Archive for November, 2009

Johnny Moss, superb gamester and gambler and world champion of poker, was born in 1907 in a poor Texas town. Eventually his family drifted into Dallas when their economic condition did not improve much. At eight years old Johnny quit school and began selling newspapers. He also met his lifelong friend, Benny Binion. Together they learned games, and they began their life careers as players. By the time Johnny Moss was fifteen, he was making a living at dice.
Soon he was wandering around Texas playing games and learning games. In West Texas he also worked on a ranch. There one day he rode his horse by a golf course and saw two hackers betting as they played. He figured, “What folks are betting on, you learn to play, that’s all”. So he learned to play golf. He learned so well that he much later played a round of golf at the Desert Inn for a $100,000 stake. He beat 80, shooting 79, with irons only. At an earlier time, he won a $5,000 bet that he could shoot 9 below 45 with only a four iron. Johnny also learned to bowl. But these were really the side games. Following an automobile accident he could no longer compete in physical activities at the level that a hustler must compete in order to win. He turned to his real game – poker.
But still there were physical dangers. “To be a professional gambler”, he related, not only means “you have to know how to play the games, you have to keep your eyes open for two dangers, the hijackers and the law” . But that was before the big action moved to Las Vegas and was held under the big tops of the legal casinos. In 1949, Nick the Greek Dandolos came to Las Vegas looking for a game. Benny Binion, of the Horseshoe casino, called his friend Johnny Moss in Texas and suggested they have a one-on-one match in his casino. It was the first world championship poker match, and it lasted five months before Nick the Greek threw in his cards and walked away.
Twenty-one years later, the formal World Series of Poker began. Johnny Moss won it three times in the 1970s. Moss won the first tournament and played in every one until 1995. In his later years he played regularly, but not for the big stakes that had previously driven him. For a while, he was the poker room manager at the Aladdin Hotel. But mostly he traveled back and forth between Las Vegas and his home in Odessa, Texas. He died there at the age of eighty-eight, in 1995.

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Jack Morrisey (1831–1878) was born in Ireland. His family moved to Troy, New York, when he was a boy of three. It was not long before the small boy became a man larger than life. In Troy he was a gang fighter. He gained the nickname “Old Smoke” from a barroom brawl in which he and his adversary knocked over a stove. They finished their “match” on the floor among burning coals. When Morrissey rose up as the winner, his hair and clothing were on fire. Soon afterward, “Old Smoke” was fighting according to the rules of professional boxing.
Morrisey sought a fortune by joining the Gold Rush West. The nuggets he got, however, were the result of an arranged prizefight. He performed so well that he was recruited back East, where he participated in and won a heavyweight championship match. There is no record of a defense, so he probably retired as the undefeated champ. He was only twenty-two at the time, but there was real money to be made, in politics, in the saloon business, and in gambling. He opened a dancing and gambling joint in 1852, and he used it as a staging point for political activity.
He became an important player in the Tammany political machine, as the organization needed tough characters to monitor their ballot-stuffing activities and to keep opponents at bay. Although an Irishman, Morrisey was their man, and he often led fights against immigrant opponents – often other Irishmen. Through his alliances in politics, Morrisey won two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is the only heavyweight champion of boxing to have served in the United States Congress. While not exactly a legislative leader, he would occasionally make a fiery speech on the House floor. There he would rant and rave and challenge any ten of his political opponents to fight him at a single time.
In the meantime, Morrisey was attracted to the racing scene. He organized the first thoroughbred races at Saratoga, New York, and he also built the track that is still in use today. Morrisey wanted the high social status he saw in Saratoga, and he went after it. He upgraded the quality of gambling action at the resort by building the Saratoga Club House, then the most plush casino in the United States. He had only two rules for his house: no residents of Saratoga could gamble, and no women were permitted in the gambling saloons. Women, however, could come to the restaurants and the other entertainment areas. It is reported that over 25,000 women came into the Saratoga Club House each season. For a dozen years the Saratoga Club House was the national champion casino. Through it all Morrissey smoked twenty cigars a day and led a very fast life and a tough life to the end. By the age of forty-seven in 1878 he had worn his body out, and when he was hit by a heavy cold, the champ was out for the count.

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Montana - Gambling in AmericaMontana has more gambling sites than any other state with the exception of Nevada, and perhaps South Carolina. There are well over 1,700 age-restricted locations offering over 19,000 machine games of poker, keno, and slot simulations. The “casinos”, which have twenty machines each, may also allow poker-like games on premises. Additionally the operators may sell raffle and pull-tab tickets. Montana is also one of four states that is permitted to have sports betting. Taverns are allowed to let players participate in pools on events such as football games and World Series games.
The state permits wagering on quarter horse races and participates in the sale of tickets for Lotto America. The bulk of the Montana gaming is at the “casino” sites, 93 percent of which are places that sell alcoholic beverages.
Gambling operations came to Montana more as a result of legal decisions than of deliberately studied policy. The voters legalized gambling in 1972, and two years later the legislature authorized sports pools, bingo games, raffles, and live card games.  In 1976 the state supreme court ruled that video keno games were “live” keno games. Tavern owners across the state began installing not only video keno games but also other machines for gambling. In 1984 the Montana Supreme Court said these did not satisfy the “live games” designation. Therefore, the legislature was called into action by the tavern owners. First they approved the placement of five machines in a tavern. Subsequently, the number of machines was changed, and it now rests at twenty per liquor license. As some taverns hold multiple licenses, they actually operate forty or sixty machines.
The “casinos” pay a state tax of 15 percent on their machine winnings, as well as a fee of $250 to $500 for (really) live tables. The state receives approximately $20 million in gaming taxes each year.
Four Native American tribes also operate machine and poker gambling casinos in the towns of Box Elder, Crow Agency, Lame Deer, and Wolf Point.

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See Cash Transaction Reports and Money Laundering.

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See Cash Transaction Reports and Money Laundering.

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See Cash Transaction Reports and Money Laundering.

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Monaco - Gambling in AmericaFor a century and a half Monaco, with its Monte Carlo Casino, has been the essence of classical gambling elegance. The casino, or casino complex, has been the leading European gambling facility until recent times. It was the most prominent casino property in the world until the advent of the Las Vegas megacasinos. Monaco itself is a historical throwback, a city-state of less than one mile square on the French Riviera coast of the Mediterranean. It is surrounded by water on one side and by France on the other three sides.  The state began as a semiautonomous political entity in the thirteenth century when an exiled clan called the Grimaldis established their independence from the Republic of Genoa on the then-barren seacoast spot. The geographical isolation and seemingly worthlessness of the land helped preserve its independence. That independence has over the centuries become the reason for existence of the state of Monaco. Survival has come through isolation, treaties and diplomacy, and trade concessions, but mostly through the establishment of an economic base by means of the creation of the casino resort complex.
The gambling industry of Monaco developed mostly because its neighbors turned puritanical regarding the world of risky games in the nineteenth century. France closed its casinos in the 1830s, and soon afterward so did the states of Italy and Germany. An early effort to build casinos in 1861 failed in Monaco owing to the lack of capital resources. Soon Louis and Francis Blanc came to the rescue. The two brothers had been very successful in a casino venture at Bad Homburg near Frankfurt.  That property had been closed under pressure from the Prussian government. Francis survived Louis, and he contracted with the prince of Monaco to set up a company – Societe des Bains de Mer (SBM) – to build and operate a casino. The SBM promised to improve the harbor and to finance the building of a road to Nice. Local opposition to casino gambling was overcome when the SBM persuaded the prince to suspend all taxes on local residents. The residents were also denied access to the casinos except as employees. This restriction applies to the 25,000 citizens of Monaco, but not to the alien residents of the tax haven.
Unlike other European casinos today, Monaco is a very democratic place that welcomes all visitors. It sets forth a philosophy of operations similar to that found on the Las Vegas Strip – gambling is considered an exported tourist product.
Francis Blanc was succeeded by his son, Camille, in 1889. Working with Monaco’s Prince Albert, the SBM under Camille’s leadership helped finance a ballet, as well as an oceanographic museum and research center. World War I greatly hurt business, but Sir Basil Zaharoff, a Turkish-born financier of Greek ancestry, came to the rescue. He helped Albert negotiate a new treaty for autonomy from France and generated new capital resources for the casino. Zaharoff took over the property in 1923.
The casino was able to remain prosperous through the Depression years and also through World War II as Monaco maintained a posture of neutrality. After the war, however, there was a major business downturn. While the SBM was nearly bankrupt, its control was taken over by Aristotle Onassis in 1951. Through the 1950s, Onassis worked closely with Monaco’s Prince Rainier to build up the facilities. The two had a major falling out in the early 1960s, and Rainier seized the reins of control over the SBM. The prince directed the completion of a railroad tunnel that took tracks away from the seafront, and he added a new beach area, as well as developing new casino facilities. One of the facilities was an American Room that featured slot machines. Rainier also invited the Loews Hotel Corporation of New York to build a new casino complex that today represents the closest one can come to a Las Vegas–style casino in Europe. There are no door fees and no dress codes, and slot machines are adjacent to the table games.
The Monaco casinos now produce wins approaching $200 million a year, and they still provide the basis for a tourist atmosphere and for the economic support for the small city-state of Monaco.

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Missouri started a state lottery in 1986. The state also permits charity gaming, and in June 1987 pari-mutuel racing began. The most noticeable form of gambling in the state is found on fourteen riverboats that started operations in the mid-1990s, during a very confusing series of court battles and voter referenda.
The initial vote to approve riverboat gambling came on 3 November 1992. The legislative initiative authorized casino boats for the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. The boats had to take two-hour cruises, and players could not lose more than $500 during the cruise. After the referendum, seven companies applied for licenses. Before the boats could cruise with full-scale casino gambling, however, the state was hit with a lawsuit challenging the right to operate casino games. The state constitution banned lotteries. The initial court ruling was that most casino games were lottery games. The boats that were operating had to close down their machines, roulette wheels, and baccarat games, as these were considered lotteries. They were permitted to have live poker and blackjack games. A few did for a short time. (The state could have a lottery because the voters in 1986 had amended the constitution to permit a state-run lottery only).
The casinos got together and put a new constitutional initiative on the ballot in April 1994. This time the voters said no, to their games. The casinos immediately started another petition campaign, however, and finally the voters approved the required constitutional amendment in November 1994. Fourteen casino boats were then approved for the state’s waters. The boats pay fees and a tax of 20 percent on their gambling win, which is shared between the state and the local community. They have enjoyed a mixed success, as they face considerable competition – among themselves and with boats in Iowa, Illinois, and Mississippi. Since the beginning the boats have sought to have the $500 betting loss cap eliminated, but they have failed in these efforts.
They have also sought to remove the requirement that they have to cruise in the rivers and be docked within the channels of the rivers. This ridiculous requirement was revealed for its stupidity when a commercial barge hit one of the boats in its dockside position at a time when there were 2,500 players aboard. A major catastrophe was narrowly avoided. Several companies began to put boats in artificial channels cut into the river. The gaming commission approved this move; however, the state supreme court ruled that this violated the requirement that the boats be in the river. Again the casinos went to the voters, and in 1998, the voters said the boats could be in artificial “moats” and that actual cruises were no longer necessary. The boats must still have “mock” cruises of two hours, however, during which the gamblers cannot lose more than $500.

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Mississippi - Gambling in AmericaThe state of Mississippi has the third-largest volume of casino gambling of any venue in North America. Approximately thirty casino boats generate nearly $2 billion in gambling wins each year. The state also has one of the largest Native American casinos – the Silver Star run by the Las Vegas Boyd Group on behalf of the Mississippi Choctaw tribe. The casino, near Philadelphia, has almost 100 tables and 3,000 machines. The state has no other legal gambling activity – no lottery gambling or charity games.
Mississippi did not set out a deliberate course for casino gambling. Instead, the state seemed to just let it happen. Casino-style gambling arrived in Mississippi aboard the cruise ship Europa Star on 19 December 1987. The 157-foot ship with a Panamanian registration docked at Biloxi and began a series of “cruises to nowhere”. Gambling activities on the ship included roulette, bingo, and slot machines. Short round-trip cruises were made three miles offshore of Biloxi but within the boundaries of a series of barrier islands.  The ship operators claimed they were in international waters. The state attorney general sought to end the gambling by claiming the ship was in state-controlled waters until it was three miles outside the barrier islands.
Before the matter was resolved in court, the legislature took up the issue. At first legislators sided with the attorney general. In March 1989, however, a law was passed allowing large ships – at least 300 feet long – to conduct gaming in the waters inside the islands. One ship, the Pride of Mississippi, operated under provisions of the law for one season; however, it could not operate at a profit. Nonetheless, businesses along the Gulf Coast pleaded to the legislature for more open gambling rules, as the ship had generated significant tourist revenue for them. The legislature now had the Iowa model for riverboat gambling and decided to duplicate it – to an extent.
On 23 March 1990, the governor signed into law an act permitting casino gambling on riverboats. The boats had to be at least 150 feet long and located in navigable tributaries and in oxbow lakes in counties bordering the Mississippi River or on the Gulf Coast. The counties were given the option of having elections banning the boats from their waters. A measure describing a regulatory framework almost identical to that in Nevada was enacted into law in the summer of 1990.
The Mississippi law is distinguished from other riverboat laws in that there was never an expectation that the riverboats would have to leave shore. There was no cruising requirement. Eventually the facilities lost all pretense of being navigable operations. Instead, barges were moved into the permissible waters; gambling structures were constructed on top of the vessels, and hotel and restaurant facilities were constructed around the barges. The barges included flotation mechanisms so they could rise and fall as water levels changed during flood seasons. Most gamblers cannot perceive that they are over water when they are gambling. In addition to fees, the boats pay taxes of 8 percent on their gambling wins to the state and additional taxes of 10 percent of the state amount to local governments. The casinos are open twenty-four hours a day and unlike the situation in other riverboat states, players may enter and leave gambling areas whenever they wish to do so.
Most of the boats are located in several distinct areas of the state.  The Gulf Coast (Biloxi and Gulfport) has a dozen casino boats; Tunica County near Memphis, Tennessee, has about ten boats; there are four boats in the Greenville area and four boats in the Vicksburg area. The largest casino is Steve Wynn’s Beau Rivage, which opened in Biloxi in 1999 with 1,000 hotel rooms.

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Minnesota has been a very active gambling state, as I observed during a tour of the state in 1996. Shortly after the state lottery began in 1989, the governor signed agreements so that Native tribes could have casino gaming. The agreement (which could only allow such gaming as was permitted others in the sate) was based upon the fact that Minnesota also allowed private social card games and machine games that could give replays as prizes.
The eleven tribes in Minnesota now run nineteen gambling halls with bingo, blackjack, and machine games. The largest casino is Mystic Lake, which is run by a Sioux tribe and located within the Minneapolis metropolitan area. The facility has 2,500 slots and 100 table games. With a monopoly facility serving several million people, the casino grosses several hundred million dollars in net profits each year. Each of the 300 tribal members has received annual per capita bonuses of more than $700,000 because of the casino profits. Other large casinos include the Treasure Island in Red Wing; the two Grand Casinos in Hinckley and Onamia; and casinos in Duluth, Carleton, Granite Falls, Mahnomen, and Morton.
The state also has pari-mutuel racing. Canterbury Downs, the largest track, was closed, however, shortly after the Mystic Lake Casino opened. Since that time there have been repeated efforts to allow the track to have machine gaming as a tool to restore live racing and also to gain revenues for a new stadium in downtown Minneapolis. The efforts have failed. The facility remains open as an intertrack horse race-betting parlor.
Charitable gaming prospers, as Minnesota sells more pull-tab tickets than any other jurisdiction. Charities win over $200 million a year from the sale of the tickets, ten times as much as they win at bingo games.

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