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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wednesday News and Notes

An article in the Boston Globe has become a flashpoint in the complex and endlessly fascinating casino situation in Massachusetts.  The Globe reported that Connecticut casinos owned by Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, two of the applicants for licenses in Massachusetts, have placed liens on "dozens of homes" owned by customers to whom they had loaned money that, obviously, has not been repaid.

Not only is the collection tactic uncommonly aggressive — a number of industry specialists said they had never before heard of casinos using it — but the liens raise questions about whether the businesses allow or enable gamblers to extend themselves too far.
“Frankly, I have not heard of any casino company that goes after homes,” said Whittier Law School professor I. Nelson Rose, an international expert on gambling law. “It’s really extreme.”
Green said it would be “ridiculous” to use a lien to chase a gambling debt. “From a PR standpoint, you can’t have it both ways.....If we’re going to argue to legislators and the public and to you guys in the press that we’re an entertainment business, we can’t at the same time be foreclosing on people’s homes.” [Boston Globe]
The more disturbing issue raised by the Globe is the circumstance of some of the loans.  The article focuses on one particular customer who was, for some reason, lavished with loans that were far beyond his means by both facilities .
Cutler’s 2007 bankruptcy filing declared that his sole income was a monthly Social Security check of $640, yet two of the world’s biggest gambling palaces — both applicants in the Massachusetts casino sweepstakes — had lent him more than $66,000 to make bets, and then went after his house when he could not pay it back.
Huh?  Well, it took about 24 hours for Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley......yes, that Martha Coakley..... to step up to the plate to bash that softball out of the pahk.
‘‘Protecting against predatory lending and overly aggressive debt collection in the gaming industry is critical, because the odds are stacked against the patron being able to earn back the value of the loan."
 Meanwhile, Mohegan Sun has gone on the offensive against Steve Wynn, with whom it is competing for the Boston area license.
 “Unlike Wynn, our commitment [to building in Massachusetts] is not contingent on anything,” Mitchell Etess, chief executive of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, said in an interview at the Globe. He said that Wynn Resorts, the Las Vegas company run by billionaire casino developer Steve Wynn, has demanded numerous accommodations from state offices — on environmental regulations, taxes, access to his proposed site, and other considerations — and suggested Wynn may not proceed with his project if he does not get what he wants. [Boston Globe]
Wynn has asked that the tax rate for his casino be reduced to be in line with that which would be charged to a tribal casino; and the accusations over environmental regulations relate to the fact that Wynn is cleverly proposing to build his casino on a contaminated former Monsanto site.  On the other hand, Wynn questions Mohegan Sun's motives, suggesting that they have an incentive to drive customers to their Connecticut locale, where table games aren't taxed. (That's an accusation which has surfaced before.)

The vote in Revere on Mohegan Sun's proposed casino at Suffolk Downs is coming up on February 25.

Back here in New York, it was reported that NYGA President and Saratoga Raceway principal James Featherstonhaugh visited other prospective casino sites in the Capital District, including the possible competitor for the license in Rensselaer, where residents voted in favor of casino gambling.  Can't say what he's up to; maybe looking for a backup plan, maybe trying to scare supporters of a Saratoga casino in order to light a fire under them, or maybe he's not happy about the notion of a Saratoga casino being of the scaled-down variety in order to appease residents.  I suppose that the harness track could, in theory, apply for a license to build a casino somewhere else where they would be free to make it "Las Vegas" style.

A rough week for the Resorts World site at the Big A.  On Friday, a patron in the racino, who was said to be on a winning streak, offed himself by diving head first 30 feet from the top of an escalator.  Yikes.  On the previous Sunday, there was a sexual assault in a bathroom on the racing side, which is described in quite explicit and disturbing detail in the criminal complaint which is contained herein on the Capitol Confidential blog.

What I'm wondering is why exactly was this story reported there, on the Albany Times Union's blog which covers matters of Albany politics and, therefore, mostly corruption and fraud.  As one commenter queried: This relates to fraud/waste, how?  Then we see that the entry is by James Odato, and the picture becomes clearer.  Odato is probably the leader of the New York press corps' NYRA-bashing club, as we've documented here before on more than one occasion.  And the inference here is clear when Odato leads with: A previously unpublicized report of a sexual assault in a women’s restroom was reported in Monday’s Times Union column.    Oooo, smacks of a coverup, eh?  Let's see, who wrote that column in Monday's Times Union?  Oh, it was Odato; he was linking to himself. 
  A female attendant previously staffed the washroom, but because of cutbacks that hasn't been the case for a few years, according to a union official.
Yeah, guess it's all NYRA's fault, how dare they not have every bathroom attended?  Right underneath the story, after it notes that NYRA has dismissed its director of seating and parking, Jerry Davis, a longtime NYRA official who made $170,298 a year - thereby no doubt increasing the chances of a sexual assault in the clubhouse seats - is the signoff: 
  Do you have a story about waste and abuse of public funds? Contact James M. Odato at 518-454-5083, or on Twitter at @JamesMOdato
I'll be sure to keep that in mind. (And, by the way, Jerry Davis is still listed on the NYRA site as an active Racing and Operating Official as of this writing.)


jk said...

Rape, suicide and employee layoffs at the Big A/Resorts World. It looks to be a house of horrors out there. Anyone know if there are bathroom attendants on the casino side of town?

Figless said...

The real crime here is that the "director of seating and parking" was getting paid $170k per annum, yikes. For what?

The seating process was antiquated at best, never could understand why a patron had to climb to the top floor of the Belmont clubhouse to purchase a seat. And don't talk to me about the "seating Lottery" at the Spa, where I somehow ended up with the same seats year after year after year no matter when I submitted. If it were truly a lottery one would think I would on occasion luck into some good seats.

Good to see Kay cutting some fat from the budget and hopefully he is modernizing seat procurement as well.

Figless said...

Didn't mean to diminish the rape, clearly that is a terrible crime.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what is more laughable your foolish comment about the salary of a former NYRA official being too high or you placing the blame on him regarding the antiquated ticket seating system. Do you know anything about the position or business for that matter... Last time I checked NYRA execs never listen to their staff and they run the organization more like a popularity contest rather than a business. Just to be clear the former employee you know NOTHING about presented ideas to improve upon the process but was continually ignored because he was not an ass kisser like the majority of officials at the organization. Also let's be perfectly clear there are at least half a dozen people at NYRA who are paid much more money and never do any work at all. This group I am referring to would be known as the so called ass kissers. What I am looking forward to is just how they plan to fill his shoes. Let's see how many of them are willing to take care of business 24 hours a day 7 days a week considering they do nothing at all at the moment nor do they have a clue what he did. I can't wait to see how they destroy Belmont Stakes and the entire Saratoga meet. Good luck you die hard patrons you are going to need it... At this rate you will be lucky if you can get on the grounds to park your car. Forget about getting a seat so make sure you wear comfortable shoes. There will be a lot of walking and standing and very little sitting... THEN WE CAN ONLY HOPE THE LAZY ASS KISSERS GET FIRED TOO.

Figless said...

I certainly hope the lazy ass kissers are fired as well, as I stated, there is plenty of fat. I acknowledge it is very possible he suggested upgrades and was shot down by his superiors, but without evidence to the contrary the person with that title must take the blame for a crappy system.

The new NYRA execs have not been on the job long enough, in my opinion, to make a blanket statement about their management practices, and I doubt the animosity expressed above could have been achieved in the short period they have been on the job.

I acknowledge my lack of inside knowledge as to the responsibilities of the fired exec, but am highly skeptical that his duties were a 24/7 job as you insinuate, skeptical that the "Director of Seating and Parking" for an organization that sells very few seats and parks very few cars except for 37 days of the year, and skeptical that he can not replaced at a lessor salary.

I feel sorry for anyone that loses his job of course and wish him well, if he is as capable and hard working as you claim he will land on his feet.

fedup said...

Fair enough... Let's wait and see how this plays out... 2014 should be an interesting year for NYRA... I stand behind my comments. Bottom line is management would be wise to actually employ people in executive positions that actually know about the industry. I hope I am wrong but I have seen the inner and outer workings. I believe there is talent at NYRA, just the wrong kind.

Figless said...

Agree it will be an interesting year, they brought in outsiders, all we can do is let it play out, sometimes a new set of eyes reaps dividends, sometimes it implodes. As a fan I am rooting for the former, while remaining skeptical of the long term plans of Albany for the franchise.

fedup said...

Nicely said...

Joe Lancione said...

The former Dir of Admissions and Parking is a friend of mine. He is a fine and upstanding family man. A real good guy...and it's a shame to see a quality guy like Jerry out of his job. You don't know what you don't know , and neither do I. All I know is his character is very solid.