Saturday, March 31, 2012
By Jennifer Hayes
Dover, Del. — THE ISSUE Citing increasing competition and declining revenues, Delaware’s three casinos have been pushing for relief from the state in the form of tax reductions and the elimination of its annual licensing fees.
With the opening of the Arundel Mills Casino in Maryland next month, casino heads were looking for quick action from the state in order to prevent further losses and the possibility of job cuts.
In response, Finance Secretary Tom Cook and members of the governor’s staff revealed a plan Tuesday to increase gambling options in Delaware and reduce the casinos’ annual licensing fees.
WHAT WE’VE REPORTED As part of the annual report by the Video Lottery Advisory Council released in October, Delaware’s three casino executives asked the state to eliminate a $6.75 million annual table games licensing fee and a $4 million annual video lottery fee. They also requested bring down the state’s table game tax rate from 34 percent to 14 percent, which is the current rate in Pennsylvania.
“All we’re asking is for [the state] to consider making it a more level playing field to compete,” said Ed Sutor, CEO of Dover Downs Hotel & Casino and chairman of the Video Lottery Advisory Counsel.
Brian Selander, a spokesman for Gov. Jack Markell, said legislation could be introduced as early as next week that would expand the Keno lottery game to 100 new venues by the end of the year and would also expand NFL betting to at least 20 new outlets.
The measure also calls for casino games, such as blackjack, poker and slots to be available online and through mobile applications, and would allow the state to sell lottery tickets through the lottery’s web site.
In all, state officials project the expansion to add $7.75 million in revenue each year. The casinos, would therefore see a reduction in its licensing fees by the same amount. This includes the elimination of the $4 million slots fee and a $3.75 million reduction in its table games fee.
“The solution had to be revenue-neutral,” Selander said. “We had to make sure it wouldn’t take away from the teachers, police and medical responders.”
Casinos, will be required, however, to put those savings toward capital expenditures, marketing and debt reduction, Selander said.
Sutor said the casinos are appreciative of the efforts that are being taken by the state and are willing to cooperate with their stipulations.
“They don’t want us to take the money and put in our pockets,” he said. “We’re OK with that. Hopefully the legislators understand this is for the benefit of the entire state. If we do better, than the state does better.”
Now that two federal juries have acquitted the defendants in the infamous legislative corruption trials, it’s time to play “Litigation Motivation,” the classic multiple-choice game that focuses on political trials and entertains millions. In this game, the LM is never as obvious as it seems. In fact, it sometimes emerges accidentally, or, as in the recent corruption trial, fortuitously.
This study guide should assist the anxious student determined to excel in the game.
Let’s get started.
The defendants — former and current Alabama legislators, lobbyists, and casino owners — were charged with bribery by giving or accepting money in exchange for legislative votes on Senate Bill 380, passage of which would have authorized a constitutional referendum on whether to legalize electronic bingo at Alabama casinos. The object of LM in this instance is to determine the chief motivating factors for the charges. There are four options, all of which may apply in varying degrees. But one possible option is critical, and without it, the litigation might never have occurred.
The question is: Why did Republican Alabama legislators trigger an FBI investigation by alleging that they had been offered bribes for their votes on SB380?
The first option is “because they abhorred gambling.” Comme ci, comme ca. In a state where reverence for football is on parity in many quarters with reverence for God (i.e., the ninth poorest state with the nation’s highest paid college football coach), gambling on games is its own sport. Moreover, the tax base in neighboring Mississippi, with its casinos, and the public schools in neighboring Georgia, with their cushioning lottery, have benefited exponentially from Alabamians eager to game their way to wealth. Finally, the head of former Governor Bob Riley’s Illegal Gambling Task Force embarrassingly resigned in 2010 after winning $2,300 at a Choctaw Indian casino in Mississippi.
The second option is “because they rejected money from gambling enterprises.” Nyet! A Riley campaign aide reported that Mississippi’s Choctaw Indians contributed millions to Riley in 2002 to assure his rejection of gambling in Alabama, thus protecting their enterprise from competition. In 2010, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which operates at least three casinos in Alabama, gave more than $500,000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee, which in turn funneled more than $1 million to Alabama Republicans. And today, Creek Indians admirably share millions of their gambling profits with local school boards and cultural institutions in Alabama. That money is actively sought by Republicans and Democrats; no one rejects it because of its source.
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The third option is “because they rejected campaign contributions designed to secure support for legislation.” Nada. Contributions to public officials from special interests who later request favorable consideration of legislation which advances those interests is . . . well, politics. Just ask Alfa, the Alabama Business Council, Alabama Power, AEA, or the trial lawyers. Individual contributors fare just as well, with cabinet and judicial appointments.
The fourth option is “because they wanted to ensure Republican dominance and suppress African American voting influence.” Absolutely! In conversations recorded by the FBI during its pretrial investigation of corruption, Republican Senators Scott Beason, Benjamin Lewis and others agreed that SB380 should be defeated because a referendum on the ballot would drive black voters to the polls, which would not be good for Republicans. Referring to blacks in Greene County (site of a casino) as “aborigines,” Beason and others commented that “HUD-financed buses” would take black voters to the polls in the November 2010 election if the ballot included a referendum to legalize electronic bingo.
Another, equally damning, factor in the motivation of lawmakers who encouraged the investigation is the money trail. As the court noted in an order condemning Beason, Lewis and others for “ulterior motives rooted in naked political ambition and pure racial bias,” blacks tend to vote Democratic, and gambling enterprises tended to support Democrats.
As a contemporary Rube Goldberg machine, the Republicans’ serial plan was to facilitate indictments of casino owners and supporting legislators, to destroy their business interests, to eliminate their income and profits, to thwart contributions to Democratic officials, to assure a Republican takeover of the Legislature.
Click option four.
Vanzetta Penn McPherson is a retired federal magistrate judge.
In Yonkers corruption trial, feds bet big on Mangone's history
Gambling Addicts credibility questioned
Annabi, Jereis convicted on all charges: Annabi, Jereis convicted on all charges, face 12+ years in prison; appeal vowed.
Ex-councilwoman, former party boss convicted on all counts in Yonkers ...The Journal News LoHud.comA jury convicted them on all counts in their federal corruption trial. / Seth Harrison/The Journal News Former Yonkers Councilwoman Sandy Annabi stands outside the Federal Court in lower Manhattan today after a jury found her guilty on all charges in ...
A House Is Not A Home In Yonkers Political Corruption Case
Bill Singer, Contributor
Start the shower before you sit down to read this story. My guess is that you may want to clean up afterwards. It’s yet another in an apparently unending stream of criminal prosecutions of dirty, corrupt politicians who lie and cheat their way into and out of our pockets.
Sandy Annabi was first elected to the Yonkers City Council in November 2001 to represent the Second District and was subsequently re-elected in 2003 and 2005. She served as the Democratic Majority Leader of the Council during the latter part of her third term in office.
Zehy Jereis served as Chairman of the Yonkers Republican Party from the fall of 2003 through the fall of 2007. Oddly, Jereis used his considerable influence and contacts to assist Annabi with all three of her successful campaigns.
The Longfellow Project
In 2003, Yonkers developer Milio Management was seeking to redevelop an area of land known as the Longfellow Project. And, wouldn’t you just know it but, too bad, some of the project was partially located within Annabi’s district.
Why, you might ask, would I say “too bad?”
Well, it’s because Annabi was that rare beacon of light in the darkness of politics. She was a highly principled and dedicated civil servant, willing to sacrifice personal aggrandizement for the good of her voters.
I mean, c’mon now, we can’t be cynical about every politician. When Annabi heard about Milio Management’s Longfellow Project she dug in her heels at a City Council meeting on June 14, 2005, and called the plans “outrageous” and a “slap in the face to the taxpayers of Yonkers.” Wow, that’s taking on the big real estate interests in Yonkers. And, for good measure, Annabi said “Even if the entire community supported [it], I would be opposed.”
Frankly, them thar were fightin’ words because with Annabi standing in the way, Milio Management was pretty much stymied.
So, what do you do when you’re a developer at Point A, and your project is at Point C, and you have the feisty Annabi blocking you at Point B? Well, in April 2006, Milio Management hired Westchester County attorney Anthony Mangone, and hoped that he could show Annabi the error of her ways when it came to the lovely Longfellow Project.
Shortly thereafter, Mangone got in touch with Republican Party powerbroker Jereis. Why the hell would you go to a Republican when you’re trying to change the mind of the Democratic Majority Leader in the same city? Maybe it’s got something to do with the nature of politics and the you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours way of that profession.
Mangone The Facilitator arranged a meeting between Jereis and a representative of Milio Management. Milio must have loved what it heard – Mangone said that he could get Annabi onboard with the Longfellow Project. Afterwards, Mangone explained that there would be a price tag for that persuasion. In the summer of 2006, a la Tinkers to Evans to Chance, the tidy sum of $30,000 in cash went from Milio to Mangone to Annabi – double play! Thereafter, $20,000 bucks went round the horn from Mangone to Jereis to Annabi, which prompted Annabi to make several purchases, including airline ticket upgrades, a Rolex watch, and a diamond necklace.
Rolex. Diamonds. Gee, politics can be a very rewarding line of work, at least in Yonkers, it seems.
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Ah yes, the pangs of conscience being what they are, the brave Ms. Annabi firmly wobbled and at a City Council meeting that September 2006, voted in favor of the Longfellow Project.
The Ridge Hill Project
Then there was the equally sad tale of developer Forest City Ratner frustrated plan to develop the Ridge Hill Project, an 81-acre tract of land destined to be turned into retail, restaurant, and office space with hundreds of residential housing units, a hotel, and a conference center. Annabi was also opposed to this deal and, yet again, was the immovable object in the way of approval. Twice she voted against the project, and twice it went down in defeat before the Yonkers City Council. And to rub salt in an oozing wound, Annabi and others also filed a civil lawsuit to effectively block the project.
On June 2, 2006, Jereis The Greaser amazingly found himself at yet another meeting with another Yonkers developer, and, once again, he explained to Forest City Ratner how he had this “in” with Annabi and, you know, maybe I could do sumthin’ for you guys here.
And do sumthin’ he did! Within five days, Jereis managed to get Annabi to attend two meetings with him and representatives of Forest City Ratner. Then, zounds!!!, on June 15, 2006, Annabi issued a press release (drafted by Jereis and representatives of Forest City Ratner) declaring her support for the project, which was underscored on July 11, 2006, when she voted in favor of the zoning changes at a City Council meeting.
Not that anyone would ever suggest, even remotely, some kind of quid pro quo but, how nice, Forest City Ratner gave Jereis a consulting job after Annabi changed her mind about the Ridge Hill Project. Following Annabi’s vote in favor of the deal, Jereis go a $60,000 per annum consulting contract.
A House Is Not A Home
At least from 2002 and through 2007, Annabi and Jereis had this very profitable mutual admiration society. During that time, Jereis secretly gave Annabi money and purported loans to finance the purchase of two residential properties located outside of her Council District. To obtain favorable financing, Annabi submitted applications to two different banks.
You might want to get out a pen and paper and chart what’s coming up because this is going to get a tad complicated.
Annabi told both banks that she was personally going to live in the house for which she was seeking financing. That’s an owner-occupied deal – you got that? As in supposedly living in more than one place at a time.
Annabi was playing a bit of hide-and-seek with the banks. Not telling the first lender about the second, or the second lending bank about the first – and also not disclosing that she was looking to borrow funds for two houses in total. Lucky for her, the closings went off without a hitch two-days apart.
Of course, maybe she didn’t think this all out too carefully because one of the houses that she was living in wasn’t located in her Council District. For you and me, maybe not that big a deal, but state and local laws have this ticklish requirement that a Council member has to live within her District. Oops.
Not to worry — Jereis stepped up to the plate and purchased a cooperative apartment for Annabi within her Council District so she could meet the residency requirement. In fact, this supposed political foe, Jereis the Republican, paid the apartment’s down payment and made the monthly mortgage payments for his Democratic counterpart. Oddly, even with all of Jereis’s generosity, in her loan applications for one of the two houses and for the apartment, Annabi falsely inflated her income with fake pay stubs, W-2′s, and bank statements.
The Feds Step In
According to federal prosecutors, since 2001, Annabi received nearly $200,000 in secret payments from Jereis and others in exchange for taking favorable actions in her official City Council capacity. In January 2010, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York charged Annabi with concealing the illegal benefits she received from Jereis and others by
•filing annual financial disclosure statements that intentionally omitted the illegal payments; and
•failing to report the illegal payments she received on federal income tax returns.
On November 29, 2010, Mangone pled guilty to conspiracy, bribery, extortion, and tax evasion charges and is awaiting sentencing. He faces a maximum prison sentence of 45 years.
On March 29, 2012, Annabi, 41, and Jereis, 40, were each convicted of one count of:
•conspiracy to make and accept corrupt payments
•conspiracy to deprive the City of Yonkers and its citizens of Annabi’s honest services,
•receiving corrupt payments, and
Separately, Annabi was also convicted of
•one count of receiving corrupt payments,
•two counts of filing false tax returns, and
•three counts of making false statements to a bank.
Similarly, Jereis was also separately convicted of making corrupt payments.
Annabi faces a maximum sentence of 161 years in prison, and Jereis faces a maximum sentence of 65 years in prison.
Bill Singer’s Comment
So lemme see how this works. I’m interested in developing some property, maybe I want to build some much-needed housing in an inner city or convert some squalid stretch of abandoned property into a new commercial center. So, now what — I’ve got to factor in the cost of paying off a friend of a friend of a friend of a politician, and then each of the individuals in that line? No wonder our real estate sector is a mess, and, yeah, it’s not as if some of the players in that arena weren’t fudging their own numbers too.
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Still, you look at the relatively tough times that some major developers and builders are having trying to get traction these days. KB Homes, DR Horton, Lennar, Toll Brothers, PulteGroup, and other companies are hoping for the flicker of some buyers’ interests. Millions of laid-off workers and their families in the construction industry and its allied sectors are hoping for a recover. But standing in the way of jobs and profits are too many politicians and their cronies, with hands out for bribes and kickbacks.
Raise taxes? Lay off teachers? Raise tolls? Cut essential services? Hey, how about you put some of these elected thugs in a jail cell and throw away the key? I bet that will cut down on costs and speed the belabored zoning approval process.
Once again, hats off to US Attorney Preet Bharara and his staff. Bharara is the hardest working federal prosecutor in the business, and one of the few remaining obstacles between us and the bad guys. No, he’s not without fault as I noted in my “Street Sweeper” column: “UPDATE: Bill Singer Criticizes US Prosecutor For Expressing Disappointment With Jury’s Not Guilty Verdict” On the other hand, he’s still the Sheriff of Wall Street, and he still seems to be sincere in his focus on corruption.
The worst tax on the American taxpayer is the hidden cost of political corruption.
A Favorite Contractor And The Corrupt Home Building Senator
Two in Yonkers Are Convicted of Conspiracy
Ex-Yonkers City Councilwoman convicted of bribery
Dirty pols convicted
By ED PALATTELLA, Erie Times-News
Ted Arneault and Gregory J. Rubino have failed in their attempt to use a federal lawsuit to clear their names in connection with the development of Presque Isle Downs & Casino.
U.S. District Judge Sean J. McLaughlin has dismissed the suit, which Arneault and Rubino filed a year ago against 26 defendants, including members of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, Erie developer Nick Scott Sr. and Erie lawyer Leonard Ambrose.
The case centered on a now-lifted ban that the board imposed on Rubino in 2006. Arneault and Rubino claimed the defendants contributed to the imposition of the ban, which Arneault and Rubino said damaged their reputations in the gambling industry.
Arneault was the chief executive of the West Virginia-based MTR Gaming Group Inc. when it opened Presque Isle Downs in Summit Township in February 2007. Rubino, an Erie real estate agent and developer, was the main consultant on the project through his former company, Tecnica Development Corp.
McLaughlin, in an 80-page ruling issued late Wednesday, said Arneault, Rubino and their lawyer, John Mizner, had presented no viable civil-rights claims in their 147-page complaint.
McLaughlin also said some of the suit's claims violated the statute of limitations or had been made against defendants, such as the Gaming Control Board members, with quasi-judicial immunity.
"Neither Arneault nor Rubino has successfully pled an actionable constitutional deprivation," McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin ruled that, even if all the claims in the suit were true, "the law does not offer a remedy," said Ambrose's lawyer, William Pietragallo, of Pittsburgh.
"We felt confident from the beginning," he said. "But we are pleased with the judge's decision."
The defendants also included MTR Gaming Group and several of its former and current officials.
"We are certainly pleased with the court's dismissal of this entire lawsuit, which we have always maintained had no legal merit," Nick Rodriguez-Cayro, MTR's vice president, secretary and general counsel, said in a statement.
The Gaming Control Board is "pleased with the outcome," a spokesman said.
Mizner, the lawyer for Arneault and Rubino, said he is considering appealing to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Philadelphia, or filing three of the dismissed counts in Erie County Court, which McLaughlin said was the proper venue for those three counts.
He unconditionally dismissed the other seven counts.
"This case is factually complicated and involves complex issues of constitutional law," Mizner said. "It is clear that Judge McLaughlin put a tremendous amount of thought and effort into his 80-page opinion."
When the Gaming Control Board banned Rubino, in 2006, Rubino's Tecnica Development received a $4.2 million buyout from MTR. Rubino claimed the board denied his due-process rights by never telling him the reasons for the ban.
Mizner said the ban, though the board lifted it in August, still hurt Rubino, 60, who owns Passport Realty LLC in Erie.
Mizner said Arneault, because of his association with Rubino, was also hurt by the ban. And, he said in the suit, Arneault's reputation suffered when Gaming Control Board officials recommended in January 2010 that Arneault's gaming license not be renewed because of concerns about his character.
After a five-day hearing at which Arneault argued his case for a license, other board officials dropped that recommendation, allowing Arneault to get his license renewed in November 2010.
Arneault, who left MTR as chief executive at age 61 in 2008, now is associated with a prospective harness racing track and casino in New Castle.
Ambrose was a defendant in the federal suit because he presented information to gaming investigators about Rubino. He said he did so under subpoena.
Rubino was the main prosecution witness in the public-corruption trial of former Erie Mayor Rick Filippi, whom Ambrose represented and who was acquitted in 2006. Ambrose also represented Scott, the developer, in an unrelated suit that involved Rubino.
Ambrose's lawyer, Pietragallo, had said Arneault and Rubino's federal suit was a vendetta against Ambrose and the other defendants.
McLaughlin in his ruling did not focus on motivations, but on legal requirements for the suit. He agreed with the defendants that a gaming license is a privilege, not a constitutionally protected right.
He said Arneault's hearing before gaming officials -- after which the Gaming Control Board renewed Arneault's license -- "was adequate to vindicate his reputational interests."
Rubino has not returned to the gambling industry, despite the Gaming Control Board's lifting of the ban. To get a gaming license, he still would have to apply and undergo a review by gaming investigators.
Mizner said Rubino does not intend to apply for a license in light of his prior dealings with the Gaming Control Board.
"It is highly unlikely that any gaming companies would have any interest in doing business with Mr. Rubino because of what the government and others have done to him," Mizner said.
Those quaint produce stands lining the drive through Currituck County to the beach may soon be outnumbered by Internet sweepstakes parlors - if they aren't already.
Although the North Carolina legislature banned the video games in an amendment to an existing law against gambling two years ago, they're alive and thriving on N.C. 168 in Moyock and beyond.
Shortly after the ban was approved, sweepstakes operators and software providers challenged it. This month, a divided state Court of Appeals sided with the industry, contending the law is too broadly drawn.
Since then, more parlors have opened in Currituck, joining others that have been in operation during the court challenge.
The parlors work like this: Players purchase Internet or phone time to click through computer screens to see if they've won a cash prize. The game operators contend it's not gambling because the results are determined before the players sit down at the screen.
As The Pilot's Jeff Hampton recently reported, Currituck officials have issued citations to sweepstakes parlors for zoning violations. Those citations are also being challenged, and sweepstakes operators have asked the County Commission to allow the games.
Two years ago, Elizabeth City approved a similar change that imposes taxes on each sweepstakes machine. Three parlors have been operating there, generating revenues of approximately $62,000 a year, according to officials.
But both localities have more to lose than gain from these establishments.
And North Carolina has much to lose if it can't find a way to regulate an industry that seems to operate in the small space created by loopholes and technicalities. In Portsmouth, for example, gambling threatened to overrun the city before officials stepped in.
Gambling is an industry that shouldn't happen by accident or because laws are insufficiently precise.
Elizabeth City is striving to revitalize its historic downtown, and sweepstakes parlors - even on the outskirts of downtown - don't project an inviting image to visitors or prospective businesses. The same is true for Currituck, which relies heavily on its family-friendly tourism image.
Proponents of sweepstakes parlors contend they're good for the economy, but there's substantial evidence that gambling, even in its simplest forms, isn't an innocuous pastime. It diverts money that would be spent on real goods and services, and money disproportionately comes from people who can least afford to part with it.
Virginia successfully shut down these games last year. If North Carolina's high court doesn't uphold the ban, lawmakers in Raleigh need to try again. The state has a history of corruption related to video gambling, and it shouldn't run the risk of more.
The North Carolina Sheriffs Association and the Association of Chiefs of Police oppose the games. Those warnings sound like winning advice for local and state officials.
Concerning the March 13 front-page article "Candidates back casino": To the candidates new to the controversy, let me say that gambling is one of a handful of activities that used to be called "immoral" back when our culture used that word. Immoral activities include prostitution, drug dealing, sex trafficking, drunkenness, gun running, etc. Like the others, gambling was considered immoral because it exploits a common human weakness and harms individuals, families, and society.
There is money to be made in all immoral activities. That seems to be the main (almost only) argument from the casino's supporters: jobs. Yes, there would be an initial boom in construction jobs followed by an ongoing number of service jobs, but at what price in terms of human misery from those we airily refer to as "problem gamblers?" Like fathers who gamble away the rent money, mothers who embezzle from their jobs to support their gambling addiction, or the current problems we have with people stealing wire and metal from any place they can find them.
They do it now for drug money. Do we want the pursuit of gambling money to add an additional bunch of thieves to our streets?
Do we really think that all we have to do is print up some cards: "Problem Gambling? Call ___" and that will take care of the problem? People voted against the casino for a reason; they knew intuitively it would harm, not help our community.
Read more: http://www.appeal-democrat.com/articles/gambling-114971-casino-money.html#ixzz1qjKryJHv
By Edvard Pettersson
Wynn Resorts Ltd. (WYNN) wants its lawsuit against Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada sent back to Nevada state court, arguing its removal to federal court was part of a “scheme to manipulate the legal process and to forum shop.”
Wynn said in a request filed in federal court yesterday in Las Vegas that its claims of breach of fiduciary against Okada involve only state law issues. Okada moved the case to federal court to avoid having it heard by the same state court judge who ruled against him in his attempt to gain access to Wynn’s books and records, according to the filing.
“Defendants experimented in state court and, after receiving an unquestionably adverse decision, moved to do whatever they could to start anew,” Wynn’s lawyers said. “Defendants purposefully used the removal process as an improper attempt to forum shop.”
Wynn, based in Las Vegas, sued Okada in February and redeemed his 20 percent stake in the casino operator saying he was “unsuitable” based on findings that he made improper payments to Philippine gambling officials. Okada last month removed the case to federal court, saying the underlying issue was whether he violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Okada, who Wynn seeks to remove from the board of directors, also filed counterclaims in federal court, alleging that Wynn Resorts Chairman Steve Wynn runs the company as his “personal fiefdom” and asking the court to invalidate the redemption of his shares at an $800 million discount.
Jim Golden, a spokesman for Okada’s Universal Entertainment Corp. (6425), didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on the filing.
The case is Wynn Resorts v. Okada, 12-00400, U.S. District Court, District of Nevada (Las Vegas.)
Lack of funds over past two years is leading to cash flow problem for city
By Mark Scheer
The Niagara Gazette Thu Mar 29, 2012
NIAGARA FALLS — A combination of continued spending and no new casino revenue has put the city of Niagara Falls in a precarious financial position, one that has the chairman of the city council threatening to wrest control of spending away from Mayor Paul Dyster’s administration.
Controller Maria Brown has been asked to provide the council with an overview of the city’s finances during a meeting at 4 p.m. Monday at City Hall.
Brown said Thursday she will be looking to drive home the message that the city has exhausted all the casino cash it had on hand and must curtail spending moving forward as it does not appear as though new revenue will be arriving anytime soon.
“This is my job,” she said. “My job is to bring it to the attention of everybody. I’m not hear to put fear into people, but I’m hear to wave the red flag and let everyone know it’s time we start watching this very carefully.”
With no casino revenue coming in for the past two years, Brown said the city has reached a “critical point,” not only in its ability to support projects and programs funded by casino dollars but in meeting general operating budget obligations for things like salaries and pension payments. She said she will recommend the implementation of a freeze on spending in several areas, including the filling of vacant, non-public safety positions, overtime, employee travel and special projects like the ZOOM community cleanup team.
Brown said the change in direction is needed to prevent the city from running into a cash-flow problem later this year.
“The city has been using its reserves in anticipation of the casino funds coming for a two-year period,” she said. “We now have to say ‘the projects have to stop.’ We are now at a critical point and we need to say ‘nobody can ask for anymore money.’ ”
The controller’s warning follows comments made last week by Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy who said during a visit to Niagara Falls that it may “take awhile” for the casino revenue dispute — which appears headed for arbitration — to be resolved.
Brown said the city can no longer afford to be patient. She said the city spent roughly $15 million in casino revenue since receiving its last payment in 2010. Since then, it has been dipping into its special projects fund balance to cover expenses in anticipation of the arrival of casino revenue. Those revenues are still not here, but Brown says the bills are continuing to pile up. She said the city’s reserve account dropped from $20 million in 2010 to $9.3 million through the first quarter of this year.
“We have done the right things and that’s why we had a $20 million reserve in the bank,” Brown said. “It’s not the city’s fault. The council and the mayor have done everything prudent and have been fiscally responsible. This is a consequence of not getting the money we all thought we would have by now.”
Mayor Paul Dyster added Thursday night that while city officials were prepared for a reduction in casino cash revenue, no one anticipated the city would go two years without receiving any of the funds.
“This is the most unpredictable of circumstances,” he said.
Council Chairman Sam Fruscione disagreed. He suggested Dyster’s administration could and should have done more by now to reign in spending and avoid the prospect of more significant financial problems down the road. He suggested the administration employed a “smoke and mirrors” approach by requesting funds for consultants, special projects, reports and other questionable expenditures without having the casino cash on hand to cover the cost.
Fruscione said he learned the true nature of the city’s finances during a meeting with Brown earlier this month. Without an immediate influx of casino revenue, he said the city may be forced to lay off as many as 100 employees to keep the books balanced.
“We’ve been robbing Peter to pay Paul and now it’s coming back to bite us in the butt,” Fruscione said. “We’re down deep — real deep.”
Dyster disputed Fruscione’s claims, particularly in regard to staff cuts.
“Layoffs are the very last option we’d look at,” he said, later adding, “... we’re going to have to do everything we can to keep cash from going out the door.”
One casino cash-related expenditure the city can’t get away from, Dyster said, is a $4.5 million annual debt service payment related to the construction of the municipal complex, a plan put forth by former Mayor Vince Anello’s administration and approved by the council, of which Fruscione was a member at the time.
Dyster also said Fruscione has as much access to Brown, the city controller, as he does and shouldn’t be surprised about the city’s financial outlook.
“I believe he had monitored the situation,” Dyster said, adding he has brought the matter up with the council and the subject has come up during public meetings.
Fruscione said the council is now heeding the warnings from Brown and will take steps on Monday in hopes of staving off future financial problems. The council will introduce a resolution calling for an immediate spending freeze and reductions in city spending wherever possible. Fruscione also “guaranteed” that “every single expenditure” request from Dyster’s administration will be voted down by the council majority during Monday’s meeting. He described the idea of spending more money under the circumstances as “more than foolish” and “irresponsible” and declared an end to “free-wheeling expenditures on consultants, reports and questionable projects.”
“We have no choice but to take the power away from him,” Fruscione said. “We have no money at all and we have to take control of spending.”
Dyster said the city is looking to either officials from the state or Seneca Nation to come through with the funds, even if it’s a payment in advance of any agreement the two sides come to.
“The Senecas and the state have put the city in a very difficult situation.”
Trespassing citations account for majority of police calls.
By Janet Nester
While the opening of Rivers Casino generated a lot of excitement and buzz in Des Plaines last year, it generated another kind of buzz as well.
In the sixth ward where the casino is located, calls to the Des Plaines Police Department rose almost 11 percent, and calls to the Des Plaines Fire Department increased 29 percent.
The Des Plaines Police Department responded to an annual average of 6,822 calls in the city’s sixth ward from 2009 to 2011. Officers responded to 7,560 calls in the sixth ward in 2011, 681 of those calls to Rivers Casino, said Mike Kozak, acting police chief.
Several aldermen said the number of calls in 2011 concerned them.
“This has had a huge impact beyond what we ever expected,” Jim Brookman, fifth ward alderman, said at a public safety committee meeting on Feb. 8.
Earlier: Emergency radios don't work in Rivers Casino.
Reports show that Des Plaines police officers spent more than 800 hours to incidents at the casino in 2011.
“[Officers at the casino] are not patrolling the streets of my neighborhood and the streets of the city,” said Mark Walsten, sixth ward alderman. “These call numbers are disturbing.”
Deputy Police Chief Angela Burton said the while casino did generate more activity than expected, it did not cause a “significant burden” to the department.
Des Plaines Fire Chief Alan Wax said, after studying call statistics from other cities with casinos, they expected to respond to the casino every other day. Instead, the fire department responded to a call every 1.38 days in 2011.
On average, the Des Plaines Fire Department responded to 334 calls in the city’s sixth ward in 2009, 2010, and 2011. In 2011, the fire department responded to a total of 432 calls — 119 of them to the casino.
“[Rivers Casino] certainly has had an impact, but has been within our ability to respond,” said Alan Wax, Des Plaines fire chief.
Most are trespassing calls
About 90 percent of the police calls to Rivers Casino were for patrons on the Illinois Gaming Board self-exclusion list. As those patrons try to enter the casino, security guards detain them, and they are cited for criminal trespassing, Kozak said.
Fines for trespassing increased from $250 to $500 this year. Offenders received 148 trespassing citations in 2011 for incidents at the casino, which generated $37,000 for the city.
The self-exclusion list, started in 2002, is a voluntary program people sign up for after recognizing they have a gambling problem, said Gene O’Shea, Director of Self-Exclusion for the Illinois Gaming Board.
Anyone on the list who tries to enter a casino will be charged with criminal trespassing, a misdemeanor crime that results in a $500 fine with the possibility of up to 180 days in jail.
Individuals can petition to be removed from the list after five years, O’Shea said, but no one has ever succeeded in this.
Hollywood Casino’s experience
Aurora Police Chief Gregory Thomas said when Hollywood Casino opened in the early 1990’s there was an initial increase in numbers, but then things leveled off.
Thomas described Des Plaines’ increase in police incidents in the sixth ward as “not too outrageous.”
“Anytime you have a new business there will be a change,” Thomas said. He said many of the calls to Hollywood Casino are for underage patrons and people on the self-exclusion list.
Because Hollywood Casino is a boat, it initially had two officers on board at all times. As time went on, the department saw little need to have two officers on site and eventually eliminated that shift.
Wax said he hasn’t received any complaints from the community, adding that he expects the number of calls to the casino to go down once some casino staff members receive medical training so that they can treat minor injuries.
Rivers Casino has its own security system, which will call for criminal situations but works to take care of minor issues, said Mike Kozak, acting police chief.
“They aren’t just calling for nothing,” Kozak said.
“My main concern is citizens of Des Plaines are not getting the same coverage today as they did last year,” Walsten said.
Gaming Tax Revenue Planned for Flood Control, Debt Reduction
Aldermen say that that flood mitigation projects top residents’ lists.
Des Plaines will likely receive between $3 and $5 million dollars from Rivers Casino this year and aldermen say they plan to use it for infrastructure improvements and debt reduction in 2013.
The finance and administration committee met last night to formulate a policy that will help guide current and future city administrators and politicians in how revenue generated from Rivers Casino can best be spent. Many stressed that this policy will help Des Plaines avoid mistakes other casino communities made with their revenue, such as spending it on operating costs.
Des Plaines has the tenth and final casino license in the state and earned that in part because it entered a 30-year Business Development Agreement. The agreement stipulates that the state of Illinois gets $10 million of Rivers’ casino revenues. Ten designated communities will share 40 percent of the remaining amount and Des Plaines keeps the rest.
Rivers Casino pays a gaming tax, which is five percent of its gross receipts, and an admissions tax, which is $1 per person.
Previous estimates show that tens of thousands of visitors frequent Rivers Casino every month and that the casino brought in more than $37 million in profits last month.
While $3 million is a “conservative” estimate, the city will know the exact amount it will receive in August or September, said Acting City Manager Jason Slowinski. Money will be kept in a separate fund and allocated in the 2013 budget.
Many aldermen emphasized the importance of using this money for extracurricular projects and not on operational costs, partly because the amount the city will receive will vary greatly year to year.
Ideas for those projects included improvements to the city’s water system that the current budget cannot cover. All in attendance agreed that the money should not be spent on personnel salaries.
Aldermen say that that flood mitigation projects top residents’ lists.
This policy will be passed as a resolution, which means it is not a law and can be changed or not followed at will.
Most aldermen emphasized that the policy is a means of government transparency and a way to show residents how the casino money will be spent.
Other communities with casinos did not have a policy in place when their casinos first opened. In the economic downturn and with tighter budgets, some cities started dipping into casino money to fill gaps and cover essential services, Slowinski said. When casino revenues dried up, those towns were in trouble.
Similarly, many of those same towns spent casino money to hire additional police officers and fire fighters. When they saw their casino revenues drop, they were stuck making tough decisions, said 7th Ward Alderman Dan Wilson.
Aldermen supporting the policy said it adds certainty and predictability to the budgeting process.
“This money will not be spent like a 16-year-old with her first checkbook,” said Second Ward Alderman John Robinson.
Fifth Ward Alderman Jim Brookman said he didn’t like the policy because it puts constraints on how the casino money can be spent and Fourth Ward Alderman Dick Sayad said wanted to wait to see how much money the city would receive until any policy was put into place.
“This is a chain around our neck,” Sayad said.
Brookman added that the nature of the policy is “insulting” because it assumes politicians will misspend the money.
The policy as is advocates spending money on new infrastructure, such as flood mitigation projects, but would not allow for the purchase of new equipment, like a fire truck, for example. Brookman said that casino money should be able to be used for one-time expenses.
Aldermen at the meeting said they wanted feedback from residents and agreed to have the policy presented as a resolution at the first city council meeting in June. Two aldermen weren’t present -- Mike Charewicz, eighth ward alderman, and Patricia Haugeberg, first ward alderman. Mayor Martin Moylan was not in attendance.
By David Cay Johnston
March 30 (Reuters) - Politicians in both parties are betting that allowing more gambling will make them winners at the polls by raising revenue without appearing to raise taxes.
Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Steve Beshear of Kentucky, both Democrats, each want seven casinos.
In Kansas, where the state owns casinos, Governor Sam Brownback, a Republican, wants more gambling money to pay down state debts.
In Minnesota, Governor Mark Dayton of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party wants more gambling to finance a new stadium for the privately owned Vikings football team.
Florida legislators are mulling three casinos, one in Miami. Illinois lawmakers may allow a casino in Chicago.
In Texas, Governor Rick Perry says he opposes more gambling. Yet eight years ago he called the legislature into special session to allow gambling at the gas pumps to help finance schools (). He lost that bet.
Egging on these and other politicians is anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, who has made "tax" the vilest four-letter word in American politics. Norquist wrote Texas politicians a letter in January saying that more gambling is better than more taxes. ()
As a longtime student of gambling companies and their regulation, I find these developments troubling. People who want to play should have an honest place to wager. But states should only allow, not encourage, gambling. Basic government services should not depend on gambling revenue, as Perry's school finance proposal did.
No matter how much gambling the law allows, taxes on the money players lose will never be enough to finance the government services on which jobs and private wealth creation depend.
$24 BILLION IN 2010 REVENUES
Gambling generated $24 billion for the states in 2010, about 2 percent of their total revenues, data collected by the Rockefeller Institute of Government shows (). Thanks to its lottery, New York got the most gambling revenue, $2.7 billion, more than Nevada and New Jersey combined.
Tax revenues from gambling are down in both West and East Mammonopolis, in part because of a weak economy. In the west, Nevada gamblers lost $3.8 billion last year, down 12 percent in real terms from 2000, according to the University of Nevada (). In the east, Atlantic City players lost $3.3 billion last year, down 39 percent from their inflation-adjusted loss of $5.4 billion in 2001, according to the state of New Jersey. The only growth is in betting near home, which the industry calls "convenience play." Slot machines took more money from players in Pennsylvania than Atlantic City last year.
Nelson Rose, the Whittier College law professor who developed the theory that America is riding its third historic wave of gambling, says, "we are decades away from market saturation" for convenience gambling.
The first two gambling waves ended in scandals, the first between 1820 and 1840 because of dishonest games, the second in 1890 because the nationwide Louisiana Lottery corrupted politicians.
While the third wave has yet to crest, a potential new scandal lurks in proposals to initiate legal online betting.
The U.S. Justice Department issued a formal opinion in December that the Wire Act, a law long-thought to bar Internet gambling, applies only to sports betting. ()
This means that states running the Powerball and Megamillions lotteries can operate multistate online poker and other Internet betting.
But how will states know if online players are adults? My 1992 book "Temples of Chance" named 13- and 14-year-old children who Atlantic City casinos plied with liquor, limousines and luxury suites. How will the states keep underage gamblers using their own money -- or Mom and Dad's credit cards -- from online poker?
Another issue is who benefits from more gambling and who may be maneuvered into supporting it. Consider the way Cuomo has framed a casino expansion proposal.
New York has nine racetracks with slot machines, called racinos. By proposing only seven casino licenses, Cuomo initiated a variation on musical chairs, where two or more operators will end up without a license when the music stops. Want to bet whether this approach encourages political donations and quiet favors?
The giant Asian gambling company Genting Group won the contract for the Aqueduct racino in Queens last year. Now, Cuomo has tapped Genting to build the nation's largest convention center there, which it says it will do without subsidies.
I doubt many people would fly to New York to visit mundane Ozone Park, an hour's subway ride from Manhattan's Broadway shows, Fifth Avenue shopping and Times Square.
At the same time, Cuomo is proposing to close the Javits convention center in the heart of the city, alarming Manhattan hotel and restaurant owners, as it should.
Now let's connect the dots.
Genting would make more money if instead of a convention hall in Ozone Park it erects a large open space for a full-blown casino with baccarat, blackjack, craps, pai gow and poker. But a casino requires legislative and voter approval, which may not be easy to get.
Cuomo, by threatening to close the Javits center, has given Manhattan hotel and restaurant operators an interest in persuading state legislators and voters to make sure Ozone Park becomes a huge casino complex and Javits stays open. That way their income from Manhattan conventioneers would not be at risk.
I find it most curious that any politician trying to avoid tax increases would consider a casino operator whose profits will go to Malaysia instead of staying in-state.
People in New York, and elsewhere, should ask: What value do offshore casino operators add? Why not license American gaming companies? Or local investors? What motivated Cuomo to shun Indian casino operators, like the Oneida Nation with its well-run Turning Stone casino near Syracuse?
And all Americans should ask what the odds are that more gambling will promote an industrious, thrifty society. And does it make sense for your tax savings to depend on how many of your neighbors make a losing toss of the dice?
Of Twin River:
In 2010, he said, the state of Rhode Island put up $3.7 million in new annual marketing subsidies for the gaming operation to keep the Twin Rivers casino operating under new ownership. The bailout legislation obligated taxpayers to reimburse the owners for any losses incurred from other competitors in the state.
“They went bankrupt, and debtors assumed ownership, and some were large banks, including Bank of America,” Mr. Beaton said.
By Brian Hallenbeck
Publication: The Day
Nearly $1M in dispute from failed attempt to license casino there
Foxwoods Development Co., an entity owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, is fighting a law firm's claim that the company owes nearly $1 million in legal fees and costs related to its pursuit of a Philadelphia casino license.
The license, awarded in 2006, was revoked more than a year ago by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
In a response to the suit filed last December in the Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia County, Foxwoods Development denies it's responsible for $940,757 in fees and costs billed from December 2007 to May 2009 by the Philadelphia firm Obermayer, Rebmann, Maxwell and Hippel.
The firm claims Foxwoods Development's failure to pay the bills constitutes a breach of an agreement the parties signed in December 2005.
Foxwoods Development contends, however, that the casino project was ultimately pursued by Philadelphia Entertainment and Development Partners, or PEDP, which entered into subsequent agreements with the lawfirm in 2006 and 2007. Foxwoods Development and "several wholly-owned affiliates … were involved in the establishment of PEDP," Foxwoods Development says in the response it filed last week.
"From the establishment of PEDP and moving forward, FDC (Foxwoods Development) did not pursue the casino project on its own behalf, and the Obermayer firm was engaged independently by PEDP with respect to the casino project," Foxwoods Development claims.
Foxwoods Development has a 30 percent stake in PEDP, whose other members include Philadelphia-area investors. Company representatives did not respond to a request for comment.
The casino project, which at one time was to be called Foxwoods Casino Philadelphia, appeared to be dead after the board voted in December 2010 to revoke the license for it following a series of missed deadlines for the submission of plans and financial information.
With the Mashantuckets in default on loans and expected to minimize their involvement in the project, such gaming heavyweights as Wynn Resorts and then Caesars Entertainment belatedly surfaced as potential partners.
A state court denied PEDP's appeal of the license revocation in state court, prompting PEDP to ask the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to review the case. The court has yet to decide whether it will take the case.
Documents released last year by the gaming control board show the Mashantuckets sank more than $34 million into the project.
Large-scale gambling used for tax revenue is bad economics and worse public policy. A casino is an economic “win” for a region only if most gamblers come from elsewhere. If most come from nearby — as is now common, with casinos in so many places — then as one gambling scholar said, “You simply cannot grow an economy by taking money out of it.” You drain local wallets while shifting the tax burden to the lower-income folks who are hurt most by their losses. Then add the sad stories I’ve heard from public officials in casino areas across the country. Bankruptcies, embezzlement, broken families — we’re seeing it now, here in Pennsylvania.
MIKE VARGO,Pittsburgh, posted on nytimes.com
Judge gives nod to tribe in suit over slots taxes
By Julianne Hanckel
Ledyard, state arguments rejected in ruling that could set precedent
A federal judge in Bridgeport ruled this week in favor of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe in its nearly six-year lawsuit over Ledyard's taxation of leased slot machines at Foxwoods Resort Casino.
Tuesday's decision by Senior U.S. District Judge Warren W. Eginton granted the tribe's motion for summary judgment in the case and denied motions filed by the defendants — the state, the Town of Ledyard and the town's tax assessor and tax collector.
Eginton's ruling may set a precedent not only for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and Foxwoods Resort Casino, but also for other Indian-owned casinos across the country.
The suit, filed in 2006, stemmed from the town's attempts to tax slot machines the tribe leased from two manufacturers, Atlantic City Coin & Slot Co. and WMS Gaming, an Illinois-based company.
The ongoing legal battle has cost Ledyard taxpayers more than $900,000.
While property the tribe owns on its Ledyard reservation is not subject to taxation, the town had argued that equipment owned by private companies on tribal land is taxable.
In court documents supporting the motion for summary judgment, the tribe argued that the tax at issue is preempted based on the "Bracker balancing test" — a balancing of the relevant federal, tribal and state interests. Documents also cited Indian trader statutes and Supreme Court rulings.
"Instead Defendants claim that this is a 'newfound' argument, that the statutes do not apply to gaming, and do not apply to the Vendors because they are not licensed as Indian traders," the document stated.
"In fact, Defendants have been aware of the Tribe's Indian Trader statutes argument for over two years, the regulations under the statutes show that they apply to gaming, and the Court in Central Machinery in 1980 laid to rest any argument that the Indian Trader statutes only apply to licensed Indian traders."
Mayor John Rodolico could not be reached to comment.
Ledyard's former mayor, Fred B. Allyn Jr., said Friday he is disappointed in the ruling. "It's just too bad that we can't make an agreement with the tribe to avoid still more legal fees," he said.
In a statement sent to The Day, Dale Wolbrink, manager of public relations at Foxwoods Resort Casino, said, "The court's decision definitively upholds the federal and tribal interests in tribal self-determination and self-government, and determines that these significant interests outweighed any interest the Town or State has to impose a tax on Reservation."
Wolbrink said the tribe is the largest property taxpayer within the town of Ledyard, paying approximately $1 million in real estate and personal property taxes for property it owns outside the boundaries of the reservation.
Benjamin Sharp, an attorney with the Washington D.C.-based law firm Perkins Coie who is representing the town in the suit, could not be reached to comment.
Day staff writer Brian Hallenbeck contributed to this report.
Conn. tribe wins lawsuit over slot machine taxes
Originally published: March 30, 2012
By The Associated Press
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - (AP) -- The American Indian tribe that owns Foxwoods Resort Casino has won a federal lawsuit against the town of Ledyard over property taxes levied on leased slot machines.
U.S. District Court Judge Warren Eginton ruled this week in favor of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe in the 6-year-old lawsuit. He ruled the town's interest in taxing the leased equipment fails to justify the economic burden on the tribe and cited the tribe's self-determination and self-government.
The tribe argued the taxes, collected since 2003, violated federal law.
The town has argued that while the Pequots are a federally recognized tribe, and their property is tax-exempt, equipment owned by private companies on tribal land is taxable.
Taxes on non-Indian entities that can be passed onto the tribe have not been historically upheld, Eginton wrote.
The tribe said it was pleased the court agreed with the tribe's position that the town lacked the authority under federal law to impose property taxes on the slot machines.
"The court's decision definitively upholds the federal and tribal interests in tribal self-determination and self-government, and determines that these significant interests outweighed any interest the town or state has to impose a tax on reservation," the tribe said in a statement.
The decision relates only to the town's attempt to impose taxes on property within the tribe's reservation and does not affect the tribe's payment of taxes on property outside the reservation, the Pequots said. The tribe said it is the largest property taxpayer within Ledyard, paying about $1 million in real and personal property taxes for property located outside the reservation.
Benjamin Sharp, an attorney for the town, declined comment, saying he didn't have a chance yet to review the ruling or discuss it with town officials.
Conn. tribe wins lawsuit over slot machine taxes
PROVIDENCE — With the state hungry for new revenue in a grim economy, Lottery Director Gerald Aubin has — with Governor Carcieri’s blessings — approved 24-hour gambling seven days a week at the Twin River greyhound track and slot parlor.
Town voters registered their overwhelming objection to all-night gambling at the sprawling Lincoln gambling hall during a nonbinding 2007 referendum.
RI Senate panel endorses Newport casino referendum
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) A proposal to ask voters for permission to open a casino at the Newport Grand slot parlor has passed another legislative test.
A state Senate committee endorsed a referendum that would ask voters to authorize table games at Newport Grand. A vote by the full Senate is expected next week.
If approved, the question would go before voters this November.
The House has already authorized the referendum and Senate passage is expected.
Newport Grand wants to offer table games such as poker and blackjack to compete with casinos now authorized in Massachusetts.
The state Constitution requires casino proposals to be approved by voters statewide and in the host community.
Lawmakers have already scheduled a referendum this fall on authorizing a casino at the Twin River slot parlor in Lincoln.
Nothing like comraderie promoting failed fiscal policy.
Mohegan Sun makes annual pitch to Bay Staters
By Ira Kantor
Mohegan Sun’s Mass Appeal program returns to the Connecticut casino next month when Bay State residents get gaming, food and shopping discounts for playing along.
Throughout April, Mohegan Sun will credit any new Player’s Club member from Massachusetts with a valid state ID $25 in free slot play.
Lowell boxing sensation Micky Ward will also be present for a Signings & Sightings event the night of April 13 at The Shops at Mohegan Sun.
Discounts will be offered at various retailers and eateries in the same location. Every Thursday in April at Seasons Buffet, Massachusetts Player’s Club members get a 2-for-1 breakfast buffet. A Seasons Buffet will also feature a wide array of Hub signature dishes.
The first 500 guests from Massachusetts to visit the Summer Coat Check on Friday, April 13, will receive a free gift.
Mohegan Sun, owned by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, is currently exploring options to build a $600 million casino in Palmer.
The perennial Gambling Cheerleader, the Republican was not to be outdone by promoting, verbatim, the same event: Mohegan Sun Casino 'Mass Appeal' to celebrate Bay State
Card games and 3,000 slot machines are allowed.
By Angela Hart
Gov. Jerry Brown today signed a tribal-state gaming compact, allowing the Federated Indians of the Graton Rancheria to open a Las Vegas-style casino in Rohnert Park on a 254-acre parcel on the city's west side.
The casino has been a magnet for contention here, where some residents say it'll cause an uptick of traffic and crime to this bedroom community. Others fret the impact on the federally-endangered Tiger Salamander, while supporters say the city needs the revenue the casino will bring to town.
The casino west of U.S. Highway 101 between Wilfred Avenue and Stony Point Road led to a failed effort in August 2004 to recall two of the four Rohnert Park City Council members who voted to approve a $200 million memorandum of understanding with the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. The money is to offset the casino's and resort's impact on public safety and other services.
Gov. Brown said in a statement that the casino will pay to mititate environmental, economic and operational impacts.
"The compact includes provisions to protect employees and patrons as well as measures to protect the environment during the construction and operation of gaming facilities," he said. "It also funds programs in local communities to mitigate the effect of gaming activities and address gambling addiction."
Pastor Chip Worthington, who since 2003 has battled the casino in the courts, said he was incensed at the governor's decision today.
"This is an outrage," said Worthington, who also heads the Stop the Casino 101 Coalition. "The governor has completely ignored local sentiment and completely ignored all the evidence of negative impacts which we have presented to him. This will have disastrous consequences to our quality of life and to the environment."
According to Brown, 3,000 slot machines are planned for the casino, along with card games. "Up to 15 percent of the casino's net win will go to local communities and gambling mitigation and regulation," he said.
"The Tribe estimates that the project will create approximately 700 construction jobs and 2,500 jobs at the new facility."
The tribe has estimated when built, the casino will inject millions of dollars annually into the local economy. And, city engineer Darrin Jenkins confirmed last year that the Graton Rancheria has promised to pay the city an estimated $200 million over 20 years, assuming revenues come in as anticipated.
The process of building a casino in Rohnert Park has been controversial, at best, since it started in 2003. The proposal has been stalled by multiple lawsuits, but last October plans were revitalized when the 254 acres were taken into trust by the tribe, which was approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Environmental hurdles were cleared Aug. 31, when the proposed casino was left out of the federally protected land for the endangered Tiger Salamander.
Indian gaming is a right of Indian Nations, derived from sovereignty recognized by the Supreme Court and Congress in 1988, according to the National Indian Gaming Association.
"It is the only economic development tool that has ever worked on reservations, bringing increased economic benefits to Indians and non-Indians," said the National Indian Gaming Association said in a statement. "Most [tribes] are still struggling to lift themselves out of a centuries-long cycle of poverty."
But Worthington says the casino will invite blight and increased crime to Rohnert Park.
Worthington said the coalition is currently challenging a National Environmental Policy Act ruling based on water probelms, sewer, traffic, pollution and further endangering the Tiger Salamander.
"We're looking forward to having the court weigh in on the casino's very flawed environmental study," Worthington said in a statment.
The compact must still be approved by the state Legislature and Department of the Interior. The Graton tribe has partnered with Station Casinos LLC of Las Vegas to build and operate the casino. Station Casinos emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June.
We're going over the compact with a fine-toothed comb. Meanwhile, tell us what you think in the comments, and let us know what questions you have. Bay City News contributed to this report.
Brown signs gaming compact with tribe planning to build casino in Sonoma County
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Jerry Brown signs compact for Sonoma County Indian casino
Gov. Jerry Brown today signed an Indian gambling compact allowing development of a casino near the Sonoma County city of Rohnert Park.
The compact allows the 1,300-member Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria to operate as many as 3,000 slot machines. Eventually, the casino will pay up to 15 percent of the slot machines' net win to local and state agencies for gambling mitigation programs and services.
The Democratic governor's office, citing tribe estimates, said in a statement that the project would create about 700 construction jobs and 2,500 jobs at the casino once it is built.
The casino's development has faced local opposition, with opponents objecting to its impact on the environment, among other things.
Posted by David Siders
Read more here: http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2012/03/jerry-brown-signs-compact-for-sonoma-county-indian-casino.html#storylink=cpy
LAWRENCE, KS (KCTV) - Lotto mania is sweeping the nation with the historic Mega Millions jackpot up for grabs. But for gambling addicts, this is a tough time.
Officials announced Friday that the Mega Millions jackpot has jumped to $640 million. If just one ticket matches all six numbers, the winner could receive the full jackpot in 26 annual payments of about $24.6 million or a cash option of $462 million.
Nick Nachbar bought two tickets Thursday.
"It's just kind of a thrill thing because if you did win, it would be crazy," he said.
But for others, the publicity about the Mega Millions is creating an incredible temptation to give in to their gambling addiction.
I really want to play that," Gene, a gambling addict, told KCTV5. "The third thought would be the same as the second."
Addiction counselor Duane Olberding says for addicts that gambling is like a drug.
"Because really, addiction has to do with neurotransmitters," Olberding said. "People are addicted to neurotransmitters going between this dendrite and this dendrite."
Dave says he battles his addiction by ignoring the hubbub.
"I try not to pay any attention to things that trigger the desire to gamble," he said. "Like a radio commercial comes on, I will turn the radio off."
"When you have this much publicity, and there's a lot of publicity, it's now a lot of these triggers," he said. "The big part of the addiction is the fantasy."
In Kansas, free treatment for gambling addicts and their families is offered. Call 1-800-522-4700.
The last Mega Millions winner was on Jan. 24. The odds of winning the jackpot are 1:176 million. The odds of winning any Mega Millions prizes is 1:40.
Since British sailors and soldiers from naval fleet ships and army regiments first kicked a bouncing ball around the Maltese islands late in the 19th century, a bonfire of desires was ignited in the hearts of Maltese and Gozitans alike. The game of Association Football was swiftly adopted and gave birth to the first clubs like St George’s (of Cospicua), Floriana and, later, Sliema Wanderers.
The Maltese have since then been described as “football fanatics” and as being “football crazy”. The rivalry went on to develop into blind support for various global club and national sides, the World Cup competition every four years holding most of Malta and Gozo spellbound.
However – and, sadly, it has always been a very substantial however – the stench of bribery and corruption has throughout the decades been closely associated to the national game itself. This was generated by the rivalry of the clubs themselves but, mostly, as a fertile field of speculation for illegal gaming and gambling.
In the past, the lure of temptation was “explained” by the very limited financial return for successful footballers, making them easy prey for shady speculators offering considerable “rewards”. Nowadays, this has changed, with more substantial and legitimate financial returns for players. Yet, the stench continues to linger and strongly hang over the sport.
Unfortunately, most instances have buzzed with rumours and allegations without any form of substantial proof. Periodically, a few cases come to light of players or club committee members “approaching” other players and, in recent years, a Maltese FIFA standard referee was banned for life in connection with a UEFA club competition game and a Maltese club.
Now, the whole basis of our national football game has been shaken by the revelations outlined by Malta Football Association president Norman Darmanin Demajo who, holding a 500-page dossier, said there was “overwhelming” evidence of match-fixing involving some national team players in connection with a game against Norway in 2008, which Malta lost 4-0.
Even more damagingly, Mr Darmanin Demajo expressed concern there was a probability that other games may also have been tampered with. The findings of an MFA internal investigation into the matter has been sent to the European ruling body UEFA and Malta awaits the outcome of their final decision, expected by the end of May.
Based on these statements, it is inexplicable that no action whatsoever has been taken against the players in the frame. They have not even been named and shamed. If the evidence is “overwhelming”, what else is necessary for a legal and disciplinary conclusion to the outcome of the investigation?
One is justified to conclude that the “tainted” players have presumably been allowed to continue forming part of the Malta national team and/or of their clubs. This can only mean that all subsequent fixtures involving these players – and perhaps others – may be a total sham and invalidates all national and local games in which such players have participated. How can the MFA allow this to happen?
Mr Darmanin Demajo declared that as the match in question fell under the jurisdiction of UEFA then it is up to UEFA to reach a final conclusion. Still, the suspects should have been suspended from all football activities forthwith pending UEFA’s conclusions.
The MFA must be praised for having immediately launched an extensive inquiry but the public, especially football fans, will find it difficult to understand why, as yet, no appropriate remedial action has been taken.
More cash-strapped states are being lured into allowing casinos for the tax revenues. But a new book offers a close-up view of how local residents in Las Vegas are worse off than the rest of the country.
A number of Northeast states, notably Massachusetts and New York, are moving to allow casinos as a permanent fix for a temporary shortage of tax revenue. During tough economic times, politicians often find it more convenient to turn a vice into cash than to nurture new businesses that can actually make things.
Look a bit closer, however, and you’ll notice that these latest pro-gambling moves by states also include money to help addictive gamblers. Yes, officials are forced to admit they are responsible for creating addicts by putting casinos near large populations. How do they know?
Just look at Nevada, where the local people (not the tourists) are nearly twice as likely to be problem gamblers as the rest of the nation, and where there are 14 meetings of Gamblers Anonymous a day.
And according to a new book on the social fallout from the gambling industry, Nevada also now has “higher rates of crime, bankruptcy filings, home foreclosures, divorces, and suicides than anywhere else in the country.”
The book’s author, Sam Skolnik, should know. He not only admits to being a problem gambler but he covered Las Vegas as a reporter for the city’s Sun newspaper. The book, “High Stakes: The Rising Cost of America’s Gambling Addiction,” should be required reading for any state legislator who must vote on allowing or expanding gambling.
With some 100,000 problem or pathological gamblers in Nevada – or about 1 in 16 adults – the state is a role model for what other states should avoid. Where Las Vegas residents go to their two dozen neighborhood-based casinos – away from the Big Strip – they also pass dozens of pawnshops and payday loan stores ready to cater to those who can’t stop gambling.
The locals lose nearly four times as much each year by gambling, or about $1,500, as the national average. The suicide rate among seniors in Nevada is three times that of the rest of the country.
“Las Vegas is one of the most dysfunctional communities in America, in part, because of legalized gambling,” writes Mr. Skolnik. The state has been very reluctant to fund self-help programs for gambling addicts, in part because the industry tries to present studies that look favorably on gambling. When gambling in America brings in about $100 billion a year in profits, good PR and rigged studies come easy to help expand the industry.
So does corruption. The US Justice Department, for example, just charged the Internet firm Full Tilt Poker with fraud, alleging that it ran a “global Ponzi scheme” bilking poker players of hundreds of millions of dollars. How many states want to wake up some day to find such crimes committed in their casinos?
Nationwide between 1996 and 2005 the number of Gamblers Anonymous meetings rose by 50 percent. States should not be lured by gambling revenue to become seducers of the estimated 3 to 7 percent of people prone to problem gambling. A tax cure cannot become the cause of addiction, crime, and many other personal tragedies.
The long odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot lottery is just a start into understanding why gambling is the wrong way to live up to one's abilities to get ahead in life.
By the Monitor's Editorial Board / March 30, 2012
Some critics of Mega Millions lotteries make short of it by citing the long odds of winning. For Friday’s jackpot lottery of $640 million, which combined 42 state lotteries, the odds were set at 1 in 176 million.
Would it have been better if the odds were, say, merely 1 in 100?
Not a chance. Gambling is gambling. It is a sucker’s game, almost as bad as a Madoff Ponzi scheme. The house (or government) always wins. It preys mainly on the poor. And it feeds into an addiction for millions of people, breaking up families and often causing personal bankruptcy.
MONITOR'S VIEW: Obama's new tax on the poor: Internet gambling
Most of all, gambling (or “gaming,” as the industry prefers) perpetuates the notion of some ethereal “luck” in everyday life at the expense of what really drives human affairs, such as hard work, character, knowledge, and a grasp of the God-given principles that make people and society tick.
More than 1 in 5 Americans still believe the best way to achieve long-term financial security is to play the lottery, according to the Consumer Federation of America. Americans spend more on lotteries than on reading materials or attending movies.
Much of the media shows a bias by ignoring the negative aspects of lotteries and other forms of gambling. Journalists pretend they are being objective by simply citing the long odds, as if that’s the only other side of this popular passion for an undeserved pot of gold. For every news story about a mega-lottery winner, how about a million stories about the mega-issue of poor people spending their last dollar on a lottery ticket?
In Wisconsin, people who call a state help line for gambling addicts had an average gambling debt of $43,800 in 2010. The state estimates that 5 to 7 percent of its population are problem gamblers.
The long-term addicts of state lotteries, however, are state governments. They have forgotten that the early lotteries were designed to suppress the mob and its numbers racket. Now states promote the lottery with Vegas-style ads and cook up new games to raise even more revenue. In doing so, they create more gamblers – and more problem gamblers who then drain state spending.
MONITOR'S VIEW: What happens in Vegas
And now, to attract digital-focused young people and make gambling more “accessible,” many states are ready to bring lotteries to the Internet.
So far, the toughest resistance to such a move has come from stores that benefit from the foot traffic of people buying the daily lottery. But imagine the spurt in problem gamblers when anyone can just press an icon on a smart phone and spend $10 on a lottery number.
Big-dollar lotteries are mesmerizing to many people, luring them into forgetting that they have the ability to win in life, whether by talent, education, prayer, or sheer effort.
It’s no use laying odds on that. The truth always wins.
PRESTON, UNITED KINGDOM,
Mar 30, 2012 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) -- In a warning from experts to MPs, in the last decade there has been an increase in the amount of women who gamble.
There are those who only enter the national lottery, but aside from that the proportion of the female population who gamble has soared by nearly a third to more than half, for the first time ever. By gambling, that could be in a casino, buying a scratch card, playing in an online bingo promotion or simply playing the lottery every week.
The sheer amount of women that now gamble and are classed as 'problem gamblers' has resulted in one addiction centre in London now offering child-minding services so as to try and encourage the mothers to attend.
There have been significant rises in the amount of women who buy scratch cards, play slot machines and also betting online. Not only has there been an increase in the amount of women in general but there's also been an increase in the amount of 'grey gamblers' or, the over 75s and also widowed people.
The reason that there may have been an increase in the amount of people, particularly women who buy scratch cards is because of the lure of how easy it is to win on one. Of course, it's not that easy otherwise everyone would buy them.
According to the report that found the rise in the amount of women who gamble, there's a certain age group of women who are more likely to be frequent gamblers than others. Those women aged between 45 and 65 apparently are more likely to be 'frequent gamblers' than women from other age groups.
According to a recent online story, the U.S. gambling industry has grown tenfold since 1975 and now we also have online gambling to add to the mix. It should be no surprise that millions of Americans have gambling problems each year.
Dr. Stephen Grinstead specializes in addictions as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and says the Internet has only created a new arena for gamblers. Grinstead says it’s important to identify signs and symptoms early on and to seek the help of a professional if necessary.
These tips from the National Training Institute will help you identify if you may have a process addiction such as gambling:
■Do you have a preoccupation with gambling or spend excessive time or money on gambling?
■Have you lost touch with friends?
■Do you miss events or ignore your family obligations?
■Are you constantly betting and losing money beyond the limit you set for yourself?
■Do you have trouble meeting your monthly living expenses?
■Do you lie about your gambling losses or your whereabouts?
■Are you secretive about finances or deny any money problems?
■Are you always short on money?
■Do you talk about your wins but stay silent about your losses?
Grinstead says a process addiction is something that includes any activity, feeling, thought or relationship you might use to eliminate any personal pain you experience as an unbearable reality. People who suffer from a gambling addiction may have severe mood swings, be restless, anxious, depressed, hopeless or suicidal.
Make sure you seek help if you suspect you might have a gambling problem or you know someone else who may need help.
By Neil Hunter
A GAMBLING addict who fleeced his girlfriend and stole her elderly mother’s lifesavings to spend at the bookies walked free from court yesterday.
Kenneth Wager, 41, dodged a prison sentence because a judge said a short spell behind bars – recommended in guidelines – would be “ineffective”.
Judge Peter Armstrong said he had also shown remorse, but last night, his former partner labelled him a liar and said: “He’s never shown any sorrow.”
Wager systematically siphoned money from the unsuspecting pensioner, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.
He stole a bank card he was trusted with to pilfer £11,585 belonging to the woman, the mother of his then-partner.
Wager – a support worker for people with Alzheimer’s – also stole £1,871 from his partner to feed his addiction to gambling and slot machines.
His lies came to light when his partner was told by her bank she was overdrawn, and a statement revealed a series of withdrawals and payments to bookmakers.
At an earlier Teesside Crown Court hearing, Judge Armstrong was told by prosecutors the Hartlepool woman had control of her mother’s estate.
The court heard Wager took money from his elderly victim between 2010 and last year and from her daughter in December 2010.
His barrister, Jim Withyman, said: “It was a period of six months when he was having difficulties with a gambling habit.”
Wager, who lived in Hartlepool at the time, but had a bail address in Arthur Street, Ushaw Moor, near Durham City, admitted two counts of theft.
Judge Armstrong said his guilty pleas, previous good character and his remorse spared him from prison.
Wager was given a 12- month sentence, suspended for two years, with 200 hours of unpaid work and 12 months of Probation Service supervision.
The judge told him: “These were particularly mean offences because you stole from not just your partner at the time, but you took advantage of the situation.”
After hearing Wager has since lost his job, the judge told him he should start paying compensation when he is back in employment.