Archive for March, 2011

Illegal Gaming Machines Seized in California

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Recently a major raid happened in California that resulted in a large number illegal gaming machines being seized along with $145,000 in cash as well as twenty three arrests. The raid is a result of three months of investigating on the part of eight different police departments working with the California Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the California Franchise Tax Board.

The raids took place on twenty cafes, pool halls and bars in Garden Grove and Westminster. The crackdown and investigation came about when local police noticed an increase in certain crimes. “We have seen an uptick in the different crimes associated with illegal gambling,” Lieutenant Jeff Nightengale of the Garden Grove police force said. Once the increase was notice, it lead to an investigation that grew to include more and more jurisdiction. All as a result of some little gambling machines, most of which resemble small video game consoles.

To outward appearances, the video game machines held simple games such as Tetris. Although I know several people who would say that Tetris is not simple. Tetris aside, and I do mean that literally, the games hide games that are illegal in California. All a player in the know had to do was push a particular button on the gaming machine’s console and it would load blackjack and poker, which are illegal in the state. But the illegal gaming operations had a safety. If someone came in that was suspect or who made the operation feel jeopardized, a switch could be flipped that would set all of the gaming machines back to the legal games.

Cash was stored in the gaming machines, and investigators are still counting how much money was seized in the raid as a result of seizing the gaming machines. Nightengale said, “Each machine has to be opened, and all the money needs to be counted. It could be tens of thousands of dollars collected.” The $145,000 seized was the immediate amount they found; the money in the machines was discovered after the raid. Hiding the money inside the machines was a simple way for the owners to keep the excess money hidden yet still at hand when it came time to pay out to players.

While this is a big step in cracking down on a large illegal gambling operation, there is still a long way to go. Nightengale says that the investigation’s next is to discover who was manufacturing the illegal gaming machines.

New Jersey Not Receptive to Slots at Racetracks

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

new_jerseyIt seems that the possibility of bringing slot machines to the racetracks in New Jersey is a long shot. For years, there has been a push to bring slots to the Meadowlands Racetrack, but the current administration seems to oppose that idea.

Jon Hanson, the head of Governor Christie’s commission on casinos and racetracks, spoke before a forum on the future of New Jersey’s gambling industry. Many topics were discussed during the forum, with two of the biggest being online gambling and adding slots to the racetracks. During the forum, Hanson reiterated the administration’s goal of revitalizing the casino industry in Atlantic City and making horse racing self-sufficient, rather than relying on government subsidies.

Among those in attendance promoting the racino idea was James Simpson, president of the word’s largest breeder of standardbred horses, Hanover Shoe Farms. He said that in Pennsylvania, the horse racing industry was dying until slots were added six years ago. He said he doesn’t understand “why there’s so much pushback to joining the casino and horse racing industries in New Jersey.”

Of course, it’s not as simple as some people think. The legislature can’t simply approve slots at a racetrack outside of Atlantic City. Doing so would violate state law. Back in 1976, New Jersey voters approved a referendum that confined commercial gambling to within the city limits of Atlantic City. Pari-mutuel facilities like racetracks are exempt, but if you add slots, that would create a type of casino, which would violate the law, based on my understanding of it. Therefore, before slots could be added, the voters would have to approve a new referendum that would either repeal or amend that law. Another reason the administration may oppose adding slots to the tracks is that it could take revenue away from Atlantic City, which they have clearly stated is a focus of their efforts.

Other people at the forum lamented the lack of online gambling regulation in the state, saying that New Jersey was missing out on a good opportunity to take in revenue that is currently going overseas. However, passing that regulation has the same problem. One of the reasons that Governor Christie gave for vetoing the online gambling bill is that he believes it would violate that same 1976 law. According to Christie, the bill would not have prevented businesses outside of Atlantic City from opening Internet cafes to offer online gambling. For that reason, he conditionally vetoed it so the legislature could amend the bill to make it comply with state law.

During the forum, Hanson said that four years ago, there were 50,000 people working in the gaming industry in Atlantic City, compared to 33,000 now. It is his belief that Christie’s revitalization project, including creating a cleaner, more family-friendly tourist district, will bring those jobs and revenues back.

Arrest Warrant Issued for Shin Jung-hwan

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

shin-jung-hwan_seoulbeatsThings have taken another turn for the worse in the controversial life of K-pop sensation Shin Jung-hwan. Today the Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office has issued an arrest warrant for Shin due to his illegal gambling in the Philippines, misuse of his passport and other crimes.

In South Korea, habitual gambling is illegal, so the exorbitant amount of money he spent overseas could lead to Shin doing time. He likely faces up to three years in prison and a fine of 20 million won.* Shin is a star in Korea who rose to fame as a singer for two K-pop groups, Roo’ra and Country Kko Kko. He later branched out into television acting, but since then his career has been marred by controversy. In 2005, he was fined 7 million won for taking part in illegal gambling in Korea. That scrape with the law resulted in Shin losing his role on several TV shows. After his most recent legal problem, he was fired from Star Golden Bell.

Shin’s current legal woes stem from a recent vacation in Cebu, Philippines. While there, he allegedly gambled away more than 200 million won ($180,000 USD) playing baccarat at a casino resort in Cebu. Some of the money he borrowed from the casino and was unable to pay back, possibly leading to his detention by Filipino authorities. It is not clear if he was detained or simply went into hiding to avoid paying off the debt, but what is clear is that he was not in communication with his employers in Korea and never showed up for the taping of his shows.

Rumors were circulated that Shin could not return to Korea because he had contracted dengue fever. Those rumors were believed to be started by Shin and were fueled by photos taken of him in a hospital. That story was later proved to be false upon a visit by a Korean television crew. Shin then went into hiding and reportedly went from the Philippines to Hong Kong to Nepal, in each step notifying no one in Korea of his whereabouts. In January, he eventually flew from Tokyo back to Seoul and was detained by authorities for questioning.

Korea has strict laws about how much money a player can gamble, how much money than can borrow, how much they can bring overseas, and it seems that Shin violated all of them with his gambling trip in Cebu. In addition, he allegedly used his passport as collateral for the 120 million won loan from the casino, which is also illegal, in violation of Korea’s Passport Act.

* 1 US dollar = 1,093.80 South Korean won

Jones Pulls the Destination Resort Casino Bill

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

It was during the beginning of this year that we first heard about Senator Dennis Jones’ bill that would allow casino companies to bid on building in number. Before anyone got the idea that this would mean Disney would be competing with a Sands or Caesar’s casino down the street from them—and tainting Disney’s hyper-reality idea of perfection—Jones limited the number of destination resort casinos to four or five at most.

Originally Jones presented the bill as a way to increase Florida’s ability to compete for conventions. These destination resorts would offer a good sized amount of space which could be used for conventions, thus pulling in corporate conventions or comic conventions. And if these destination just so happened to have casinos oh well, so be it. Honestly it was a bit on the sneaky side for Jones, and that is the bit that I do not admire.

If Florida wants casinos other than the Seminole casinos, then so be it. But come on, do not present your bill to bring casino resorts to Florida and try to pass them off as convention space with a resort hotel and shops, oh and a casino. People are smarter than that. Call a spade a spade will you!

Realizing that people were not fooled by his attempt to pass off the destination resort casinos as glorified convention space, Jones did start calling a spade a spade and began talking of his bill as means to increase brick and mortar options and gambling for Florida, perhaps even as a way to increase tourism, something the state is highly dependent on.

But the Seminole tribe and the pari-mutuel industry were not having any of that. The two groups had already faced off against each other last year over the Seminole compact. Now they argue on the same side against the destination resort casinos, especially the pari-mutuel industry. To fight fire with fire, the pari-mutuels put in that if Florida lawmakers were all set to allow major casinos to be built in Florida that it would be hard for them to compete—similar to when facing the Seminole compact—and wanted a 15% tax cut on top of the tax cut they received in last year’s deal.

To prove that lawmakers are not completely without conscious, despite Florida’s inclination to jump-increase their universities’ tuition by 30% after the state cut education funding. In the case of the pari-mutuels and Jones’ bill enough law makers began to think that the pari-mutuels were on to something and were beginning to lean towards giving them yet another tax cut.

Needless to say, Jones was none too happy about that: “As we started to gain some acceptance [for the bill], the pari-mutuel industry attacked us with the idea they wanted another tax cut and I was unwilling to do that after we gave them a 15% tax cut last year. They [the pari-mutuels] apparently had the votes to ride on the back of this industry. I’d rather have nothing than something I don’t like.”

With the pari-mutuels pushing and pushing for the tax cut and with support for them coming in, Jones decided that he would rather give up his idea for allowing destination resort casinos to be built in Florida; and he pulled the bill that would have given Florida destination resort casinos. But the bill still exists that would give Florida online gambling.

Virgin Launches New Blackjack Bonus

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

The bonus is all new. And it if for new players to Virgin Casino. Blackjack players to be specific.

On the whole I do applaud Virgin Casino. They are a well-known and well-regarded presence in the European online casino community. They are also one of the few online casinos to be powered by multiple software providers; and really I do think it is the most well-known of the online casinos with multiple software providers, whose notables include Microgaming and WagerWorks.

But back to Virgin’s new player blackjack bonus. It is a 50% deposit match bonus worth up to £50. Yes, you read that right, only £50. Since a lot of our Online Casino Suite readers are Americans let me translate for you: £50 is only just over $80 in US money. So imagine depositing twice that only receiving $80. That is what UK blackjack players are facing, depositing £100 and only getting £50.

Now I know American online casino players have it rough with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in place to try (keyword there is ‘try’) to stop them from gambling online—and really it is more of an annoyance than a really block. But at least US-facing online casinos give new blackjack players a better bonus than that. Check out what Rushmore is offering: a 200% deposit match bonus worth up to $2,000. Now with a choice between the UK equivalent to $80 or $2,000 what would you choose? As much as I like Virgin and their innovation, I cannot help but wonder if perhaps US players are better off not being able to play at Virgin.

But disappointment over Virgin’s new player blackjack bonus aside, Virgin is one of the leaders in online gambling and they do treat their players will. It may not come across in the blackjack bonus, but they do offer a range of other perks, such as the ability to earn player reward points that they can turn in for entry into special contests for prizes that include cars, trips and entertainment centers. And thanks to being powered by multiple software providers, they constantly launch new online slots games as well as other casino games. But their online blackjack offerings include Power Blackjack, 21 + 3, multi-hand blackjack and Bonus Blackjack for starters.

Baltimore Employees Caught Gambling at Work

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

mdot_logoI love gambling. It’s a fun hobby that I take part in pretty often. You have to be responsible about it, though. That includes many things. It means you should budget your money wisely and not spend too much money when gambling. It means that you should only gamble at reputable casinos that you can trust. It also means you should only gamble at appropriate times, which means don’t stay up too late playing (you make worse decisions when deprived of sleep) and you should never gamble at work.

That last part should go without saying, but apparently it doesn’t. From time to time, you hear about people getting fired for gambling online at the office when they’re supposed to be working. The most recent example came from government employees in Baltimore, Maryland.

Baltimore’s inspector general had received tips about regular “payday parties” held at the office of the Maryland Department of Transportation. It seems that employees at the government office like to celebrate getting paid on Fridays by holding gambling parties, where they play dice games and drink champagne. That would be a bad thing to do on work property even if it wasn’t government property, but much worse when you consider that the parties were taking place during office hours.

That not only makes the employees look bad, but it also makes the government agency look bad in the eyes of the public – you know, those people who are paying the salaries of those employees. Anthony Guglielmi said that although he doesn’t consider gambling a “serious charge,” he takes this offense very seriously because “people trust city employees to work for them, especially when they’re being paid with taxpayer funds.” He called the payday parties a “violation of that trust.”

After undercover agents from the inspector general’s office confirmed the gambling and drinking on the job, they called in the city police. The Baltimore Police Department then came in and arrested 13 workers, charging them with misdemeanor gambling. One employee, Michael Flowers, allegedly pushed one of the investigators after police arrived on the scene. He is being charged with assault in addition to misdemeanor gambling. Authorities also seized approximately $6,300 in cash.

Shortly after the arrests, the Department of Transportation issued a statement that seems to indicate that all 13 employees will lose their jobs. The statement says that “any activity that undermines the integrity of the Department of Transportation will not be tolerated.”

There’s a moral to this story, and I really hope I don’t have to tell you what it is.

Millionaire Casino Offering Special Bonus

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

millionaire-casino-lobbyI really hope this isn’t an April Fool’s Day joke. It has all the makings of one. There is an offer that seems too good to be true and it begins on April 1. If this is a joke, then Millionaire Casino will have a lot of angry customers to appease, so hopefully it’s a legitimate promotion.

The regular sign-up bonus at Millionaire is a 100% match of your first deposit, with a maximum bonus amount of $5,000. From April 1 to April 3, though, they are doubling the percentage. During that time, players can receive a 200% match bonus on their first deposit. This bonus has a smaller ceiling, though, with a $500 limit.

This bonus isn’t being advertised on Millionaire Casino’s website. To get information on it – aside from reading it here – you have to be on their mailing list. They will then send you an email that includes the coupon code for this bonus promotion. You need that code to take part and receive your 200% match bonus. The bonus money you receive must be wagered at least 20 times before being withdrawn.

That is not the only promotion going on at the online casino, though. The casino always has some sort of promotion going on each day. Today is Big Wednesday, which means players can earn double loyalty points for playing the Red, White and Win online slot. Tomorrow, March 31, is 50% Bonus Thursday. As part of that promotion, members can receive a 50% match on their first deposit of the day. In addition, the day also is part of the March Madness promotion. Players earn double points for playing the Money Shot Slots game.

Millionaire Casino is powered by Vegas Technology software and is part of the English Harbour Casinos network. The casino is licensed by the government of Antigua and Barbuda. To take part in this promotion or any of the other deals and tournaments going on at the website, visit Millionaire Casino.

Vegas Casino Partnerships on Both Sides of Intrastate Bill

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Online gambling is inevitable in the United States. There are just too many people playing and the numbers just keep growing: 8.6 million and increasing. Last year the US online poker market alone pulled in over $5 billion alone. With Vegas facing down a decline in visitors and revenue the time has come to decide how to proceed to continue making Vegas the success it is supposed to be and to bring money back to state coffers. So far the idea has been to legalize online gambling within the state of Nevada with intrastate gambling bill, Bill AB258. Casinos are making partnerships with online gambling operators and the lines have been drawn.

On one side there is the partnership between Caesar’s Entertainment and 888 Holdings. They are on the ‘No to online gambling in Nevada’ side, and not because either is against Nevada residents gambling online. The breakdown of this partnership looks more like this: Caesar’s is against intrastate online gambling and would rather push for federally regulated online gambling; 888 is along for the ride because it puts them into position for the time when Caesar’s can offer their players a Caesar’s Online. Also to Caesar’s benefit is that ability to operate overseas in the UK through their partnership with 888.

On the other side are those who are in favor of online gambling. The biggest partnership on this side of the line is the partnership between Wynn Resorts and PokerStars. The casino resort giant moved to partner with one of the biggest names in online poker. Steve Wynn may have started out being against online gambling, but then so did almost all of the casinos on the Strip. But Wynn is a smart business man who is perfectly capable of looking down the road. He sees how the future is, not in switching entirely to online gambling, but to incorporating online gambling with brick and mortar operations. And, as one writer put it, he “flipped on online gambling faster than a freshly-boated halibut.” I just love that simile. Makes me laugh.

But in all seriousness, Wynn sees how brick and mortar casinos can partner with online gambling operators, like how he has partnered his casino business with PokerStars, to create and offer players a way to play at the biggest names in Vegas without ever having to leave home; players can gamble and still earn comps to use on a trip to that casino in Vegas; think of it as being similar to building up reward points to be redeemed at a later date. It would also be possible to offer online players special discounts to stay at the resort that non-online players would not have access to. Money through online gambling and potentially an increase in visitors from comps earned through playing online.

Note: There is nothing in Bill AB258 that says the players will definitely receive comps for playing in casinos’ online counterparts. That would be up to the Vegas casino owners. At this point Bill AB258 that would legalize and regulate online gambling in Nevada is still being squabbled over.

Reasons to Visit Vegas Shifting as Online Gaming Increases in Popularity

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

There is no way around it. Online gambling in the United States, despite being technically illegal, is still on the rise. And while online gambling is not the only reason behind the drop in revenue in Las Vegas, it is a contributing factor.

The US is experiencing a shift in how its citizens choose to gamble—the method if you will. It used to be that citizens had to travel to cities such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City in order to play poker, blackjack, slot machines or other casino game favorites. Gambling was a part of vacations there and the point of purpose behind trips to Vegas. But online gambling has provided a much more convenient means of playing a favorite casino game. But even online gambling is going through a shift of its own as mobile technology advances.

So done on the home computer or on a mobile device, the point is that gambling is a lot more accessible than it used to be. This is resulting in a decline in trips to the Mecca of gambling, Las Vegas. Although online gambling cannot be entirely to blame for the decline in visitors and revenue; the US is attempting to come out of a recession, and people do not vacation as much or as far away during a recession as they do in times of a good economy. So lack of money or a lack of employment is also a contributing factor in the down turn in Vegas’ revenue.

I have two thoughts on the position Vegas is in as a partial result of online gambling.

One, Vegas needs to shift its tourism. Sure people still make the trek to the gambling Mecca to gamble in world famous casinos. But the shows, shopping and other attractions are also pulling in a greater deal of attention than they used to. It is possible for a state to generate revenue from tourism sources other than gambling and casinos. Take a look at Florida—a large chunk of their revenue is dependent on people visiting non-gambling attractions such as the Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando.

In fact, it is probably the other attractions in Vegas that are its saving grace right now. Take a look Atlantic City. The second in line in US gambling destinations is suffering greatly from a decline in visitors and revenue; and they do not have other diversions to offer visitors, other reasons for tourists to come to town. Perhaps if Atlantic City did they might not be hurting as hard as they are right now.

My other thought on the position Vegas is in has to do with legalizing online gambling in Nevada. I know, we have been down this road many times. But really think about it. Allowing the Nevada casinos to partner with online gambling operators to offer online casino portals to patrons has the serious potential to increase revenue for the casinos and thusly for the state.

New Jersey had it right in its intrastate gambling bill: limit online gambling operations to partnerships with brick and mortar casinos. Revenue comes in to the casino in that way. They would also have the potential to still offer comps to entice online players to visit their resorts, pulling in more revenue. And the state then benefits due to an increase in taxes received from casinos who are generating more money.

Were Vegas to follow that sort of online gambling legislation, and given the scope of gambling operations and the number of casinos, there is serious potential to not only bring revenue levels back to where they were, but to surpass them. Even if the US were to repeal the UIGEA and legalize online gambling on a federal level, it is likely that the financial state of Vegas could improve.

Man Arrested for Taking Abandoned Money at Casino

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

pennsylvaniaWe all know – or at least I hope – that stealing is wrong, right? But what about if you just happen upon some money? It was left behind and since you found it, you get to keep it, right? I mean, that’s not really stealing, is it? Well, if the countless Hollywood movies made with that exact plot and ending with the death of the main characters didn’t convince you otherwise, let me spell it out for you. The answer is yes. A man in Pennsylvania found that out recently when he was arrested for pocketing money found at a casino.

Anh Huu Nguyen, a resident of Massachusetts, was playing at Pennsylvania’s Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem when he noticed an envelope on the floor containing $240 in cash. What great luck! Nguyen picked up the envelope, slinked away to the restroom and put the cash in his pocket, surely feeling that he had just hit the jackpot. Unfortunately, in doing so, he had broken the law.

handcuffed prisonerIn the state of Pennsylvania – and in most states, for that matter – it is illegal to take any money or property that you find without making a reasonable attempt to return it to its rightful owner. If you find money or property and didn’t see who left it, the honorable thing to do is take it to a police station and turn it in. You tell them you found it and they have you fill out a report. If no one claims it within a certain amount of time, you are contacted and you get to keep it legally. Most people don’t do that because morality is a foreign concept to the general public. In the outside world people get away with it most of the time, because no one can prove it was their money that you took.

In a casino, it’s a completely different matter. A casino is the worst place in the world to commit a crime, because every inch of the building is monitored by security cameras. Still, it happens. The most common instances of theft against other customers are picking up left behind money or chips, playing credits left in a slot machine or cashing in an abandoned voucher. Once a customer realized that they have lost something, they report it, security checks the cameras, find footage of them losing it and then the other person using it. That’s not good for the thief.

At Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, the general policy is to give the offender a chance to return the property to the other customer. If the money is already gone, they give the person a chance to reimburse them. In that case, if the victim doesn’t want to press charges, the offender is free to go. If the thief can’t or won’t return the property, an arrest is made. In this case, Nguyen was arrested after claiming that he didn’t have any money left behind in an envelope. He was taken to jail, where he will be charged with theft and receiving stolen property.

Let this be a lesson to all gamblers. Finders keepers, losers weepers may be a common practice in grade school, but it is illegal. Taking someone else’s property is wrong, and is stealing, no matter how you came upon that property. Nguyen thought he was in for a lucky day when he found $240 dollars, now he’ll have to pay $15,000 just to get bailed out of jail.