Tag Archives: gaming

Broward School Board Members Leading Charge For Casino Amendment 3

Voters In Charge, a political committee behind Florida Amendment 3, has announced it’s Democrat-filled Broward campaign committee. Funded with millions from The Walt Disney Company and The Seminole Tribe, Amendment 3 would take the power to approve new casinos away from the Florida Legislature. While Voters In Charge says voters would get the final say, it’s likely the $10 million from Mickey Mouse and The Hard Rock folks would not be ignored.

Since all issues related to local schools have been solved, it’s no surprise that Broward School Board Members Robin Bartleman, and Donna Korn are part of the Amendment 3 Committee. Oh wait, in just the last week, one Broward student brought a loaded gun to school, another student stabbed a classmate with scissors and a teacher was arrested for planning to have sex with a minor. So why get involved with a gaming amendment?

With Fort Lauderdale’s sewer, water and homelessness issues solved, City Commissioner Ben Sorenson has plenty of time to worry about Fan Duel opening up shop in Broward. What? Those issues still exist?

At least Plantation Mayor Diane Bendekovic is heading into retirement. With the great job she’s done to address crime, traffic and development issues in Plantation, Voters In Charge is lucky to have Bendekovic. Huh? You’re saying crime and traffic are still huge issues in west Broward? Oh well.

It’s a good thing the rest of the Broward committee is made up of Democrats. According to the group’s website, Broward Democrat Chair Cynthia Busch is in charge of the regional office.

Here’s the press release:

VOTERS IN CHARGE ANNOUNCES BROWARD COUNTY LEADERSHIP COMMITTEE

 

LAUDERDALE, FL—Voters in Charge, the political committee sponsoring the statewide Yes on 3 campaign, today continued unveiling its local leadership committees. Members of local leadership committees include community, business, law enforcement and religious leaders throughout the state who are committed to ensuring that Florida voters are put in charge of casino gambling decisions in Florida. Today the campaign proudly announces its local leadership in Broward County. The list consists of a diverse group of prominent community leaders, business owners, and elected officials from both sides of the aisle.

Broward County Committee Members:

The Honorable Diane Bendekovic, Mayor of Plantation and Former Educator

The Honorable Ben Sorenson, Fort Lauderdale City Commission

The Honorable Richard Rosenzweig, Former Commissioner Deerfield Beach

The Honorable Donna Pilger Korn, Broward County School Board

The Honorable Robin Bartleman, Broward County School Board

Richard Hoye, First Vice Chair Broward Democratic Party and Broward County Public School Teacher

Jeff Pole, Second Vice Chair, Broward Democratic Party

August Mangenay, President of the Margate Democratic Club

Mitchell Stollberg, Chair, Legislative Committee, Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida

Anthony Quackenbush, Democratic Professionals Network

Laurie Plotnick, Democratic Party Area Leader Coral Springs, Former Educator and Principal

Amendment 3 ensures that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in the State of Florida. Recent polling shows that more than 70 percent of Florida voters support this amendment. Amendment 3 enjoys bipartisan support and has been endorsed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida League of Women Voters, and the Florida Conference of the NAACP, among others.

“We are thrilled to have the support of so many pillars of the community for this important amendment,” said Voters in Charge Chairman John Sowinski. “For most of our lifetimes, decisions about casino gambling were left up to the voters. It is past time to return that right to Floridians and take it away from politicians and special interest groups in Tallahassee.”

For more information about the Yes on 3 campaign, including a local contact and regional office, please visit https://votersincharge.org/regional-offices/

Hallandale Beach Mayor Keith London Introduced Lobbyist To Gaming Company Executives

While the average citizen may think lobbyists introduce politicians to their special interest clients, sworn testimony shows Hallandale Beach Keith London introduced his lobbyist ally Evan Ross to Gulfstream Park Casino executives. As REDBROWARD reported, London and Ross gave sworn testimony to the Broward State Attorney’s Office in early 2017. Their testimony was part of the State Attorney’s Office investigation of former Hallandale Beach Vice Mayor Bill Julian. The probe started after London and Ross leaked recordings of Julian to a local television station. The Broward State Attorney believed Julian was the victim of a political dirty trick and cleared him of any wrongdoing.

In his February 20, 2017 sworn testimony Keith London said Evan Ross was “helping” him with a Diplomat Hotel development project at the time the Julian recordings were made. London said he was not paying him. Asked how Ross was helping, London testified, “By exposing Bill Julian’s–exposing Bill Julian to be the patsy that he is, and the guy that really didn’t care about the city and just was there to be Joy Cooper’s lap dog.”

London explained he met Evan Ross in 2014 at a campaign event for Florida House Representative Joe Geller. “Evan was helping his campaign,” London said. Schulson asked what triggered Ross’ interest in Hallandale Beach.

“We became friendly in 2014 after we met at the Joe Geller event,” London said.

Soon after their meeting, Evan Ross became involved in Hallandale Beach politics although London could not tell when Ross started coming to meetings.

LONDON INTRODUCED ROSS TO GAMING INDUSTRY BIGWIGS

In his March 2017 sworn testimony, Evan Ross gives a more detailed version of how his relationship with Keith London began.

Ross told Assistant State Attorney David Schulson he worked on Joe Geller’s 2014 campaign for the Florida House. Ross could not recall if he was paid by the Geller campaign. “He may have paid me, but if he did, I don’t think it was anything of note,” Ross said. “[B]ecause Joe is somebody I’m very close to, and I told him to save the money for things he needed, and if there was anything left over at the end, I’d be happy to be paid.”

Ross confirmed he met Keith London at a Joe Geller fundraiser in North Miami Beach in 2014. Ross said he gave London advice during his 2014 Hallandale Beach campaign, but he “didn’t play a major role”in London’s campaign.

Ross said he became friends with London. “We enjoyed bouncing ideas off of each other and developed a friendship,” Ross testified. He testified London introduced him to Commissioner Michele Lazarow to discuss supporting Joe Geller.

Ross said he began attending Hallandale Beach City Commission meetings in 2014.

Schulson asked Ross if, prior to meeting Keith London, he had any affiliation to Gulfstream Park. Ross said his grandfather worked in the admissions department for twenty-five years.

Schulson asked Ross about the people Keith London introduced to him. “I believe the first person that Keith introduced me to a Gulfstream was Alon Ossip,” Ross said. “He is the CEO of The Stronach Group, which is Gulfstream’s parent company.” Ross said he met Ossip at a community meeting hosted by Keith London at a Gulfstream Park restaurant in 2016. Ross said it was the first time he met anyone involved with Gulfstream Park.

Ross said he met Michael Fucheck, Gulfstream Park general counsel, at a City Commission meeting.

Asked about his relationship with Alon Ossip, Ross testified, “We developed a relationship. We stayed in some level of communication.”

Schulson asked if Ross discussed forming political action committees (PAC) with Ossip. Ross said he discussed Hallandale Beach politics with Ossip. Ross said, “[Ossip] was not the person that I dealt with when it came to discussing money, generally for campaigns.”

Ross said discussions about the PAC were with Michael Fucheck and Tim Ritvo, the COO of The Stronach Group. Ross said he helped form the Ethics Matter political committee which ended up “being involved exclusively was [sic] issues surrounding Hallandale Beach.”

Ross said, “Gulfstream funded that PAC almost exclusively.”

Asked why Gulfstream funded the Ethics Matter PAC, Ross said, “Gulfstream felt very strongly that they were not being treated fairly by the City Of Hallandale Beach, that they were being almost extorted by the city and they wanted to see a change in the way that the city was run.” Ross said Gulfstream contributed $75,000 to his political committee.

Ross said Gulfstream made contributions to other political committees he created including Public Service, Good Government, Citizens For Public Service and Progressive Principles.

When asked to describe Keith London’s relationship with Gulfstream, Ross said, “Commissioner London…had a reasonable view of the issues and just wanted to treat Gulfstream fairly.”

GULFSTREAM BACKED PAC FUNDED LONDON ALLIES

REDBROWARD previously exposed Ross’ role in shadowy political committees funded by gaming interests in Hallandale Beach.

According to April 2016 campaign treasurer reports, Lazarow received $3,000 from the Village At Gulfstream Park, Gulfstream Park and Orchid Concessions. Taub received the same exact contributions in September 2016.

In October, Michele Lazarow and Anabelle Taub recorded large contributions from out of state gaming interests.

Just days before the November election, Michele Lazarow and Anabelle Taub received maximum contributions of $1,000 from several political committees created by Evan Ross. On October 31, Lazarow received a $1,000 contribution from each of the following committees: Good Government, Public Service, and Progressive Principles.

On November 3, Anabelle Taub received $1,000 contributions from Good Government, Public Service, Progressive Principles.

Lazarow and Taub also received $1,000 each from the Ethics Matter political committee.

In a November 5, 2016 “Dirtiest Election In Broward County“ editorial, Evan Ross told the Sun-Sentinel that Gulfstream wanted to work with Hallandale Beach. “[T]hey just don’t want to be strong-armed into giving it away or pressured into getting a deal done in an unreasonable amount of time,” Ross said. He declared a deal could be reached within 12 months if Michele Lazarow and Anabelle Taub won the election.

In his sworn testimony, Evan Ross said Keith London was Anabelle Taub’s campaign manager.

Shadowy Political Committee, Gaming Industry Bet Big Bucks On Broward Commissioner Steve Geller

Broward County Commissioner Steve Geller

Broward County Commissioner Steve Geller

“Public Service,” a shadowy political committee funded by local and national gaming companies, did not limit its influence to the recent Hallandale Beach city commission races. Last week, REDBROWARD exposed the role Public Service and its founder, Evan Ross played in the campaigns of Hallandale Beach Commissioners Michele Lazarow and Anabelle Taub. In addition to large campaign contributions, Evan Ross helped organize a press conference where lawyers for Lazarow and Taub alleged the women were the victims of private investigators hired by their political opponents. Campaign records from the Broward Supervisor of Elections Office (SOE) show Ross’ Public Service committee and its contributors were big backers of County Commissioner Steve Geller.

REDBROWARD reported Michele Lazarow and Anabelle Taub received $1,000 each from political committees operated by Evan Ross. These committees are Public Service, Good Government and Progressive Principles. On August 25, 2016, Steve Geller received a $1,000 contribution from Public Service. Lazarow, Taub, and Geller were the only candidates backed by Public Service during the 2016 election.

Since 2014, a variety of business in the gaming industry have funded Public Service. These companies include Pacific Racing Association, the Maryland Jockey Club, Orchid Concessions, the Village at Gulfstream Park, and Gulfstream Park. According to Hallandale Beach campaign reports, Michele Lazarow received $3,000 from the same Gulfstream Park entities: Village At Gulfstream Park, Gulfstream Park and Orchid Concessions. Anabelle Taub received the same exact contributions.

GREENSPOON ROLLS DICE ON LOCAL CANDIDATES

One of Public Service’s biggest backers appears to be the Greenspoon Marder law firm. The law firm itself gave Public Service a $10,000 contribution. Gerald Greenspoon is the chairperson of three political committees which backed Public Service. GM Citizens For A Smarter Florida gave $5,500, GM Citizens For A Better Florida Florida gave $2,000 and GM Trial Lawyers For A Better And Smarter Florida gave $1,000 to Evan Ross’ committee.

The largest contribution game from the Floridians For A Stronger Tommorrow political committee.  The group, which uses the Greenspoon Marder downtown Fort Lauderdale offices as its address, gave $12,000 to Public Service. According to records from the Florida Division of Elections, the chairperson of Floridians For A Stronger Tomorrow is Steve Geller.

In his campaign for the Broward County Commission, Steve Geller received contributions from the same Greenspoon Marder committees. Geller received $1,000 from each group as well as $500 from Greenspoon Marder.

GELLER HUGE PROPONENT OF EXPANDED GAMBLING

While it was not mentioned in his commission race, Steve Geller has long been a proponent of expanded gambling in Florida. The firm created a vanity website for its gaming work: GellerGamingLaw.com. The site boasts of Geller presenting lectures at gaming conferences sponsored by Greenspoon Marder. On the firm’s main website, the firm still lists Geller as the head of their gaming section. Greenspoon Marder states, “Our gaming team is headed by former Florida Senate Minority Leader Steve Geller, who has served as President of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) and chair of the legislative committee overseeing gambling. Geller is a frequent speaker across the country on gambling issues, including lottery, pari-mutuels, Internet gambling, Indian gaming enterprises, bingo and charitable gambling, gambling cruises to nowhere, and other gambling-related topics.”

DID ANYBODY ASK STEVE GELLER ABOUT GAMBLING?

One might think the South Florida Sun-Sentinel might have examined Steve Geller’s ties to gambling and its potential impact on Broward County. Sun-Sentinel editors were present when the former owners of the Florida Panthers were hoping to build a casino at the county-owned BB&T Center in Sunrise. Surely, the newspaper of record in Broward county is familiar with the issues surrounding the pact with the Seminole Indians which could have a major impact on the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, and other gambling facilities in Coconut Creek, Hallandale Beach and Pompano Beach.

But the Sun-Sentinel never mentioned gambling in its two endorsements of Steve Geller.  The editors blathered about Geller’s experience in Tallahassee and his favorable views on climate change. Not a peep about casinos and gambling. No mention of Geller’s operation of a political committee which funded other shadowy political committees.

Yet, this does not explain Geller’s and the political committees’ interest in the City of Hallandale Beach elections. Geller represents District 5 on the County Commission. Hallandale Beach is not in his district.

More to come…