Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Treasuring Casinos

I hope you treasure this post more than I did. 

Gotta start in, where else, Atlantic City:

"Ferris wheel, zip line, inlet eateries eyed in Atlantic City" by Wayne Parry, Associated Press  February 19, 2015

ATLANTIC CITY — Making good on its vow to seek non-gambling attractions, Atlantic City Wednesday night approved redevelopment plans that include a giant Ferris wheel and a zip line on the beachfront next to the Steel Pier, a rebuilt Boardwalk, and an elevated walkway in its Inlet neighborhood.

The plans come as Atlantic City has lost four of its 12 casinos and is trying to make its tourism-centered economy less dependent on gambling.

City Council backed the expansion of the iconic Steel Pier to make way for a 205-foot-tall observation wheel with enclosed, climate-controlled cars, and a zip-line ride. It also approved the redevelopment plan for the Northeast Inlet neighborhood.

‘‘It’s a reinforcement of the importance of adding these other amenities,’’ said John Palmieri, executive director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. The agency approved the Ferris wheel project and would contribute about $8.1 million of its estimated $14 million price tag through a loan.

‘‘It’s a good step forward in the ongoing effort to reinforce those nongambling sectors,’’ Palmieri said.

It is also something Atlantic City has been talking about since 2007 — the first year its casino gambling revenues posted a yearly decline after the opening of casinos in Pennsylvania ate into its customer base. Those revenues have plunged from $5.2 billion in 2006 to $2.74 billion last year as casinos continued to open in Pennsylvania, New York, and Maryland. Of the eight remaining casinos in Atlantic City, three are in bankruptcy.

Anthony Catanoso’s family owns the Steel Pier, where the famous Diving Horse and top bands and singers entertained millions before casino gambling arrived.

‘‘We’ve been talking about doing this for 25 years,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s one more example of an amenity we can provide that doesn’t depend on gambling.”

The wheel and its 40 cars are being built in Italy and should be delivered by December. The start of an expansion of the Boardwalk to support the wheel could begin within two months, Catanoso said.



"Fights over the fates of two Atlantic City casinos in bankruptcy heated up Tuesday as the main casino workers’ union filed 27 charges of unfair labor practice against the Trump Taj Mahal’s owner and Revel urged a judge not to delay its sale any further. A bankruptcy court judge in October allowed the company to end health insurance and pension coverage for its workers, a move the union is appealing. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who is acquiring Trump Entertainment by swapping $286 million in debt for ownership of it [and] who wants to shift Taj Mahal workers to insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, has threatened to close the casino if the union wins its appeal."

Also see: Icahnic Post 

That really cuts one to the quick.

You could just go to the place that is most convenient:

"The town moderator in Plainville is taking umbrage at a proposal to ban elected officials in communities where casinos are built from gambling at those facilities. In a letter to the state Gaming Commission, Luke P. Travis wrote that he resents the implication that he “cannot be trusted” to fairly exercise his official duties “while enjoying myself from time to time at a casino.” The proposed ban is intended to address the possibility of favors being exchanged between casino operators and local officials who might have some influence over a casino’s operation. Travis, a Fall River-based lawyer, also said that such a prohibition might prompt townspeople to think twice before they agree to serve in positions that would require them to give up certain “freedoms.”

There is just $omething about public $ervants, or anyone else in authority, wanting to gamble that makes me queasy.

Brockton would receive $10m a year from casino

Maybe not:

"Shares of Wynn Resorts Ltd. slipped after the gaming company was downgraded by Zacks from “neutral” to “underperform.”  The weak results were tied to sluggish performances in Las Vegas and in Macau, where an antigraft corruption drive by the Chinese government is keeping VIP gamblers at bay."

And as we all know by now, corruption is good for an economy. 

Brockton voters approve proposed resort casino

His dice are $mokin' and there is strong local support for the $650m resort plans. Well, almost. You know how luck can change.

Have you seen the new dealer?

Deal struck for horse racing at Suffolk Downs
Three days of Suffolk Downs thoroughbred racing planned
All smiles as harness racing resumes at Plainridge Park casino


I thought we outlawed horse racing with the vote?

MGM sets March 24 groundbreaking on $800m Springfield casino

There will be competition from New York.

Facing competition, Mohegan Sun to add a 400-room hotel

It's going to be in Asia.

Look who got lucky:

"Some big names on Mass. unclaimed money list; Belichick, Brady, and Obama top state’s rolls" by Jack Newsham, Globe Correspondent  February 27, 2015

Brady, Belichick, and Barack are not the only big names included in the semiannual update of some $2 billion worth of forgotten bank accounts, abandoned safe-deposit boxes, and checks marked “return to sender.” Treasurer Deborah Goldberg said Thursday that David Ortiz — yes, that David Ortiz — is owed $182 by Western Union, while the rapper Snoop Dogg has tax refunds worth more than $5,000 with his name on them.

Under state law, businesses must turn over to the treasurer’s office the balance of any customer account that remains inactive for three years if they send a letter to the last address they have on file and cannot find the owner.

Neglected bank accounts, stocks and dividends, insurance payouts, accidental overpayments, certain prepaid credit cards, and money owned by the deceased — all of it reverts to the state, which tries to reunite people with the assets. The contents of safe-deposit boxes are covered, too, but things like real estate and cars are not.

But how can a company not find Barack Obama?

The president — who, as one may recall from civics class, resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C. — has a $312.46 refund from Comcast waiting for him at the treasurer’s office. Comcast could not say whether it sent a letter to the address in Cheverly, Md., where a Senator Barack Obama claimed to reside.

But the refund’s unclear origins did not stop the state treasury from contacting the president on Twitter and trying to convey claim forms to him through Governor Deval Patrick, who said in an e-mail that he did not know anything “about any forms or unclaimed money.”

“Presuming this is legitimate, the president will not be claiming it,” said a White House official.

All in all, more than 14 million pieces of unclaimed property have reverted to the state. In the past six months, more than 51,000 accounts containing stocks or at least $100 in cash were added to the master list. The numbers compel the state to advertise on buses, TV, and the radio; a complete list of claimants’ names will be published in Sunday’s Globe and in more than 30 smaller newspapers.

I didn't see my name.

“Our system is packed with people,” said Chandra Allard, a spokeswoman for the treasurer’s office.

More than 600,000 people and businesses, that is. The amounts range from a penny to more than $1.3 million owed to DRS Inc., a business with a last-known address in Cambridge.

For the biggest claims, often belonging to municipal entities and companies, the state has two investigators who try to find the claimants.

For the rest of us, unclaimed property can be looked up online or by telephone at 888-344-MASS. Current and former residents can get unclaimed money after verifying their identity by providing personal information. The process takes about 12 weeks, according to the treasurer’s website, and is free.

Last year, the state said it returned $112 million to Massachusetts residents and businesses, up from $103 million in 2012 and more per person than any other state’s unclaimed property office, Goldberg’s office said.

Unlike Brady and Belichick, many celebrities have already been reunited with their money. Chelsea Clinton got $875 in stock proceeds back in 2001, and “Jerome Seinfeld” — Jerry, for short — claimed the $5,684 the state owed him in 2007. Neil Diamond is in the process of claiming $7,272 from the Department of Revenue.

As for President Obama, Goldberg’s office was delighted that he would not be claiming his refund.

“He doesn’t want his own money?” said Allard, the spokeswoman. “That’s great! We’ll return it to the general fund.”

Makes you think they are looking real hard for you, huh?


It's like they hit the lottery:

"MassLottery to retire familiar but obsolete terminals; Aging lottery machine system to be replaced" by Dan Adams, Globe Correspondent  February 25, 2015

For 18 years, an unremarkable blue machine has been a fixture at corner convenience stores, its tired keys accepting millions of bets from players hoping a lucky string of numbers — a kid’s birthday, an old address — will just this once bend the rules of probability and change everything.

But, with casino gambling coming to Massachusetts, the state lottery is looking to replace the 8,500 aging blue terminals and the massive computer system that processes nearly $5 billion in bets a year. Lottery officials hope the sophisticated technology in newer terminals will help them hang onto loyal customers tempted by glitzy slot machines and table games.

Will they work better than the state's redone unemployment, health, and food stamp websites? 


Indeed, outside of Massachusetts, only the South American nation of Colombia still uses the 1990s-era lottery terminals. To keep its machines in service, the lottery cannibalizes broken ones for parts. There’s even a place at Massachusetts State Lottery headquarters in Braintree that repair technicians refer to as “the MacGyver room.”

The machines are called the GTech ISYS, the ubiquitous but woefully obsolete lottery terminal that is finally set to be retired after dutifully spooling out 79 miles of tickets and receipts since 1997.

The terminals have not hampered sales at one of the nation’s most successful lotteries.

That's because there are so many poor people here, and for blue Massachusetts to be celebrating such transfer of wealth.... $igh.

Massachusetts residents spent $736 per capita on lottery games last year, far more than residents in any other state, according to La Fleur’s Magazine, a trade journal. In 2014 the lottery distributed $974 million in local aid to towns and cities.

But the stash of spare parts is running critically low. More important, the advent of casino gambling in Massachusetts has presented the lottery with direct competition for the first time.

Newly elected Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, whose office oversees the lottery, said she is determined to preserve lottery profits and local aid — and believes new terminals will be a vital tool in that effort.

“We’ve managed to do very well with these machines, but it’s no longer economically viable to maintain them,” Goldberg said. “With casinos coming in, we cannot be complacent.”

The lottery is soliciting bids for new terminals that will be easier to reprogram remotely, so it can quickly push out new games and promotions. Modern computers will also allow officials to better monitor how different games are selling in different areas — spotting, for example, a drop-off in sales near a new casino.

And the lottery wants to introduce a loyalty card system for frequent players, something that is impossible on the current terminals.

On the other hand, of course, they are worried about your problem gambling, yup. C'mon!

New terminals may even allow players to submit their lucky numbers using a smartphone application. The technology for such mobile gambling already exists and is popular in Europe. Here in Massachusetts, the app could only be used inside a store with a lottery terminal, as state law prohibits gambling from home.

Don't worry about hackers now!

“We’re seeing more and more states testing online and mobile games,” said Terry Rich, director of the Iowa lottery and president of the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries. “It’s less expensive than the terminal on the counter, and it’s the way Millennials shop.”

The money is coming before school and marriage.

Rich suspects mobile gambling could one day make the countertop lottery terminal itself obsolete. That, however, means lotteries will have to design systems that, for example, verify users’ ages or set spending limits to control addictive gambling.

But Rich said lotteries are effectively businesses competing for consumers’ money and must evolve or risk “ending up like the post office.”

RelatedPostal Service and employees open talks on a new labor contract

We don't want those!

When casino gambling was introduced in Iowa in 1991, lottery profits dipped by about 12 percent, then tumbled again in 1996 and 1997 after slots at racetracks were legalized. Each time, Rich said, the Iowa lottery clawed back within several years, which he attributes in part to new products and additional marketing.

“You’ve got to innovate and keep it fresh so people don’t get bored,” Rich said. “There’s no doubt casinos and lotteries both go after the same discretionary dollars. Now, [Massachusetts] is going to have to market a little harder, work a little harder.”

And with all the wealth inequality there is even less.


Thank God for the children:

"Suit says grocers let minors buy lottery tickets" by Jack Newsham, Globe Correspondent  March 10, 2015

A national antigambling group is accusing Star Market and Stop & Shop of failing to stop minors from buying lottery tickets at vending machines in their Massachusetts stores.

The Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation sued Star Market Tuesday in Suffolk Superior Court after Cambridge City Councilor Craig Kelley’s 14-year-old son was filmed buying lottery tickets at two of its supermarkets in September. The foundation said it filed suit after being unable to get Star to block access to the vending machines for minors.

The group made a similar request of Stop & Shop after the same teenager bought a lottery ticket at a vending machine at the chain’s Arlington store Monday.

Massachusetts law prohibits vendors from selling lottery tickets to people under age 18.

“State lotteries exploit our citizens and contribute to the rising unfairness in our society,” said Les Bernal, national director of the Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation.

“These free-standing lottery machines are a prime example. They open the door to kids becoming habitual scratch ticket users.”

Both companies declined to comment. The Massachusetts Lottery itself isn’t named in the suit.

Andrew Rainer, an attorney for the Boston-based Public Health Advocacy Institute who is representing Kelley and the antigambling group, said there are limits on what claims can be brought against the lottery, which is run by the state.

By default, lottery machines are “unlocked,” meaning anyone can buy tickets directly from them. But Rainer said the machines can be locked with a small remote control and urged stores to verify a customer’s age before unlocking the boxes to permit a sale, as is done with cigarette machines.

“We’d certainly welcome the involvement of the lottery commission in resolving this issue,” Rainer said. “The lottery commission does set some of the rules of engagement, such as how the machines are programmed by the lottery commission vendor.”

Lottery officials said they contacted retailers after the issue arose last summer to emphasize the importance of monitoring the machines.

Christian Teja, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Lottery, said the agency would be open to playing a role in the negotiations.

“While it’s unusual for an unnamed party to be involved in a settlement of this type of litigation, the lottery would be glad to work with the two sides to reach a settlement that ensures lottery products are sold only to individuals 18 years of age or older,” he said.


Also scratch:

Some Mass. lottery machines to check ID’s of buyers
Mass. Lottery vendors look the other way as minors gamble

I already folded and don't play lotterySorry

Something about gambling....

"Goldberg brings competitive nature to treasurer role" by Beth Healy, Globe Staff  February 24, 2015

Deborah Goldberg, the daughter of a famous Boston grocery family, with a law degree and a Harvard MBA, talks about her new role as treasurer with the competitive fervor of one who grew up battling for market share at Stop & Shop.

Can't remember the last time Globe shopped at Market Basket.

“At the end of the day, I tell everyone that I’m a grocer,” Goldberg said in her first wide-ranging interview since taking office last month. She was a fifth-generation employee at the company, which started as a shop on Salem Street in the North End and became the largest supermarket chain in Southern New England.


In 2008, in the run-up to the financial crisis, Goldberg saw the near collapse of the Wall Street firm Bear Stearns Cos., where her husband, Michael Winter, was a longtime executive in Boston. (The firm was acquired at a deep discount by JPMorgan Chase & Co., where Winter now works.)


Later that year, Goldberg discovered that her family and their nonprofit foundations had lost millions in the Bernard Madoff swindle....

Related: Ex-Madoff employee sentenced to 9 months of home detention

Madoff Scandal

Scroll through it to see the strange goings on since coverage has slowed.

Two decades earlier, Goldberg had her first unpleasant brush with Wall Street. It was 1988, shortly after Stop & Shop’s stock had plunged in the 1987 market crash. To fend off a hostile takeover by a corporate raider, the company went through a $1.23 billion leveraged buyout with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. By 1989, the Goldbergs were gone.

Goldberg doesn’t mince words as to why: “We were forced out because we wouldn’t fire our people. Very straightforward.”

Keep that in mind for later.

It marked the end of a path for Goldberg, who had been the heir apparent to run the company. Still, she credits her parents, whom she refers to by their first names, Carol and Avram, as mentors. They set an example for how to treat workers, she said, paying 100 percent of employees’ health care. 

Oh no! Wait until you see the example they set!

The company allowed unions in, and Goldberg herself was once a member. As president of Stop & Shop, her mother was thrifty, driving herself to business meetings instead of indulging in limousines and other trappings of the go-go ’80s.

Now, Goldberg hopes to use her bully pulpit to press for issues around pay equity for women and minorities.

“I’ve been passionately committed to this for a long time,” she said. “I’ve been hearing about it since I understood words.”

Oh, yeah?

Every treasurer comes into office with pet projects and messages, often aimed at gaining attention for higher office. The real job is managing 288 employees and overseeing numerous disparate operations....

We went from former AIPAC chairman Grossman to Goldberg looking after state money. 

Amy Schectman, a former economic development director for Brookline [and] now chief executive of Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly in Brighton, said she worked closely with Goldberg to develop housing and recreational space on old reservoir properties....

And now “a lot [of] people have great places to live.”


The self-centeredness is absolutely sickening at this point.

"Inaugural donors have dealings with state treasurer" by Frank Phillips, Globe Staff  March 02, 2015

Newly installed state Treasurer Deborah Goldberg raised an unprecedented $93,000 for her inauguration and transition costs, over two-thirds of which came in large donations from special interests that deal directly with her office. 

Forget the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Much of that $66,000 of the total came from interests that contract with her office, agencies she controls, or boards she chairs.

Other funding sources included unions and a construction firm that benefits from the state’s school building program administered by her office. Also included on the list of donors are liquor-related interests that deal with the treasurer’s alcohol control commission.

The practice of inaugural committees raising large donations, including from corporations, is not illegal in Massachusetts. Incoming governors, in particular, have routinely tapped special interests to finance their transitions and inaugurations.

Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, said the system, which also has no requirements for detailing expenses, heightens the potential for conflict of interest.

“This whole area is ripe for reform,’’ said Wilmot. “Raising money outside the regulated campaign finance system is problematic.”

State law requires disclosure of donors to such committees, but not a list of expenditures. Asked to voluntarily provide a detailed accounting of how Goldberg’s money was spent, Chris Keohan, a political consultant for Goldberg — who has vowed to bring “new levels of transparency” to the office — refused.

What chutzpah!

Instead, he provided a broad verbal outline of how the Goldberg Inaugural Committee spent the money. Keohan said the money went to fund events around Goldberg’s inauguration last month and to pay for transition costs, including picking up the salaries of the entire political staff and consultants, included himself, who had been getting paychecks from her election campaign committee.

He said he and the staff — which included four people and two fund-raising consultants — were paid the same salaries that they received from her political committee. He said the inaugural committee would not provide records to verify that claim.

Goldberg declined to speak with the Globe about the committee’s activities.

Donations to Massachusetts campaign committees cannot exceed $1,000 per year and cannot come from corporate sources. But inaugural committees can accept any size donation and gifts from corporations. The contributions to Goldberg’s inaugural committee from the special interests ranged from $2,500 to $10,000.

Asked if Goldberg thought it was appropriate to ask for large contributions from donors who could be seen as seeking access to her office, Keohan said the treasurer has demonstrated in her public career, including serving as a Brookline selectwoman, that she was above reproach.

“I don’t think anyone can call into question Deb Goldberg’s integrity,’’ he said. “Deb is very happy with the support she got during the campaign from these organizations.’’

And if you do you will be slandered as an anti-Semite.

Keohan said the treasurer needed the inaugural funds because she put together an extensive transition process that required paid staffing and a review of the office’s organization, which resulted in a “complete revamp.”

“We assembled the most comprehensive transition the Treasurer’s Office has ever seen,’’ he said. “That required a number of staff to work in a full-time capacity.”

Despite raising so much money, Goldberg charged $15 a head at a spaghetti dinner she threw for supporters — and a handful of treasury employees — at a Dorchester union hall after her Jan. 20th swearing-in. An heiress to the Stop & Shop fortune, Goldberg has spent $4 million of her own money for both a failed run for lieutenant governor in 2006 and on her race for treasurer last year.

A survey of past administrations indicates that previous treasurers and other constitutional officers — other than governors — never raised as large a sum as Goldberg, nor did they pay for such a large staff, relying almost exclusively instead on volunteers.

What kind of example is that with the wealth inequality existent in this state? WTF?!!

When Steve Grossman was elected treasurer in 2010, he raised $25,500 for his inauguration in 2011 but not from sources doing business with the treasury. All that money went to pay for inaugural events only. A handful of a campaign staff, paid from his political committee, worked on the transition.

Governors, on the other hand, have routinely tapped special interests to raise millions of dollars for their inaugurations and transitions — including from entities regulated by their administrations.

I forget who funded Baker's....

Public campaign finance records show that Goldberg’s campaign committee continued to pay the salaries of her four staff members and fund-raising consultants between the election and Dec. 31. During that period, the inaugural committee raised $32,500 in December and another $59,969 in the first two weeks of January. Her campaign committee has not reported any payments to staff or consultants since the first of the year.

“People did not receive double salaries,’’ Keohan said. He said any surplus from the inaugural committee will be donated to charity.

Mike Rivero is right: these money junkies really are $ick.

Keohan said Goldberg did not solicit the funds but instead used the two fund-raising consultants — Sheila Capone and Mary Liz Ganley — from her campaign to seek money from the corporations and handful of individuals. Both women received $5,000 payments from Goldberg’s political committee on Dec. 16.

Among Goldberg’s donors was Scientific Games, which gets about $15 million a year to produce scratch tickets for the state Lottery. The company gave $10,000 to Goldberg for her inaugural and transition activities. The Lottery’s commission, which Goldberg chairs as treasurer, is currently reviewing the firm’s contract, which expires in September.

The Boston law firm McDermott, Quilty & Miller depends heavily on its work appearing before liquor boards, particularly in Boston, on behalf of its clients — bars and restaurants. They have also been before the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, an agency that Goldberg’s office operates. It has broad powers to regulate and control the sale, distribution, and consumption of alcohol in Massachusetts. The firm donated $2,500 to her inauguration.

A number of donations came from organizations involved with public school construction; Goldberg’s office controls the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

Building trade unions and a Boston firm that contracts for the work, Gilbane Building Company, donated total of $19,000. The authority has reimbursed cities and towns over $11 billion for school construction over the past 10 years.

The political action committee for retired public employees donated $10,000. The state treasurer chairs the Pension Reserve Investment Management board, which oversees the state’s pension fund.

The Boston law firm Block & Leviton, which has represented PRIM in litigation in the past and specializes in, among other areas, securities litigation, gave $10,000.

With the state Lottery ready to replace antiquated terminals, DSCI LLC, a technology firm that could play a part in the update, gave $10,000. Future Technologies Group in Quincy, which is already under contract to run the office’s telephone system, gave $5,000.

None of the firms responded to requests for comments from the Globe.


Time to toss away some more losers:

"Treasurer seeks $1m for liquor enforcement; Citing alcohol agency’s increased duties, she asks legislators’ help" by Dan Adams, Globe Correspondent  March 10, 2015

Reinforcements could soon be on the way for the state’s liquor enforcement agency, politics permitting.

The new treasurer, Deborah Goldberg, asked the Legislature on Tuesday to boost funding for the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, or ABCC, by nearly $1 million, saying she plans to add investigators to police the casinos that are scheduled to open soon in Massachusetts.


The ABCC currently has just 15 investigators to oversee thousands of bars, restaurants, breweries, and other licensed businesses but will soon have to monitor casinos and slot parlors, as well as process a surge of new license applications. Goldberg is asking lawmakers to increase the budget 36 percent, to $3.15 million.

“It is critical that we receive more resources to ensure we are doing all we can to prevent alcohol-related injuries and incidents across the state,” Goldberg said in prepared remarks submitted to lawmakers Tuesday. But her request comes as legislators and Governor Charlie Baker are trying to close a $1.8 billion state budget gap.

Although several lawmakers and Baker himself had previously expressed support for increasing the agency’s funding, they made those remarks months before the size of the budget shortfall became apparent.

Baker’s proposal last week called for keeping ABCC funding at the same level it was reduced to after recent mid-fiscal year cuts. This week, his office seemed to pour cold water on Goldberg’s proposal.

“Governor Baker understands the treasurer’s concerns, but given the $1.8 billion deficit inherited from the previous administration, we are pleased that our budget proposal protects ABCC from budget cuts,” Baker’s press secretary, Elizabeth Guyton, said in a statement.

Under Goldberg’s proposal, the additional money would be used to hire five new investigators and several other staffers. ABCC investigators are the front-line enforcers of Massachusetts’ myriad liquor laws and regulations, ensuring that licensed beer brewers, winemakers, distillers, bars, restaurants, and distributors play by the rules. Their responsibilities range from busting restaurants for serving underage patrons alcohol to investigating outlawed trade practices like “pay-to-play,” in which distributors and brewers use inducements to get bars to carry their beers while excluding those of competitors.

It's okay at the top in like, you know, the treasurer's office when throwing a party.

Goldberg argued the ABCC generates more money than it spends, contributing $4.2 million to the state last year from fees and fines it collected. She also noted that Massachusetts has the fifth-lowest ratio of liquor enforcement agents to licensees of any state.

Makes you want to abstain.

Pressure on the ABCC has been increasing from all sides.

The number of investigators is down sharply from the 1980s, when it had around 40 on staff. But in recent years, the number of craft brewers and retailers has skyrocketed, leaving the lean agency to handle more license applications and inspect more and more businesses for violations.

A new law allowing consumers to mail-order wine from other states is also adding to the workload; since December, the ABCC has processed 498 applications from out-of-state vineyards seeking permission to ship into Massachusetts.

And soon, under a provision of the state’s 2011 casino gambling law, investigators will be required to take turns working for the Gaming Commission’s Liquor Enforcement Unit, policing newly opened casinos and slot parlors for violations.

Although “happy hour” promotions are forbidden at bars and restaurants, the Massachusetts law lets casinos serve free drinks — but only in gaming areas, not in attached hotels or restaurants.

Finally, the alcohol agency is wrapping up an intensive investigation into whether beer distributors broke state and federal laws by paying retailers to carry their products. The inquiry has required the agency to interview dozens of people, delve into complex accounting practices, and sift through boxes of financial records obtained by subpoena; a number of investigators were pulled off their regular enforcement beats to help with the work.

Some legislators have previously said that investigators should not be forced to choose between enforcing trade rules, designed to protect small businesses from being shut out of the market, and policing potentially deadly violations such as bars serving patrons who are already intoxicated.

“Clearly, there have been increasing demands on the ABCC that will require additional resources to fulfill,” said John Scibak, a Democratic representative from South Hadley who cochairs the committee that oversees the alcohol industry.


And about the way she treats workers:

"Applicant blames incoming state treasurer for job loss; Calls Goldberg’s access to records ethics breach" by Frank Phillips, Globe Staff  April 07, 2015

Hannah Fisher never expected to get a personal phone call from the incoming state treasurer, Deborah Goldberg, a woman whose name she mainly recognized as the president of the board of the small Newton-based nonprofit where Fisher worked.

It didn’t go well. In fact, the conversation back in November set in motion a contentious series of events, leaving Fisher unemployed with no immediate job prospects.

And it entangled Goldberg in an awkward conflict: using her position as the state treasurer-elect with access to state employment documents to benefit a private nonprofit agency she heads.

Can't question her integrity, though! 

God help this state the next four years.

Fisher believes the conflict warrants a change in state law to prevent similar situations in the future. Goldberg, through aides, says she did nothing improper. The executive director of the nonprofit agency where Fisher worked until Friday declined to discuss the issue, calling it a personnel matter.

Goldberg and her aides agree with Fisher on the broad facts of the case, but not all. They diverge widely on the tone of that telephone conversation and the blame for the outcome.

The Legislature should make it clear that ethical standards about the use of information are enforced as soon as a candidate is elected.

The dispute started last fall, on the Monday before Thanksgiving, when Fisher received a call from Goldberg that she said left her “shocked” anddistressed.” The 28-year-old law school graduate, who had been hired in May 2014 as an adoptions coordinator for Adoptions With Love, where Goldberg serves as board president, was in Los Angeles visiting her family for the holiday.

Goldberg, who had been elected state treasurer earlier that month but would not take office until late January, told Fisher that she had come across a job application Fisher had submitted just after the November election for a low-level attorney’s position in the state Treasury’s debt management office. Goldberg told Fisher she had to tell Adoptions With Love senior staff that she was job-hunting.

If Fisher failed to do so by Jan. 1, Goldberg told her, she herself would inform the agency’s executive director, Fisher said.

Fisher said she was devastated, feeling the confidentiality of her application had been compromised. Worse, she was being forced to reveal her job-hunting plans to her employers.

“This ultimatum has stunned and deeply upset me,’’ Fisher told Amy Cohen, the agency’s executive director, in an e-mail two days after Goldberg’s phone call. She described the call as “startling and upsetting” and called the treasurer-elect’s tone “punitive.’’

There are no state laws that legally require a person in Goldberg’s position — transitioning from her election to her swearing-in — to keep job applications confidential, according to specialists in the field. But best practices, those specialists say, dictate that confidentiality in those cases be honored. Without it, the state would dampen the interest of qualified talent to seek state positions.

From Fisher’s perspective, Goldberg set in motion her job loss.

In an e-mail from California, she told Cohen that she was “not going anywhere soon. I have no job leads.” But she explained that financial pressures were forcing her to seek a better-paying position, and she wanted to use the law degree she had earned in 2012 from Northeastern University.

How dare she stop slaving for Goldberg's nonprofit(!!)

Cohen initially assured Fisher there was no problem. “Enjoy your time with your family and do not worry about this,’’ she said in an e-mail, adding that they would discuss “the situation in person.’’

But on her return that Monday, Fisher said, she faced a tougher tone. From her perspective there was a lot to worry about.

“The day I returned to work, my supervisors informed me that . . . they would be searching for my replacement on January 1,’’ Fisher wrote in a complaint to the State Ethics Commission. “If I did not find another position before they hired my replacement, I would be fired.’’

Is that what her parents taught here (btw, calling them by their given names is a bit weird; 

Several months later, she says, she was terminated, effective this past Friday. Fisher did not find another job in the interim. 

What kind of reference does she think she got? She's a law major; I'm sure she can put two-and-two together.

Neither Goldberg nor Fisher’s work supervisor offered any direct rebuttal to her description of what happened. Goldberg declined to be interviewed, but her spokesman Matt Sheaff said in a statement that Goldberg only urged Fisher to inform her agency of her search for another job.

“Deb Goldberg simply advised Hannah to be upfront with her supervisor about her desire to work elsewhere,’’ Sheaff said. “Ultimately Hannah was kept on the payroll four additional months while actively looking for a new job.”

The statement did not address other issues raised by Fisher, including the tone of their conversation, the ultimatum she says Goldberg laid down, or the conflict the treasurer faced between her public duties and responsibility as the agency’s board president.

She's made it clear she thinks she is above it all, and jwho is to argue?

Cohen, the agency’s executive director, said she would not discuss the issues raised by Fisher because it was a “personnel” matter.

Asked why she didn’t request a raise that would allow her to remain working at Adoptions With Love, Fisher, who received a $38,000 annual salary, said it was clear that a wage increase was not on the table.

That's not something you do to an employer; they are supposed to come to you after a given amount of time!

“They pretty much told me I was out,’’ she said. “It was not like it was a ‘Let’s work this out’ kind of meeting,’’ Fisher said. “It was, ‘We’re going to find your replacement.’ ”

After learning she would be replaced, Fisher asked the Ethics Commission if Goldberg had broken the state’s conflict-of-interest law. She said the commission told her that technically Goldberg was not a state employee at the time and therefore not covered by the conflict statute. She became a public official on Jan. 21, when she was sworn in as state treasurer.

But even if she were covered by the law, the issue would be murky. There was no direct financial gain for her agency or a loss to the Commonwealth. The only resulting harm was to Fisher. She argues that Goldberg would have been in conflict because she was improperly disclosing information and used it to protect her personal interests.

Fisher, while speaking warmly of Adoptions With Love and her experience there, said she has gone public with her case in order to change the law.

“I came forward to shed light on a gap in the system meant to protect citizens from abuses by government officials,’’ she said. “A flaw in our ethics laws allows elected officials in transition periods unfettered access to nonpublic information, which may be used to benefit their private interests without repercussion.”


Globe seconds that:

"Deb Goldberg’s inappropriate call exposes gap in state ethics law" by The Editorial Board  April 07, 2015

Deb Goldberg didn’t break any state ethics laws when she took it upon herself, while state treasurer-elect, to call a job applicant employed by a nonprofit whose board she serves on to pressure the applicant into telling her current boss about her job search. But it was intrusive and inappropriate, and at the very least the Legislature should take it upon themselves to clarify that the same ethics rules that apply to elected officials also apply while they are transitioning into government.

Hannah Fisher began working as an adoptions coordinator for the Newton-based nonprofit Adoptions With Love last May, and shortly after last year’s election she decided to apply for a new job in the State Treasurer’s legal office. Goldberg serves as president of Adoptions With Love’s board. According to Goldberg, the office of outgoing state Treasurer Steve Grossman alerted her to Fisher’s application. Goldberg called Fisher on the Monday before Thanksgiving to tell her she should inform Adoptions With Love that she was looking for a new job and, if she didn’t do so by Jan. 1, Goldberg would do it for her. According to the Globe’s Frank Phillips, Fisher said the tone of Goldberg’s call was “punitive,” and left her “shocked” and “distressed.” Reportedly, Fisher was told by her employer that the charity would begin looking fer her replacement in January. Her last day on the job was Friday, and she is now unemployed.

Goldberg disputes the assertion that the phone call was aggressive, and she stresses that the position Fisher applied for in state government has yet to be filled. She says Fisher is still being considered for that role. Goldberg also says the only communication she had with either Fisher or Adoptions With Love about the issue was that initial call, and that she was merely trying to give Fisher advice. “I wanted to empower her to empower herself,” says Goldberg.

Both the tone of the conversation and Goldberg’s assertion that she was passed the information by Grossman’s office are beside the point. The fact remains that Goldberg used information she had access to as the incoming state treasurer to interpose herself in the job application of someone who works for her nonprofit. Although her actions were legal, they don’t pass the smell test.

The ethics commission has ruled that Goldberg’s conduct was not a breach of ethics because she was not a state employee at the time of the phone call. Given the fact that incoming constitutional officers have access to sensitive state information while they are transitioning to government, that standard is insufficient. The state Legislature should amend the law so that ethical standards about the use of information are enforced as soon as a candidate is elected. Even that change might not have clarified the situation Fisher found herself in. But it would send a message to all government officials, whether sitting or in transition, that sensitive state information such as job applications should be treated with respect.


Maybe an APOLOGY is in order?

"Deb Goldberg rues decision that cost employee her job" by Thomas Farragher Globe Staff  April 15, 2015

The first draft of my urgent plea to Secretary of State Bill Galvin, our chief elections officer, was composed even before I was ushered into the finely appointed office of the state treasurer on Tuesday afternoon.

“Dear Secretary Galvin,’’ it began. “I’ve made a terrible mistake. I voted for Deb Goldberg for treasurer last November. I did my due diligence on candidates for governor. But treasurer?

“Like a lot of people, I simply wasn’t paying attention. I know it’s a flimsy excuse. But I need a mulligan — the golfer’s term for a do-over. Expunge the record, please. Subtract my vote from Goldberg’s tally pronto.’’

Goldberg made headlines last week when my estimable colleague, the Globe’s Frank Phillips, wrote a jaw-dropping account about how Goldberg reacted last fall after learning that a 28-year-old law school graduate named Hannah Fisher had applied for a low-level job in the treasurer’s office Goldberg would soon lead.

Fisher had been hired in early 2014 as an adoptions coordinator at a small nonprofit in Newton called Adoptions With Love. Goldberg is that group’s board chairman. A red flag went up. Goldberg got directly involved. And soon Goldberg and Fisher were on the phone together just days before last Thanksgiving.

Goldberg characterized the phone call’s tone as even and professional. Fisher called it punitive and unpleasant. But both women agree on its message. Goldberg told Fisher she had to disclose to her employer that she was job hunting.

“To have the recently elected state treasurer call me to tell me I had seriously screwed up by applying for this job was shocking,’’ Fisher told me Tuesday by phone from California, where she is visiting family. “I never knew job hunting was something that’s wrong.’’

Fisher is 28. She wasn’t going to stay at Adoptions With Love forever. She was making $36,000 a year. The job in the treasurer’s office held the promise of a healthy raise. She wanted to move up. All perfectly understandable.

“I was terrified because this woman could bury me,’’ Fisher said, noting that Goldberg gave her a Jan. 1 deadline to out herself and her job hunt to her bosses. “She had power and influence and she could drive me out of the job market in Massachusetts if she so desired.’’

I think she did.

Goldberg was under no legal requirement to hold Fisher’s job application in confidence. No statute says so.

But common sense does.

As we sat by the marble fireplace in her ornate State House office Tuesday, I asked Goldberg if she thinks she owes Fisher, now jobless and looking, an apology.

Instead, Goldberg, who has a law degree and a Harvard MBA, took me on a rhetorical tour of her background as a fourth-generation employee of Stop & Shop, which her family once ran and where she once served as an executive.

OMG!!! How OUT-of-TOUCH and MENTALLY ILL do you have to be? 

She described her family’s benevolence to employees who were treasured, and whose health benefits were top-notch.

Yes, SELF-SERVING PROPAGANDA PROMOTION is the answer to everything!

And, after all, Goldberg said, Fisher was part of a four-member staff at Adoptions for Love, an intimate workplace where sensitive duties were performed. Surely, she argued, that required full disclosure of pending plans to look elsewhere for work.

When I told Goldberg that I disagreed, that I found it outrageous that an employee’s job search would place her in peril, her tone, thankfully, shifted.

“In retrospect, I feel terrible that this has happened,’’ she said. “I feel terrible that [Fisher] felt the way she did. I wish we could do it all over again. I absolutely would apologize to her. I would love a do-over. Something like this will never happen again.’’

Too late, and I've yet to see an official apology. The only reason she feels terrible is because this looks bad -- and the reporter had to rub her face in it to get her to smell it!

So, it turns out that Goldberg wants a mulligan, too.

How about a penalty stroke instead?

Fisher, whose last day at the Newton-based nonprofit was this month, said an apology from Goldberg would be terrific.

What would be even better, she said, would be a change in state law that would make it a conflict of interest for newly elected officials, even before they are sworn in, to use private information the way Goldberg did.

Now she is just being unreasonable. Take your non-apology and shaddup!

Maybe our newly chastened treasurer could lead that fight.

Deb Goldberg was under no legal requirement to hold Hannah Fisher’s job application in confidence.


 Other fights she is going to lead:

Goldberg appoints Ruth Ellen Fitch to state pension board

Goldberg names committee on wage equality

Tell it to Fisher!

Goldberg urges oil, gas companies to disclose climate risks

Help the situation out and shut up that trap you call a mouth then. 

Treasurer Goldberg seeks to toughen proxy-voting guidelines

Does that mean anything when the machines are rigged?

Speaking of rigged machines, I'm out of time and money:

"State casino regulators put limits on gamblers’ ATM access" y Sean P. Murphy Globe Staff  April 03, 2015

Several provisions recommended by state Attorney General Maura Healey to potentially protect gamblers from overspending when they patronize the state’s casinos and slot parlor were adopted on Thursday by the state Gaming Commission.

Yeah, come play the lottery!

Healey, a casino opponent during last fall’s campaign for office, expressed concerns earlier this year about allowing automated teller machines in casinos. But the state Division of Banks later determined that state law allows them. The proposal encountered no opposition from commission members.

Imagine my $hock at that deci$ion.

Commission members acknowledged that patrons intent on finding a source of money for more gambling could duck outside a casino to find a nearby ATM for a cash advance.

Except those places are hard as hell to get out of.

But that would at least require them to take “a little break” from the action, and possibly to allow them to reconsider wagering more money, commission member Enrique Zuniga said.

Zuniga said taking advantage of quick and easy credit “in the heat of the moment” presents one of the most risky situations for some gamblers, [with] concern that credit may be too readily extended by casino operators to patrons.....



What do you mean no more funds available?

NDU: Some Mass. lottery machines to check ID’s of buyers

UPDATEState panel allows extension for casino proposal

Also seeBaubles and Babe Ruth on display in treasurer’s office, headed to eBay