GamblingSites.com News Roundup for March 23
In addition to some movement in the Japanese l-o-n-g march to casino gambling and some draconian anti-gambling measures instituted in central Europe, this week’s digest learns that Charlie Daniels was right: The South IS gonna do it again. Unfortunately, it appears that what the South is gonna do “again” is a whole lot of what most would consider set-ups for some easy jokes at the South’s expense.
So let’s get started, shall we?
The Night the Lights Went out in Georgia
It took two long years and much undercover investigation, but they finally got the bad guys.
According to reports, on March 19th, the commercial gambling unit of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation — aided by the Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force — raided and shut down a Marathon gas station, arresting three men and seizing an unknown amount of cash.
The men are charged with felonious “commercial gambling/card operating” — in this case, paying out cash rewards to patrons playing the gas station’s coin-operated amusement machines, which the GBI refers to as “COAMs.” It is unclear whether that is pronounced so that it rhymes with “roam” or with “Pro-Am.” Perhaps we will never know.
Making cash payouts to winners of games played on COAMs is a no-no under Georgia state law. Apparently, winners may only be paid in either lottery tickets or in store merchandise, which, as we all know, are both very different from cash.
The three men arrested face up to five years in prison and up to $20,000 in fines, according to Ron Braxley, a GBI supervisor, who also intimated that additional charges or arrests might be made. “It just depends on where the evidence takes us,” he said. “We don’t know at this point if there will be additional arrests.”
He did note, however, that whoever the owner of the gas station was (which was unclear at the time of these reports) might also lose his Georgia Lottery license.
Apparently something of a gambling ethics scholar, Braxley then regaled reporters with his insight into the woes of illegal gambling. “The money is taken out of the local area and taken somewhere either out of state or sometimes out of country,” he told reporters. “Additionally, these suspects don’t pay sales tax on the money they make, so it’s a loss of sales tax revenue and then a loss of just money from the economy … they don’t recirculate the money like a normal business would do.”
Perhaps sensing some skepticism among the reporters, Braxley was quick to add that illegal commercial gambling was not a victimless crime. “Studies have shown,“ he said, “people who can least afford to gamble and lose money are the ones who do it.”
The annual operating budget for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is nearly $90 million.
The Night the Lights Went out in Georgia (Part II)
Another team of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (aided this time by members of the McDonough Police Department) served a search warrant recently on Motorheads Bar and Grill, arresting the bar’s owner and putting a stop to several illegal poker games, as well as ending the bar’s practice of making cash payouts to winners of games played on coin-operated amusement machines — or as the GBI calls them, COAMs.
GBI Special Agent in Charge Cindy Ledford told reporters that the search warrant and the arrest were the result of a yearlong investigation into Motorhead’s gambling activities. GBI special agents are (apparently) schooled in the seizure of teachable moments because GBI Special Agent in Charge Ledford could not resist pointing out to reporters that “[gambling] is a statewide problem, and there is a lot of money involved in gambling in Georgia.”
When pressed, GBI Special Agent in Charge Ledford told reporters that her search warrant raid surprised a number of illegal gamblers. “They were actually in the middle of a poker game and so the tables were full and there were several people around the bar, as well,” she said, noting ominously that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation did, indeed, plan to make more arrests.
Incidentally, someone could have saved the state of Georgia a couple of bucks on that yearlong investigation simply by pointing them toward a review of Motorheads Bar and Grill posted on Yelp on March 25, 2016, which reads (in part):
“My friend and I had only planned to stay for an hour but we got comfy and didn’t end up leaving until after 1am. Oh, oh! If you are a poker player, there’s some serious Texas Hold’em in the 2000 sq. ft. room off the main bar area. This place is the business!”
Again, the annual operating budget for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is nearly $90 million.
Meanwhile, in Alabama…
The Jefferson County (Alabama) Sheriff’s Office is apparently at odds with local municipalities over enforcement of gambling laws.
According to reports, the Sheriff’s Office prefers to concentrate on fighting serious and/or violent crime and wants local police to handle such things as illegal gambling at electronic bingo halls.
A spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, Captain David Agee, told reporters, “We’re not saying we won’t enforce [the law], but our priorities are the crimes that really make a difference in our lives. We are concentrating on serious crimes — thefts, stolen property, robberies.”
The enforcement dispute arises from a couple of sharply worded cease and desist letters sent to two local electronic bingo halls by Bessemer Cutoff District Attorney Lynneice Washington, which resulted in the two bingo halls remaining open for business as though the letters, however sharply-worded, did not exist.
This led many — or perhaps just one or two — to turn to the Sheriff’s Office for enforcement. But the Sheriff’s Office was having none of it, claiming that the electronic bingo halls were the responsibility of the local police departments of the cities that were issuing business licenses to the bingo halls.
Captain Agee agreed with reporters that the previous sheriff’s administration had been much more aggressive with gambling enforcement, but he also noted that in all the previous administration’s raids on bingo halls in Jefferson County, he could not recall a single conviction. He also said that the Sheriff’s Office was still paying for storage of the 1500-plus electronic bingo machines seized during those raids as evidence for crimes that had yet to come to trial.
One police chief, Larry Woods of Brighton, complained to reporters, “We don’t have the manpower to raid or close them down or store the confiscated machines. We would have to have help.”
Captain Agee responded that while the Sheriff’s Office was willing to help with resources, it could not offer additional manpower for such things as raids. “We want to take a practical approach,’’ he said, “and use our resources wisely.”
Kentucky Gets Tough on American Patriot Veterans
Meanwhile, Kentucky has put its foot down on an American Patriot Veterans Club located in Lily, a small unincorporated area located in the southeastern part of the state considered to be a part of the city of Corbin.
According to reports, the club was apparently serving alcohol (including commercially-prepared “malt beverages” as well as moonshine) to its members, as well as providing them access to half a dozen illegal gambling machines. Whether these were “COAMs” the reports do not indicate, but we’re going to go with “Yes.”
The state of Kentucky has dry counties and wet counties. It even has “moist” counties — the meaning of which we’d prefer not to contemplate.
In any case, Laurel, Knox, and Whitley counties are all dry. Exacerbating the confusion is that some precincts within counties throughout Kentucky are themselves permitted to allow or to prohibit alcoholic beverages, regardless of whether the county itself is dry or wet. Hmmm, maybe that’s what they mean by moist.
Another strange-but-funny bit of info is that the club itself is situated in an unincorporated area of Corbin in Laurel County — unincorporated because Corbin already straddles the line between Knox and Whitley counties, and Kentucky law prohibits cities straddling more than two counties, which out of generosity we’ll attribute to local superstition and leave it at that.
Incidentally, If Corbin is ringing a bell for you, it’s probably because you’re remembering that it was the home of Colonel Harland Sanders and the birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Corbin has a population of about 7000, just a thousand more than the crew of a Nimitz Class aircraft carrier.
In any case, when agents for the Kentucky Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) raided the club on March 20th, they discovered “100 bottles of distilled spirits, about 1,000 bottles of malt beverages, several gallons of moonshine and at least six illegal gambling machines.”
At least one person was arrested, although the reports fail to mention who was arrested or the exact charges under which they were arrested.
The raid was the result of a yearlong investigation (is it a rule in the South that all investigations must be one year in length?). A commissioner for the ABC, Carol Beth Martin, told reporters “Kentucky’s alcohol laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol in dry territories must be enforced, and I hope that message was sent clearly.”
Maybe not completely clearly, Carol Beth (you know that’s what she goes by). The message is simple enough. Simple as ABC.
Louisiana Casinos Drop Dime on Deadbeat Dads
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the casino, the state of Louisiana is enlisting assistance (purely voluntary, no doubt) in its efforts to track down and collect child support from deadbeat dads.
The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services told reporters that since the program began in 2011, the state has identified and seized more than $800,000 in winnings that would otherwise have been paid to gamblers who were behind on their child support payments. The legislation enabling the seizures was signed into law in 2010 by then-state Governor Bobby Jindal.
The state maintains a child-support database, which participating casinos can run a jackpot winner’s name through for a match. According to reports, three-quarters of the state’s 24 casinos participate. Hollywood Casino in Baton Rouge leads the pack with more than $100,000 in winnings seized since 2011.
Department Secretary Suzy Sonnier told reporters, “The casino intercept initiative has been a very successful tool for us in collecting overdue support.
“In our work to assist families who rely on court-ordered child support to provide for their children, DCFS uses every avenue available, like casino intercepts, to collect the more than $1.2 billion owed by non-custodial parents statewide.”
Incidentally, the DCFS maintains a list of “most wanted” deadbeat dads (and moms). These 22 deadbeats currently owe, according to the DCFS, more than $772,000 in back child support. One of the “most wanted” is a guy more than $100,000 behind in his child support. Just spit-balling here, but we’re going to guess that he learned that not everything is cheaper by the dozen.
Also incidentally, participating casinos receive an “administrative fee” of $35 whenever they assist the state in collecting winnings under the deadbeat dad program.
Arkansas Casinos Take the Stage
The Arkansas Racing Commission has approved full casino licenses for two racinos, including Oaklawn Racing and Gaming in Hot Springs, and Southland Park Gaming and Racing in West Memphis.
The approval follows a vote last year that amended the state’s constitution to provide for licensing for up to four casinos.
Before the amendment, the only gambling permitted in Arkansas was on greyhound racing (Southland), horse racing (Oaklawn), and some slot machines. Now, the two freshly-licensed operations can offer real money games such as roulette, craps, blackjack, and a variety of poker-style table games.
It’s even possible that the two racinos will offer sportsbooks in the future (which the amendment also provided for) once a suitable regulatory framework is worked out.
Japan Moves Ever Closer to Casino Gambling
While many observers have concluded the immediate future does not contain a world with Japanese casinos in it, Japan continues to move toward just that end.
Japan’s Cabinet recently approved a portfolio of standards it has developed for casino resorts, some of which it hopes to see built by the mid-2020s, according to reports.
The standards include hotel sizes of more than 107 million square feet of guest rooms — far larger than any hotel currently extant in Japan. In addition, the new standards require that conference and exhibition facilities, as well as shopping areas, be included in these proposed casino-resorts.
Japan is optimistic it can find companies with the wherewithal and ambition to build these integrated casino-resorts.
Commenting approvingly on the Cabinet’s action, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the casino resorts would be of “unprecedentedly large scale and high quality.”
For comparison, a hotel with 107 million square feet would comprise about 2,000 guest rooms — far more than any of the largest Tokyo hotels currently offer.
Additional standards, as well as detailed operations and administration regulations, will be promulgated by a governmental casino management commission, which has yet to be established.
According to reports, at present only three of Japan’s 47 prefectures plan to apply for governmental screening of host sites — Osaka, Wakayama, and Nagasaki.
Shamed by Southern Crime-Fighting Acumen, New Jersey Says “Hold My Beer”
New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement recently seized more than $100,000 from the Borgata Casino, alleging the money was illegally won online by either underage gamblers or people who had put themselves on voluntary “exclusion lists” but then continued to gamble online.
In addition to the seizure of winnings, the DGE fined Borgata’s online operation bwin.party $81,000.
According to reports, the money seized by the DGE is divided between senior citizen or disabled assistance programs and programs to prevent and/or treat compulsive gambling.
Kosovo Bans Gambling for Decade After Dealers Murdered
A police officer enters a casino and shoots a dealer dead. What do you do?
If you’re the nation of Kosovo, you ban casinos for the next decade.
According to reports, two casino employees were murdered recently in two unrelated attacks, and the country’s reaction was to immediately pass a bill to ban all gambling in the country for the next ten years.
Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, but since that time has been unable to fully provide safety or security to its people. With unemployment in the country at roughly a third of the adult population, gambling has become a very popular pastime. So has crime.
Even before the ban’s official enactment, the government had already shut down most of the estimated 470 gambling operations servicing the tiny nation’s fewer than two million population.
Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj told his parliament that the move was necessary for “strengthening public security.”
Prior to the ban, the Kosovo government enjoyed annual tax revenue of around €20m (about $22,000,000) on gambling.
Probably just a , but Haradinaj also told reporters that the only gambling that would now be permitted in Kosovo would be a state-controlled lottery.
In the meantime, more than 4,000 gambling operation owners and employees are joining the unemployment lines.
The owner of 14 gambling shops, Ruzhdi Kosumi, told reporters that 40 of his employees would now be out of work. “The decision to close us was taken after two of our workers were killed,” he said. “This is nonsense. We lost people and now we are losing our jobs.”
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