Olympic fears: betting and match fixing

July 26, 2012 1:01 pm

As the Olympic Games get under way in London, officials there say concerns over doping have been replaced by fears of “match-fixing” and “betting.”

Sports betting is big in London. Illegal bookmaking in Asia and the Internet has also expanded the reach of sports betting. Coming soon: several states, including New Jersey, in the U.S. are pushing to legalize sports betting.

The boom in sports betting is likely to increase pressure on athletes to fix games. Indeed, there have been a number of sports betting scandals over the years as this list here shows.

O’Malley falls for gambling

July 23, 2012 4:53 pm

As the mayor of Baltimore, Martin O’Malley described slot machines as a “morally bankrupt” way to fund education. Suddenly as governor of Maryland, O’Malley is obessed with gambling, as Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodricks writes.

O’Malley’s conversion is especially troubling since his rise in politics was based on doing the right thing and keeping his word.

Even more troubling is the way Curt Anderson, leader of Baltimore delegates in the Maryland General Assembly, is feeling from negotiating a casino deal with O’Malley: “This thing is all so murky, it really makes you feel kind of unclean. You need to take a shower when you get done because I think everybody is scratching everybody else’s back, you know what I’m saying?”

Welcome to what happens when lawmakers, gambling lobbyists and casino backers get in the room. Gambling is a sleazy business that often leaves everyone feeling dirty. In many states, the road to casinos is paved with positions that changes and backroom deals that get cut.

There’s a corruption influence from gambling that gets injected into the state and never goes away. Then again gambling is a business that produces little economic spinoff and thrives by making people poorer. So it’s no wonder lawmakers exit the gambling negotiations feeling dirty.

Who’s the biggest bookie?

July 18, 2012 9:37 am

In New York, officials moved to crack down on illicit gambling, while the state pushes to further legalize it.

Clyde Haberman of The New York Times highlights the hypocrisy surrounding the hyped-up raid on a building in Chinatown that was described as a major gambling operation. “But people in the building say the gambling amounted to low-stakes mah-jongg and card games,” he wrote. “And the arrests led to nothing more than misdemeanor charges against a few immigrants middle-aged and beyond, including a 78-year-old woman who hardly came across as her generation’s Ma Barker.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other state lawmakers are busy trying to amend the state’s constitution in order to allow for commercial casinos. Initially, Cuomo was negotiating with a Malaysian firm to give them the gambling rights in New York City – similar to the way mob families carve up territories.

Then, of course, there is the issue that the state is one of the biggest numbers runners in the country. The New York Lottery made $2.9 billion in the fiscal year that ended on March 31. The state said the money went to education, but as Haberman pointed out: ”lottery profits are thrown into the general treasury, rendering them indistinguishable from other sources of state revenue. One could just as truthfully, though less effectively in the public relations department, say that the profit supported welfare payments and recreation programs at Attica.”

Haberman then cut to chase: “Also left unsaid is how the lottery encourages working stiffs and the very poor to part with scarce dollars in pursuit of a hazy dream. It’s fundamentally no different from how people in Chinatown plunk down a few bucks on their mah-jongg tiles. Yet one gambling operation is lauded as noble while the other invites the full weight of the law.”

Maryland’s casino battle royale

July 10, 2012 9:35 am

The heavyweight fight brewing between two Maryland developers shows how gambling supporters will say and do almost anything when it comes to casinos. It also shows that casinos have nothing to do with free market enterprise and are all about doing whatever it takes to game a political system and proctect monopolies.

First a quick recap: Baltimore developer David S. Cordish recently opened Maryland Live!, a $550 million casino in a mall in Anne Arundel County. Developer Milton V. Peterson wants to partner with MGM to build an $800 million casino down the road in Prince George’s County. One problem: Maryland lawmakers only authorized five slots-only casinos in the state. But now that all five are open, some lawmakers want to add a sixth casino and allow for table games, such as blackjack and roulette.

Now for the inherent contradictions from casino supporters who will say and do anything: Cordish opposes plans to add more casinos, arguing that the market is already saturated. Yet at the same time, Cordish wants his casino to be allowed to stay open longer to suck more money from gamblers. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that Cordish offered to drop his opposition to Peterson’s casino if he could operate it. So much for saturation, though Cordish denies making such an offer. Invoking The Godfather, Cordish says of his opposition to Peterson: “It’s just business.”

As for Peterson, he initially derided the idea of a casino at his upscale National Harbor development outside of Washington, D.C. But when the economy slowed and a Maryland lawmaker suggested lowering the state’s 67 percent tax rate on gambling revenues and allowing table games, all of a sudden casinos were perfect for Peterson’s development, which already has recieved hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer support.

In making the case for a bigger and fancier casino, Peterson called Maryland Live! a slots barn and said Cordish just wants to maintain a monopoly. That may be the first accurate statement said in this fight. Of course, the real game is getting played behind closed doors. That’s where Cordish and Peterson, along with their respective lobbyists, have been pressing Maryland lawmakers and Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Once the backroom fills with smoke, who knows how the cards are getting dealt and what promising are getting made.

The Founding Fathers on gambling

July 4, 2012 10:29 am

As more states and the federal government push to expand gambling and add casinos, this Fourth of July is a good time to reflect on what the Founding Fathers thought about games of chance. Note how much their stance differs with today’s so-called leaders.

George Washington frequently quoted this French proverb: “Gambling is the child of avarice (greed), the brother of iniquity and the father of mischief.”

Thomas Jefferson said: “Gambling corrupts our dispositions, and teaches us the habit of hostility against mankind.” He said cards, dice, and billiards “are entirely unproductive.”

Jefferson also understood how gambling is addictive. Betting was ”so seducing…to men of a certain constitution of mind, that they cannot resist the temptation.” He added that “it is the duty of society to take gambling addicts under its protection; even against their own acts, and to restrain their right of choice of those pursuits, by suppressing them entirely.”

Benjamin Franklin, wrote in Poor Richard’s Almanac: “Keep flax from fire, youth from gambling.”

Gambling gone wild

July 4, 2012 9:48 am

One indication of just how far out of control gambling has become in America is today’s annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island.

A London bookmaker has put odds on who will win and is accepting bets. The big favorite is five-time winner Joey Chestnut. There is even an over-under bet as to how many dogs he will eat in 10 minutes. That is set at 62.5. He ate 62 last year and 68 in 2007.

More than 40,000 people are expected to attend the event in Brooklyn, which will also be televised on ESPN. It may not be too long before gamblers are able to bet on such ridiculous events as this in the United States. Several states, including New Jersey, are pushing forward with plans to allow sports betting. If legalized, it will only be a matter of time before Jersey is taking bets on a hot dog eating contest.

Casino profits from others’ losses

July 3, 2012 1:04 pm

The headline in the Baltimore Sun says “Maryland Live Casino makes big money during first month of operation.” Of course, a more accurate headline could read: “Maryland casino empties gamblers’ pockets.”

Because that is what really happened. But too often the media’s gambling coverage is more breathless than probing of what is really going on inside the casinos. Such cheerleading leaves the impression the casinos are all fun and games, and no one gets hurt.

But the reality is gamblers lost almost $1 million a day at the Maryland Live Casino. That is $1 million that didn’t get invested or saved. That is $1 million that didn’t spent in restaurants, movies or theaters. Or worse, that is $1 million that didn’t get spent for medication, food, rent or child support. Not to mention, local casinos are essentially a regressive tax that make the bulk of their money from the poor, elderly and minority gamblers who can least afford to lose.

Studies show casinos make anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of their revenue off of problem and repeat gamblers. Local casinos in the Philadelphia area have said their customers come an average of three to five times a week. Casino like Maryland Live – located in a mall – feed off of locals. The money spent in the casino is money that didn’t get spent in the local economy. In short, that is $1 million a day in wealth stripped from the community.

Lawmakers in Annapolis may be happy because they tax the casinos at a much higher rate than other businesses. But the Maryland residents those lawmakers are elected to serve and protect are $1 million a day poorer. How Gov. Martin O’Malley or other elected officials can argue that is a smart economic policy requires a major leap of faith. Just like rolling dice.

Stealing from church to gamble

July 3, 2012 9:28 am

The former chief financial officer at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia pleaded guilty to stealing more than $900,000 from her employer and using a chunk of the money to gamble.

Anita Guzzardi, 43, used dozens of checks written from the Archdiocese to pay her American Express and Chase credit card bills during a seven-year period. Amex alerted the Archdiocese to the suspicious activity. A review of Guzzardi’s credit card expenses showed that nearly $400,000 in charges were composed of cash advances and purchases at casinos in Atlantic City, Las Vegas and Key West, as well as in the Caribbean and Mexico, authorities said. She also wrote checks payable to herself. Guzzardi faces up to 10 1/2 to 21 years in prison when she is sentenced Aug. 24.

Sadly, stealing from churches and other employers to feed a gambling addiction is not that uncommon. If anything a recent string of cases underscore how addictive casinos can be for many gamblers who – like other addicts – will go to great lengths to feed their addiction. The costs of such addiction is far-reaching, and largely ignored by casinos and elected officials who increasingly tout the benefits of gambling.

A pastor and his wife in Texas were arrested last month and charged with stealing more than $400,000 from the church to pay for casino junkets. A Roman Catholic priest in Las Vegas was sentenced earlier this year to three years in prison and ordered to re-pay the roughly $650,000 he stole from the church to feed his addiction to slot machines. (The church was forced to dip into its endowment to pay bills.)

A priest in South Florida was suspended in May after he was captured on video playing slots for nearly 13 hours at a casino in Miami. The priest denied stealing from the church to fund his gambling habit but disclosed that he had filed for bankruptcy last year and is facing foreclosure  on his house. A priest outside of Chicago was convicted last year of stealing $300,000 from the St. Walter Church.

Enjoy the show but keep gambling

June 26, 2012 5:32 pm

New Jersey lawmakers want visitors to enjoy Atlantic City – just as long as they keep gambling.

The state Assembly voted 77-0 to approve a measure that would allow casino and racetrack customers to use mobile devices to gamble anywhere they want on the property. State senators are expected to vote on the bill Thursday. It would take effect once Gov. Chris Christie signed it.

Essentially casino customers could take the mobile device to gamble by the pool, at a show, dinner or back to their hotel room. Got to go to the bathroom? Take the mobile gambling device with you. At least that will provide some, ah, relief for slot machine addicts who have been known to wear adult diapers so as not to lose their lucky machine.

And that’s what this measure is really all about: Keeping gamblers, gambling in order to generate more revenue for the struggling casinos and the state. The Jersey lawmakers tried to spin it as some sort of customer-friendly service, which they can’t even bring themselves to call gambling.

“There are so many enjoyable things to do at Atlantic City’s casinos and hotels, it just makes sense to allow guests to take their games along with them,” said Assemblyman John Amodeo, R-Atlantic. Assemblyman Ruben Ramos, D-Hudson, chairman of the Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee, said: “If a couple or a group of friends … wants to lounge by the pool, or take in a show or dinner, those who want to take advantage of gaming attractions can now have it at their fingertips so they don’t have to miss out on any of the action.”

But the bottom line is the measure is not going to help the casinos much. (Not to mention, by reading some of these comments this is not a service average citizens want or support.) Nevada approved mobile gambling in 2009. So far, the move has only contributed $84,000 – or 0.01 percent – to the state $865.5 million in gambling tax revenue.

In other words, New Jersey lawmakers should not feel good about enabling a service that will mostly keep gambling addicts gambling.

Juicing the Irish lottery

June 22, 2012 11:55 am

After the great boom known as the Celtic Tiger, Ireland has been one of the European countries most devastated by the 2008 economic collapse.

Ireland’s economy remains a wreck, thanks to a housing bubble, toxic loans from banks and the government’s decision to put taxpayers on the hook for a bailout of the troubled banks. So what is a country struggling with debt and high unemployment to do? Look for ways to get its citizens to gamble more.

Of course, that is the worst policy initiative possible. Ireland’s economic hard times have already led to an increase in problem gamblers, especially among the younger workers looking for ways to rebound from the recession.

Ireland has a population of about 5 million people. About 2 million play the lottery every week, generating millions for the government. But now the Minister of Public Expenditure is looking for ways to make more money off of the lottery. The government is kicking around a variety of ideas, including selling lottery tickets online. With misguided policy ideas like more gambling, the Irish minister could be governor of New York or some of the other states pushing new gambling measures.