A former Twin River Casino executive has been named in a Rhode Island grand jury indictment for his alleged involvement in a kickback scheme with a casino vendor.
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha (D) says a state grand jury returned an indictment charging three defendants with more than 30 felony counts.
Neronha alleges that Michael Barlow used his position as vice president of food and beverage at the Twin River Casino in Lincoln, Rhode Island, to orchestrate a kickback deal with casino vendor Yehuda Amar. Barlow was hired to that position in September 2006, and later promoted in 2015 to regional director of operations for Twin River Management Group, a subsidiary of Twin River Worldwide Holdings.
The crimes alleged in the indictment not only harm legitimate business owners, but hurt the business climate in our state,” Neronha said. “Illicit deals and the crimes alleged disadvantage those businesses who play by the rules and create an unfair competitive playing field.”
Twin River is the only licensed casino operator in Rhode Island. The company owns and operates its namesake casino in Lincoln, as well as the Tiverton Casino Hotel. Outside Rhode Island, the company’s portfolio consists of Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in Dover, Delaware, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, and Arapahoe Park in Aurora, Colorado.
Twin River says it is assisting in the investigation, and Barlow is no longer employed with the company.
The grand jury indictment accuses Barlow of conspiring with Amar, a prominent and well-known real estate developer in Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Authorities allege that Barlow used his roles at Twin River to orchestrate favorable leases at the casino food courts. Amar would receive leases for the quick-service restaurant spaces for cheap, and then sublease them at higher rates.
In exchange, Barlow received debt relief from real estate investments he made with Amar in New London, Connecticut. The indictment says in buying and renovating the properties, Barlow’s share of the investment responsibility was $340,000.
An example of the favorable leases Amar received: In 2010, he signed a lease with Twin River for a food court space for $1,500 per month, plus six percent of his gross monthly sales over $30,000 to $40,000. He later subleased the space to a third-party for $4,950 per month, plus 17.5 percent of gross monthly sales.
Amar is charged with 21 counts, including bribery, obtaining property under false pretenses, conspiracy to obtain property under false pretenses, and failures to file corporate and personal income tax returns.
Barlow is charged with 12 counts, including accepting a bribe, obtaining property under false pretenses, and casino gaming crimes. Amar’s business associate, Jill Feldman, was additionally charged with six counts relating to tax crimes.
Gaming Regulators Ignite Probe
Barlow and Amar’s kickback scheme might still be ongoing if it weren’t for gaming regulators in Rhode Island. Barlow’s gaming license was up for renewal, and when the RI State Police Gaming Enforcement Unit began peeking into his personal finances, they discovered the relationship with Amar.
Upon further investigation, something didn’t add up, which led to Neronha’s office, and a subsequent grand jury, to bring charges.
The Twin River scandal is another alleged black eye on Rhode Island’s gaming industry. Governor Gina Raimondo (D) is still on the defensive for granting International Game Technology a no-bid 20-year, $1 billion contract to run the state’s lottery.