Casinos and Arts & Entertainment, etc. and Gambling

Indiana casino commission: Staffer hid complaints

September 7, 2010

The Indiana Gaming Commission has found that one of its staffers hid dozens of gamblers' complaints against the state's 13 casinos for a year or more, the agency said.

The commission found the misconduct after questions from The Times of Munster prompted an internal review about why 56 of 154 complaints made against the casinos during 2009 had gone unanswered.

Commission Deputy Director Jennifer Reske told The Times that the staffer, whom she wouldn't identify, faced disciplinary action. The newspaper published its story Sunday.

"What we found was surprising and unacceptable," Reske said. "It is our policy to respond to every complaint submitted to the IGC. We take our role as regulators very seriously and this incident does not reflect the pride with which we, as an agency, do our work."

Reske said the staffer had filed away the complaints unanswered and then provided "inaccurate and misleading information" making it appear they had been answered. She said the commission was working to respond to all the complaints.

One such complaint was from Harold Turner, a Westfield resident who thought in January 2009 he had hit a winning progressive jackpot combination worth up to $25,000 on a slot machine at Hoosier Park Casino in Anderson.

But casino personnel said he didn't have a winner because the reels weren't exactly aligned, according to his complaint he submitted days later to a state commission agent at the casino.

Turner said he called the agent back a few months later to see how the investigation was going.

"(The agent) said, 'We haven't reviewed it yet. We'll get back to you,'" Turner said. "Well, I haven't ever received a letter or even a phone call."

Reske said new procedures instituted by the commission have whittled down this year's complaints so that none has been pending for more than 30 days.

A gambling experts said he was shocked at the Indiana Gaming Commission's lack of action on casino patron complaints, as the written complaint process is important for regulators across the nation.

"I have never heard of another state with this situation, where the complaint process has just completely broken down," said noted gambling law expert Nelson Rose, a professor at Wittier Law School in California. "It's all fairly easy to do."

Casino managers across the state expressed surprise about the unanswered complaints, and said it was not consistent with what they had experienced in dealing with the commission over the years.

"It's useful to us in the suggestions we receive, so we can improve our service," said Jim Brown, general manager at Hoosier Park. "And it's useful because our customers have this avenue to voice their concerns."

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