Meetings & Information


Monday, February 22, 2016

Beating the odds

Beating the odds

Beating the odds

Players demonstrate the slot machines at The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians’ Four Winds Dowagiac during media day in 2013. There appears to be a link between between casino gambling and embezzlment cases in Southwest Michigan, but there is debate over how much they’re linked.

Beating the odds

Posted: Sunday, February 21, 2016

Thousands of people visit Michigan casinos every day as a form of entertainment and socializing, with no severe impact on their lives.
For some, gambling can become an addiction, creating havoc for themselves and their families.
Jane (not her real name) began visiting casinos as a way to relieve stress and to have time away from her family, including a son with attention deficit disorder.
“I would sit for hours and play the games and not have to think about home,” Jane recalled.
She had retired after 20 years in the banking industry and had extra income, and had put away money for her retirement, with plans to live in Florida during the winter.
But her gambling snowballed, and within a couple of years she had drained every account, had lost her home and car, ruined her credit and was stealing Social Security money from her brother, who is disabled.
“That was my wake-up call,” said Jane, who saw a hotline number for gambling addicts on television and decided to make the call. “Here I am, broke. My retirement money is gone. It’s like I’m starting my life over again.”
She is attending therapy sessions with Melanie Page-Wood of the Bright Hope Counseling Center in St. Joseph and is learning about what drove her compulsive gambling and how to avoid the triggers that could start another spree.
Page-Wood, the only state-certified gambling addiction counselor in Berrien County, began working with gambling addicts four years ago, after being approached by a St. Joseph pastor whose church treasurer had embezzled from her congregation.
She has seen the devastating impact out-of-control gambling can have on a person’s life. She knew one woman, a widow in her mid-70s, who lost her savings, her home and later her apartment through gambling. Every month she would take her Social Security check and blow it at a local casino.
“She was literally homeless, walking the streets of St. Joseph, sleeping in hotel lobbies,” Page-Wood said.
Jane said she could have been homeless if her family hadn’t taken her in. And she said it was likely she would have taken money from work if she hadn’t been retired. Instead “I begged, borrowed and stole from my family,” she said.
Jane said casinos make it attractive and easy to keep gambling, by offering free food, free parking, even free rooms at the hotels, as well as extending credit and allowing players to make cash advances.
Page-Wood said that, around the Detroit casinos, there are numerous billboards with the number of the gambling addiction hotline, funded in part by the casinos themselves. But these billboards are nowhere to be seen in Berrien County, she said.
She called officials in Lansing to request the billboards here, without success.
Page-Wood said she is receiving an increasing number of calls about compulsive gambling, but not as many as she would expect, considering the pastime’s popularity.
Jane said that there are no Gamblers Anonymous meetings in this area, and she has been attending meetings in Kalamazoo. She is surprised that only six to eight people attend each meeting, considering the thousands crowding the casinos.
There is an area support group starting that addresses a number of problems, including gambling, as well as other addictions, depression and abuse, called Celebrate Recovery. It is being offered by Overflow Church in partnership with Fairplain Presbyterian Church, at 210 W. Napier Ave., Benton Harbor, and the group meets at 7 p.m. every Tuesday.
Information is at or by calling 944-6267.
Page-Wood can be reached at 944-7331. Her office is on the third floor of the Box Factory for the Arts on Broad Street in St. Joseph.
The National Problem Gambling Helpline number is 1-800-522-4700. The Michigan Association of Problem Gambling helpline is 800-270-7117 and the website is
Casinos chipping in
A spokeswoman for the owners of the Four Winds casinos said her organization is committed to curbing problem gambling.
“To ensure responsible gambling, Four Winds Casinos does everything in its power to prevent the two most common gambling problems: compulsive gambling and underage gambling,” according to Paige Risser, spokeswoman for the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, owners of the Four Winds casinos. “In addition, for the safety of our guests, we voluntarily monitor alcohol consumption and provide alcohol sensitivity training to appropriate employees and managers.”
The Four Winds Casinos list the following warning signs of a possible gambling problem:
• Extensive and/or frequent playing sessions.
• Remaining in the gaming area without playing or after their bankroll has been exhausted.
• Regular credit limit increase requests.
• Excessive credit card and/or cash machine use.
• Requests to borrow money from other guests and/or staff.
• Significant changes in betting pattern.
• Losing regard for health and/or hygiene.
The Mayo Clinic lists these other signs:
• Gaining a thrill from taking big gambling risks.
• Taking increasingly bigger gambling risks.
• Preoccupation with gambling.
• Reliving past gambling experiences.
• Gambling as a way to escape problems or feelings of helplessness, guilt or depression.
• Taking time from work or family life to gamble.
• Concealing or lying about gambling.
• Feeling guilt or remorse after gambling.
• Borrowing money or stealing to gamble.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

How to Know If Your Choice for President Is the Real Thing

I've found this to be true, whether you're a conservative or a progressive. For me it's been a good benchmark for identifying whether a politician will play to our strengths or our weaknesses, whether they're a thoughtful person or just apt to take the easy way out, and so importantly, whether they can stand up to big money.

Most people know a reheated biscuit is never going to be as
good as a fresh-from-the-oven biscuit. All it takes is one bite
and you know right away. When it…

How to Know If Your Choice for President Is the Real Thing

Most people know a reheated biscuit is never going to be as good as a fresh-from-the-oven biscuit. All it takes is one bite and you know right away.
When it comes to determining the best candidate to support for president, there is no taste test to tell you the “fresh-from-the-oven” choice from the “reheated” ones.
But there is one major and often overlooked issue that can be more revealing than any other about whether a candidate has the ingredients to be an effective leader for the country.
That issue is the candidate’s record on “The Big Con,” also known by the label of government-sponsored gambling, and it takes place in the form of lotteries and regional casinos.
Whether or not you wager a dollar on any of government’s gambling programs, this practice affects you.
No single act of government creates more inequality of opportunity than its promotion of gambling. Fueled by massive spending on advertising, marketing and campaign donations, politicians purposely concentrate gambling in economically-distressed communities. Financially desperate citizens have become ensnared in these government-run gambling schemes as a way to try and improve their lives and help them escape their financial condition. It has become a Hail Mary investment strategy, doomed to inevitable failure. By targeting the least advantaged, government-sponsored gambling adds to the increasingly separate and unequal life patterns in education, marriage, work, and play that now are dividing America into haves and have-nots.
For the majority of citizens who never or rarely gamble, government-sponsored gambling is the biggest budget gimmick of all. Where states authorize commercial gambling, all taxpayers — including the non-gamblers — end up paying higher taxes for fewer services, and their states end up with worse budget problems over the long term, according to research by the Rockefeller Institute at SUNY-Albany. You pay even if you don’t play.
America’s most influential leaders, regardless of party, have traditionally been opposed to The Big Con. One of them, former President Ronald Reagan, has been mentioned more on the campaign trail than any other past politician. To give his impact some context, it was reported that in one of the Republican debates, the candidates invoked Reagan 42 times. They only invoked God 16 times.
How did Reagan feel about government-sponsored gambling? When he was asked for his position on a lottery for California, Reagan boldly declared: “I prefer to govern Californians based on their strengths, not their weaknesses.”
For the first time in modern presidential politics, there are several candidates, who unlike Reagan, prefer to govern citizens based on their weaknesses. Hillary Clinton, John Kasich and Donald Trump each have been major boosters of commercial gambling and government’s promotion of it.
Trump has been one of the country’s most visible casino operators, running major casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. “I left Atlantic City before it totally cratered,” he said at a Fox News debate for GOP candidates in August 2015. “And I made a lot of money in Atlantic City, and I’m very proud of it.”
No great nation has ever built prosperity on the foundations of personal debt, addiction, and the steady expansion of businesses that produce no new wealth. Relying on gambling is a sign of surrender and defeat on the part of leaders who have failed to lead.
Government-sponsored gambling represents the absolute worst of crony-capitalism and big government. It pits government’s interests against the best interests of its people. For government to win, its citizens must lose.
The alternative is to muster the courage to chart a path to true prosperity. An America freed from the yoke of government-sponsored gambling would be an America once again on the move — an America with broader and more sustainable economic growth, more honesty in government, more social trust, and the rekindling of the optimism that has long been our defining national strength.
That’s a purpose worth sacrificing for.
Les Bernal is the National Director of Stop Predatory Gambling based in Washington, DC.

Gambling Addiction & Crime

... the business of £6,000 because one of them had a gambling addiction. ... to his gambling habit and having started to do the pair were “in it together”.

A woman stolen almost $180,000 from her workplace to fuel a gambling addiction. A WOMAN who embezzled almost $180,000 from a Maroubra ...

Former superintendent talks of gambing addiction in treatment center video

Former Tecumseh Local Schools Superintendent Brad Martin stands trial last year on a theft in office charge.

NEW CARLISLE -- The former superintendent of Tecumseh Local School District, who was fired and charged for theft in office, has released a video of him discussing his addiction to gambling.
Brad Martin was accused of spending 307 scheduled work hours at casinos, usually playing slot machines, as well as 121 hours of driving to and from casinos. The audit found that Martin was paid $24,550 for time he didn't work, between Oct. 10, 2012, through Dec. 11, 2014.
Martin was sentenced to 180 days in the Clark County Jail, plus five years of community control and financial restitution. In all, Martin is required to repay $34,739 to the district. He also must pay $9,000 for the state's audit, which was prompted by the theft. Martin told the judge he will voluntarily give up the interest in his teaching retirement account, about $44,800, which will go toward restitution.
Martin was allowed to leave jail during his term to attend gambling treatment sessions.
The video was posted on a treatment center's YouTube page. Martin discusses the toll that gambling had on his personal and professional life.
"There's not too many people think that gambling is an issue. They think, well, you can stop. No, it's not that easy. Like, when I got in there, I'm telling you right now, I could go 18-20 hours without stopping," Martin said in the video.

Macau: Gambling Related Crime increased 38%

Melco Crown is a gaming operator in Macau who recently announced efforts to step up security measures to try and thwart individuals who are banned from their properties from entering. City of Dreams and Studio City will implement the new technology which will mark the very first time an operator in Macau will be installing specialized facial recognition technology created by Cognitec for security measures.
The new system, titled FaceVACS-VideoScan, will detect the faces of individuals in live time with a video stream and then compare the faces found to features in photos of banned individuals, which are stored in data bases. If a match is found, the system will alert the security staff in real time. This extended security measure’s goal is to prevent losses on site as well as stop criminal activities quickly.
According to the software’s creator, Cognitec, the system has several capabilities including marking frequent visitors, people movement in regards to time and space, behavior of customers as well as demographical information. Stephen Meltz is the Cognitec managing director for the Asia-Pacific division, who stated that the system is the first of its kind to be used in casino setting.
Crime has been an issue in Macau, causing casinos to see less visitors than ever before. In 2015, crimes related to gaming increased by 38%. There were over 1,500 crimes related to gaming recorded in Macau last year and casinos are taking steps to try and cut down on such crimes as loan-sharking and illegal imprisonment, both of which took place inside casino venues.

Friday, February 5, 2016

This is the most important movie on state-run gambling ever made

It's finally here.Out of Luck, the first national film to examine the policy of government-sponsored gambling in America, is about to be released. You can watch the movie trailer below.

The film producers are working with iTunes, and Google Play to make it available to the world in April. I don't know the exact date yet but will let you know when it's announced.

There will be a nationwide media tour to promote the film, including print media, digital media/podcasts, radio and television. They'll also set up screenings in cities and towns across the country. 

If you or your organization is interested in setting up a screening event and would like more information, please contact the producers through the film's website or email Director Bert Klasey at

It's important to show the world that people are interested in this topic so please "Like" their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @outofluckmovie. These basic social media stats are influential in building momentum for the film.

While it investigates lotteries, the movie is also significant to those of you who got involved in this movement because you oppose casinos in your community. Regional casinos are another form of government-sponsored gambling.

The lobbying push for regional casinos and online gambling has happened in large part because of the practices of state lotteries. They're the largest predatory gambling operators in the country and have made extreme forms of gambling like electronic gambling machines and $30 scratch tickets seem like a normal activity for government to be marketing to citizens. 

Out Of Luck Trailer from Bert Klasey on Vimeo.

If you don't see the film trailer to click above, you can see it here
Thanks for being a part of our work to change the world we live in.


Les Bernal
National Director
Build a more humane and just society: end government-sponsored gambling because it is dishonest, financially damaging to citizens and contributes to rising inequality of opportunity.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Maine: Early, ominous sign for Maine casino campaign

A controversial campaign to give a Las Vegas gambling impresario the sole right to build a York County casino is raising questions about the ...

Early, ominous sign for Maine casino campaign

A controversial campaign to give a Las Vegas gambling impresario the sole right to build a York County casino is raising questions about the certification process. Here are some answers.

Shawn Scott, right, listens as one of his attorneys, Martin Gersten, questions a witness at a licensing hearing in 2003. Scott has faced numerous lawsuits over business dealings. 2003 Press Herald File Photo
Shawn Scott, right, listens as one of his attorneys, Martin Gersten, questions a witness at a licensing hearing in 2003 — Press Herald File Photo

A campaign to give Las Vegas gambling impresario Shawn Scott the sole right to build a York County casino has generated considerable scrutiny about its tactics during an aggressive signature collection drive to qualify for the November ballot.

Now that the Horseracing Jobs Fairness campaign has submitted its petitions to the Secretary of State’s Office, there are lots of questions about how municipalities and state election officials validate signatures and whether the unorthodox campaign will actually make the ballot. On Tuesday, Ben Sprague, a Bangor city councilor, tweeted what could be a prescient statistic from the city clerk, whose office completed the inspection of the casino signatures submitted there last week.

Sprague reported that of the 6,869 signatures gathered in Bangor, only 2,913 appeared to be from registered city voters, and the remainder may be invalid. Sprague forwarded some additional details from the clerk’s office. Of the signatures that were considered invalid, some were from people living in other municipalities and others were duplicates.

Last week, Kathy Montejo, the city clerk in Lewiston, told the Portland Press Herald that she noticed a larger-than-usual proportion of invalid signatures on the casino petition sheets, although she cautioned at the time that the staff in her office was still reviewing the signatures.

“A lot of the ones that are full sheets, some have as many as one-third to one-half (of signers) that are not registered voters in Lewiston,” Montejo said.

That Bangor even collected statistics is relatively unusual. Municipal clerks are only required to track the number of petition pages they receive, not actual signatures. Final certification of signatures rests with state election officials, who determine whether a campaign has qualified for the ballot.

In other words, the information that Sprague was able to obtain isn’t readily available or tracked in many municipalities. They include Portland and Lewiston, which both confirmed Tuesday that they only tallied the number of petition pages, not signatures or invalidated signatures.

“We’re not the end-all-be-all, so we don’t want to duplicate the process that’s done at the state level,” Montejo said. “We can do it, but it’s time-consuming. If the mayor or another elected official asks us to do a count, we’d do it. But it’s very labor-intensive.”

It’s unclear how many signatures from the statewide campaign were submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office. Asked Monday for the total figure, the registered agent for Horseracing Jobs Fairness, Cheryl Timberlake, would only say “Enough.”

The signatures of at least 61,123 registered Maine voters are required to qualify for the ballot.

There are many steps in the municipal validation process. Once campaigns submit their petitions, clerks are charged with checking signatures against voter registration files and the state’s central voting registration database.

They’re checking for a few things. First, they ensure that a signature is actually a registered voter in that municipality. This is to guard against someone who may have signed multiple times and claimed multiple residences. If the signee isn’t a registered voter in the town, the clerk marks the signature with “NR” (not registered), a signal to state officials that it should be invalidated.

The clerks also review for printed names, which are also considered invalid and marked “sig” (no signature). Finally, they check to make sure someone else didn’t sign – or forge – a registered voter’s signature. If it doesn’t match the voter’s registration card, the clerks mark the signature with “ano” (another).

State election officials conduct a different type of review. They first check to make sure petition forms are valid and include the full printout of the proposed legislation. Then they look for irregularities that could invalidate an entire petition sheet of signatures. The latter includes a circulator’s oath that isn’t notarized until after it’s submitted to the town registrar, a petition form unsigned by a notary, or a notary and a circulator who are immediate family members. Dates or names that appear altered are invalidated.

Election officials also check for duplicate signatures, which are flagged once an official enters a name into a database designed to ensure each signature is counted once.

It’s not clear what to make of the signature data from Bangor. Montejo, the Lewiston clerk, was unable to give specifics, but she estimated last week that over half of the casino signatures submitted in Lewiston were invalid.

Also, the statistics in Bangor are similar to a referendum bid that fell short in Michigan in October. Petitioners there launched an expensive bid to overturn the state’s prevailing wage law, submitting over 388,000 signatures to state election officials. Only half proved valid. A review of the signatures showed that many came from unregistered voters, over 8 percent were duplicates, four people signed as many as 10 times and 18,767 people signed twice.

Stavros Mendros’ firm, Olympic Consulting of Lewiston, has been the primary beneficiary of the signature-gathering efforts for the casino campaign. But the campaign also has paid $15,000 to Silver Bullet Group Inc., which has addresses in Wyoming and Las Vegas, to assist the signature drive. Silver Bullet appears to be the organization responsible for shipping in the out-of-state petition circulators that Mainers heard so much about.

Silver Bullet also happened to be the firm that received $1 million for the failed effort in Michigan.

Casino Free New Hampshire: Sen. D'Allenandro introduces new casino bill

Some people don't know when to quit.

Sen. D'Allesandro's next tilt at legalizing casino gambling is underway. The senator has filed Senate Bill 551 "Establishing video lottery and table gaming at one location."

The bill specifies that the casino will be at Rockingham Park in Salem and will be operated by Rockingham Park. The casino's operations will overseen by the State Lottery Commission.
This approach is a significant departure from bills D'Allesandro has designed in recent attempts to cobble together legislative support.
The bill will be heard by the Senate Ways and Means Committee. A date for the hearing has not yet been set.
For updated information watch
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