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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

New Player Seeks to Winn Casino in the Catskills

The Post reports that an "Alabama gambling operator," one Luther "Nat" Winn Jr., wants to be the operator of one of the two casinos that are slated for the Catskills region. Winn, not to be confused with Wynn, operates Greenetrack, a electronic bingo parlor and simulcast center located in Greene County, Alabama. Winn's website for the New York effort is gamingfornewyork.com.  The Post reports almost gleefully that Winn has "ties to the Rev. Al Sharpton" as if he's another politician in a position to influence the outcome.  (Winn is on the board of directors of the Rev. Al's National Action Network.)  And the article reports that the Greenetrack group has hired at least one Albany lobbyist to assist with the effort.

Winn and Greenetrack have had a rather eventful history in Alabama, not one of the country's bastions of gambling to be sure.  Greene County overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to permit electronic bingo in 2003.  The state, however, decided around the turn of the decade that the bingo machines were really slots machines in disguise, raided the facility and seized 700 machines in June, 2011.  And that was actually the second time in a year that Greenetrack was raided by the state.

The bingo games resumed in August of that year after a judge ruled that the state must return the machines (a case which is still pending).  For his part, Winn turned the issue into a matter of the civil rights of the population of Greene County, more than 80% of which is African-American.

“This has gone beyond bingo for me. This is about our basic civil rights and voting rights. This is why I walked out of Carver High School in 1965 to protect our basic rights including the right to vote. The State of Alabama has engaged in judge shopping and cast a shadow over the fairness and effectiveness of the entire justice system in the state.....We intend to bring games back to Greenetrack and then we will ask the Sheriff to deputize all of our employees, so they can defend and protect the machines.” [Greene County Democrat]
However, as one might expect from a guy with a middle/nickname in quotation marks, Winn has been the subject of various allegations.  In the wake of the first Greenetrack raid in 2010, he was arrested twice in one day; once on charges of blocking government operations, and the other leading to charges of reckless endangerment for allegedly striking a police officer in the arm with the side view mirror of his truck; charges that were eventually dismissed.

Last year, Winn and four other directors were sued by a group of minority shareholders for "gross and/or willful mismanagement, gross negligence, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, oppression and squeeze-out of the Plaintiff minority shareholders....In addition, the Defendants have engaged in a pattern of self-dealing, non-disclosure, and wrongful acts designed to benefit themselves to the detriment of GreeneTrack and its shareholders." [AL.com] Winn was accused of using company funds to pay for, amongst other things, cars, a Caribbean vacation, and a family trip to President Obama's inauguration.
Plaintiff Deborah Harris worked in the bookkeeping office and discovered that bookkeepers were concealing records and other financial transactions, according to the complaint.

“Plaintiffs observed the repeated issuance of checks to Greenetrack directors and upper management, including Winn, Pham, Byrd, Sugars, and Pasters, for expenses that were not related to their positions or Greenetrack's business,” the suit states. [Tuscaloosa News]
Winn and the others deny the charges.  I say, yeah baby, bring this guy on, we can use some fun around here!

Last week, two state senators proposed a 'home rule' requiring local voter approval for any casino sites.  This is no doubt inspired by the controversy in Saratoga; as well as the requirement for local referendums in neighboring Massachusetts which has become a rallying cry amongst casino opponents here.  Not surprisingly, Governor Cuomo threw cold water on the idea.  A spokesperson asserted:
"A process for selecting and siting casinos -- which already does include local community support as a required factor -- has been voted upon by the Legislature, subject to intense public debate and ultimately approved by a majority of New Yorkers. We will reject any attempts to politicize the selection process with unnecessary legislation."  [Democrat and Chronicle]
This coming from the governor's office that politicized the referendum with the ballot language that practically demanded that voters approve the casinos.  Cuomo's budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year envisions the possibility of casinos operating upstate by January 15, so the governor will surely fight anything that could cause a delay.

 - We had a winner at the Big A yesterday in NYRA's Grand Monday promotion, in which a lucky on-track patron wins a $1000 wager on the horse of his/her choice.  My first impression was to think the winner took the easy way out by selecting Abra, the 2-5 favorite (with the hot apprentice jockey) in the 8th race.  But I guess that's the way to go.  After all, you get back the betting stake in addition to the winnings, so it's an easy $1,000 plus whatever if you find a big favorite who's a lock.  Easy for me to say that I'd get all brave and fancy and look for some live longshot.  Knowing me, I probably would.  And I'd probably walk home empty-handed.

 - I wrote about the Holy Bull over at the TimeformUS blog....and took a look at some other results (including the Toddster's latest Gulfstream winners) here.

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