Michigan is a state that prides itself, to a singular extent, on busting up illegal gambling rings. This isn’t because there is a disproportionate amount of such operations in the Wolverine State, but rather because the Michigan Gaming Control Board has a special sub-unit tasked with busting bold betting scofflaws like the Gamblin’ Granny of Ypsilanti.
Yet if there exists a city in Michigan that may have something approaching a legitimate problem with illegal gambling, it’s Flint, the hardscrabble home of Will Ferrell’s fictional ABA Tropics. One den of iniquity, the Cellular Vault, was subjected to MGCB busts not once, but twice, while Flint’s former police chief, William Bradford Barksdale, earlier this year pleaded no contest to running an illegal gambling arcade where people played casino games on computers and redeemed their winnings in gift cards.
It should come as no surprise, then, that in the run-up to Responsible Gaming Education Month, MGCB Executive Director Henry Williams sat down with two Flint officials, Mayor Sheldon Neeley and state Rep. Cynthia Neeley, to, in the parlance of an MGCB press release, “discuss strategies to help deter and crack down on illegal gaming operations in the city.”
A threat to public safety
During their chat, Williams and the Neeleys conversed about the impact of storefront casinos on residents and how such enterprises harm both the city and legal gambling operations.
“These unwelcome operations threaten public safety by creating environments where other criminal activity can thrive,” Mayor Neeley said in the release.
For his part, Williams said, “As a regulator, it’s important to me to have face-to-face conversations with area leaders so that we can share our knowledge and gain a more comprehensive understanding of illegal gaming issues, especially from their local perspective. I look forward to working with Mayor Neeley on the city’s efforts to prevent individuals from reopening a place of business under a new name in a location that was previously cited for illegal gaming operation concerns, minimize risks to his community from such establishments, and help protect Flint residents from harm.”
According to the release, MGCB investigations over the past eight years have resulted in the seizure of 1,195 illegal gambling machines and over $470,000 in ill-gotten gains. Additionally, within the past 10 months, cease-and-desist letters have been sent to 48 locations believed to be operating outside the law.
September is Responsible Gaming Education Month. MI Bets wants to remind all bettors to practice safe bankroll management and to acknowledge if gambling is interfering with personal relationships. For more information, please reference our responsible gambling hub.
Photo courtesy of the MGCB