Seven Ex-Winnebago Tribal Council Members Sentenced for Theft of Funds from WinnaVegas Casino

Posted on: August 7, 2019, 01:16h. 

Last updated on: August 9, 2019, 10:23h.

Former Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska council member Travis Mallory has been given three years probation in connection with theft of tribal funds. He is the seventh and final tribal council member who was sentenced to probation for a scheme involving looting over $300,000 from the tribe’s WinnaVegas Casino Resort, located in Sloan, Iowa.

Iowa Rep. Bobby Kaufmann has successfully advocated for sports betting legislation. It becomes effective after seven ex-Winnebago Tribal Council members were sentenced in connection with theft of casino funds. (Image: Iowa House Republicans)

Nebraska US District Court Senior Judge Laurie Smith Camp earlier this week sentenced Mallory, age 41. In addition to probation, he must also pay a $100 fine. In March, he pleaded guilty in Omaha federal court to a theft of funds charge.

The Sioux City Journal reported that nine Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska council members gave themselves raises and bonuses totaling $327,500. Mallory told authorities that other council members approved payment of bonuses they had not earned, and he did not report it to law enforcement officials, the newspaper report said.

Other tribal members — Charles Aldrich, Louis Houghton, Lawrence Payer, Thomas Snowball, former tribal chairman John Blackhawk, and former tribal vice chairman Darwin Snyder each were given five years probation. Each must also pay restitution ranging from $36,000 to $36,500, the newspaper report said. Charges against two other tribal members were dropped.

The money allegedly was never formally approved by the council during an official meeting. The payments were described by the casino as “miscellaneous administrative expenses.”

The tribe investigated the thefts in 2015. The nine suspects then either resigned from the tribal council or were removed from office by new members of the council.

In 2016, the ex-council members were indicted on charges of conspiracy, theft from a gaming establishment on Indian lands, and wire fraud charges, the newspaper report said.

WinnaVega Sportsbook Could Soon Open

WinnaVegas Casino Resort may soon open a sportsbook, perhaps this month. That would mean it would be in time for the upcoming college and NFL football seasons.

The Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission approved a new athletic wagering rule on July 30. The rule took effect on July 31.

But actual sports betting will not be allowed any earlier than August 15. Once effective, it may be offered at the tribal casinos and some 19 commercial operations in Iowa.

Under the new law, the state will charge $15,000 a year for casinos to receive a license for sports betting. The state levies a 6.75 percent tax on the net receipts from each sportsbook. Casinos run by tribes are exempt from the tax.

Once sports betting becomes fully operational, Iowa Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-73) projects it will generate between $5 million and $10 million in annual state revenue.

But wagering on athletics will not become a “cash cow” for the state. Instead, Kaufmann said, he wants to provide a regulatory framework for an activity that is taking place anyway.

Iowa Benefits from Legal Sports Betting

Allowing casinos to take bets on sporting events would also make it less likely for residents to go to illegal bookies. The law also may make it more likely that Iowa residents would remain in their state for sports betting, rather than heading to a nearby location.

Earlier this year, Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino, located in Altoona, announced a partnership with William Hill to develop an 8,600-square-foot sports book on the fourth floor of the commercial casino. As envisioned, it includes a bar and a video wall to show sporting events and post live odds.

Nationally, Native American casinos continue to win a lot of cash. A report released last November by the American Gaming Association revealed that tribal venues account for 43.5 percent of the entire US gaming market.