Two former craps dealers at the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas and two of their friends have been accused of siphoning more than $1 million off gambling tables over nearly two years by quietly paying phantom bets.
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A prosecutor said Thursday that the scheme unraveled after another dealer became suspicious and notified casino investigators. The Bellagio fired James Cooper Jr. and Mark Branco, and they were arrested in July 2014.

A 60-count indictment filed Wednesday accuses Cooper, Branco, Jeffrey Martin and Anthony Granito of theft and cheating at gambling. Both charges are felonies and could get the men decades in prison.

Attorneys for the four men didn't immediately respond to messages.

Prosecutor Jay P. Ramen says Cooper is cooperating with the investigation.

ENFIELD — More than 200 people attended "a community conversation" Thursday night, and those who spoke gave a nearly resounding "no" to the idea of a $200 million casino at the Enfield Square Mall.

The few residents who spoke in favor of the casino said it would help with taxes and spur local jobs.
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Claire Thomas, the first of almost 40 people to speak, simply said: "I do not want a casino in our area." A round of applause erupted from the crowd at John F. Kennedy Middle School's auditorium.

"It's not good for our children and schools, family values would be eroded, traffic is already horrendous," Thomas continued.

"Crime will infiltrate throughout the town, there'll be more break-ins at houses, every resident and homeowner will be affected," Annemarie Olsen said. "I've lived in Enfield all my life, I lived here when Enfield was Thompsonville, I don't want to consider moving my family away because I do not want to live with a casino monster in Enfield."

Commenting on the Casino Proposal
Enfield resident Ken Edgar tells the audience not to say no to a casino yet, on Thursday night where members of the Enfield community voiced their opinions on the possibility that the Enfield Square Mall be developed into a casino. (Lauren Schneiderman / Hartford Courant)
On Sept. 8, management from Enfield Square Mall met with the town council to discuss a proposal for development at the mall, which would include a casino at the current Macy's Men's Department Store. Since then, discussion about a casino has only intensified throughout town.

Thursday night, mall management again shared a casino proposal, but with some updates.

The development would come in phases: first, an approximately 152,000-square-foot casino with a 300-room, six-story flagship hotel, dining and entertainment, as well as a parking deck to accommodate 1,200 cars. The second phase would include office space in the Enfield Square Mall building, and restaurants, a skating rink and a 16-screen cinema.

Enfield Square Mall Pitches Possible Casino Development To Town Council
Enfield Square Mall Pitches Possible Casino Development To Town Council
Additionally, the casino would also look to utilize the Hallmark Cards distribution center on Bacon Road as a possible convention center and work on projects in the village of Thompsonville, mall Manager Marty Pelosi said after the nearly three-hour public hearing. Earlier this summer, Hallmark announced it would close, eliminating approximately 500 jobs.

Though most of the feedback was in opposition to a casino, many speakers indicated they understand the economic hardships the mall is facing and that this is a way to address that.

"We'll still be there if the casino isn't," Pelosi said. "I've been using the same line all night — We're not in partnership with the casino, we want to partner with the town, we've been a member of this community and we want to give back."

Pelosi said his staff has informally polled Enfield residents visiting the mall, and of the 300 people they questioned, 164 said they favor the casino development at the mall and 136 were opposed to it, Pelosi said. Those against the development cited concerns about traffic, crime and lowered home values.

Several in attendance asked questions Thursday night.

Resident Ken Edgar said he wanted to consider the proposal before saying "no."

"I want to see lower taxes. What else will bring us some development, jobs?" Edgar asked. "I really haven't seen anything else to help out."

Connie Provencher said, "I'm totally torn. I love our town. I want good things for our town, but I don't know what that is."

Rebecca Olsen, a member of the town's revitalization committee said the town should have a backup plan.

"My concern is, even if everyone in this room is in favor, it doesn't mean we'll get it," Olsen said.

Margaret Perry said, "Enfield is never going to be a destination stop no matter how you try to paint it."

Gerald Macsata said he is opposed to a casino. "Why stop here when Springfield is right up the road?" he asked.

State Sen. John Kissel, who represents Enfield, Suffield and Somers, said he is concerned about legal issues, referring to the lawsuit MGM has filed against the state. MGM claims that the law setting forth a process for the tribes to pick a site discriminates against any other potential casino developers.

"Enfield is a town, not a city. It has town values and I want to make sure those town values stay," the longtime Republican official said. To the council, he added, "I urge you not to raise this issue at the next town council meeting and if you do, vote it down."

Earlier Thursday, the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes released their request for proposal, a 20-page document that is to be submitted by a town interested in developing a casino.

After the meeting, Mayor Scott Kaupin said he opposes the idea of a casino but has reserved his judgment up to this point to give the mall an opportunity to present its proposal to residents.

"I have to base it off all the contact I've received, which has been overwhelmingly against," Kaupin said.

Kaupin said next, he will ask his fellow council members whether they want to move forward with the casino proposal process. He said the council would have to act on the item at a council meeting, and if there's any interest it would likely be placed on the Oct. 19 town council agenda meeting.

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Longtime Las Vegas magicians Penn & Teller are the casino industry’s entertainers of the year.

The duo that performs at the Rio All-Suite Las Vegas Hotel and Casino were among the winners of the Global Gaming Expo’s entertainment awards this week at an event held at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
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The awards were presented during the American Gaming Association’s annual trade show.

Comedian Jerry Lewis and the director of The Colosseum at Caesars Palace H.C. Rowe won the industry’s lifetime entertainment achievement awards.

The industry’s choice for musical artist and comedian of the year were Little River Band and Ron White, respectively.

The Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York won for its showroom and the Casino del Sol in Arizona was recognized for its amphitheater.

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Move aside one-armed bandits. The casino floor is making room for game zones with oversized popping dice, digital spinning Big Six wheels and virtual roulette, with an eye on adding arcade-style video games in the not-so-distant future.
As gamblers appear to be shunning stingier slot machines that don't offer as many payouts, game-makers and casinos are keen on coming up with the next big thing to keep people playing.
The changing casino floor will be on display this week at the industry's premier trade show, the Global Gaming Expo on the Las Vegas Strip, and in properties across Sin City in the coming months.
Here's what the casino industry has been facing and their plans:
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Slot machines have long been suspected of keeping a tighter grip on the money gamblers feed into them.
The proliferation of penny slots, in particular, with minimum and maximum bets that far exceed a single copper coin and carry with them inherently worse odds at getting one's money back, has meant a gambler's wager doesn't last as long as it used to.
Casinos across the country, with few exceptions, have been keeping more of what's wagered on slots, according to research commissioned by the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers.
But their bottom lines haven't gotten an obvious boost. Revenue earned from slots has been on the decline for years. That's because gamblers may be walking away from what they see as a raw deal, among other reasons, said Marcus Prater, executive director of the industry group.
In Nevada, where the average payback on slot machines is 93.6 percent of every dollar wagered, machines must offer no less than a 75 percent average payback to the player. Most vary based on the minimum bets.
Changing the hold — the amount the casino keeps — isn't as easy as pressing a button. Prater said it requires alerting regulators and switching out a chip in the machine.
Tom Jingoli, with slot-machine maker Konami and the association's president, said he hopes the survey's results spark conversations during the conferences between companies like his and casino operators, none of whom would comment on the survey except for the Downtown Grand near Fremont Street in Las Vegas.
CEO Jim Simms called the reasons for falling slot revenue, including slot-hold, "nebulous" and touted the Downtown Grand's increasing rewards for loyal slot players.
Casinos devote most of their gambling floor to slot and video card-game machines, though the number in Nevada has dropped by nearly 15 percent since 2005, to 152,263 slot machines as of last year, according to Gaming Control Board statistics.
The number of slot machines dropped 19 percent on the Las Vegas Strip.
Whether it was the recession, worse odds of winning or disinterested would-be younger gamblers, the industry has realized they need to appeal to players wanting a challenge based on skill.
This month, Nevada regulators approved rules allowing for a player's skill to play a role in winning, whether in part or in whole, which could lead to casinos looking a lot more like an arcade.
Casinos such as MGM Grand have already redesigned parts of their floors to accommodate elaborate electronic versions of dealer-less table games, including craps, roulette and stadium-style seating for baccarat.
Justin Andrews, the casino's vice president of slots, said they have crunched the numbers and players on those machines are 11 years younger on average than players on the rest of the casino floor.
"Millennials are more attracted to the electronic table games than the traditional slots," he said.
Casinos aren't abandoning their most reliable and loyal gamblers who still prefer traditional slots.
New York resident Lisa Navarro, 48, said she played a penny-slot game all week while vacationing in Las Vegas and was sitting in front of it again Monday at the Linq before leaving.
She acknowledged that it's usually a 50-cent or dollar bet, not a penny, but says the bonuses drew her in.
"It keeps you entertained for a long time," Navarro said.
She didn't consider her trip a big win, but she said wasn't disappointed, spending what she had budgeted.
Slot revenue still accounts for 61 percent of the $11 billion Nevada casinos earned from gambling in 2014. But casinos and game-makers are hoping to broaden their reach with an eye on the future.
The Downtown Grand is redesigning its casino floor with plans to add skill-based games akin to an arcade at its entrance sandwiched between two bars as early as January.
Nearby screens would broadcast live sports as well as footage of e-sports in which spectators watch video-game players compete for cash. The hotel hopes to eventually host its own e-sports tournaments, the "icing on the cake" for their casino floor, said Seth Schorr, chairman of Fifth Street Gaming that operates the casino at the Downtown Grand.
Schorr also sits on the board of GameCo, a young company developing video game gambling machines for casino floors that will reward players who show some skill when playing first-person shooting or racing games, for example, with math behind the scenes not unlike video blackjack or poker.
"They've 'gamblified' them," Schorr said.
Blaine Graboyes, co-founder and CEO of GameCo, said younger players aren't interested in a "passive chance-based" game.
"This is really the opportunity for casinos to reinvigorate slots," he said.