Kansas businessman and well-known poker player Brandon Steven is under surveillance by the US Department of Justice (DOJ), and he apparently wants the world to know about it.
Millionaire Brandon Steven is one of the best poker players who doesn’t consider it his profession, but his casino and gambling activity has now put him at the center of a DOJ probe.
Media outlets in Kansas have published a letter this week provided by Steven that clearly shows his involvement in a federal investigation. According to the document, the DOJ’s District of Kansas office revealed to the businessman that a telephone line he’s been utilizing was wire tapped for 30 days between May 14 and June 13, 2015.
Steven says the federal probe relates to his involvement with trying to build a casino in southeast Kansas, as well his routine playing of high-stakes poker. He explained to the Wichita Eagle that he’s fully cooperating and has committed no wrongdoing, nor have any charges or allegations been levied at him.
Steven is certainly no stranger to the poker circuit. He’s amassed over $3.1 million in live tournament earnings since 2006, and finished 10th at the 2010 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event for a win of $635,011. His distinguished poker resume includes 14 WSOP cashes.
No Crime Committed
The DOJ letter doesn’t assert any criminal misconduct, but simply informs Steven that he’s been watched.
‘This notice does not mean that you are being charged in court with anything,’ Assistant US Attorney Aaron Smith wrote in the letter. ‘It only means that you, or someone using a telephone subscribed to you, were intercepted talking with a person using the telephone number.’
Smith signs off in friendly terms with the salutation, ‘Very truly yours.’
The US government is permitted by law to listen in on landline and cell phone calls if law enforcement first obtains a judicial warrant from a judge. The DOJ hasn’t released any comment regarding the Steven investigation.
The Plot Thickens
Steven being told by the DOJ that his phone line was tapped isn’t worthy of national news, but there’s much more to this story.
It was two years ago that successful entrepreneur, whose business interests include car dealerships and health clubs, tried to win a bid to develop a $145 million casino named Castle Rock. His group’s petition was never granted, and the project was ultimately terminated.
Meanwhile, Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell (R) 31, served one term in the Kansas State Senate between 2013 and 2017.
The commissioner says he too received the same exact letter as Steven, and conceded to KWCH, the local CBS affiliate news station, that it’s causing him some unrest. O’Donnell told the media outlet that he doesn’t know what the nature of the surveillance would be, but admits the Steven family has donated to his campaigns in the past.
Tabcorp Hit with AU$45 Million Fine Over AML Failures
Australian betting giant Tabcorp has agreed to pay a AU$45 million ($34.6 million) penalty for violations of its anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorism financing (CTF) obligations.
Tabcorp, one of the world’s largest publicly listed gaming companies will admit to numerous AML violations as part of its record settlement with Australian authorities. (Image: Tabcorp Park)
It’s by far the highest ever fine imposed for such transgressions by Australian authorities.
The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), the country’s financial intelligence agency, said it found hundreds of separate transgressions by Tabcorp, including a failure to report that over 30 TAB accounts had been opened under false names and used to launder fraudulent credit card funds for organized crime.
It also found numerous instances in which Tabcorp processed transactions for customers who were labeled ‘high risk.’
Tabcorp Faced Billions in Penalties
The regulator brought civil penalty proceedings against the bookmaker in the federal courts in 2015, alleging a culture of ‘systematic’ non-compliance.
Last year it raised fresh claims against Tabcorp, bringing the total number of alleged violations to 236. Tabcorp potentially faced billions in fines as each violation carried a AU$18 million ($13.8 million) penalty.
Tabcorp, which manages the TAB, Luxbet, Sky Racing and Sky Sports Radio brands, and is one of the world’s largest publicly listed gaming companies, will admit to failures of past AML and CTF compliance under the terms of the settlement and has committed to improving its AML protocols. The settlement is awaiting federal court approval.
‘Tabcorp is firmly committed to being the industry leader in regulatory compliance across all of our operations,’ Tabcorp managing director David Attenborough said in a filing to the Securities Exchange Commission on Thursday. ‘We are pleased to have reached an agreement with AUSTRAC on this matter and we will continue to work co-operatively with AUSTRAC going forward.’
Tabcorp has spent over $35 million in legal fees fighting the two-year case, bringing the total costs to the company to around $80 million. But with a proposed merger with Tatts looming, the bookmaker is anxious to wipe the slate clean as it pursues approval for the merger from regulators.
Tatts Misses the Jackpot
Tatts, meanwhile, has announced its half-year net profit dropped 16.5 percent on the previous year thanks to a dearth in the kind of monster jackpots which entice non-regular players to buy tickets.
Tatts said that, during the six months to December, its lottery operations generated 15 jackpots above $15 million in comparison with a record 24 during the corresponding period last year.
‘It was always going to be a huge ask to match this jackpot run and the outstanding revenue it delivered,’ said Tatts chief Robbie Cooke.
Pete Rose Still Loves Gambling, and Doesn’t Much Care What You Think
Gambling cost Pete Rose a place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and ruined his personal reputation.
Pete Rose, seen here during his introduction to the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 2016, continues to gamble on sports despite being banned from baseball. (Image: Madison Schmidt/Cincinnati Enquirer)
Banned from the game since reaching a plea deal with the league in 1989, the all-time hits leader said this week he still loves gambling, and doesn’t much care what others might think. Appearing on the season premiere of Joe Buck’s ‘Undeniable’ DirectTV series, Rose revealed he still fancies sports betting.
‘Who cares if I want to make a legal bet and go home and watch it?’ Rose asked. ‘Who am I hurting? I’m not hurting anybody. I’m living my life.’
Sports betting is illegal in the United States in all but Nevada. Rose has maintained a residence in Las Vegas for years, and frequently bets on sports.
In December of 2015, he explained after Major League Baseball (MLB) once again denied his petition for reinstatement that he continues to bet on sports despite the perceived public perception because it provides ‘pure enjoyment.’
He said at the time that he doesn’t gamble on casino games like roulette and blackjack, but instead looks at sports betting in a similar light as buying and selling stocks.
Rose’s public comments backing sports betting come just a week after MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred revealed the league was continuing to review its policy position on baseball gambling.
At the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit, Manfred posed the question on whether baseball was better off looking the other way when it comes to gambling on sports, or if a regulated market would better protect both consumers and the integrity of the league.
The developments show just how far the general opinion on sports betting has come over the last several decades. Though Rose says he never bet against his team and purposely lost, logs of evidence clearly document that he routinely had financial incentives on games he either played or managed.
The three-time World Series champion ended his storied career with an astonishing 4,256 hits. Only Ty Cobb (4,191) has topped the 4,000-hit plateau in the history of baseball, and just 28 others have passed 3,000.
Rose’s wishes to be reinstated to the game are primarily driven by his yearning to be included in Cooperstown. According to the bylaws of the Hall of Fame, ‘Any player on baseball’s ineligible list shall not be an eligible candidate.’
Since MLB isn’t directly involved in the Hall of Fame voting process, Manfred says his upholding of Rose’s ban shouldn’t be cited as why the great’s bust doesn’t reside in Cooperstown.
‘It is not part of my authority to make any determination concerning Mr. Rose’s eligibility as a candidate,’ Manfred wrote in late 2015. ‘The considerations that should drive a decision on whether an individual should be allowed to work in baseball are not the same as those that should drive a decision on Hall of Fame eligibility.’
Some baseball observers believe Rose will indeed one day gain acceptance into the Hall. But at 75-years-old, the time is ticking on repealing his now 28-year ban.
Trump Name Removed from Shuttered Taj Mahal In Atlantic City
President Donald Trump’s name has been removed from the Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, four months after it was closed by his friend and Special Adviser on Regulatory Reform, the billionaire corporate raider Carl Icahn.
Trucks cart off giant Trump branding from the Taj Mahal, Atlantic City. The current US president has been uneasy about his name on the signage since at least 2014. (Image: newjersey.news12.com)
It was Icahn who had persuaded Trump to allow the name to remain above the door when he rescued the casino from bankruptcy in 2015.
Trump, who had had no involvement in the managing of the casino since 2009, had become incensed at the way the Taj, and its sister property, the Plaza, had been run by the group of hedge funds he had sold them to.
Trump had negotiated a deal in 2009 to allow the new owners, Trump Entertainment, to continue to use his name in return for 10 percent of the company. But now he wanted nothing to do with the two properties, and sued to have his name removed.
The lawsuit stated that Trump Entertainment had allowed the two casinos to fall into a state of disrepair, tarnishing a brand that was ‘synonymous with highest levels of quality, luxury, prestige and success.’
‘I want it off both of them,’ snapped Trump at the time. ‘I’ve been away from Atlantic City for many years. People think we operate (the company), and we don’t. It’s not us. It’s not me.’
The name was duly removed from the Plaza, but it seems Trump was willing to back down on the Taj once Icahn, a man he respects, assumed control.
However, it was agreed that the name would be removed by March 2017 if the property was not renovated.
Last Days of the Taj
Icahn held the majority of the Taj’s $286 million debt and he offered to turn that debt into equity, as well as to invest up to $100 million in the property, provided the city grant him certain concessions.
These included the temporary cessation of health insurance and pension benefits for workers, which incurred the wrath of casino workers’ union Unite 54.
Industrial action ensued and picket lines that plagued the Taj throughout 2016 ultimately lead to the casino’s closure in October.
Trump had declared the Taj to be the eighth wonder of the world when he opened it in 1990, having purchased it, unfinished, from Resorts International for $230 million. By the time it was completed, it had cost $1 billion to build, and was declared bankrupt later that year. It was the first of many times this wonder of the world found itself insolvent.
Icahn, who was suspected of planning to reopen the Taj and a non-unionized casino, said recently the property would be sold.