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Butcher Bookies and Weed

All hail the New Year. Looking ahead to a year that's not 2020.

Butcher Bookies and Weed

Let’s all come together and herald the arrival of the year 2021. Because movers and shakers profiled in our cover story this month will achieve amazing things in 2021. Because 2021 will reveal new advancements in payment technology, slot cabinets, patron safety and more.

But most of all, 2021 will benefit from the fact it is not 2020.

Of course, as you read this, it may already be 2021. But here in the past as I write this, it’s still that big, stinking dumpster fire of a year. To counter that, I’ve decided to take the futuristic vibe and look forward to cool stuff that’s a-comin.’

Like sports betting. All over the place. Assuming there are sports—and goodness, I hope so; I’m tired of watching Leave It To Beaver and Perry Mason—there will soon be a legal bookmaker within arm’s reach in wide swaths of the country. Of course, the flip side of that is, sadly, many fine corner bookies will be out of a job.

Like the one in the butcher shop in Pittsburgh.

Domenic Poeta was a beloved figure in Pittsburgh’s North Shore neighborhood, near the Steelers’ Heinz Field, the Pirates’ PNC Park, and of course, Rivers Casino Pittsburgh. He was the neighborhood butcher. Everyone knew him. Eventually, that “everyone” included the Internal Revenue Service, which was curious as to why a guy who reported around $30,000 on his tax returns was living in a $1.5 million house.

They didn’t buy his explanation that his mortgage rate was low. Or that he had a “really good accountant.”

It turns out that in addition to being the neighborhood butcher, he was the neighborhood bookie. His specials were pork ribs with odds on the side. “Hey, Domenic. I’ll take a pound of chipped ham, the Raiders and the points.”

According to the government, Domenic made more than $3.7 million from his bookmaking business between 2012 and 2017. Imagine his disappointment when he found out the U.S. Supreme Court was handing him competition in the form of legal sportsbooks when they repealed the federal ban on sports betting.

Domenic recently started a term of one year in prison. He also has been ordered to pay $1.4 million in back taxes.

The IRS denied his request to pay the back taxes in the form of spare ribs.

Moving on, we all know manufacturers kept up their research and development efforts while almost all casinos were shut down due to the coronavirus. Apparently, so did individual game inventors, like those in the Pickett family of San Diego, which spent their own quarantine time playing a game they’ve since registered copyrights and trademarks for, called “It’s Contagious!”

They call it a “fun pandemic-inspired card game,” according to a press release. You match cards and look for “Power Cards,” resulting in “infectiously fun twists of fate.” As far as I can tell, that’s all there is to it. There are no other references to the virus, which is kind of a relief.

But still, can a “pandemic-inspired slot machine” be far behind? “Mask Me.” It’s a persistent-style game in which the main feature centers around an unmasked crowd of people (of no particular political affiliation, mind you—it’s not partisan, just “infectiously fun”). Every time a mask symbol lands on the reels within three free spins, someone in the crowd becomes masked, and the free spins go back to three. If you achieve the masking of the entire crowd, it triggers the “Herd Immunity Progressive.”

I’ve already submitted the copyright papers, so don’t get any ideas.

Finally, it looks like New Jersey’s legalization of recreational marijuana won’t change much for Atlantic City’s casinos. My old pal Dan Heneghan, who for years was spokesman for the New Jersey Casino Control Commission and is now a consultant, commented to the Press of Atlantic City that New Jersey likely will follow Nevada’s lead with respect to legal pot—no smoking it in public places, and no reefer in casinos.

You know, I’m no expert on pot (at least in the legal sense), but it seems to me that casinos hurting from last year’s revenue losses would support having stoned gamblers, particularly in games that require attention, skill and strategy:

“Sir, are you sure you want to hit that 19?”

“Well, you know, I didn’t think so, but I reconsidered, and, you know… umm…


OK, maybe it will slow the game down, but think about the jump in gaming revenue. If I owned a casino, I’d have cocktail servers wandering around with bags of gummies.

Happy New Year!

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.  

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