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A Thousand Pounds of Dynamite

In One of the Most Unusual Ransom Schemes in Nevada history, A Mad Bomber Held an Entire Casino Captive with One Devilishly Mysterious Machine

In the early morning hours of Aug. 26, 1980, three men wheeled what looked like a piece of office equipment into the second floor offices of the 11-story Harvey?s Resort Hotel at Stateline, Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

An employee of Harvey?s Wagon Wheel Casino in Lake Tahoe, discovered the two stacked metallic grey boxes on the casino?s second floor. Unbeknownst to the employee, the boxes had just been delivered to the building by two men posing as delivery guys for IBM.

The ?machine? ? as the men sometimes called it ? was actually a homemade bomb filled with 907 pounds of explosives.
The bomb, designed with a dizzying array of triggering devices, could never be rendered safe, the bombers said in a letter they left behind that morning. The only thing authorities would be able to do is find out how to move it out of the casino to a safe place in the desert, where it could be detonated without destroying any buildings or killing any people.
But the only way to get that information, the bombers said, was to pay them $3 million in unmarked $100 bills. Harvey?s had 24 hours to act. ?Any deviation from these conditions will leave your casino in shambles,? the bombers warned.
For the next three days, the normally bustling casino district of Lake Tahoe was shut down as bomb experts from around the country tried to disable the device and authorities tried to meet the extortionists? demands. The bomb squad would later say that they had never seen a homemade bomb so complex and so powerful, and to this day it remains the most bewildering improvised explosive device the FBI has ever encountered.

Read more »

Can you beat Lotto?

There are loons out there who think you can win Lotto.

Thomas Lumley at Stats Chat blog explains the math of those claims.

That is, how to gamble in a way that over a course of a year, gives you a higher chance at a larger payout than playing NZ Lotto each week and hoping for Division 1.We all know?you can?t ?beat Lotto? in the usual sense of improving your odds of winning.

In the ordinary Saturday Lotto, you pick 6 numbers out of 40, and if all 6 are correct (which they aren?t) you win $1 million.?The chance of winning is 1 in?3838380 per ?line?. Suppose you play the minimum of 4 lines, for $6, each week for a year. The chance of winning in a year is one in?18453.75. That is, on average you?d expect to win once in every 18453 years and 9 months.

Right so not much chance at all then.

Alternatively, suppose you save up the $6 per week, and then at the end of the year go to a casino and play roulette. ?Put it all on a single number. ?If you win, put it all on a single number again, and then if you win, ?put it all on a ?double street? of six numbers. ?Your chance of winning (in double-zero roulette) is 1 in 9145.33, and if you win you will make $2426112.

So, you get twice the chance of winning as you would have for Lotto division 1, and more than twice the payout.?The expected return is 85%, much better than the 56% that NZ Lotteries returns (averaged over all its games,?annual report).

Wow…off to the casino for me…buy perhaps I should read the rest of the post…

Does that mean it?s a good idea? No. Not even slightly. ?You have a 37 in 38 chance of turning up with $300 and losing it in a few minutes. If you don?t, you have a 37 in 38 chance of losing $7500 in the next few minutes, and if you don?t, you have about an 85% chance of losing more than quarter of a million dollars. ? This strategy makes your losses obvious, which makes gambling no fun. And you still only win once every 91 centuries.

Bummer…so that doesn’t work either.

Enjoyable gambling, including Lotto, is based on making your losses less obvious by masking them with small wins and stretching them out over time. Of course, that?s also what makes gambling, including Lotto,?potentially addictive.

Essentially gambling is a tax on stupidity…the more stupid you are the higher the tax.


Kiwirail vs Skycity

Fran O’Sullivan looks at two deals…Michael Cullen’s buy back of Kiwirail off Toll Holdings and John Key’s SkyCity deal. One cost the taxpayers truckloads of cash and the other cost the taxpayers nothing.

First the Kiwirail deal.

When Michael Cullen bought “the train set” back from hard-nosed Australian transport operators Toll Holdings in 2008, Australian wags labelled it the Sale of the Century.

The former Labour Finance Minister wrote a cheque for $665 million to acquire Toll NZ’s rail and Cook Strait ferry operations and relaunched the business as KiwiRail in a patriotic fanfare at Wellington Railway Station. Toll had placed its book value for the assets at only $430 million. Naturally, Toll was feted by Australian analysts and the sharemarket which regarded the Kiwi assets as “a dog” and couldn’t believe the price the Kiwis were paying.

Hidden costs soon emerged (as well as preferential undertakings to Toll) and the “dollars out” cost became $690 million.

By the following April, the rail assets that the taxpayer had stumped up $690 million for were revalued at $349 million by Treasury – an upfront loss to the taxpayer of $321 million. ? Read more »

Green/Labour saboteurs spooking business

It is official…the?possibility?of a Green/Labour government is spooking business…so much so that they are writing in protection clauses into commercial contracts with the government to protect investment.

Sky City has announced they were ‘spooked’ by Green/Labour intervention.

The Green/Labour vandalism masquerading as power policy has spooked those with capital to invest in New Zealand – after all – why would any employer spend money here if the Government is prepared to rip up the contract, confiscate their property rights and impose new regulation?

Patrick Gower reports:

[T]here’s also a significant penalty clause aimed at Labour and the Greens. The Government will, in return, pass a law change allowing more pokies and more gambling. But there’s more. The casino has negotiated itself protection from a change of government that changes the law back.

“So after we’ve spent our $400 million, if somebody decides to take those reforms away, or change that license or do something, we’ve got nothing and we’ve spent $400 million,” says SkyCity chief executive Nigel Morrison.? Read more »

Do Not Go into Battle With A Slingshot

Rob Hosking at NBR has brought some sanity to the “high dollar’ debate that Bernard Hickey along with Selwyn Pellett and his corporate welfare gang, seem to talk about quietly and then loudly among themselves. ?Rob has dissected the issues??and provided reasons that Hick-think is so very very wrong for the New Zealand economy.

Rob looks at the enormity of our paddle pond v the world’s markets on US QE measures.

Rob goes one further


Green Amnesia

??NZ Herald

The Greens are wanting a “crackdown” on illicit casino profits, whatever they are?

The Green Party has drafted a bill that would require casinos to pay back proceeds received through criminal activity.

The Bill will amend the Criminal Proceeds of Crime (Recovery) Amendment Act to impose a special obligation on casinos to return profits derived from significant criminal activity, and which they should have detected.

Green Party gambling spokeswoman Denise Roche said problem gamblers were targeted under the existing law but the casino would not suffer.

“When problem gamblers are convicted of stealing from their employers, or laundering drug money through the casino, everyone suffers except the casino, who pockets the profits.”

“The addict is jailed, and loses their job, their family and friends. Their employer can be ruined. But the casino is better off as a result of the crime. That’s not fair,” said Ms Roche.

This is a curious change of heart. ?Because the Greens described the?proceeds of crime act as “trash”?when it went through parliament.

There is a whole lot more in this legislation that is absolutely outrageous and I thoroughly recommend this House to bin this trash right now.

Further to that in speaking at the third reading Catherine Delahunty confirmed that?the?Greens opposed totally the?Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Bill

It is the duty of this House to legislate with a strong sense of justice, as opposed to a strong sense of populism or vengeance, or a misguided commitment to policies that fail to deter crime. Therefore, the Green Party will be voting against the legislation.

There is something just a bit bizarre in this loony Green claim to now be?concerned?about the?proceeds?of crime.

Sky City Winner

That’s right Whaleoil is pleased to announce that Sky City have indeed selected?their next Government Relations Manager.

While Tracy Watkins may be of the view?that Whaleoil “runs half-baked conspiracy theories and innuendo” it turns out that?yet again my sources are better than hers. Perhaps if Watkins talked to a few more?people other than the Labour party she might just get a more accurate range of?information.

Surprise, surprise, the winner is a mate of Bews-Hair which puts the odds of 5 to 1?as pretty bloody average.

The ever so slight twist is that the winner is… Sifa Taumoepeau. Sifa has already?been Sky City’s Government Relations Manager. He had a stint a few years back?before following then head of Sky City (Evan Davies) to Todd Property.

So how close is Sifa Taumoepeau to James Bews-Hair and did Bews-Hair really?have a role in getting Sifa back in there?

Let’s have a look at a bit of history first:

  • Bews-Hair recruited Taumoepeau into the Labour Party Research Unit.
  • Bews-Hair no doubt got Taumoepeau his job at Tourism Industry Association (when?Bews-Hair left to join Sky City)
  • Bews-Hair then handpicked Taumoepeau to take on the New Zealand aspects of the?Government Relations role at Sky City (when Bews-Hair left to go to Northland and?try and help mine the place to bits)
  • Bews-Hair and Taumoepeau continue to be close friends.

Under Bews-Hair and Taumoepeau’s stewardship Sky City largely flew under the?radar, built relationships with the various problem gambling groups and did a whole?lot of wanky community outreach crap. All lovely cover for the true corporate (and?completely appropriate given they are a bloody corporate) to get what they needed?to extend their business in New Zealand and Australia.

So, how will Bews-Hair manipulate his friend this time (and isn’t it remarkable that?anyone still trusts him)? and to what end? To help Len get that conference centre?and theatre?

Anyone noticed how all of a sudden Len has suddenly got all tough on?gambling again?

Chris Hipkins and Sky City

Labour is making much of relations between National and Sky City, but what of relations with their own MPs and Sky City.

Chris Hipkins was placed with Sky City as part of the New Zealand Business and Parliament Trust scheme to educate lifelong troughers about business. Chris Hipkins explains on Red Alert:

I spent most of the past week up in Auckland on a Business and Parliament Trust placement at Sky City. The placements are a great opportunity for MPs from all parties to spend some time in a large company learning more about their business and the business environment in general. I chose Sky City for a variety of reasons, including my role as Labour?s spokesperson on gambling issues. I was also interested in the hospitality and conventions side of their business.

I found my week at Sky City an incredibly valuable one and I?d highly recommend a business placement to any MPs who haven?t already done one. I certainly hope to do another one in future years.

Interestingly Moana Mackey also spent time at SkyCity. Chris Hipkins was also full of praise for SkyCity in the newsletter of the Trust:

?Well worthwhile. A valuable opportunity to discuss a range of ?business issues particularly in such a ?highly regulated industry.

I?m keen to do another one next year!?

You can also see Chippy?s contribution to the debate on the Gambling Amendment bill. ?You will note that he puts aside casino pokie gambling:

It is useful to inject some more facts into the debate at this particular point. The gambling industry?s turnover, as I noted, was a little over $14 billion in 2007, and money lost was just over $2 billion, of which about $950 million was lost on non-casino pokie machines. That is a very significant amount of money. I am told that the money collected from non-casino pokie machines is roughly the equivalent of the entire operating cost of the New Zealand Police. Up to 42 percent of the revenue from pokie machines is from problem gamblers?people who have been identified as having a problem. They make up around 3 percent of gamblers, so a small number of people are gambling a very large sum of money through these pokie machines. Six major societies distribute around 60 percent of all non-casino expenditure funding to community organisations and each pokie-machine grant is approximately $2,438. There were 1,537 gambling venues and nearly 20,000 pokie machines in New Zealand as at December last year. Every day, $2.7 million is lost on non-casino pokie machines.

So Chris Hipkins, in speaking on a bill, was saying that non-casino pokie machines are far worse for society, and yet they now oppose the consolidation of pokie machines in SkyCity, essentially removing 500 machines from the community.

This debate took place on 5 May 2009.? His week long attachment to Sky City as part of the Business Parliamentary Trust took didn?t take place until 3 Oct 2009, however he “chose” Sky City in May 2009.

Chris Hipkins looks like he has been an able and loyal servant of SkyCity. I wonder how many times Sky City also hosted him in their corporate box for the rugby, basketball or any other corporate function?

Len Brown backs Sky City Deal

NBR Online

Len Brown has backed the SkyCity deal which will deliver a Convention Centre to Auckland at no cost to the ratepayers or taxpayers.

Auckland mayor Len Brown supports the convention centre at the heart of a contentious deal between the National Party and SkyCity Entertainment Group – a facility the council?s own research shows would be ?break-even? at best.

Under the SkyCity proposal, the casino and hotel operator would pay the full $350 million construction costs for a centre capable of holding 3500 seated delegates or 4500 in an exhibition format.

The payback for SkyCity would be changes to gambling regulations that would allow it to install more gaming machines.

Brokerage Goldman Sachs last month estimated SkyCity would need 350 to 500 extra machines to profit from the deal, generating as much as $46m of revenue in the first full year of operation.

Labour is clearly opposed to any deal where private enterprise picks up the tag, oppsed to any deal that provides 1000 construction jobs and opposed to 350 permanent jobs.

Before we listen to what Labour?has?to say about this deal let them firstly pay back the dirty money they got in donations, then let them explain how they would fund ?a $350 million Convention Centre.


Help Labour out

? The Tipline

Labour has another online campaign running, it would be a shame not to help them out. A reader thinks so and sent me this:

Hi Cameron,

Thought it might be a good idea to encourage a bit of highjacking on this web page that Labour’s got up at the moment:

I just sent my letter off to John via their web page (wonder if there are any monkeys taking too much notice of content they pass on)….

Dear John,
“I have frequented Sky City Casino on numerous occasions and have never seen all the pokie machines occupied at the same time, nor have I seen people queuing up for machines due to all the machines being occupied. It is for this reason that I have no issue with extra pokie machines and if the city will get a convention centre out of the deal – Thumbs up. Labour’s argument’s like trying to suggest more people will become alcoholics just because a liqueur shop stocks more product – Don’t listen to these liberal pussies John – people have to start wiping their own arse at some stage – You Da Man!”

That’s the way. There you go readers, off you go and help Labour send a proper message to John Key.