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Sheriff’s office, Seminoles dispute Bondi casino ‘money laundering’ claim

by Dara Kam | December 15th, 2011

The Hillsborough County Sheriff‘s Office says it hasn’t investigated any links between drugsters and money laundering at Tampa’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, contradicting a claim made by Attorney General Pam Bondi last week.

“According to Chief Deputy Docobo, one of our detectives had a personal conversation with the Attorney General at a private function regarding money laundering in casinos. However our office has not conducted any investigation involving money laundering at casinos, nor do we have any official information that this type of criminal activity is/has occurred in Hillsborough County,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

Bondi joined other anti-gambling forces at a press conference last week to publicly denounce a “destination resorts” proposal that would allow three casinos to open in the state. “Many money laundering cases” related to the casino, owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, was one of the reasons Bondi gave for opposing the bill (SB 710).

The Sun Sentinel’s Nick Sortal blogged about the money laundering dispute:

But Bondi says that’s what she was told, and her office issued this statement Wednesday:

“At a charitable event on Nov. 12, I spoke with a deputy from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office regarding the gambling issue. I was absolutely told that in many of the last drug trafficking cases that they made, the money was laundered at the casino.”

Seminole Tribe Chairman James Billie had a blistering response to Bondi’s accusations in an op-ed slated to run in the tribe’s newspaper later this month.

“As long as I have been Chairman, since way back in 1979, and during the years I was out of office, I have never seen any information, whatsoever, come across my desk about money laundering,” Billie wrote. “In all these years the Seminole Tribe has conducted Gaming, since 1979, no audit has ever found any fraud, theft, embezzlement or large variances of any kind.”

The dispute over money-laundering puts the AG and the tribe at odds even though they’re both on the same side in opposing the bill.

“I am very disappointed to hear one of our top Florida government leaders come forward with such a statement that is so damaging to the reputation of the Seminole Tribe of Florida without checking its accuracy or even contacting us for our comments,” Billie said in his column.

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5 Responses to “Sheriff’s office, Seminoles dispute Bondi casino ‘money laundering’ claim”

  1. Metal Rules Says:

    Hey Pam… How are your fett tasting right about now?

  2. Metal Rules Says:

    oooppss… feet

  3. Steven Norton Says:

    Attorney General, Pam Bondi, has indicated her opposition to the proposed resort casino legislation has a lot to do with the crime that follows casino gaming. I would suggest that she look at the FBI Crime Statistics and compare Orlando with Atlantic City. Both attract approximately 30 million visitors annually, and both saw their crime numbers escalate after Disney came to Orlando and casinos came to Atlantic City. Several years ago, Orlando had a violent and property crime rate that was 3 times that of Atlantic City, but the 2010 FBI Metropolitan statistical analysis brings them closer together, but with Orlando still in the lead, with more crime. The issue isn’t family or casino entertainment, it is millions of visitors, and the crime associated with these visitors is being compared to the permanent population. Atlantic City saw its crime increase dramatically after casinos were approved, but the population at risk increased even more; with 40,000 to 50,000 new employees commuting daily from 6 counties in Southern New Jersey, and nearly 100,000 new visitors each day. Crimes, with the great majority property crimes, involving the visitors and commuting workers were compared only against the permanent Atlantic City population of approximately 40,000. But the fact that nobody refers to, is that the visitors, commuting workers and the local population were 60% to 70% less likely to be the victim of a crime, after casinos were opened in Atlantic City. I’m sure the same story is true for Orlando. As they added new attractions like Epcot, Universal Studios, Sea World, and on and on, crime increased, but not proportionate to the increase in visitors.
    The real issues for Florida, as you debate the casino issue, should be new jobs (both construction and resort related), new investment in resort casinos, the net gain in State and local taxes, and most important of all new tourists attracted by the combination of Florida’s beaches and weather, combined with the sophistication of casino gaming. Las Vegas, Atlantic City and more recently Macau and Singapore have shown the tremendous impact that full resort casinos can have on an area, and in Singapore we have a population, like Florida’s, that are generally opposed to casino gaming, but approved two multi billion dollar facilities to attract millions of new tourists and jump start an already impressive economy. Data that I have seen indicates that Florida, like other areas depending on tourism, needs a major boost, that could be in the form of substantial resort casinos; like ones that have been built by Sheldon Adelson, Steve Wynn and by Genting, in Las Vegas and Asia. The Seminole casinos in Tampa and Ft. Lauderdale, developed by David Cordish, are wonderful facilities, but don’t rise to the level of true destination resorts; that Florida could use to substantially increase tourism from South America, Europe, Asia and expand the existing visitation from North America.

    I have no horse in this race, but I am a Florida native, and I have been involved in the start up of casino gaming in New Jersey, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri and Indiana, offering different styles of gaming product to achieve that states desired results.

    Steve Norton
    nortongaming@aol.com

  4. Henry Wilkerson Says:

    Bondi is obviouly misguided. Steve Norton puts the statistics very well. The Seminoles don’t want to lose their monopolistic grip on gambling. Disney fears a drop in their attendance. The fact is that if the casino bill goes through, private money will infuse almost $4 Billion into Miami. This has the ability to literally save the state by creating tens of thousands of jobs, filling our tax base to allow for much needed infrastructure improvements and none of it paid off the backs of the taxpaying citizens. Get smart! Pass the casino bill and let professionals run the Florida gaming. The benefit to our state will be immense.

  5. Natalie Ricardo Says:

    Nice picture of Chief Billie! Why don’t you take a look at his record? He is a serial lawbreaker. The Seminoles are crooks. The slots at their casinos are rigged. I like to visit casinos and gamble. I usually win enough to stay comfortable. Not at the Seminole casinos. Every place else, yes! Bondi is letting her hair dye go to her brain.
    Let the new casinos in and punish the crooks!

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