When Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno needs to unwind, he likes to gamble – and his financial disclosure forms indicate it’s been an extremely lucrative vice for him.
When Marceno filed his 2022 financial disclosure forms with the state last month, he listed $168,696 in extra income from gambling at Seminole Tribe casinos, including the Hard Rock in Hollywood.
That may sound like a lot of money, but it represented a substantial drop in income from gambling for Marceno at the same casino in 2021, when he quietly reported $290,183 in gambling proceeds, making it a total of $458,879 in the two-year period. In the same period his public county salary paid him $354,467.
Marceno didn’t respond to requests for comment about that money or his gambling, but his undersheriff, John Holloway, was deployed to explain the situation to the Florida Trident. Holloway said he’s gone out gambling with Marceno on a few occasions and the sheriff enjoys playing slot machines to relax, a habit he shared with his late grandmother with whom he was very close.
Holloway said the income from the casino doesn’t represent the windfall for Marceno that it appears to be. The sheriff’s slot machine playing at Seminole casinos is tracked on a digital card, said Holloway, but only the wins were factored into the totals disclosed on the forms filed with the state’s Commission on Ethics.
“If the sheriff made $450,000 in two years, I’d be hitting him up for a pay raise,” Holloway jested. “That’s not a net number and it doesn’t reflect the size of the wagers. If somebody was to bet $100,000 and win another $100,000, it looks like they won $100,000. But if they keep betting and lose, it doesn’t show up on the form.”
In a bid to confirm Holloway’s information, the Trident submitted a public records request for the actual digital gambling records. The request remained outstanding when this story was posted.
However much the sheriff won or lost, the figures indicate the sheriff has spent a considerable amount of time playing slot machines. Is Holloway concerned his boss may be a gambling addict?
“Absolutely not,” he answered. “I think the most I ever saw him gamble at one time was twenty bucks. He would make $20, then he would make $20, then he would lose $20, and then he would lose $20. I never worried about the sheriff.”
Marceno listed Seminole Gaming, which has a compact with the State of Florida to legally provide slots, as the sole source of his gambling income. The state’s recently formed Florida Gaming Control Commission is cracking down on small arcades that also offer slots.
Records show that two Lee County arcade companies, Jackpot Skills Arcade Inc. and Maxx Amusement and ATM LLC, have contributed $10,000 each to the sheriff’s PAC, The Friends of Carmine Marceno.
Holloway said Marceno always put in a full workload and more at the sheriff’s office, despite the gambling. But he said he expects the sheriff’s income from gambling will be “substantially reduced” on his next annual disclosure form.
“We have busier schedules this year,” said the undersheriff. “We have had a major hurricane, we have advancements in the agency that take time, we have construction projects, our third helicopter will be arriving soon. I see him at work all the time this year. I don’t think he has the time now to gamble for relaxation.”
About the Author: Bob Norman is an award-winning investigative reporter who serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Florida Trident and journalism program director for the Florida Center for Government Accountability. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.