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When song lyrics do not reflect reality

Let's consider this passage from “Viva Las Vegas.”

“If I wind up broke

“Well, I'll always remember

“That I had a swingin' time”

Perhaps casino operators count on some segment of the population embracing that attitude. But really, how many people would have a carefree outlook on losing everything in a gambling binge? And how does one manage to have “a swingin' time” while flushing their liquid assets down the drain?

Elvisesque cavorting, maybe.

Still, it seems like the thing you would always remember is that once you threw away a bunch of money that could have made your life easier and less desperate.

But perhaps I am failing to get into the spirit of the song.

Next: “Freedom's just another word for 'nothing left to lose.'”

Suspected card cheaters face felonies

Small bets at poker games at the Hooters casino in Spokane Valley have led to felony charges against two North Idaho men accused of the rarely prosecuted crime of cheating while gambling.

“Part of our mission is to keep gambling legal and honest so when the public goes in there to play, they know we have done everything in our power to make sure the game is fair on both sides,” said Gary Drumheller, spokesman for the Washington State Gambling Association in Spokane. “That the house is doing their part but also that the players aren’t in there doing things they shouldn’t.”

Read the rest of my story here.

Elderly women face gambling charges

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus police have summoned a 98-year-old and about 40 other elderly women to court to face gambling charges after raiding their weekly poker party.

The women, mostly in their 70s, were stunned to receive a court summons this week, more than two years since the raid, said Yioula Diakantoni, the daughter of the 98-year-old.

The women had gathered at a home in November 2009 for a four-hour simplified poker-and-bridge afternoon over sandwiches and pastries when police arrived, she said Thursday.

“They were playing with only very small sums of money, just to make it interesting,” Diakantoni said. “It's silly for police to concern themselves with such trivial games when there are more serious things they should pursue.”

She said some women were frightened at the police raid in the coastal town of Limassol and attempted to flee. Others didn't realize what was going on — including one woman who asked police to wait until she had finished playing her hand.

Diakantoni said two of the women have since died and another two are in a nursing home. Her mother, Eftychia Yiasemidou, was reluctant to go to court but will if her doctor approves it. Most of the women are simply amused by the affair, she added.

“My mother has never done anyone harm and we hope she continues playing because it keeps her mind sharp,” she said.

Gambling in Cyprus punishable by up to six months in jail or a €750 ($1,000) fine.

Prosecutor Michalis Themistocleous said the summons was procedural but added the attorney general was looking at whether to proceed.

Spec Sess Day 4: Can they get anything done in Dec.?

OLYMPIA — Legislators have until Dec. 28 to find ways to close the projected $1.4 billion budget gap, and maybe ask voters to raise the state sales tax to save some programs.

Some legislators of both parties have expressed doubt that they can do it in the time allotted, and the fact the regular 2012 session follows the special session by about two weeks has them suggesting some things may just have to wait.

This kind of talk does not sit well with Gov. Chris Gregoire, who called them back for this emergency session with the idea of getting the messy budget stuff out of the way as soon as possible, so savings can start accruing. If the Legislature doesn't agree by the end of the month to put a half-cent sales tax before voters, it can't go on the March ballot.

“I've heard a lot of skepticism from legislators on whether they can get the job done. I'm not willing to accept that,” she said Thursday. “Is there job tough? Absolutely. It's the reality we face today.”

She also took shots at some proposals to increase state revenue without raising the sales tax, as she has suggested, or other taxes. One of them is to expand casino gambling off the reservations. “Voters said,  not all that long ago, 'No,'” she said.

Another one, particularly popular with protesters who continue to march in and around the Capitol, is an end to a tax exemption banks have on first mortgages. That might raise $18 million, which doesn't close much of the budget gap, she said. Closing any tax loophole will take a two-thirds majority in the Legislature and “that just isn't going to  happen,” she said.

Judge’s son suspected in casino heist

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The bankrupt son of a Las Vegas judge followed a crude holdup at a posh casino by racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in gambling losses and spending a week like a high roller, but got caught after trying to hawk his stolen chips online to poker players, police said Thursday.

 An arrest report for the helmeted bandit, who ran out of the Bellagio hotel-casino with $1.5 million in chips during a gunpoint heist Dec. 14, said Anthony M. Carleo (pictured) lost about $105,000 at the resort over the next month — including $73,000 on New Year's Eve. He stayed at least one week at the resort in late January, enjoying meals, drinks and rooms furnished by the casino.

“He likes to gamble,” Las Vegas police Lt. Ray Steiber said as he described for reporters how Carleo, 29, was nabbed late Wednesday on the same casino floor from where the chips came.

Carleo wasn't armed and offered no resistance when he was taken into custody.

 Police recovered $900,000 in chips of different types — the ones stolen ranged from $100 to $25,000 — and can account for $1.2 million, Steiber said.

Read the rest of the story by Associated Press writer Oskar Garcia by clicking the link below.
  

Gambling man owes mother $137,000

A Spokane man was ordered this week to repay his mother nearly $140,000 after bilking her out of the cash to fund his gambling addiction.

Mark B. English, 52, also was ordered to serve 90 days in jail, three times as long as a plea agreement recommended.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen sentenced English Monday after hearing emotional testimony from family members.

Deputy Prosecutor Patrick Johnson said he’s pleased Eitzen imposed the maximum jail sentence.

“I suspect he deserved a lot more than that,” he said. “He had access to money and a really bad gambling habit, and he cleaned Mom out.”

English was in charge of his 71-year-old mother’s finances when his daughter noticed discrepancies in her accounts. His mother soon confronted him about the thefts.

“She wanted to not believe it for a really long time, but eventually her checks started bouncing and she was getting notices from her mortgage company,” Johnson said.

English is to pay his mother $137,000 in restitution.

“I really have no idea how he will ever pay that back.”

English pleaded guilty to first-degree theft. He’s to report to jail by Jan. 3.

Gambling, Lottery Expansion Fails

Some state legislatures across the country reacted to downturns in tax revenue by trying to raise more money from lotteries and other forms of gambling.  The Idaho Lottery doesn’t support that idea, and efforts in other states have been largely unsuccessful. More than half of all states considered changes to their gambling laws, but just four enacted changes so far, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).  Attempts in 17 statehouses failed, while five states’ actions are undetermined, according to the NCSL. Among the changes, Ohio and New York both are now selling tickets for Powerball, the multi-state lottery Idaho already participates in.  New York estimates that it will raise $134 million in the next year from Powerball/Brad Iverson-Long, Idaho Reporter. More here.

Question: Do you think the current level of gambling in Idaho is enough? Would you like to see more gambling opportunities? Would you like to see no gambling at all?

Cops Crash SHS Grad Casino Games

A popular high school graduation event faces the ax although organizers contend it is legal. Grad Night has been an ace in the hole for community members who want to make sure seniors stay out of trouble on graduation night. But a casino games event, one of the reasons for Grad Night’s popularity, is being scrutinized by police. Authorities told Grad Night organizers this month they are not allowed to have casino games because state code prohibits gambling, even if the money generated is used for a good cause/Ralph Bartholdt, Bonner County Bee. More here.

Question: Are Sandpoint authorities over-reacting to perceived gambling at the high school graduation event?

Gamblers plead not guilty in $540,000 theft

A Spokane couple who described themselves to police as successful gamblers are accused of stealing nearly $540,000 from a Spokane rental agency.

George L. and Kathy A. Bagwell pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree theft today.

The couple had worked for real estate owner Rex Williams since 2001; they took over management of his Spokane assets after after his parachute failed to open and he fell to his death during a skydiving excursion in Texas in March 2008.

But the charges recently filed in Superior Court allege the theft began while Williams was still alive. The couple is accused of stealing $151,945 in 2007. Further charges allege they stole $242,642 in 2008 and $151,672 in 2009.

The Bagwells are described as heavy gamblers who frequented Northern Quest Casino at least twice a week. Both have extensive tattoo work court documents imply may have been paid for with stolen cash. Williams’ son-in-law Adams Pospychala, told police George Bagwell, 43, bragged about his gambling.

“George bragged about expenditures including a Jet Ski, fighting show tickets and tattoo conventions in Las Vegas,” according to a probable cause affidavit filed in May. The affidavit says the couple withdrew nearly $25,000 from casino ATMs between February 2008 and June 2009. George Bagwell dropped $334,031 in Northern Quest slot machines between January 2007 and July 2009;l Kathy Bagwell, 37, placed $104,216, court documents say.

They claimed $20,000 in winnings on 2008 tax forms, and $10,000 on 2007 taxes.

The Williams family owns three apartment complexes in northeast Spokane with 304 apartments: the Lyons Crest, the Lyons Glenn and the Lyons Ridge apartments. In summer 2009, Williams’ daughter Chaundra Williams-Pospychala noticed a sharp drop in cash flow from the properties — $30,000 to $50,000 a month since at least April 2009. She then noticed the Bagwells accepting rent payments in cash without depositing the money. Police began searching the Bagwells’ bank records shortly after.

A civil suit against the Bagwells is set for trial in September.

Kathy Bagwell described herself to police as “a very successful gambler.”

In an interview with police, George Bagwell “appeared tearful” and “expressed their great fondness of Rex Williams,” according to court documents.

He reportedly said Rex allowed them to take $6,000 from rent money “in order to qualify for their home mortgage.”

“George claimed the owners demanded they manipulate the rent rolls in order to look good for the bank,” according to the affidavit. “George said money has been very tight since the kids took over the company. Staffing and maintenance has been cut.”

Past coverage:

July 21, 2009: Couple accused of fraud to fund gambling habit

Casino jackpot leads to fugitive’s arrest

A Spokane couple caught last year with 2 1/2 pounds of methamphetamine went through “great lengths” to avoid arrest on new federal charges, according to court documents.

But Amanda G. McIntyre and Michael D. “Bull” Luce couldn’t pull it off: Both are in custody after weeks of investigation by detectives that included monitored jail phone calls, GPS trackers and covert surveillance. In the end, it may have been Luce’s gambling that did them in.

McIntyre, 28, and Luce, 30 (right), were arrested during a raid April 30, 2009, at 1421 E. Rowan that also uncovered an AK-47 assault rifle. They were indicted in March on one federal charge each of possession with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of meth. Luce also is charged with felon in possession of a firearm.

Spokane County Sheriff’s detectives say they’ve been looking for Luce since February because of probation violations in Washington and California.

The couple owns a coffee stand at 603 W. Hastings, according to warrant used to search a home at 623 S. Rebecca St. on Thursday.

But investigators never saw the two at the coffee stand. The break came when Luce tried to cash a $5,000 jackpot at the Coeur d’Alene Casino on April 16. Security recognized him from a police flyer, and Kootenai County Sheriff’s deputies booked him into jail on a warrant. He was transferred to Benton County Jail, where police recorded phone calls between him, McIntyre and an unidentified man. In the calls, Luce makes references to what police believe are drug sales.

“Luce asked the male how business was going and the male replied that it was a lot slower since Luce was locked up,” according to the search warrant prepared by Detective Shawn Hause. “…In another phone call, McIntyre talks about “The Mexicans” showing up at her house and wanting to collect a debt and that she wasn’t about to pay it.” Luce told her to point the “thing” in their face should they return, which police took to mean a firearm, according to the warrrant.

Detectives followed vehicles registered to other people to help locate McIntyre. They believe McIntyre and Luce registered cars in associates’ names to try to avoid police detection.

McIntyre was arrested Thursday. She remains in Spokane County Jail.

No charges yet in alleged Lilac Lanes theft

No charges have been filed against two former Spokane casino employees who were arrested on suspicion of stealing nearly $175,000 from the business.

Eddie S. Williams, 44, and Shari Cawley, 41, were to be arraigned today in Spokane County Superior Court, but Judge Greg Sypolt canceled the hearing because prosecutors haven’t filed charges.

Williams and Cawley were arrested April 13 at Lilac Lanes, 1112 E. Magnesium Road, after employees said the two ordered them to destroy financial records and erase video tapes to hide their theft, according to the Washington State Gambling Association.

Financial records show $173,000 in missing funds, said Gary Drumheller, agent in charge for the Gambling Commission in Spokane. Investigators say Williams, the general manager, and Cawley, the accounting manager, shorted an ATM daily over the course of a year.

Judge Ellen Kalama Clark released the suspects from Spokane County Jail on their own recognizance April 14. Prosecutors can still file charges, and Judge Sypolt ordered Cawley and Williams to stay in contact with the court.

Their jail release conditions, which prohibit them from contacting each other or going to Lilac Lanes, remain in effect.

Past coverage:

Lilac Lanes managers accused of theft

‘Problem gambler’ accused of theft, forgery

A Spokane woman who reportedly told police she’s a problem gambler is accused of stealing more than $10,000 from her employer.

Wendy J. Tappa, 55, was arrested Thursday on charges of fraud and first-degree theft after Spokane Valley police say she forged and cashed checks from Northwest Consulting Solutions LLC, where she was hired as an office manager in October.

Bank officials notified the owner earlier this month that the company’s account was overdrawn. They also said Tappa regularly cashed payroll checks, “and that a Spokane Valley gambling business had been in to cash checks payable to Tappa,” according to police.

The owner said Tappa forged his signature on as many as 15 checks. Police found one of the checks in her pocket at the time of her arrest, according to a news release.

Tappa is is in Spokane County Jail and will appear in Superior Court today via video.

Lilac Lanes managers accused of theft

The top managers at Spokane’s Lilac Lanes are accused of stealing nearly $175,000 from the business.

Eddie S. Williams, 44, and Shari Cawley were arrested today at the bowling alley and gambling hall, located at 1112 East Magnesium Road.

Washington State Gambling Commission investigators say the two shorted an ATM daily over the course of a year. Employees came forward after Williams and Cawley ordered them to destroy financial records and erase video tapes to hide the theft, said Gary Drumheller, agent in charge for the Gambling Commission in Spokane.

The investigation began Thursday with the help of Lilac Lanes’ owners and an accounting firm that audited the business last year. Financial records show $173,000 in missing funds, Drumheller said.

Drumheller called the tipsters “good employees and honest people trying to just do their jobs.”

Williams was booked into Spokane County Jail Tuesday afternoon on charges of first-degree theft, two counts of gambling (fraud/deception) and obstructing a public officer.

Drumheller said Cawley was booked, but jail officials had no record of her this afternoon. Gambling agents searched her home at 12023 N. Dakota Lane as part of today’s investigation. Investigators haven’t determined if any of the items were purchased with stolen money, Drumheller said.

Lilac Lanes remains open, and Drumheller said the Gambling Commission will work with the owners, who he described as “cooperative,” while they find new management.

State closes NASCAR gambling site in Valley

An illegal car-racing gambling Web site that authorities say a Spokane Valley man ran from his home may have operated undetected for as long as a decade.

But the black flag dropped on the NASCAR gambling site Thursday when state officials arrested David B. Watkins, 54, on suspicion of felony professional gambling after an early-morning raid.

Watkins is accused of operating FantasyThunder.com, a Web site that collected bets on professional car races placed by people around the world.

Gamblers paid $90 for a team of eight NASCAR drivers; authorities say Watkins kept about half and used the rest to pay winners. But when players complained that they hadn’t been paid, gambling officials began investigating a Web site they say violates state gambling laws. Authorities don’t plan to pursue gambling charges against the participants.

“We’d rather have them be witnesses,” said Gary Drumheller, the agent in charge at the state Gambling Commission’s Spokane office. “We’re more after the person who was putting this all together, and that would be Mr. Watkins.”

Watkins, a former resident of Bayview, Idaho, had a Post Office box in Greenacres where participants sent checks, according to court documents. Others would call in bets and give Watkins their credit card information.

Players told investigators the fantasy league had been operating anywhere from three or four years to 10 years, Drumheller said. Payouts were in the thousands, but players told investigators that Watkins stopped paying winners “for the second half of the 2009 NASCAR season,” according to a search warrant.

Player James Marks of Scranton, S.C., estimated the unpaid earnings to be at least $50,000.

“He fell off the face of the Earth,” Marks said of Watkins. “We were willing to work with him; we understand times are hard … but when you run off and don’t say any damn thing, that’s just like stealing.”

Marks gambled through Fantasy Thunder for about three or four years, he said. He said he never realized the operation was illegal.

“There’s a thousand online gambling Web sites,” Marks said. “I don’t know the legalities; I’m not a lawyer.”

Watkins faces a charge of second-degree professional gambling, which is defined in state statute as accepting wagers that exceed $2,000 “during any thirty-day period on future contingent events.” The charge is a class C felony that carries up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Watkins does not have a criminal record, Drumheller said. Watkins and his wife, Cally Watkins, were “very cooperative” when gambling agents arrived about 7 a.m. at their home at 3805 S. Ridgeview Ave., Drumheller said.

Court documents said Watkins works in the professional cleaning industry.

Watkins was booked into Spokane County Jail. He’s expected to appear in Superior Court on Friday.