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Saturday
Feb232013

What’s Next After Nevada Legalizes Online Interstate Gaming

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CARSON CITY, Nev.) -- Now that Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has signed legislation legalizing online interstate gaming, what’s next for online poker fans in the United States?

The state’s legislators and Sandoval rushed to pass and sign AB114 on Thursday, authorizing Nevada to enter into compacts with other states to offer Internet poker, ahead of New Jersey’s similar efforts.

On Feb. 7, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had vetoed an online gambling bill but could sign another version next week.

U.S. online gambling nearly halted after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 was implemented.

But the Department of Justice issued a letter in 2011 stating that the federal Wire Act of 1961 only applies to sports betting.

With passage of Nevada’s new legislation, “the U.S. online gambling industry has been reborn,” said Ken LaMance, attorney and managing editor for the LegalMatch Law Library.

Nevada’s bill removes a state provision that requires federal legislation or approval from the Department of Justice before online gaming licenses are made active. The legislation requires the Nevada Gaming Commission to adopt regulations authorizing Gov. Sandoval to make the agreements with other states.

LaMance said he expects New Jersey to pass similar legislation in the coming weeks.

“The only question now is how many other U.S. states will pass similar online gambling legislation allowing online gambling companies to operate in their state, or allow their citizens to participate in this online gambling in Nevada or New Jersey,” LaMance said.

What does this all mean for poker fans and other states?

“We’re currently in unchartered waters,” LaMance said.

A few states have passed legislation prohibiting residents from engaging in online gambling, like Illinois and Louisiana but, LaMance said, that could change. However, the federal government can pass its own regulations that would preempt state law, including that of Nevada.

“But this seems unlikely since the federal government has traditionally left gambling regulation to the individual states,” he said.

LaMance said legislation and enforcement have previously only targeted online companies, not individuals, from engaging in online gambling.

“With the large number of online companies likely sprouting up in Nevada, online gambling players are going to have abundant options, with the added security of knowing their money is stored domestically and not in some questionable offshore account,” he said.

The Nevada law authorizes private companies to operate online gambling sites in Nevada after they pay the state a fee. Certain companies that have been operating illegal online gambling companies will be barred from participation for five years, after which they can apply for a license.

“There is so much money at stake that I anticipate there will be a tidal wave of new companies entering this very lucrative market,” LaMance said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct022012

President Obama Preps for Debate Amid Nevada’s Housing Woes and New Criticisms of Housing Program

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) -- One in 402 homes in Nevada is in foreclosure, according to RealtyTrac, making this the fifth-hardest-hit state in the country.

As the Los Angeles Times' Kathleen Hennessey notes Tuesday the Obama campaign “has set up its ‘debate camp’ in something of a metaphor for the nation’s economic woes -- and the president’s challenges.” Down the road from the resort are “empty storefronts at a ‘village’ of boutiques and restaurants. Surrounding the hotel where the president is huddling with advisors are scores of recently built condos and homes, each a worth a fraction of its value a few years ago.”

In the last few weeks, previous criticisms of the Obama administration’s housing program from Neil Barofsky, the former Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, have been amplified by similarly harsh words in a new book from Sheila Bair, former chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Barofsky Tuesday told ABC News that the “administration’s housing programs have been an abject failure in all but one aspect, protecting the big banks.”

Bair, a former Senate Republican staffer, recalls in Bull by the Horns: Fighting to Save Main Street from Wall Street and Wall Street from Itself how she stood with President Obama in Arizona at the beginning of his presidency when he promised one of his new programs “will enable as many as 3 to 4 million homeowners to modify the terms of their mortgages to avoid foreclosure.”

Bair writes “the president was masterful in announcing the program, though I cringed as he threw out what I considered to be wildly inflated numbers on the programs’ impact. Even with our own, more aggressive proposal, we had estimated the number of successful modifications at 2.1 million tops.”

That plan, known as HAMP -- the Home Affordable Modification Program -- has failed to reach its goal of 3 to 4 million modified loans.

In fact, notes Barofsky, it “has reached only a little more than one-fifth of its goal with more failed modifications (more than one million) than successful ones (825,000).”

Bair writes that “HAMP was a program designed to look good in a press release, not to fix the housing market.” Referring to former National Economic Council director Larry Summers and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Bair writes that “Larry and Tim didn’t seem to care about the political beating the president took on the hundreds of billions of dollars thrown at the big-bank bailouts and AIG bonuses, but when it came to home owners, it was a very different story. I don’t think helping home owners was ever a priority for them.”

HAMP was, she writes, “doomed to failure. ... What’s more, it cheated borrowers. Because Treasury wanted to demonstrate quickly that huge numbers of borrowers were being modified, it let borrowers enter into ‘trial modifications’ whereby they would start making reduced payments pending completion of all of their paperwork. But many of the borrowers could not provide all of the extensive documentation required by the program, so they would be put into foreclosure even though they had been making timely payments for months!”

Barofsky adds that the Obama administration “also missed a remarkable opportunity to spend more than 250 billion in authorized and obligated TARP dollars (without a single additional vote from Congress) to rescue struggling homeowners and help kick start a housing recovery, and instead chose to let the money sit on the sidelines. If they had only treated the foreclosure and housing crisis with the same ferocity and dedication that they did the banking crisis, we would almost certainly be facing a far better looking economy today.”

You can read more on the Nevada housing crisis HERE and PBS recently profiled Las Vegas casino maintenance man Albert Decall, who paid $395,000 (with $100,000 down payment) for his home, only to see his home value plummet to less than half of what it was worth. Working with lenders through the HAMP program, he saved his house.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep182012

$7 Million in Gold Discovered in Dead Man’s Home

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CARSON CITY, Nev.) -- A California woman may have a multi-million-dollar fortune headed her way after authorities found an estimated $7 million worth of gold coins in her recluse cousin’s home.

Walter Samasko Jr., 69, died in May due to heart problems and was not discovered until June, when neighbors complained of a bad smell coming from his house.

Samasko lived in Carson City, Nev., a city about 30 miles south of Reno.

When authorities went to clean out his home, they found boxes of gold coins in his home and garage.

“He was quite a hoarder. He had boxes and boxes and boxes of things,” Carson City Clerk Alan Grover told ABC News. Grover said there were many containers of food and cans.

Grover said the coins were in boxes marked “books.” There were also coins wrapped in aluminum foil and stored in ammunition boxes. There were Mexican, British and Austrian coins dating as far back as the 1870s.

There was so much gold that Grover used a wheelbarrow to carry the fortune to his truck. The coins were first moved to a bank vault and now they have been moved to armored vehicles.

Grover’s office estimated the worth of the coins at $7 million based on the amount of gold.

“We have to get it all appraised and come out with a real true figure,” he said. He added that the final figure could potentially be even larger because some of the coins might be worth more than their face value.

Samasko had no will and no immediate relatives.  He was cremated and the remains were flown to Chicago to join his mother, who died in 1992.

Using the funeral attendance list from Samasko’s mother’s funeral, Grover tracked down Arlene Magdanz, Samasko’s first cousin in San Rafael, Calif., who will most likely inherit the fortune.

Magdanz’s daughter Leslie Magdanz declined to comment.

“I don’t have any comment on this matter,” she told ABC News. When asked if her mother had any comment, Leslie Magdanz said, “She does not.”

Grover said it could take several months for the fortune to be turned over to Magdanz.

Samasko had only $200 in the bank at the time of his death, according to the Las Vegas Sun, but had stock accounts totaling in $165,000 and had been living off of his investments.

Grover said one of his first thoughts upon seeing the thousands of coins was, “What was a guy like this doing with his kind of money in just a regular house?”

He described the house as a small, 1970′s three-bedroom home of about 1,200 square feet with orange shag carpeting.

“There were no antiques, no crystal or family jewelry or anything like that,” Grover said. “You would never have suspected the guy would have that much … he certainly didn’t live that way.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
May112012

Obama Heads to Nevada to Claim Progress on Housing

Creatas/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- President Obama on Friday will visit a Reno, Nev., neighborhood hit hard by the housing crisis to hail a success story in his efforts to turn things around.

Six months ago, from the porch of a Las Vegas home 400 miles away, Obama announced administrative changes to federally-backed mortgage programs to help some struggling homeowners refinance at historic low rates.

The administration now says the move has had a “significant impact on responsible homeowners looking to refinance,” citing a huge influx in refinancing applications and savings on monthly payments for those who are approved. 

In Nevada, where 60 percent of homes are underwater -- more than any other state in the country -- refinancing applications are up 236 percent since the changes Obama implemented in October, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, which tracks the data. 

Nationwide, the number of applications by homeowners seeking to refinance their mortgages is up 50 percent over the period, the group says.

Obama will meet personally with two homeowners who have been part of the trend -- Val and Paul Keller of Reno -- whose underwater mortgage had previously not been eligible for refinancing, despite their keeping up with monthly payments on a $168,000 mortgage they’d held for 14 years. 

Thanks to changes implemented by the administration, the Kellers were able to refinance last year, saving them $240 a month.

“One of the most effective things that we can do to help more homeowners get back above water -- which can boost our economy and create jobs -- is to help them accelerate the pay-down of their mortgage through a new lower interest rate,” said Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.  

It’s unclear, however, whether the influx in refinancing applications Obama plans to hail is directly attributable to actions by his administration.  Equally uncertain is whether the majority of those applications are even approved by the lender to result in savings for homeowners.

Neither the administration nor the Mortgage Bankers Association could say how many homeowners have been able to refinance under the new rules as the Kellers have.  And experts conceded that more applications do not necessarily translate to lower rates.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May082012

Google Self-Driving Car License Approved in Nevada

Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles(CARSON CITY, Nev.) -- Nevada is putting the pedal to the metal on those autonomous automobiles.

It was just two months ago that the state approved and set regulations that would allow self-driving vehicles on the state’s roadways.  And on Tuesday, it announced that it has approved Google for the first testing license under the new rules.

Google, which was instrumental in pushing through the original legislation in Nevada, has been testing its very own self-driving automobile for a number of years on its campuses and other secret locations.

“It is the first license issued in the United States under new laws and regulations that put Nevada at the forefront of autonomous vehicle development,” the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles said in a statement.

This now means that Google will be able to test its self-driving Toyota Priuses on the roads.

Other drivers will be able to tell self-driving cars apart by a red license plate, which features an infinity symbol on the left.  Of course, they also will be able to tell the difference by the large scanning laser device on the top of the car.

While Google is the first to file for an application for a license in Nevada, other car manufacturers such as BMW and Audi are working on similar vehicles.  The cars themselves use a mix of hardware and software to drive themselves.

Google maintains that the technology is not supposed to replace drivers, but rather help them.  Instead of attempting to text while driving or change the GPS location, drivers can let the car do the work while they are distracted. 

Nevada requires that two drivers be in the test cars now -- a human back-up driver and a passenger.  In the limited test program, however, Google is asking to exempt those back-up drivers from text messaging while driving laws.

Humans can always gain control of the car by taking hold of the wheel or stepping on the break.

While this is a big step in the future of the self-driving vehicle, we probably won’t be seeing these cars hitting prime time just yet.  Google’s version is still in the prototype phase.  General Motors has predicted the technology will be standard by 2020.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Apr292012

Apple Uses Legal Strategies to Avoid Paying Millions in Taxes 

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Apple, the most lucrative technology company in the world, has used legal strategies to avoid paying millions of dollars in taxes in California and 20 other states, The New York Times reports.

Although its headquarters are based in Cupertino, California, where the state's corporate tax rate is 8.84 percent, the technology giant put an office in Reno, Nevada, where the corporate tax rate is zero. Additionally, Apple has subsidiaries in other low-tax locations such as Ireland, the Luxembourg, the British Virgin Islands and Ireland, according to The Times.

While most companies employ strategies to reduce their taxes, Apple's savings are especially high--Wall Street analysts project that the technology company could bring in up to $45.6 billion this fiscal year, The Times says.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar282012

Attorneys in Nevada Homeowners Association Scandal Dead

Joseph Devenney/Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) -- A high-profile federal corruption investigation of homeowners associations in Nevada turned deadly this week when two key defendants in the case were found dead.

David Amesbury, a Las Vegas attorney targeted in the investigation, was found dead of an apparent hanging Sunday in Grass Valley, Calif., according to the Nevada County Chief Deputy Coroner Paul Schmidt. Amesbury was staying at his brother's home. Amesbury's brother could not be reached by ABC News for comment.

"There is no evidence of foul play or suspicion right now but it's still being investigated," Schmidt told ABC News. The death is being looked at as a possible suicide at this time, Schmidt said. Autopsy results will be out in about 10 weeks.

"I know of no specific reason why he would have done this," Frank Cremen, Amesbury's defense lawyer told ABC News. "I know his family doesn't believe it was suicide."

Another figure in the case, Nancy Quon, a construction defect lawyer, was found dead in a bathtub in a Henderson, Nev., condominium on March 20, Keith Paul, a spokesman for the Henderson Police Department told ABC News. Her death is still under investigation.

"Suicide will be one of the considerations along with accidental and medical, but at this time there is no evidence of foul play," Paul said.

The investigation by the U.S. Justice Department alleges Quon and Amesbury were involved in a plan that began in 2008 to take over homeowner association boards and then steer legal and construction contracts to specific firms.

The deaths, one defense attorney told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, are generating a growing sense of anxiety among those named in the federal probe.

"Some of the witnesses are extremely concerned about their well-being and safety," the defense lawyer, who was involved in plea negotiations with the government, told the newspaper. "People are dying here."

Amesbury, 57, reached a plea deal in the investigation on Oct 24. He is one of 10 defendants who have pleaded guilty in the case. Amesbury pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, according to documents from the U.S. Justice Department.

The Las Vegas attorney received $3,000 from co-conspirators to rig HOA board elections. Residents sent ballots to Amesbury's office where he allowed co-conspirators to count the votes in order to create enough fake ballots for their candidate to win, according to the Justice Department. The co-conspirators elected to the HOA boards used their positions to hire individuals and companies that would result in personal financial benefit for them, according to plea documents.

Sentencing for Amesbury was adjourned until Sept. 21. Amesbury was facing up to 30 years in jail, a million-dollar fine, or both, according to the Justice Department.

On Nov. 16, a few weeks after the plea agreement, Amesbury was found severely beaten in Henderson, Nev., according to Keith Paul, a spokesman for Henderson Police. Amesbury was found bloody, lying in the street of a gated community with a head injury and scrapes on his arms. He was not wearing a shirt and his pants were down to his ankles. Amesbury told detectives at the hospital that "he planned to commit suicide or try to," according to police reports. He later admitted he had brought 30 Valium pills with him.

The investigation into the incident was closed in January and police do not believe it was a result of Amesbury's plea agreement.

Prosecutors in the federal investigation have been building a foundation to indict 51-year-old Quon, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The investigation will continue despite the recent deaths.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May112011

Report: Google Wants Nevada to Allow Its Self-Driving Cars on Roads

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Google is lobbying for legislation in Nevada that will allow self-driving cars to be legally operated on the state's public roadways, reports The New York Times.

The Silver State is said to be the first in the nation to consider the vehicles that some day could perform automatic deliveries or even act as automated taxis on the Las Vegas casino strip.

Last year, it was revealed that the Internet search giant has been developing self-driving cars and testing them in Silicon Valley.

State lawmakers could vote on legislation to allow licensing and testing of the vehicles by June.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan262011

Nevada Had Highest Jobless Rate in 2010; North Dakota Had Lowest

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Sixteen states experienced an increase in unemployment during 2010, even as the overall national unemployment rate went down by half a percentage point, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest state and regional unemployment report.

Released Tuesday, the report found Nevada topped the national unemployment list last year with a 14.5 percent rate -- the highest level of unemployment in the state’s history.  California came in second place on the list with 12.5 percent and Florida closely followed in third with 12 percent.

North Dakota was the best place in the nation by jobless rates with 3.8 percent.  Nebraska with 4.4 percent and South Dakota 4.6 percent came in a close second and third with their low rates.

Of note, half of the country -- 25 states -- reported unemployment rates significantly lower than then 9.4 percent national average.  Seventeen states had rates that were statistically at the national average, while the eight remaining states were statistically higher than the average.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep232010

Nevada City Tops List With Highest Foreclosure Rate

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Fernley, Nevada, a city that lies 32 miles east of Reno, has the nation's highest foreclosure rate through August.  Although the recession has wreaked havoc on numerous local economies, Fernley has been hit the hardest. The city has seen more than 3,500 foreclosure filings over a 12-month period among its 17,900 housing units, according to Realty Trac, an online service that collects and aggregates foreclosure data.

According to Realty Trac, August was the toughest month for homeowners, as lenders swooped in and seized more than 95,000 homes across the U.S.  The foreclosure rate is up 25 percent since August 2009.  Efforts by the government to stem the tide of foreclosures have had mixed success. The Obama administration's main anti-foreclosure program touched a 10-month low in August with 33,000 homeowners receiving assistance. The president said in 2009 that as many as four million homeowners would be helped and about 449,000 have thus far received assistance to avoid foreclosure.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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