Casinos, Bribery, and License Laundering

Casino Watch Newsletter, September/October, 1999

Three recent casino scandals Involving high-level officials in Florida and Louisiana and the Premier of British Columbia are reminiscent of Missouri scandals.

Scandal rocked the highest political levels In British Columbia this August. According to the Canadian Press the former Premier of British Columbia, Glen Clark, resigned "after confirmation he Is the subject of a criminal Investigation over allegations he used his Influence to help a friend get approval for a lucrative casino license". The Prime Minister allegedly was offered 15% of the casino's profits and received renovations to his house at little or no cost.

This August the Louisiana Attorney General recommended that the States' Gaming Control Board strip Players International's casino license. The recommendation was based on recorded conversations and other evidence that Players executives paid nearly $1,000,000 In attorney fees, kickbacks and other Inducements to former Governor Edwards and his associate Ricky Shelter. In one Instance, Players development director John Brotherton is reported as having prevailed upon Shelter to prevent a competing company, Crown Casino, from moving to an area to assure Players had a monopoly. "In the end, I want Crown dead, and I want us to have a second boat In Lake Charles," Brotherton Is quoted as saying In a taped phone conversation with Shelter and other Players executives. "How It happens doesn't concern me."

Harrah's Entertainment Inc. is attempting to purchase Players International. The proposed deal would possibly serve as a bailout for the "Players Island" casino operations in Maryland Heights, Missouri and Louisiana. If the Louisiana probe results In felony convictions involving Players International, licensure of their operations could be revoked nationally. The laundering of a casino operation by changing ownership prior to revoking its license Is quickly becoming business as usual. The Missouri Gaming Commission is considering a proposal by Station Casino Inc. to purchase the Hilton Flamingo after it was ordered to pay $500,000 to the federal government to avoid prosecution In an alleged bribery scheme. The scheme Involved $1.25 million in financial awards to former Kansas City Port Authority Elbert Anderson In exchange for his support of the casino. Owner of the 49ers NFL football team DeBartolo has been Implicated In the Edwards' scandal.

According to the Advocate, "DeBartolo has pleaded guilty and has agreed to testify for the government. His partnership backed out of the license when DeBartolo was called before the grand jury". This September he admitted guilt to giving Edwards $400,000 to head off unspecified problems with the licensing of a casino. DeBartolo received a $1,000,000 fine and two years probation. Also being Investigated is Stephen Edwards, the former Governor's son. Three other men are also being Investigated In the 34-count federal Indictment, as another suspect turned state's witness. Robert Guldry has acknowledged that he paid the Edwardses $1.5 million to ensure a riverboat gambling license.

This July the former speaker of the Florida House, Bolley "Bo" Johnson, was sentenced to two years in prison. The speaker and his wife were convicted in a tax-evasion trial with overtones of Influence peddling and corruption. According to records and testimony the former speaker worked on the petition drive to legalize casinos In 1994. Bally Casino Holdings Inc. is reported to have given Johnson a quarter million dollars. Bally faces hearings before the New Jersey Casino Control Commission for its payments to Johnson.

As we go to press former speaker of the Missouri House continues to serve his sentence for corruption charges stemming from allegations of criminal wrongdoing surrounding a proposed Jefferson City riverboat license.