Industry Divided on Internet Gambling; Gaming Control Investigate Vegas Sports Pools ; Wells Report Out

 

 

a house divided 

Casino industry divided on Internet gambling

by Hannah Dreier Associated Press  

 

Many experts believe online wagering is the future of gambling, but the casino industry is increasingly divided on the issue.

The latest evidence of the split came Monday as the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling launched the first commercial in a six-figure campaign warning of the dangers of legalized Internet gambling. The coalition is emphasizing the possibility that criminals and terrorists may use online gambling to launder money.

The group has support from casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp. The GOP mega-donor is the 11th-richest American, according to Forbes.

Adelson has said he is willing to spend “whatever it takes” to stop the spread of Internet wagering.

Meanwhile, the casino lobby has made the legalization and regulation of online gambling its signature issue for the year. Major members including Caesars Entertainment Corp. and MGM Resorts International are taking steps to get into the market.

The battle is turning into a boon for lobbyists and public relations experts in Washington, D.C., and state capitals around the country.

Proponents formed their own group, the Coalition for Consumer and Online Protection, which is expected to launch its own six-figure ad campaign targeting federal decision makers.

“The coalition will operate exclusively at the federal level — encouraging Congress to embrace regulation as the best means to protect minors, detect money launderers and eliminate a dangerous black market,” American Gaming Association President Geoff Freeman said in an email to his board last week.

The new anti-online gambling ad features stock scary-voice narration and starts with a black and white shot of two men shaking hands in silhouette. “Right now, disreputable gaming interests are lobbying hard to spread Internet gambling across the country,” the ad warns.

Established casino companies have regarded the rise of Internet gambling warily, wondering whether it will cut into profits from brick-and-mortar casino companies or revive the specter of corruption that the industry worked so hard to shed in the 1980s and ‘90s.

Some executives have decided that Internet gambling, or at least, Internet poker, can be properly regulated and boost the industry. But others have their doubts. Steve Wynn, CEO of Wynn Resorts Ltd., recently signaled that he had turned against online gambling for now.

Morgan Stanley has predicted that by 2020, online gambling in the U.S. will produce the same amount of revenue as Las Vegas and Atlantic City markets combined: $9.3 billion.

At least three congressional bills related to online gambling have been introduced this year. Two lawmakers introduced bills over the summer that would legalize some form of Internet gambling nationwide. This fall, Rep. Jim McDermott, a Democrat from Washington, introduced a bill that would tax federally sanctioned online wagering.

Gamblers wanting to bet from the privacy of their homes have had few options in recent years. The federal government cracked down definitively on Internet gambling in 2011. But the same year, the U.S. Justice Department issued a ruling making online gambling legal so long as it’s permitted on the state level.

Congress flirted with an online gambling bill in 2012, but industry infighting and partisan disagreement ultimately doomed it. When that legislation failed, states began moving ahead on their own.

Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware have legalized some kind of online gambling, and at least 10 other states are considering following suit, according to a survey conducted by Gambling Compliance, a group that tracks gambling-related legislation worldwide.

Contact us at Publisher@GamingToday.com.

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nevada gaming control flag

Big-money Las Vegas sports pools shut down; Nevada Gaming Control launches investigation

By: David Purdum – bettingtalk.com

With upwards of $750,000 at stake, several national sports pools were abruptly shut down in January, and contestants say the pool operators have stopped communicating with those looking for their winnings.

Nevada Gaming Control is investigating.

The biggest one: A $400,000-plus NFL survivor pool with approximately 4,400 players from across the nation. Entry fees were $110, and there were reported payouts of more than $10,000 over the last several years.

Players are pointing to two names: Ray Williams and Martin Stone.

All checks for entry fees this past NFL season were made out to Williams and sent to a Las Vegas P.O. box located at a mail box rental business. Several past winners had received payouts from Stone.

A screenshot of the site that hosted the massive NFL survivor pool, “2013 NFL Win or Die,” shows Ray W. is listed as the manager’s screen name; and Martin Stone as the manager’s real name. However, the pool’s host site—Officefootballpools.com—does not attempt to verify the real identities of its users.

On Jan. 16, Williams sent an email inviting players to join a Super Bowl square contest and his “PGA Cut or Die” pool. The next day, John Cranston, website manager for Officefootballpools.com, notified Williams that his account would be terminated in seven days because the pool was in violation of the site’s Terms of Service, which prohibits money pools. Around the same time, emails to Williams’ gmail address began bouncing back, and the phone number listed for him on the league’s page and in emails to players was disconnected.

Officefootballpools.com is a popular site used to manage all types of sports pools. Cranston says the site hosts thousands of pools annually and emphasized it is for “entertainment purposes only.”

“Anytime we are made aware of gambling we cancel the league manager’s account,” Cranston said in a phone interview. “Normally, we’ll be informed by a player in the pool or the manager.”

Cranston would not elaborate on how he determined the Williams-Stone pool was being played for money, but said similar situations happen a few times a year. He said pool managers who are caught running a money game are banned from the site.

For the past several years, Stone was the main name associated with the popular pools. Some say they’ve played in one of his pools for the past three or four years. A winner from last season’s football pool said he received two checks, one from Stone and one from Williams. The winner of last season’s golf pool was paid by a check from Williams.

This football season, Williams did all the communicating. He was a familiar name, having run pools in the past. He asked players that had participated in one of his past pools to denote themselves as “veterans.” Rookie players were asked to provide the first and last name of the person who referred them.

Players say Williams and Stone would take a 10-to-20 percent cut of the entry money for running the pools.

“I thought it was odd for them to up and disappear when they have a 15-20 percent cash cow going on almost $750k,” one previous winner said in an email.

Emails show Stone and Williams regularly communicated with pool players, even going as far as consulting with them on potential payouts. Players emailed back and forth with Stone about how much they enjoyed playing in the pools. He would often sign off with “Stoney.” Players loved them.

“I kept hoping that this guy who ran these great pools and was so responsive in his emails wouldn’t have screwed all of these people over like that,” said one contestant who asked to remain anonymous. “But then I thought what the hell does he have to lose? Of course he had about $600k in his possession of other people’s money, so why not just run with it?”

There are four people named Martin Stone listed in Las Vegas on whitepages.com. One contestant found a Martin Stone in Vegas on social media and called him at his place of business. The company secretary said he had the wrong guy and hung up.

BettingTalk.com placed a call to the same Stone on Tuesday. When reached, that Martin Stone denied any knowledge of the football pool or Ray Williams.

“I don’t know about any of that stuff,” he said.

There is a Linkedin account for a Ray Williams out of Las Vegas, who lists his occupation as “gambler.”

Not everyone believes this was intended to be a scam. Some believe the pool operators were keeping the entry money in an account at a Las Vegas casino and eventually got flagged by the Internal Revenue Service.

Casino officials are instructed to report suspicious deposit and withdrawal activity to the IRS or the NGC, Chief of Enforcement Karl Bennison said. Multiple deposits of just under $10,000 are a common sign. Paperwork, in most cases, is required for making a transaction of more than $10,000.

“Obviously, if people are moving money that are right at or just below the reporting requirements, that’s one of the key signals; right below $10,000, typically,” said Bennison in a Tuesday call. “Other times there will be things where identification doesn’t match. We’ve had any number of scenarios that raise suspicion.”

When an account is flagged, the IRS can seize the money. According to multiple legal experts, the IRS sometimes will make a deal with the accused that, if they don’t fight the seizure, the authorities will only seize the money and won’t press criminal charges. That isn’t much help to players, though, some of whom were anticipating high five-figure paydays.

Out of the 4,400 entries, seven players finished in a tie for first in the large NFL survivor pool. They thought they were in store for a share of a prize pool that, after a midseason buy-back-in auction, was estimated around $600,000. At this point, the winners are still waiting, and there’s not a lot of hope.

Multiple legal experts said the players don’t have much legal recourse since the underlying action was intrastate sports gambling.

“The worst part,” one player said, “was that the pools were some of the best I’ve been involved in.”

This is a reprint from bettingtalk.com.

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martin incognito 4

Wells report: Incognito, two teammates had pattern of harassment

Tom Pelissero, USA TODAY Sports

 

Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito was the ringleader of three players who “engaged in a pattern of harassment” of teammate Jonathan Martin, another unidentified young offensive lineman and a member of the team’s athletic training staff, according to the long-awaited report released by prominent attorney Ted Wells’ office Friday morning.

That harassment by Incognito and fellow offensive linemen John Jerry and Mike Pouncey contributed to Martin’s departure from the team in October, but those teammates “did not intend to drive Martin from the team or cause him lasting emotional injury,” and coach Joe Philbin and the front office were unaware it was happening, the report said.

“As all must surely recognize, the NFL is not an ordinary workplace,” the report’s conclusion read. “Professional football is a rough, contact sport played by men of exceptional size, speed, strength and athleticism. But even the largest, strongest and fleetest person may be driven to despair by bullying, taunting and constant insults.

“We encourage the creation of new workplace conduct rules and guidelines that will help ensure that players respect each other as professionals and people.”

The Dolphins, the NFL and the players union all released statements saying they planned to review the 144-page report, which culminated a more than three-month investigation and more than 100 interviews by Wells’ team.

It was harshest toward Incognito — the 30-year-old guard suspended the season’s final eight games for conduct detrimental to the club — but also implicated Jerry, Pouncey and offensive line coach Jim Turner. Statements from those three to investigators were specifically discredited.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross issued a statement Friday night calling the language and behavior in the report “deeply disturbing” and said the team consulted “dozens of experts” to create a series of initiatives and a policy paper examining the issue that will be released next week.

“I have made it clear to everyone within our organization that this situation must never happen again,” Ross said in the statement. “We are committed to address this issue forcefully and to take a leadership role in establishing a standard that will be a benchmark in all of sports.”

Incognito’s lawyer, Mark Schamel, issued a strongly worded statement Friday afternoon that criticized Wells’ conclusions and promising its own counter report.

“Mr. Wells’ NFL report is replete with errors,” Schamel’s statement said. “The facts do not support a conclusion that Jonathan Martin’s mental health, drug use, or on field performance issues were related to the treatment by his teammates.

“It is disappointing that Mr. Wells would have gotten it so wrong, but not surprising. The truth, as reported by the Dolphins players and as shown by the evidence, is that Jonathan Martin was never bullied by Richie Incognito or any member of the Dolphins Offensive line. We are analyzing the entire report and will release a thorough analysis as soon as it is ready.”

Roughly five hours after the report’s release, Incognito chimed in via Twitter: “Pleeeeease Stop The Hate. Happy Valentines Day :)”

Martin, 24, left the team and checked himself into a mental hospital Oct. 28 after a cafeteria prank that was just part of the harassment he endured that day, the report said. Martin told investigators he endured “racially derogatory language,” then boiled over when the offensive linemen, at Incognito’s urging, got up from the table and walked away as Martin arrived.

Six days later, Martin’s representatives turned over evidence of alleged abuse — including the voicemail already leaked to media outlets, taking the issue public — to the Dolphins, who suspended Incognito that night and asked Commissioner Roger Goodell for help.

On Nov. 6, the league hired Wells to lead an “independent” investigation in which he interviewed every Dolphins player, the entire coaching staff, key front office personnel, former Dolphins, some of Martin’s teammates and coaches at Stanford, including Jim Harbaugh, Martin’s parents and Martin’s agent. He also collected text messages, e-mails and scouting, medical and security files.

The report acknowledged Martin should have reported the harassment, which was unknown to Philbin and the Dolphins front office despite its apparently pervasive nature. Incognito not only was on the team’s leadership council, he was widely supported in the locker room even after his departure and details of his treatment of Martin became public.

“Moreover, however offensive much of the conduct discussed in this Report may have been,” the report said, “it appears that the Dolphins’ rules of workplace behavior were not fully appreciated and, with respect to at least some of their actions, Incognito and his teammates may not have been clearly notified that they were crossing lines that would be enforced by the team with serious sanctions.”

The report found Incognito demonstrated an awareness he had engaged in improper conduct, though, urging Pouncey and another offense lineman in text messages the day he was suspended to destroy a notebook of “fines” they’d issued to one another in their so-called kangaroo court.

After Martin left the team, Incognito had “made a number of telling entries” in the notebook that included a $200 fine against himself for “breaking Jmart,” a $250 bonus for another lineman for “not cracking first” and a number of penalties against Martin, the report said.

On Feb. 4, Incognito posted a Twitter message saying he supported Martin’s return to the NFL. But his tone changed by Wednesday, when he tore in to Martin and Martin’s agent, Kenny Zuckerman, in a series of tweets, saying “the truth is going to bury” Martin and his camp.

The report said investigators “struggled with how to evaluate Martin’s claims of harassment given his mental health issues, his possible heightened sensitivity to insults and his unusual, ‘bipolar’ friendship with Incognito.

“Nonetheless, we ultimately concluded that Martin was indeed harassed by Incognito, who can fairly be described as the main instigator, and by Jerry and Pouncey, who tended to follow Incognito’s lead.”

All three teammates made remarks about Martin’s family, including sexually graphic statements about his sister, whom they’d never met. Jerry downplayed the remarks to investigators and Pouncey denied hearing or saying them. Both were discredited in the report because Incognito, Martin and other witnesses confirmed what was said.

“From Incognito’s perspective, however, the statements in question were an accepted part of the everyday camaraderie of the Dolphins tight-knit offensive line,” the report said.

“Incognito told us that Martin (and other offensive linemen) all recognized, accepted and, indeed, actively participated in ‘go-for-the-jugular’ teasing, and that vulgarity and graphic sexual comments were not only a staple of their locker-room culture, but also helped them bond.”

Incognito can become a free agent March 11. Martin remains under contract for two more seasons, though it seems unlikely he’ll play for the Dolphins again.

“Martin has expressed a desire to continue his NFL career, and we hope that he will have the opportunity to do so,” the report said. “His brief experience in the league was derailed by harassment from his teammates, and it would be unfortunate if he did not get the chance to resume playing in an environment that will permit him to reach his full potential as a professional athlete.”

In essence, the report absolves Philbin, who impressed investigators “with his commitment to promoting integrity and accountability throughout the Dolphins organization – a point echoed by many players. We are convinced that had Coach Philbin learned of the underlying misconduct, he would have intervened promptly to ensure that Martin and others were treated with dignity.”

The report also detailed harassment of the Assistant Trainer, who is Japanese and “repeatedly was targeted with racial slurs and other racially derogatory language,” as well as Player A, who “frequently as subjected to homophobic name-calling and improper physical touching.”

Martin told investigators head athletic trainer Kevin O’Neill heard and sometimes laughed at the remarks made towards the Assistant Trainer and once pulled Martin aside to tell him to stand up for himself more. The former accusation wasn’t addressed by O’Neill — his interview “was cut short because O’Neill expressed hostility toward our investigation.”

The report said Turner participated in the running joke about Player A, giving the player a male “blow-up” doll as part of a Christmas stocking. It also discredited Turner’s denial of knowing about the “Judas” code Martin blamed for not coming forward sooner, even though former assistant offensive line coach Chris Mosley claimed Turner introduced the concept.

“There is no question that the better course of action would have been for Martin to report the abuse,” the report said. “We also agree with the view, expressed by many of Martin’s teammates, that it would have been preferable for Martin’s grievances to be handled inside the Dolphins organization rather than played out in the national news media.”

The report also didn’t entirely back up the accusations made publicly by Martin’s representatives and attorney David Cornwell, who alleged his client “endured a malicious physical attack” at a Christmas party at Pouncey’s house in 2012.

Investigators determined that claim was “exaggerated” but also credited Martin’s statements “that he found the episode humiliating and viewed Incognito’s conduct as consistent with his pattern of demeaning Martin in front of other players.”

Cornwell’s office and Zuckerman did not respond to messages seeking comment Friday.

Among other things, the Wells report chronicles Martin’s descent into depression — including twice contemplating suicide in 2013 — and said one complicating factor was that he may have been more sensitive to insults.

Martin told the investigators he was bullied in middle and high school, “which diminished his self-confidence and self-esteem and contributed to what he self-diagnosed as periodic bouts of depression during his teenage years.”

Investigators leaned on a consulting psychologist, William H. Berman, who explained that “attempting to develop a close friendship with an abusive person is a common coping mechanism exhibited by victims of abusive relationships.”

“Further, Martin’s vulnerabilities do not excuse the harassment that was directed at him,” the report said. “That the same taunts might have bounced off a different person is beside the point. Bullies often pick vulnerable victims, but this makes their conduct more, not less, objectionable.”

The report did not tone down any of the vulgar language used in communication between the players and acknowledged “context matters” when evaluating those communications in an environment where profanity and mental and physical intimidation is widespread.

“We also recognize that good-spirited goading often contributes to team-bonding,” the report said. “But limits should exist. Even viewed in context, some of the behavior and language discussed in this Report is inappropriate by any reasonable measure of conduct becoming of a professional athlete – and, based on what he reported, certainly was offensive to Martin.”

A statement from Wells’ law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, said the report will stand on its own and he will have no further comment.

The NFL said in a statement the league appreciated “the work of Ted Wells and his colleagues and the cooperation of the Miami Dolphins organization in the investigation. After we have had an opportunity to review the report, we will have further comment as appropriate.”

The union statement read: “We have received the report on workplace conditions in Miami. We will review the findings closely (and) confer with our players and all relevant parties involved.”

Incognito cut a deal Nov. 21 to delay an expedited hearing for his grievance against the team and extend his suspension two weeks beyond the maximum allowed by the collective-bargaining agreement in exchange for reducing his financial loss to two game checks worth $470,588. A subsequent deal extended Incognito’s suspension for the rest of the season.

The Dolphins officially ended Martin’s season Nov. 30 by placing him on the non-football injury illness list but continued paying his weekly salary of $35,733. He has non-guaranteed base salaries of $824,933 in 2014 and $1,042,400 in 2015.

Miami won five of its next seven games after Martin left the team, only to drop the last two to the AFC East rival Buffalo Bills and New York Jets and miss the playoffs for a fifth straight year. The team fired offensive coordinator Mike Sherman on Jan. 6 and general manager Jeff Ireland the next day, but Philbin kept his job.

Even before the Martin/Incognito saga began, the Dolphins needed offensive line help. In addition to Incognito, their starting tackles at the end of the season, Tyson Clabo and Bryant McKinnie, and Jerry can become unrestricted free agents next month.

USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis and Lindsay H. Jones contributed to this report.

 

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