Texas GOP calls for ending lottery

June 29, 2012 4:26 pm

In a move of unlikely allies, the Texas Republican Party has joined with the Dallas NAACP in calling for the Lone Star State to end the lottery.

The Texas Republican Party platform includes a plank about legalized gambling in general and the lottery in particular. It states: “We oppose the expansion of legalized gambling and encourage the repeal of the Texas State Lottery. We oppose dedicating any government revenue from gambling to create or expand any government program.” (See an earlier blog here on the reason why the Dallas NAACP wants to shut down the lottery.)

The Texas Legislature is set to vote next year on whether to reauthorize the lottery. Momentum is building from a diverse coalition to end the lottery.

In April, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, representatives from the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission and Texans Against Gambling/Stop Predatory Gambling in Texas urged shutting down the Texas Lottery Commission, citing a two-decade record of failure to delivery on promises.

Prostitution alleged at Adelson’s casino

June 29, 2012 1:04 pm

A former executive in China for the Las Vegas Sands Corp. alleged in a lawsuit that chairman Sheldon Adelson approved a “prostitution strategy” at the casino’s Macau properties.

The allegation turns up the heat on the Sands and Adelson, which federal prosecutors are investigating for alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Adelson has also emerged as the leading contributor to the Republican Party and Super PAC’s backing Mitt Romney.

The prostitution allegations add to what is already an explosive lawsuit. Former executive Steve Jacobs previously sued the Sands, alleging he was fired for objecting to demands by Adelson to extort senior government officials in Macau. The company denies the extortion and prostitution allegation.

In the latest filing, Jacobs alleged senior executives were concerned about a project he launched in May 2009 called “Operation Clean Sweep” that was designed to rid the casino of loan sharks and prostitutes. But executives were concerned with his plan because “the prior prostitution strategy had been personally approved by Adelson,” Jacobs alleged.

If true, the allegations offer a window into the way casinos do business in Macau. That would come as no surprise, given the Chinese territory has long been known as a haven for gangs and corruption. In fact, in December 2010, police rounded up more than 100 suspected prostitutes at the Sands’ Venetian Macao casino-resort while Adelson was in town.

Jacobs also alleges the company offered special deals through an elite “Chairman’s Club” to a select high-rollers that included leaders of Chinese organized-crime rings known as Triads. Adelson controlled the club and sent personal letters to its members, according to Jacobs’ filing. The allegations put a harsh light on Adelson at a time when he is essentially trying to buy the White House.

Beach blanket bingo (and slots)

June 29, 2012 10:47 am

For everyone who can’t make it to the Jersey Shore for the July 4 holiday, the SugarHouse casino is throwing a beach party behind its slots joint on Delaware Avenue.

So instead of slots gamblers leaving kids locked in the car, they can leave them on the bank of the Delaware River in beautiful Fishtown. Who needs Atlantic City when gamblers can have sand and waterfront views of Camden and tanker ships going up the Delaware? (Just beware of the armed robbers.)

What a great way to celebrate the birth of the country, just a short ride from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Maybe not. Read some of these reviews here from SugarHouse customers to get a sense of how scuzzy this casino is. Not to mention, leaving kids in cars is now illegal. SugarHouse can truck in sand, but a business dedicated to stripping wealthy from residents remains a net negative.

Delaware: First State for gambling

June 28, 2012 5:34 pm

There was a time when Delaware was dominated by companies like DuPont and Hercules that built and invented things. But now the First State feeds off of interest paid to credit card companies, bankruptcy court legal fees and gambling.

In fact, Delaware lawmakers’ addiction to casinos just took a big leap forward into the world of online gambling and keno machines. The state Senate passed a measure that will enable online gambling. The move essentially allows for virtual casinos in every home and mobile phone in the state.

The measure is supposed to help the state’s three casinos fight off growing competition from Maryland, Pennsylvania and other states. But what is really does is enable state lawmakers to strip more wealth from residents. By allowing people to gambler around the clock from the convenience of their home, office and car, online gambling will lead to a growth in problem gamblers, especially among younger people. (It is already a problem in Europe and Canada. See here and here.)

Even more pathetic, the measure allows the state to sell lottery tickets online while non-casino venues, such as bars and restaurants, can sell Delaware’s pro-football parlay cards and offer Keno instant lottery gambling.

You just see all the poor schlubs sitting in dumpy bars now blowing their Social Security checks into Keno machines so Delaware lawmakers can try to balance the state budget.

NAACP: Close the Texas lottery

June 28, 2012 1:40 pm

Studies show that the poor and minorities gamble away much more money on the lottery than other groups. (See here and here for more studies and research.)

As such, states profit by stripping wealth from those who can least afford it. It’s a classic regressive tax in the worst way. That’s why the Dallas chapter of the NAACP wants Texas to end its lottery.

The nation’s oldest civil-rights group say they are bothered by how poor and minority Texans spending their money on lottery tickets instead of necessities such as rent or health insurance, and the funding has not helped public education as advertised. “People with very little money are spending their money on the lottery,” said Juanita Wallace, president of the Dallas branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Wallace pointed to a story about a man spent his limited dollars to buy lottery tickets, hoping to hit it big, rather than buy health insurance. “He’s dead,” she said. While individuals make the choice to buy lottery tickets, Wallace said the government has a duty to look out for the most vulnerable. “People oftentimes make decisions not in their best interests,” she said. “We have to look out for those people.”

The lottery is the ultimate scam as Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert points out. “Forgive me, for those of you who play the lottery — but economists, at least among themselves, refer to the lottery as a stupidity tax, because the odds of getting any payoff by investing your money in a lottery ticket are approximately equivalent to flushing the money directly down the toilet,” he said. Watch his powerful video presentation on mistaken expectations from the Ted conference here.

Not all fun and games in Macau

June 28, 2012 11:10 am

The Chinese territory of Macau has been billed as the new Las Vegas. But it may be more like the old Las Vegas – or worse – when violent mobsters ran the town.

A top figure in Macau’s gambling industry was beaten by six men in a restaurant at his own casino while he dined with a young woman. The brazen beating recalled the gang violence that dominated the gambling just a decade ago, as The New York Times details here.

Not long ago, murders, bombings and attacks were routine in Macau. A senior police official attempted to calm tourists by announcing Macau had “professional killers who don’t miss their targets.” Translation: Don’t mind the gunfire, please keep gambling.

More recently, Macau has tried to clean up its act and become more like Las Vegas. In fact, gambling has exploded and now tops Vegas. But the beating of Ng Man-sun, a casino hotel investor, raised fears that those bad old days are coming back.

The beating appeared to be the work of triads, the Chinese criminal societies that have long been associated with Macau’s gambling industry. The attack took place in the restaurant of the New Century Hotel, which was also the scene of a July 1997 attack. At the time, Ng was feuding with one of Macau’s most notorious gangsters, Wan Kuok-koi, known as Broken Tooth.

The Chinese government has tried to clean up Macau’s reputation by allowing U.S. casino operators to open there. Vegas casino moguls Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn have spent billions building casino resorts in Macau. Both of their companies are under investigation for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. See here and here.

Neither company has been charged. But it remains clear that Macau remains a dangerous place to do business – in more ways than one.

Nora Ephron on Steve Wynn & Picasso

June 27, 2012 1:33 pm

The passing of the great Nora Ephron brought to mind her excellent essay on the time she was in Las Vegas with Steve Wynn who was showing off a famed Picasso painting he was getting ready to sell for a record $139 million.

That was, of course, until Wynn accidentally poked his elbow through the canvas.

“I felt that I was in a room where something very private had happened that I had no right to be at,” Ephron wrote. ”I felt absolutely terrible. At the same time I was holding my digital camera in my hand – I’d just taken several pictures of the Picasso – and I wanted to take a picture of the Picasso with the hole in it so badly that my camera was literally quivering.  But I didn’t see how I could take a picture – it seemed to me I’d witnessed a tragedy, and what’s more, that my flash would go off if I did and give me away.”

Ephron had a great eye for detail. The essay is worth reading though it is not as good as her classic piece in Esquire about breasts. But this is a gambling blog so it is best to stay as close to the subject matter as possible.

The New Yorker magazine also did a beautiful job chronicling Wynn’s colossal screw-up, which can be read here as well. Ephron’s writing is brilliant and she will be missed. But one detail worth noting in her essay is how little time she spent gambling in Vegas. It seems as if the trip was built around one of her other passions: food.

O’Malley still looking to deal

June 27, 2012 9:04 am

Despite the collapse of his mostly handpicked gambling group, Gov. Martin O’Malley is still working on a backroom deal to expand casinos in Maryland.

Or to use his phrase, O’Malley is trying to reach ”a consensus” that would allow another casino and permit table games at the existing slots joints.

“I would very much like to get the lingering issues around gaming resolved,” O’Malley told reporters in Ocean City, where only a handful of people showed up for a fundraiser. (A long ride for O’Malley for such a lame turnout.)

O’Malley said opposition in the House is the problem, before adding that he needs to get a better sense of whether the three delegates on the work group reflected the broader will of the chamber. “I need to now quickly reach out … to take the full measure of the House.” Translation: see what deals can be made to get everyone on board the gambling the train.

A work group that met in private recommended allowing a sixth casino, most likely at National Harbor in Prince George’s County; Las Vegas-style table games at the state’s five existing slots sites; and reducing the tax rate on casinos. But House members said they would only agree to a sixth site if the state maintained its existing 67 percent tax rate on casino owners.

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.

Gamblers who threw it all away

June 26, 2012 11:12 am

There are stories almost every week of gambling addicts who steal and cheat to support their habit. Often the stories result in criminal charges, the destruction of families or worse.

Two examples in the past couple of days illustrate the impact that gambling can have on individuals and their families.

A Houston pastor and his wife were indicted for allegedly bilking their former congregation out of more than $400,000 and spending the money on gambling trips to Louisiana. The couple deny the charges and were recently released on bail.

Charles Gilford, 58, and Adriane Gilford, 53, were arrested and placed in a Harris County jail on charges of aggregate theft and “misapplication of fiduciary property.” Prosecutors allege the Gilfords spent at least $430,000 in church funds gambling at the Coushatta Casino near Lake Charles between 2004 and 2007. They were pastor and first lady of Bethel Institutional Missionary Baptist Church (BIMBC) on Selinsky Road in southeast Houston at the time.

A married couple in Illinois almost lost their home to foreclosure and eventually divorced after the wife spent the mortgage money playing slot machines. In September, the ex-wife committed suicide, a death her former husband blamed in part on her gambling addiction.

The unnamed couple were married for 20 years when his wife began gambling at two casinos without his knowledge. One day a real estate agent knocked on the door and informed the husband his house was in foreclosure. The Harrah’s East Chicago Inc. and Empress Casino Joliet Corp. sued her and were granted judgments totaling more than $7,000 in 2002, according to records.

The husband told The Chicago Tribune the casinos took advantage of his ex-wife’s illness. He called it unethical for casinos to market to regular customers, some of whom might have a gambling problem. He said the materials enticed his ex-wife to keep gambling.

“When (casinos) go for their renewal in front of the Illinois Gaming Board, they’ll talk about all the good they did,” Clarence said. “But they never came and tried to help me out. It’s pretty aggravating. Sorry, I really can’t see what good it’s bringing the world.”