Illinois embraces video poker Louisiana style: Self serving politicians, crooks and organized crime is a match made in heaven….

The lede of Joseph Ryan’s Chicago Tribune story is compelling and the cast of miscreants I mean characters (or lack thereof) is stunning:

Nicky Nichols became a major player in the Louisiana world of video gambling while cutting key politicians in on the game. Now he has brought some notable business partners to his Illinois ventures: Louisiana legislators.

Folks it appears Robert Guidry is still a very busy man these days as the Guidry family’s move into emerging gaming markets in places like Pennsylvania and Illinois is well chronicled in the Joseph Ryan story linked above.  This is also a classic case study in self-serving double-dealing politicians rationalizing their greed.  You good folks up in Illinois that regularly read us (you know who you are) please visit our prior coverage of the Perdigao saga for a possible explanation why Guidry was allowed to keep his gaming license by former US Attorney Eddie Jordan in Louisiana despite the fact he testified to bribing Gov Edwin Edwards to get it. Video Poker in Louisiana is rotten to the core IMHO, a stench filled world where a corrupt and broke local sheriff can become a video poker magnet in his own right leaving the local taxpayers the legacy of his corrupt political hack daughter who is very ably filling daddy’s shoes in the criminal enterprise that is Jefferson Parish Louisiana.

I’ll add that Illinois Legislator Lou Lang from Skokie (aka Hoboken Midwest) appears to be as crooked as they come. In so many ways the marriage of crooked Louisiana and Illinois legislators is a match made in pay to play heaven.

sop

7 thoughts on “Illinois embraces video poker Louisiana style: Self serving politicians, crooks and organized crime is a match made in heaven….

  1. Ashton O'Dwyer

    SOP: If the Members of “the SLABBED Nation” didn’t link to the Joseph Ryan Chicago Tribune story referenced in your POST, then they might not realize that Nicky Nichols is the son-in-law of Louisiana’s own “Bobby Guidry”, whose testimony helped put Edwin Edwards in the slammer. Ashton O’Dwyer.

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  2. rocheblave

    Here’s the 12.20.09 TP article they refer to:

    “Whitmer tied to deal for video poker firm – Casino got permit, zoning change

    Jefferson Parish Chief Administrative Officer Tim Whitmer, who is under federal investigation for his insurance agency’s dealings with public entities, lined up a revenue-sharing deal with a video poker firm just three months before the parish granted a zoning change and a special permit allowing the company to build a truck stop casino near Westwego, according to messages from Whitmer’s parish e-mail account.

    CWC Gaming, which lists Whitmer and former Parish President Tim Coulon as officers, reached an agreement with Redman Gaming of Kenner in May to share revenue from a video poker truck stop to be built in Sulphur, according to messages the parish released recently after turning them over to the FBI.

    CWC agreed to pay Redman, which operates at least 10 truck stop casinos across southern Louisiana, a total of $137,500 in two installments for an unspecified share of the Sulphur casino revenues.

    The messages indicate Whitmer’s fledgling gaming firm, which was incorporated as the deal was being finalized, had a similar agreement to pay $87,500 to Tall Timbers Truckstop & Casino to split revenue from a video poker truck stop to be built in Eunice. ++++++++++++++Both Tall Timbers and Redman list the same Kenner address as their headquarters and are co-owned by Nicky Nichols .

    The e-mail messages indicate CWC was taking out a loan and had set a date in early May to execute the agreements with Redman and Tall Timbers.

    The messages do not confirm whether the deals were signed. However, CWC subsequently applied for State Police background checks that were required to partner with the two casino operators. Both applications were withdrawn in the past month, after Whitmer and his insurance firm, Lagniappe Industries, became the focus of a federal criminal probe.

    Redman and Tall Timbers officials did not respond to messages seeking comment Thursday and Friday. Whitmer could not be reached for comment. Coulon declined to comment.

    Several months before the partnership applications were withdrawn, the parish’s Planning Department, which is overseen by Whitmer, recommended that the Parish Council approve a zoning change and a special permit enabling Redman to build a truck stop casino off the West Bank Expressway near Nile Mile Point Road. It’s a prime location just south of the Huey P. Long Bridge, which is being widened from two lanes in each direction to three.

    On Aug. 12, the Parish Council unanimously approved the project, which drew no opposition at a public hearing before the vote.

    Councilman Byron Lee, whose district includes the planned truck stop, sponsored ordinances to grant the zoning change and permit. He did not return a call seeking comment Friday.

    Whitmer, who is on paid leave from his position as chief administrative officer, came under federal scrutiny last month after The Times-Picayune reported that Lagniappe was sharing commissions with a broker handling supplemental health insurance policies for employees at the public West Jefferson Medical Center in violation of a hospital contract.

    Whitmer, 49, has said he will retire Feb. 1 after he reaches 30 years with the parish and becomes eligible to begin receiving a projected lifetime pension of $172,000 a year. If he retired any earlier, he would have to wait until he turns 55 in 2015 to begin collecting his pension, losing out on more than $850,000 in payments.

    The Parish Council has set a Jan. 6 disciplinary hearing that is expected to culminate in a vote on whether to fire Whitmer.

    Having established his insurance agency during Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath in October 2005, Whitmer sought to branch out into the video poker industry May 6, when he and Coulon incorporated CWC Gaming.

    Parish Attorney Tom Wilkinson is listed as CWC’s registered agent. He said he notarized the incorporation documents as a favor to Whitmer and Coulon and was not involved in the firm’s operations, including the agreements with Redman and Tall Timbers.

    “I had no involvement with those deals whatsoever,” Wilkinson said.

    Wilkinson, who said he would not have received any payments if the deals had generated revenue, has recused himself from a parish investigation of Whitmer, in part, because Whitmer’s wife, Dawn, is his insurance agent for two properties he owns.

    Coulon, who first appointed Whitmer as chief administrative officer in 1998 when Coulon was parish president, has also partnered with Tim and Dawn Whitmer on insurance contracts.

    Coulon’s son, Chris Coulon, a lobbyist for Jefferson Parish, helped finalize CWC’s deals with Redman and Tall Timbers, according to the messages.

    In an April 30 message tagged “Importance: High,” Chris Coulon asked his father and Whitmer to review a draft of “our revenue sharing agreements.” The message included details about 50 percent downpayments that needed to be made to Redman and Tall Timbers to seal the deals.

    Chris Coulon did not respond to written questions seeking details about the deal between CWC and Redman, saying only that he withdrew from CWC on July 2.

    On Dec. 14, CWC filed an affidavit with the Louisiana secretary of state to dissolve the business.

    The state Gaming Control Board approved Tall Timbers’ application for a license to operate the Eunice truck stop Nov. 17, shortly after CWC withdrew its application to partner with Tall Timbers on the venture.

    State Police said Redman has submitted an “intent to build” application for the planned video poker truck stop near Westwego. That application is pending, as is Redman’s application for a license to operate the Sulphur truck stop casino.”

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  3. rocheblave

    Frank Relan?

    1.23.08 Lake Charles Americam Press

    “Proposed video poker truck stop draws opposition – IN SULPHUR

    Redman Gaming’s proposed construction of a video poker parlor and truck stop next to Wal- Mart on Cities Service Highway has drawn opposition from many nearby residents and the city’s administration and council.

    Councilman Stuart Moss told the American Press Tuesday that the council, as a result, will meet at 8 a.m. Friday, Jan. 25, to consider prohibiting the license of any truck stop facility that operates video poker devices within 2,500 feet of property listed on the National Historic Registry, any public playground, or structures used exclusively as churches, synagogues, public libraries or schools.

    Such truck stop facilities are now prohibited from 500 feet from any of the structures listed.

    According to Redman officials, the city in late 2006 gave the go-ahead for the construction and the company, based on the city’s then approval, has since invested $2.5 million on the project.

    A company spokesman said that up until last week, Redman was not aware of public opposition to their plans to locate on Cities Service Highway.

    Moss hopes the council will unanimously forward the restriction ordinance for a final vote at a hearing before its Feb. 11 meeting. He said the proposed ordinance is the city’s only option for keeping video poker out of the residential area.

    “My opposition is based on this construction being detrimental to … the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Sulphur,” said Moss. “It’s in my district, in Maplewood, but everyone in Sulphur goes to the Wal-Mart. And as a councilman, I feel obligated to put up the biggest fight I can. I’m going to scream and holler.”

    He said he is concerned with traffic issues on Cities Service Highway.

    There were two deaths last year in front of the Wal-Mart there.

    His major concern, though, is with the type of people such a business would attract.

    “This will bring transients off the interstate,” he said. “The people in Summerwood, on Dubach and Ann aren’t going to go there to gamble. I don’t mind a truck stop, but I don’t want video poker and liquor there right next to Wal- Mart with soccer moms and kids who walk to Wal-Mart.”

    Moss said that he and council secretary Arlene Blanchard studied code books from many cities and towns throughout the state and none of them address truck stops.

    “The rest of the state needs to wake up,” he said. “If you have business property available – here they come.”

    Redman is majority owned by Louisiana residents Frank Relan and manager Nick Nichols .

    According to attorney Tim O’Dowd, a spokesman for Redman, the company in 2006 explored investing in a business enterprise in Southwest Louisiana.

    “In the course of its efforts, Redman learned that a site on Cities Service Highway was available. Redman then spent time, effort, resources and money to make sure the site was legally suitable,” said O’Dowd.

    On Nov. 30, 2006, Redman’s project engineer Keith Ardoin received a letter from then city Public Works Director Dennis Bergeron stating that the site in question was “zoned correctly for a video poker truck stop.”

    “Relying on the city of Sulphur’s confirmation that the site was suitable, Redman began to make further investment in this project,” said O’Dowd.

    Redman bought the property on April 24, 2007, for $900,000 and the contract was recorded in the records of Calcasieu Parish on April 26, 2007.

    O’Dowd said that because the city had given the go-ahead, Redman contracted Bo-Bel Construction Inc. as its contractor and Glen Angelle as the architect.

    It then applied with the Louisiana DOTD for a “driveway permit.”

    “The DOTD raised some concerns about the traffic (and) turning patterns,” said O’Dowd. “Redman understood those concerns and directed its engineers to address them.”

    O’Dowd said that the concerns were addressed to the DOTD’s satisfaction, and Redman was granted the permit in early December of 2007.

    O’Dowd said that from Redman’s first contact with the city of Sulphur in November of 2006 through Jan. 15, the company had never been advised that the city or a large number of its residents opposed Redman’s location.

    “In October, Redman learned that a competitor played a role in locating a purported church next door to the site,” said O’Dowd. “The church is in portable trailers and has not opened.”

    At the Jan. 14 meeting of the City Council, Brian “Bo” Harger, pastor of the Christ Worship Center on Ruth Street, said his church is waiting on an occupational license for their Cities Service Highway facility.

    “We do not want to see this (video poker facility) there,” he said. “And this is in no way a sham church just to keep them out.”

    Beyond the church, Redman’s owners didn’t know there existed a serious debate until local papers released stories Jan. 15 about the City Council’s passage of a resolution opposing the construction.

    According to O’Dowd, at that point Redman had already spent $2.5 million on the project.

    “People have been suggesting that Redman find another site given the concerns,” he said. “But no one can propose a realistic means to do this. Businesses do not simply poke a pin into a map when choosing a location.”

    O’Dowd said that a delay in getting a substitute facility open, if one could be found, would result in the loss of a substantial amount of money.

    “Redman regrets that these concerns were not addressed in 2006 when they first asked the city about this project and to those citizens who are offended, they offer their apology,” said O’Dowd.

    “However, those citizens should not be raising their voice at Redman that did everything it was supposed to do, intending to operate a business. If the city of Sulphur did not want Redman’s investment, it should have done something a long time ago before Redman invested so much.

    “For the city of Sulphur to welcome Redman with open arms and then, when the political climate changes, attempt to shut the door it opened is simply not fair.”

    O’Dowd said the proposed truck stop, when completed, will employ about 50 people from the Sulphur areas and generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes for the local government.

    “Ultimately, it will be a $5 million dollar investment by Redman in this community, and we are at a loss why the city is no longer supporting this,” he said.
    Memo: The City Council will meet Friday night to consider an ordinance that would block the proposed facility from locating next to Wal-Mart on Cities Service Highway.”

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  4. whitmergate

    A MUST READ: Jeremy Alfred, The Jefferson Report wrote an excellent expose on Lee-Sheng and other Council members including mini-me Roberts relating to campaign contributions received from gambling interests, and I quote in part:

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  5. whitmergate

    RELEVANT RE-POST:

    This says it all as I quote Click Jeff’s Walt Bennetti:

    …At the last council meeting, Councilwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng was criticized for receiving tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions in a single day from a group of businesses owned by the same individuals.

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