand. The walls are lined with restaurants and bars, some of which feature a gambling machine set into the counter at each stool.

Big video screens blaze forth football games from every wall. The wall display in the main sports betting room listed the hapless Colts at 1,000-to-one to win the pro championship. Of the poker room's 16 tables, only three were occupied this Sunday morning; presumably everyone else was at church. Then I reached the acre or so of roulette and card games, where scantily-clad cigarette girls right out of the 1940s plied the customers. A TV screen above, somehow tuned to "Meet the Press," distracted me: an efficient-looking woman suddenly appeared and asked me to state my business. Upon receipt of a blank look she briskly informed me that I had blundered into the "pit" area where the dealers stand.

And so I hastily completed my tour of the facilities, escaping across the street to the multi-story shopping mall at Caesar's Palace, where I gaped at the titanic statues of Roman goddesses filling the atrium. The four spiral escalators twining around these were the only ones I'd ever seen, and I was sure that Natalie knew nothing of them either.

Now, I am not proud of how I later lured my short, unsuspecting spouse to admire the statues and the stores there, but my evil plan worked far better than I'd hoped. For Natalie, terrified of spiral staircases, failed to notice that she'd stepped onto the giant spiral escalator. Then she looked up, saw what it was, and with a scream threw herself to safety, almost knocking me over, which I deserved. Then she made a small fist and plotted revenge.

But the city of Las Vegas is interesting to an engineer. It lies in the driest desert: each palm tree that decorates the street is kept alive by a thin water pipe because only desert scrub and sagebrush can survive this climate. Water is supplied courtesy of the Hoover Dam.

Tomorrow we will take a bus to the Grand Canyon. With luck I won't fall in.

Mark Kinsler is a science teacher from Cleveland Heights who lives in an old house in Lancaster with Natalie and the cats, whom we miss. He can be reached at Write if you have a favorite column you'd like to see in a book.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

MGM Grand Detroit casino workers reject contract

MGM Grand Detroit casino workers reject contract

Workers at MGM Grand Detroit casino rejected a labor deal Thursday that would have raised employee health care costs and provided a raise of 30 cents an hour in the fourth year of the contract, a union official said.

The vote was decisive: nearly 1,500 against the contract, compared with about 300 supporting it, said a card dealer for MGM Grand who asked not to be identified because he did not have authorization to speak on the unions' behalf.

Shawn Ellis, a spokesman for Teamsters Local 372, one of five unions representing workers at Detroit's three casinos, wouldn't confirm the vote tally but said the contract was rejected overwhelmingly.

Earlier this week, workers at MotorCity Casino Hotel and Greektown Casino-Hotel approved contracts by wide margins. Ellis said the rejection by MGM workers wouldn't impact deals reached with workers at the other casinos.

About 6,000 casino workers in Detroit are represented by the Teamsters, UNITE HERE Local 24, UAW Local 7777, Operating Engineers Local 324 and the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters.

Ellis said the Detroit Casino Council, which bargained jointly for the five unions, would notify a mediator of the rejection, but he declined to comment further. The council had urged members to approve the deal.

The unions said informational picketing will begin Saturday, and they expect both sides will return to bargaining, with no immediate impact on operations at the city's largest casino.

An MGM spokeswoman said Thursday night that the casino would operate under terms of an extended agreement with the unions.

The unions had threatened to strike without a contract agreement, a move that likely would have shut the casinos, given requirements to have workers trained and licensed by state regulators.

The MGM card dealer who spoke with the Free Press said workers were upset they would have to give concessions despite profits at the casino -- said to be a high-performer for MGM Resorts, as the Detroit casino market fared better than other regions in the recession.

Analysts say the Detroit casinos borrowed heavily to build permanent locations with 400-room hotels and that debt was part of the reason Greektown filed for bankruptcy in 2008.

The MGM dealer said most workers would have paid more for health care than they would gain with a small raise the last year of the contract and signing bonuses of up to $2,500 upon ratification and another $1,000 in the third year.

Unionized worker health care premiums would rise and deductibles would be imposed for the first time.

Who believes they will stop?

Auburn, Milford, Suffolk Downs, East Boston, Palmer, Fall River, New Bedford, Plainville, Raynham, Brimfield, Charlton, Marlboro, Holyoke, Springfield, Middleboro, Mashpee, Sands, Caesars, Genting, Mohegan Sun, KG Urban, Foundation .....

Who believes they will stop?

Observers betting on 3 sites, but …

After a casino bill passes, a gambling commission is empanelled and the multimillion-dollar bids are evaluated, regional resort-style casino licenses will be awarded to Mohegan Sun in Palmer, Caesars Entertainment in East Boston and to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe somewhere in Plymouth or Bristol counties, industry and political observers are betting.

The odds-on favorites for the one slot parlor license, which can go anywhere in the state, are the former racetracks in Plainville and Taunton, either of which could be stocked with slots and open for business quickly, thus pumping revenue into state coffers with minimal delay, observers said.

But landowners in Central Massachusetts and elsewhere eyeing a potential jackpot property sale to a deep-pocketed casino company are conceding nothing yet.

Palmer businessman David J. Callahan dealt himself into the running just this past week, offering up his land in Brimfield as a potential location for a casino. Vincent P. Iuliano Sr. also hasn't given up on his hopes to lure a gambling hall to his land in Charlton.

“We're still hoping we'll be able to get a slot parlor and hotel complex. I have one client talking to us right now. It's not over for Charlton yet,” Mr. Iuliano said. “We've had a lot of activity, but everybody's sitting on the fence right now.”

Marlboro was floated as a potential location years ago by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Those proposing to build a casino in Milford, coordinated by the Las Vegas consulting firm Warner Gaming, are said to be still seriously considering a bid, despite being up against the politically and financially formidable $600 million casino proposal for Suffolk Downs in East Boston. The Suffolk Downs plan is backed by gambling giant Caesars Entertainment Corp. of Las Vegas.

Penn National Gaming Inc., the Pennsylvania casino company that once had eyed Auburn or the Blackstone Valley, appears to have folded its hand in the eastern region and instead shifted its attentions to a site in Springfield in the hopes of winning the western region license, observers said.

The casino legislation working its way through the Statehouse would divide the state into three regions and allow a resort-style casino in each. Bidders on the licenses would have to pony up a nonrefundable $350,000 application fee, show they have plenty of money and experience running a casino and that they have approval of voters in the host community. The successful bidders for the licenses will be required to deposit at least $50 million in an escrow account to prove they have the financing to follow through on their bids.

“You have to look at who really has a casino developer really interested. It's one thing to say, ‘I had somebody give me a phone call or come to look at my land.' As the process continues, we'll see who is really serious and who's just kind of entertaining the idea,” said state Rep. Paul K. Frost, R-Auburn, who is on the conference committee tasked with resolving differences between the final House and Senate versions of the casino bill.

Clyde W. Barrow, director of the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, agreed that many of the potential casino sites floated by landowners and others won't result in formal bids.

Beyond the requirement for the deep pockets to build a casino, the bidders will have to show in their bids that they have the experience and capacity to run one. That all but rules out anybody who doesn't have an established casino operator on board by next year, Mr. Barrow said.

The proposals that do have established casino operators lined up have an added advantage in that they've already been working public opinion in the proposed host communities, he added.

In the western region, Mohegan Sun has a long-term lease on property in Palmer and has staffed an office there for more than two years.

Even so, Mr. Barrow noted that Penn National Gaming, the casino company that had considered locations in the Blackstone Valley, said last week in a quarterly earnings conference call with Wall Street analysts that it intends to compete for the western region license against Mohegan Sun's established proposal.

“No doubt there will be a number of competitors, we've always anticipated there will be. These are important licenses,” said Paul I. Brody, vice president of development for Mohegan Sun.

Asked to handicap the competition for the eastern region license, Mr. Brody, like many observers, put his money on Suffolk Downs — which his company no doubt would welcome as it puts a competing casino just about as far away from Palmer as possible.

“As an interested observer, and I have no inside track here, I've followed the saga of the gaming bill and the locations for the last several years, and I'm certainly handicapping it to be Boston,” Mr. Brody said.

In the southeastern region, it's all but certain the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe will get the third license because it might otherwise get federal approval to build a casino eventually anyway. The tribe, backed by the Malaysian conglomerate Genting Group, has courted potential sites in Middleboro and Fall River without success and is now said to be looking at land in Bridgewater.

The eastern region lumps Central Massachusetts in with Metro Boston. With the Suffolk Downs proposal enjoying strong political backing on Beacon Hill and financial backing from Las Vegas in the form of Caesars Entertainment, the casino sites floated in Worcester Country over the years are thought to be long shots at best.

“This whole thing was gerrymandered for Suffolk Downs from the beginning. Everybody knows that,” said Kathleen Norbut, a prominent casino and slots opponent and former Monson selectman.

But a local landowner, with the right backing, might have a shot at upsetting the racetracks for the one slot machine parlor license to be awarded statewide, Mr. Frost said.

“It could still go to one of the racetracks. They already have an infrastructure in place, and they would certainly have some advantages in their bids, but that doesn't mean that somebody from Worcester County or Central Massachusetts might not have a bid that blows their socks off,” he said.

The casino bill will provide for the formation of a state gambling commission, which in turn will award the licenses.

Mr. Barrow expects the formation of the commission and hiring of staff to take about six months if the legislation passes as expected. The license application process likely would take about three months, he said, and casinos could be built in as little as a year depending on the scope of the projects.

Group pressing for casinos spends $2M in October

Group pressing for casinos spends $2M in October

AUGUSTA, Maine—The primary group pressing for a referendum to allow racetrack casinos in Biddeford and Washington County has spent $2 million in the latest reporting period.

Putting Maine to Work is among more than 20 political action and ballot question committees that have until midnight to file spending reports to the state ethics commission.

Putting Maine Back to Work has raised $3.3 million, most of which came from Ocean Properties, which wants to build a racino in Biddeford. According to the report, the group spent about $2 million in October.

Two casino questions are on the Nov. 8 ballot in Maine. The other question asks Mainers to approve a casino in Lewiston. There's already a casino in Bangor, and a casino is under construction in the town of Oxford.

Alabama: Bringing in big guns for gambling retrial?

OUR VIEW: Bringing in big guns for gambling retrial?

If the gambling corruption case that in August produced a devastating defeat (a whole bunch of acquittals and deadlocks) for the federal government goes back to court as scheduled Jan. 30, it will be without two members of the prosecution team.

Court records revealed Wednesday show that Louis Franklin and Stephen Feaga, both assistant U.S. attorneys for Alabama’s Middle District based in Montgomery, won’t be on the prosecution team for the retrial of seven of the original nine defendants, including former state Sen. Larry Means, D-Attalla. (Two others were found not guilty on all charges in the first trial.)

Both prosecutors were heavily involved in the first trial; Feaga delivered the government’s closing statement.

Justice Department officials talked of scheduling issues for federal prosecutors, especially when there’s the prospect of a long trial. U.S. Attorney George Beck talked about how he’d be glad to have Franklin and Feaga back to deal with his office’s caseload.

Maybe so, but one fact makes us a bit skeptical: The entire prosecution team for the retrial will be from Washington.

Could it be that the Justice Department, which loves to brag about its conviction and guilty plea rates and usually doesn’t bring a case unless it looks like a sure winner, didn’t like the yolk and albumen bath it got in August? Could it be that even though the first trial’s results can’t be pinned on the two Alabama prosecutors, the feds are so intent on preventing a repeat that they are bringing in the big guns from D.C.?

The biggest question — will changing faces be enough to sway an Alabama jury if the evidence and the case aren’t any stronger?

The Folly of Taxpayer Bailouts for Racing as Excuse

Racing is dead. Patrons are dwindling.

Yet wealthy investors continue to promote the folly of saving a dead industry as an excuse to support expanded gambling, ignoring the impacts, using the same arguments everywhere.


A casino in Biddeford won't attract tourists from "all over the world." It won't even attract tourists from Massachusetts, which just approved four casinos. Like Hollywood Slots in Bangor, a Biddeford casino will just suck money out of the local economy, money that would have been spent at shops, restaurants, retail stores, car dealers. Jobs will suffer and businesses will close. That's what happens when a casino comes to town. Vote NO on Questions 2 & 3.

Racino debate at full gallop
Proponents, opponents campaigning strong

BIDDEFORD — Both proponents and opponents of building a racino in Biddeford are kicking into high gear as the November election, when voters will decide the issue, draws near.

On Thursday afternoon, at the North Dam Mill, Dennis Bailey, executive director of Casinos NO!, who has been fighting the proliferation of gambling in Maine for years, said there is no evidence that racinos or casinos revive downtown businesses. In fact, he said, the research he’s seen shows the exact opposite.

On the other side, a divergent group gathered to talk about why additional gaming facilities should not be approved by state voters. These included: Casinos NO!, No More Casinos Maine, Mainers Against A Rotten Deal as well as the Christian Civic League and Friends of Oxford Casino.

While many pro-casino advocates try to garner support by saying a casino can bring business to a downtown, Bailey instead said gambling facilities “compete with and hurt local business.”

But, said Robert Fisk Jr., spokesman for Maine Friends of Animals, harness racing is not good for horses. Race horses, he said, are mistreated. They spend 22 hours a day in their stall, they’re whipped repeatedly during races and many are drugged and are raced even when injured.

Carroll Conley, executive director of the Maine Christian Civic League, said there will be casualties of increased gambling in Maine and it will “destroy families.”

Although Biddeford’s current mayor supports the racino, former Mayor General Wallace Nutting attended the No on Question 2 press conference.

“I’m in total opposition,” he said. “There never has been anything good come out of a gambling joint.”

As to the effect of a racino on the downtown, he said, it “will suck the rest of the oxygen out of the downtown.”

Union strikes deal with four A.C. casinos

Details not released --

Union strikes deal with four A.C. casinos
Written by WAYNE PARRY Associated Press

ATLANTIC CITY — The likelihood of a strike in the nation’s second-largest gambling market receded on Friday as the city’s main casino workers’ union reached a tentative agreement with Atlantic City’s largest casino company, Caesars Entertainment Inc.

Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union reached the three-year deal with the company’s four Atlantic City casinos: Caesars Atlantic City, Bally’s Atlantic City, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City and the Showboat Casino Hotel.

Both sides said terms wouldn’t be released until after the union rank-and-file votes on the agreement Tuesday. The casinos had been seeking steep concessions on hourly pay and wanted employees to contribute for the first time to their health and pension benefit costs.

“Both parties put a significant amount of effort into reaching an agreement that preserves the promise of good jobs for workers in Atlantic City casinos, while at the same time ensuring the company moves forward on sound financial footing,” union President Bob McDevitt said.

Don Marrandino, eastern division president for Caesars Entertainment, said the pact was a relief.

“The Atlantic City visitor experience begins with our employees — they are crucial to the success of our industry and that of the destination,” he said.

Both sides had said they wanted to avoid a strike that could have been extremely damaging to both sides. Atlantic City continues to struggle with plunging revenue brought on by competition from casinos in neighboring states. Indeed, the deal was reached on the same day that New York City’s Aqueduct racetrack opened its new casino, which is expected to further draw from Atlantic City’s customer and revenue base.

After the ratification vote, the union is expected to take the deal to other casino companies in the city and ask if they, too, are willing to abide by its terms. Those companies include Trump Entertainment Resorts, the Tropicana Casino and Resort, Resorts Casino Hotel and ACH, the former Atlantic City Hilton, which is trying to find a buyer.

The union represents cooks, housekeepers, bartenders, cocktail servers and other service workers.

The only casino not included in the current bargaining is the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, whose contract has 10 months left on it.

County officials criticize casino plan

County officials criticize casino plan for failing to protect local jobs

An array of opponents, from South Florida to the state capital, has lined up swiftly in response to proposed legislation to bring gigantic “destination resort” casinos to South Florida, despite promises of economic development and an infusion of jobs.

The Miami-Dade County Commission was ready to slice the bill to shreds earlier this week as it spent three hours reviewing it and getting public reaction. Meanwhile, others criticized the bill as too light on regulation and incomplete when it comes to policing casinos.

The County Commission decided to send a letter to the sponsors of the legislation, Rep. Erik Fresen and Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, demanding they give local government more control over the mega-resorts, allow the county to get a share of the revenue, and carve out protections for the region’s pari-mutuel industry. Absent that, the bill could face their collective opposition, commissioners warned.

“What this means is that you have no say,’’ Commission Chairman Joe Martinez told his colleagues after the county attorney read summaries of the bill. “What this means is that the money does not stay here.”

Dave Ramba, a lobbyist for the Broward County-based Seminole Tribe, questioned why the bill took two months to produce since legislators left the job of writing the regulatory rules to a new seven-member State Gaming Commission and a new Department of Gaming Enforcement.

“They spent a lot of time on the creation of more government and very little time on what the commission’s job is going to be,’’ he said.

But Bogdanoff, a Fort Lauderdale Republican, and Fresen, a Miami Republican, said Friday their intent was not to release a perfect bill but to get the conversation started and have the debate over modifications aired in the open.

“I anticipated I would have to wear a bull’s-eye on my back — as well as Rep. Fresen — because there will be 100,000 people shooting at this bill,’’ Bogdanoff told the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau.

Senator Eldridge Explains Opposition

Jamie Eldridge talks opposition to casino bill at Littleton Rotary Club
By Jim Barisano
Wicked Local Littleton

Littleton — State Sen. Jamie Eldridge was a recent guest of the Littleton Rotary Club where he spoke about the casino gambling bill that is currently moving through the state legislature. Eldridge has been a staunch opponent of bringing casinos and slot parlors to Massachusetts. He voted against the gambling bill, which passed in the Senate by a 24 to 14 vote.

“I strongly believe expanding gambling in Massachusetts will harm our local small businesses and our communities, and that’s why I voted no. We need revenues and jobs here in Massachusetts, but casinos aren’t the answer. There are better ways, less destructive ways, to solve our fiscal problems and make the Commonwealth a better place to live. When consumers spend more on casinos and less locally on clothing, sporting events, electronics, meals out or tickets to a show, small businesses suffer and jobs are cut,” Eldridge said. “People only have so much discretionary income. I am deeply concerned about the effect that sucking billions of dollars out of the local economy, and sending it out-of-state to wealthy casino developers, will have on our communities.”

During the debate prior to the vote, Eldridge proposed numerous amendments aimed at strengthening consumer protections. Successful amendments filed by Eldridge include:

·Banning campaign donations by casino executives to any municipal official with direct or indirect oversight of casino negotiations

·A one-year ban on legislators working in the casino industry after leaving office

·A requirement that casinos send monthly loss statements to customers

·A provision to allow community mitigation funding to go to regional, as well as municipal, entities.

Eldridge also proposed a number of additional amendments to increase protections for consumers and local communities, which were not passed. These amendments included:

·Eliminating cashless wagering systems at casinos, which he calls a predatory practice that encourages problem gambling

·Requiring casinos to provide healthcare for their workers

·Adding accountability measures to ensure casinos actually create the number of jobs they’ve promised to create.

Eldridge has received strong support from constituents who are also opposed to expanded gambling in the commonwealth.

“We fought hard, and did our best to make the case that bringing casinos to Massachusetts would do more harm than good. Given what a huge impact this will have on our state for decades to come, it was an uphill battle worth fighting,” Eldridge said.

The bill now moves to a conference committee to resolve differences between the state House and Senate. It is anticipated that Gov. Deval Patrick will sign the bill into law by the end of the year. During the question-and-answer session that followed Eldridge’s presentation to the Rotary, he explained that if the casino bill is finally approved, it will be four to five years before a casino actually opens for business in Massachusetts.

Best bet?

Best bet?
Casino issues still to be ironed out

BOSTON — Beacon Hill supporters of expanded gambling expect the first slot parlor will be under construction a year from now and three casinos could be up and running in the next three years.

But before the expected frantic scramble for casino sites and gaming licenses begins, a number of major issues are left to be settled between the House, the Senate and the governor before legislation to authorize the massive expansion of legalized gambling is adopted.

The version of gambling legislation that passed the House is at odds with the Senate version in several key areas, and a six-member bipartisan House-Senate conference committee has been formed to iron out those differences and produce a compromise bill.

The Senate chairman of that committee, Stanley C. Rosenberg, D-Amherst, said last week that he expects the committee will quickly resolve those differences and offer the House and Senate a compromise bill for an immediate vote before Nov. 16, when the Legislature breaks for its year-end recess.

The Senate bill requires casino developers to reach agreements not only with the host city or town, but also with adjacent towns, to mitigate or compensate for local impacts expected from casino development as a condition of getting license approval. The House limited that requirement with provisions allowing a new state gaming commission to settle impact disagreements with nearby communities to prevent adjacent cities and towns from blocking casinos.

The Senate also calls for a controversial repeal of the state’s decades-old ban on happy hour discount and free drinks at all bars and restaurants in the state, to level the competition with casinos that will be allowed to give free drinks to customers under both the House and Senate bills.

While both also provide for a 40 percent tax on gross gaming revenues from the one slot parlor that would be licensed, the House called for an additional 9 percent tax on those gross revenues to support horse racing and boost race purses at state race tracks. The Senate bill would levy a 15 percent additional tax for the horse racing fund.

The bills also differ on whether voters in Boston, Worcester and Springfield would be allowed to approve or reject casino plans in those cities. While both bills require approval by local referendums for all other communities in the state, the House would only require approval of host precincts in those cities, while the Senate would limit local approval to a host precinct vote only in Worcester and Boston.

Another sticking point is a Senate provision that would prohibit lawmakers from taking jobs in the casino industry for at least one year after leaving office The House bill contains no restriction on lawmakers taking jobs in the gambling industry.

“There are some differences, but I don’t see any overwhelming differences that would make the thing fall apart, “ Mr. Rosenberg said after the committee was formed last week.

“Happy hours is one, and what role should communities surrounding the host community have and should there be a closure mechanism,” to thwart adjacent communities from blocking nearby casino plans, or demand excessive compensation as a basis for a municipal impact agreement, he said.

“You can imagine some mischief if there is no resolution. I’m open to a closure mechanism,” he said, such as a last-best offer decision controlled by the gaming commission.

If sent to the governor’s desk in November, the legislation could also pose some difficult issues for Gov. Deval L. Patrick, who launched efforts to bring casinos to Massachusetts shortly after taking office in 2007.

From the outset Mr. Patrick had promised that host communities would get to vote up or down on any casinos proposed in their city or town. But he may have to decide whether to compromise to make it easier to build casinos in Worcester and especially Boston, if those provisions come to his desk.

On another point, the governor has insisted that if a slot parlor is included that it be competitively bid, and he rejected bills last year that provided for slot parlors at existing racetracks for that reason.

With the pending bills directing state taxes collected from slot parlor gambling to private entities controlling the existing horse racing tracks, the governor may also face a decision on the question of leveling the competitive playing field in light of the horse racing funds and benefits to track proposals for casinos or a slot parlor.

Sen. Stephen M. Brewer, D-Barre, who as Ways and Means chairman helped advance the bill through the Senate, said there are also some differences in allocation of state revenues from gambling taxes. A chief difference, he said, is that the Senate would direct 20 percent to local aid while the House bill would send 25 percent to cities and towns.

“Little things can sometimes get elevated to big things during these discussions as well,” Mr. Brewer said of the conference committee process. But he expects a compromise bill to emerge from those closed talks in the next two weeks.

“I expect it should get on the governor’s desk before we leave town,” Mr. Brewer said of the upcoming year-end recess.

“The slot parlor may be up and running in one and a half to two years,” he said, while the permitting, construction and establishment of a regulatory framework and the licensing competition needed before casinos could open could take several years.

Establishing the gaming commission, hiring staff, writing regulations and holding public hearings on regulations, he said, in itself could take one year to complete.

Conflicting views of Miami's casino potential

Casino magnates & analysts offer conflicting views of Miami's casino potential
Casino magnates Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn disagree on at least one thing: Miami’s potential to emerge as a Las Vegas East.

The two CEOs famous for outlandish Vegas hotels and oversized personalities both have their eyes on opening massive new resorts in the Miami area should Florida loosen gambling laws. But in recent remarks to investment analysts, Adelson and Wynn take opposite positions on how much new gambling tourism Miami can support.

Adelson, the CEO of the Las Vegas Sands casino company, sees Miami capable of supporting a single casino resort. But Wynn, who named his signature 4,750-room Vegas property after himself, describes Miami as a place where competing casinos can thrive.

Meanwhile, analysts at Bernstein, a leading watcher of gambling stocks, this week questioned whether South Florida could sustain three mega resorts. The company warned that Las Vegas could lose as much as 15 percent of its business to South Florida if the Sunshine State allows three new casino resorts to open in the Miami and Fort Lauderdale area. It also said it was unlikely they would produce the kind of revenue needed -- $7 billion a year -- to compete with the Seminole Tribe and existing casinos.

Every addict needs to be seen as a worthy human being

Every addict needs to be seen as a worthy human being
Edmonton Journal

Looking in the eyes of any addict you'll find tears, fear, hurt, anger, disgrace and, most of all, despair.

We have shed many tears because of our families', friends' and society's fear and shame of our disease. I know most people don't want to hear or see or get involved.

We come from all walks of life. Some of us live on the streets, some in posh homes. Most of us are your neighbours, friends or family members. What we all have in common are the struggles of addiction, of mental illness and of living one day at a time, one minute at a time.

The huge step we take is to ask for help and the lifetime acceptance that we are hostages of our addictions.

Addiction comes in many forms: drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, shopping, hoarding, etc. It is any uncontrollable obsession to use or do almost anything.

Addicts also fight the battle of mental illness and the closed-door attitude and stigma because of the embarrassment we feel.

We have not just hurt ourselves, we have deeply hurt our families and friends. We have done things we regret, are very sorry for and wouldn't have done if not for the addiction. The outcome is usually being disowned by others, leaving an addict isolated and abandoned.

It takes years to repair the life of an addict, but it can be done. Most of the time it's through the outstretched hand of a complete stranger who has lived as an addict. So many succumb to their addictions. We don't just decide to become addicts. It is a disease. As hard as it is, we alone have to choose to stop, but we will be addicts for the rest of our days. All we can ask is for acceptance and for others to see each of us as a worthy person and not just another addict.

G. Anderson, Spruce Grove

A bust: Vegas-style casinos would spell craps for state

A bust: Vegas-style casinos would spell craps for state
By Allan Bense

The Florida Chamber of Commerce believes Florida's future should not be for sale. There's never a good time for a bad idea, and betting Florida's future on expanded gambling is a very bad idea.

Like a kid in a candy store, out-of-state investors and foreign-based companies are betting that Floridians can be lured by the sweet talk of a royal flush at the risk of Florida's long-term economic future. That's because they want to build the largest casino on the face of the planet in Florida.

In this tough national economy, working Floridians are courageously confronting the difficult daily challenge of taking care of their families. The unemployed Floridians who earnestly want to work are applying for jobs and hoping they will find a way to take care of their families.

We owe all of these Floridians a strong, smart, strategic plan to build a growing and diverse economy — for today and tomorrow. That requires a continued commitment to creating a strong educational system, a fair regulatory framework, a skilled work force, and a quality of life that will attract knowledge-based jobs and companies to Florida.

The good news is Florida has made significant progress toward building a great future. Florida's education system is now ranked in the Top 5 by Education Weekly. Major research institutes like Scripps, Torrey Pines, SRI and Burnham are pioneering biomedical breakthroughs from their Florida-based offices. The Port of Miami is undergoing transformation to compete for the larger, post-Panamax ships that will soon come through the expanded Panama Canal. And 16 Fortune 500 companies from diverse industries call Florida home.

Orlando's Medical City and its growing simulation industries are examples of what is possible when a region and a state aim for the top.

Florida deserves that kind of vision. It's the same vision that has consistently driven the Florida chamber to push for expanded manufacturing, trade, innovation, research and development, transportation and the resulting growth in jobs, including commercial construction-related jobs.

An economic downturn is an empty excuse by a giant global casino-gambling corporation to tempt Florida into risky quick-buck solutions that are actually incompatible with our state's strategy for long-term prosperity. It's a hard push to highjack Florida's future — to line their pockets.

The proposal promises to limit these out-of-state casino developments to only three, but the hidden truth is the building plan being proposed by a Malaysian corporation would be big enough to hold six of the largest and newest casinos in Las Vegas.

This sketchy project would forever redefine Florida, our economy and our quality of life — antithetical to the proud family-friendly heritage that is the reality for our residents and tens of millions of tourists.

Proponents boast new jobs and tax revenues by rolling the dice and changing Florida's economic landscape. The sobering truth: The only guaranteed winners in this game of craps with Florida's future would be foreign and out-of-state casino owners who are sure to reap massive profits at the expense of Florida's jobs and future.

The casualties include time-honored small and large businesses that likely will go out of business and lay off Floridians. Let's not forget the thousands of individuals who will tragically fall victim to compulsive gambling, devastated families left destitute and victims of casino-related crime as evidenced in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and other casino-dominant economies.

Las Vegas-style casino gambling won't solve our state's short-term economic challenges — and it won't build a stronger foundation for our economic future.

Do we want Florida to be more like Vegas? Nevada has the highest foreclosure and unemployment rates in the U.S. So, if casino gambling is so good for long-term economic growth, why are there no Fortune 500 companies, other than three giant casino companies, headquartered in Nevada?

Florida can do much better than risking its economy and future on the expansion of Vegas-style casino gambling. The Florida chamber will ask Florida's leaders to agree with our plan to protect Florida's future. We will ask them to agree that what happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas.

Allan Bense is chairman of the board of directors for the Florida Chamber of Commerce and a partner with GAC Contractors in Panama City. He was speaker of the Florida House of Representatives from 2004-06.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Casino issue will be special-interest slugfest

Casino issue will be special-interest slugfest
Aaron Deslatte, Capitol View

TALLAHASSEE — It will be the biggest special interest slug-fest of 2012: Mega-wealthy resort casino developers who want to plant a flag in South Florida versus the Sunshine State's traditional titans of family-friendly tourism.

Will Florida lawmakers allow three companies to open $2-billion mega-resorts in Miami-Dade and Broward counties in exchange for a huge tax revenue infusion? If history holds, the answer eventually will be yes. Florida caved to the Seminole Tribe of Florida because its $250-million-a-year payments were too tempting.

This year's battle could pit Central Florida's social conservatives – and theme parks – against the GOP's still breathing live-and-let-live caucus.

"A lot of folks are going to have issues with it," said Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner, an Orlando Republican opposed to the resort casino expansion.

"We're in this mess because we've allowed the industry to dictate public policy," said Senate sponsor Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale.

Still, it's going to be a war.

Walt Disney and other traditional Central Florida resort interests are enlisting major business groups like the Florida Chamber of Commerce to join the fight against the casinos.

Gaming interests that already have a foothold– the pari-mutuels with "racinos" and poker rooms; the Seminole Tribe of Florida and its seven facilities, including two Hard Rocks -- are lining up against the likes of Malaysian-based Genting, which wants to build a $3 billion resort casino in downtown Miami.

And all sides are throwing gobs of cash at ruling Republicans; Genting alone has coughed up more than $200,000.

Since the company bought The Miami Herald building last spring, it's hired a dozen lobbyists, including uber-fundraiser Brian Ballard; ex-education commissioner Jim Horne; ex-congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart; and Democratic lobbyists Sean Pitts and Nancy Texeira.

The company even retained former Senate Democratic Leader Al Lawson to lobby Gov. Rick Scott's office, while Mardi Gras Gaming – which has given $55,500 this year -- turned to another ex-minority leader, Steve Geller of Hallandale Beach, to lobby against the Malaysian multi-national.

Other companies with resort casino ambitions, like Las Vegas Sands, are giving to Associated Industries of Florida, the business lobby that doesn't oppose gaming.

So who gets the early edge? Based on recent history, you'd have to give the mouse the cheese. Disney usually gets its way in Tallahassee.

The company has given more than $417,000 to state political parties, candidates and committees this year. It's also beefed up its lobbying team by hiring former Republican Party of Florida executive director Andy Palmer.

But Bogdanoff says Disney's family-friendly argument is "disingenuous."

"Disney is not a not-for-profit. When they turn themselves into a not-for-profit and spread all their money among the poor children of the world, I will say that's all about being family-friendly. It's about convention business," she said.

"In any industry where there's this much money at stake, you just follow the money. It's just that Mickey Mouse has three fingers and white gloves, and his money is picked up a little differently."

Getting Cash From Genting and Magic City Casino

The Folly of it All!

Banana Republican
Carlos Gimenez, Getting Cash From Genting and Magic City Casino, Tests His Loyalty
By Francisco Alvarado

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez could soon be at odds with two major casino operators supporting his re-election run in 2012. That's because a pair of state bills that would pave the way for three destination mega-resorts with full-scale casinos benefits one company while freezing out the other firm.

Gimenez publicly supports Malaysian giant Genting's bid to bring a gambling resort downtown -- and he's taken thousands from the firm -- but the latest gambling bill in Tallahassee would help Genting at the expense of Magic City Casino, one of the mayor's long-time supporters.

Within days of beating former Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina this past June 26, Gimenez was already twisting arms for campaign funds. Between July 1 and Sept. 30, the mayor raised half-a-million dollars for Common Sense Now, a political action committee Gimenez formed that conducts polls and runs ads on his behalf.

That included $10,000 apiece from Genting New York and West Flagler Associates. Genting New York is an affiliate of the Malaysian casino conglomerate that wants to build a multi-billion dollar resort with 8,400 slot machines and gaming tables on 13-plus acres of waterfront land that includes the existing site of the Miami Herald headquarters.

West Flagler is the holding company for Magic City Casino, the former dog track that currently operates slot machines and card games in the Flagami neighborhood of Miami.

Gimenez's backing of Genting will test his loyalty to the owners of Magic City Casino, Isadore Havenick and his mother Barbara, who two weeks ago co-chaired a fundraiser for Gimenez and who have shown an interest in expanding their gambling operation beyond Flagler Street.

That's because details emerged this week about Reps Erik Fresen and Ellyn Bogdanoff's bills to award exclusive gaming licenses at three South Florida locations. The bidders would have to pay $50 million for the right to compete for the licenses and would be judged on their ability to draw tourists from around the world.

The new casinos would pay 10 percent tax on net revenues -- significantly less than the 35 percent tax rate currently charged to pari-mutuels like Magic City Casino, which already cannot compete with the deep pockets of Genting, the largest casino operator in southeast Asia.
Cushy deal!

Translation: If this bill passes, Magic City would have a hell of a tough time getting a license and an even tougher time surviving if it doesn't.

What's Carlos going to have to say about it? We'll soon find where his loyalties lie.