The (illegal) Beach Club shines

For the first half of the 20th century, Edward Riley Bradley’s Beach Club, located in Palm Beach, was the finest illegal gambling establishment in Florida and, some would argue, the entire country.

You can read more about illegal casinos (and legal ones too) in Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling

Go here to read an excerpt from the book, or learn where to buy your copy.

Gambling the Chicago Way, Circa 1850

It didn’t take long for the Windy City to develop a reputation as a center for illegal gambling. By the 1850s, there were a host of upscale but dishonest skinning houses near Lake and State streets, and lower-amenity gambling in a rough part of town known as the Sands (this area has no known connection to the later Las Vegas casino of the same name).

You can learn plenty more about Chicago’s long gambling historyin Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling

Go here to read an excerpt from the book, or learn where to buy your copy.

Extreme Makeover: Sports Betting Edition

Cops in Royal Oak, Michigan, have gotten their digs renovated–thanks to bookies. From the Chicago Tribune:

The second floor of the citys police station has a new look thanks to money seized a decade ago from a sports gambling operation.

The department put up almost $34,000 for the $52,000 renovation completed Wednesday, most of it from money seized in 1999 when officers broke up a high-stakes football betting operation.

"It was a Super Bowl party on steroids," interim Chief Christopher Jahnke told The Daily Tribune. "We took a lot of money from the scene."

Vice forfeiture laws allow the department to keep and use money seized in gambling and prostitution cases.

"We were looking for the proper way to spend it," Jahnke said, and the upstairs area hadnt been updated since the building opened 46 years ago.

"We used to get complaint after complaint that this was a dirty, dingy place," he said.

Now it has upgrades, including new carpeting and tiling, updated lunchroom counters and secondhand but good-quality furniture, including 15 desks, two conference tables, 30 chairs and lockable file cabinets.

Royal Oak cops renovate station with seized cash —

I don’t know exactly what about this story is funny, but I like the irony of the proceeds of an illegal gambling operation funding the police department’s renovations.

Gambling ref pleads guilty

Tim Donaghy, the NBA ref accused of gambling on games that he refereed, has plead guilty. From USA Today:

The Boston Celtics, favored by four points, faced the 76ers in Philadelphia on Dec. 13 and won 101-81 in what seemed to be just another NBA blowout featuring bad Atlantic Division teams.

On or about the same date in Pennsylvania, an NBA referee assigned to that game had spoken in code with someone by phone to give him his pick for what NBA team to bet on. The next day, that “top-tier” referee, Tim Donaghy, met with gambling associates in Pennsylvania to pick up his cash payment for the pick.

On or about Dec. 26, Donaghy made a similar call to give another pick. That night he worked the Memphis Grizzlies-Wizards game in Washington, won 116-101 by the 7½-point favorite home team.

And on or about March 11 of this year, Donaghy met with a man in Toronto and got a cash payment. That night he worked the game won by the 6½-point favorite Raptors 120-119 vs. the Seattle SuperSonics.

In a court very different from where he once worked, Donaghy, 40, pleaded guilty Wednesday to two felony charges in the gambling scandal that has stunned the sports world. Released on $250,000 bond from federal court in Brooklyn, he faces up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced Nov. 9 for conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting betting information through interstate commerce.

“Some of my picks included games I had been assigned to referee,” Donaghy said. It is not known if he made officiating calls during the game to help the team he predicted would win.

The “rogue” referee, as NBA Commissioner David Stern described Donaghy, must pay a $500,000 fine and at least $30,000 in restitution.

Former ref Donaghy details his gambling deception –

As with the Tocchet case, I would hope that some good can come out of what is an awful situation for everyone involved–namely, a serious discussion of the relationship between gambling and sports. But, since this is just a “rogue” referee, I guess we won’t be hearing too much more about gambling and sports—until the next “isolated incident” erupts into scandal.

NBA ref gambling scandal

This might put the kabosh on plans to bring an NBA franchise to Las Vegas…or not. An NBA ref has reportedly used his position to influence the outcome of games he had action on. From UPI:

An NBA referee is reportedly under investigation by U.S. authorities for allegedly fixing games over the past two seasons, the New York Post said Friday.

The newspaper’s report said the National Basketball Association was aware of the investigation but had been requested by the FBI not to comment.

The investigation allegedly involved members of New York’s organized crime community to whom the unidentified referee owed money because of a gambling problem. The Post said the referee allegedly made calls to affect the outcome of games he was betting on. The number of affected games was said to be “in the double digits.”

The FBI’s yearlong investigation was concluding and arrests were expected soon, the report said.
United Press International – NewsTrack – Sports – Report: NBA ref probed for gambling

That’s about the biggest crime you can pull in sports today–fixing games damages the credibility of the league itself.

That being said, it doesn’t look like this case has anything to do with legal sports betting. If the ref was in debt to New York’s “organized crime community” (what a euphemism!), he was probably betting with an illegal bookie to start with.

Still, it’s a bad way for the words “NBA” and “gambling” to be seen in the same sentence. I’m not sure this will hurt Mayor Goodman’s efforts to bring a team here, but it certainly won’t help.

Consul craps busted

I don’t have much of a reason for putting this story up, except to prove perhaps that gambling can flourish anywhere. From The Raw Story:

Police were searching for Senegal’s honorary consul after finding the consulate in Singapore was doubling as a gambling den packing up to 100 enthusiasts a night, officials said on Sunday. Benny Kusni, an Indonesian businessman appointed consul for the African nation last December, has not returned home since a police raid on the consulate Friday night. It was not known if he is still in the city-state.

The 31 people nabbed by police in the raid included 23 who are suspected of being part of the den’s operations on the top floor of the five-storey building.

A mixture of Malaysians and Indonesians were charged in court on Saturday with operating an illegal gambling den and could face fines of up to 50,000 Singapore dollars (31,800 US dollars) and jail time of up to three years.

Police were tipped-off last week after an investigation by The Straits Times unveiled the den’s operations, complete with semi- circular baccarat tables, quarters with mattresses and pillows on the floor and a well-stocked pantry.

In all, police recovered about 80,000 Singapore dollars (51,000 US dollars) in two metal safes plus gambling paraphernalia including chips and cartons of playing cards.

While the consulate was open for official business during the day to deal with visas and other issues, it was filled from evening to dawn with gamblers placing bets ranging from a minimum of 100 Singapore dollars (64 US dollars) to a maximum of 30,000 Singapore dollars (19,000 US dollars). Credit of up to 50,000 Singapore dollars (32,000 US dollars) was available.

A VIP room catered to high rollers, those with 100,000 Singapore dollars (63,000 US dollars) worth of chips.

Diners at a nearby coffee shop told The Straits Times they had been approached by young men and women to gamble at the den.

“There’s been some unfamiliar people going up the building in the past few weeks,” an unidentified employee at a lighting shop was quoted as saying.

“Many of them look fierce,” he said, “but there were also some young and pretty ladies.”

The Raw Story | Senegal honorary consul missing after consulate gambling den found

This sounds almost exactly like the “first class skinning houses” of 19th century New York City, with touts circulating through the city to bring business in. And if you want to read more about them, try Roll the Bones.

A bigger baang

I’m not a big Stones fan, but I couldn’t resist the title. No, it’s not a typo: there really is such a thing as a baang, and baangs are big business in South Korea. From the Washington Post:

When a South Korean police squad cracked down on illegal computer gambling, they did it by literally smashing hard disc drives with hammers.

It took more than a dozen men and an excavator to destroy 670 computers seized from illegal Internet gambling salons in the southern city of Ulsan.

“There are more computers like that in our office waiting for disposal,” said Byeon Dong-ki, an officer at the Ulsan Police Agency.

South Korea’s myriad Internet cafes used to be a choice youth hangout in this ultra-wired country. The cafes soon became the cradle of the nation’s booming online gambling industry that now threatens to overwhelm video console games.

Just a few years ago, the cafes known as PC baangs were full of teenage boys slaying virtual beasts in the virtual universe of multiplayer online games, standing next to grown-ups staring intently at Asian checker screens, contemplating their next move.

Now the industry faces a formidable competitor — adults-only video casino bars, which are thriving across the country, where gambling is mostly illegal.

Only one of the country’s 17 legal casinos allows locals to gamble. Nevertheless, money-betting video games have mushroomed in recent years, first with virtual horse races and then video slot machines.

While no real cash is allowed to change hands, the government allowed gambling arcades a huge loophole by letting them give out “gift certificates,” which could then be easily exchanged for cash after payment of a 10 percent commission.

A boom soon followed amid suspicions that some operators had begun to unlawfully reprogram games to allow higher payouts and win more gamers.

“People come here for money, not for the fun,” said a young employee behind the counter at Whale Story, an adult game parlor in Seoul. “PC baangs are for kids,” said Park, who declined to be identified by his full name.

Arcades devoted to “Sea Story” reportedly had annual sales of more than $15 billion. The culture ministry also said that the value of gift certificates issued in South Korea over the past year totaled 30 trillion won ($31.5 billion).
South Korea Web cafes take hit from video gambling –

First of all, remember that this is a country where there are professional Starcraft players. You read that right–this article talks about the game’s popularity there. So there’s definitely an appetite for video gambling. Combine that with the seemingly-inherent human urge to gamble, and you can see why gambling baangs would be big business.

I’ll come clean–I just get a kick out of writing “baang.” I’m visualizing it as a Batman TV-show style graphic.

Shaming the game

Illegal gambling is notoriously hard to stamp out, because it is usually socially acceptable. A Philippine anti-gambling group wants to change that. From INQ7:

A man from a remote barangay in Central Luzon unwittingly placed a bet on “jueteng,” the underground lottery so despised by the clergy in his area.

He didn’t win the pot, but got an unenviable prize just the same: The infamy of having his name displayed at the local chapel as a “sugalero” (gambler).

A new movement formed by antigambling advocate, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz, is planning a similar shame campaign to discourage people from gambling, whether legal or illegal.

“We would like our chapters to come up with their own creative approach against gambling,” he said yesterday in a press conference launching the Krusadang Bayan Laban sa Sugal.

The new group was the archbishop’s answer to what he called the Arroyo administration’s relentless promotion of a “gambling culture” in the country.

Shame campaign vs gambling planned –

Like you, I wondered what a barangay is. It’s something like a village or ward.

Maybe this’ll work, but I think that it only have a chance if “sugalero” has negative cultural connotations. In the US, it’s doubtful that most people would find being called a “gambler” a mark of shame; Kenny Rogers, at least, embraces the label.

What will it take?

Internet gambling is getting bigger and bigger. The NCAA, for example, has learned that, shockingly, people are using the phrase “March Madness” to promote betting on its championship tournament. And the organization is piping hot mad: it’s issued cease and desist orders.

To protect Americans from online gambling, two Congressmen have re-introduced the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act. Ostensibly, they want to protect children “placed in harm’s way.” Seriously. But given the fact that other countries are free to license online betting sites, and it is difficult at best to restrict access to them (at least with things like privacy rights and freedom of information cluttering up the scene), it’s doubtful that Congress can legislate the ability to place bets online away. How could it be done?

Well, this is the approach that China is taking (from China Daily):

China’s Internet media and content providers have pledged to protect cyberspace from pornography, gambling and other “unhealthy content” through self-regulation and legal measures.

The call was made at a regular meeting on Saturday held by the Internet News Service Work Committee under the Internet Society of China (ISC) in Haikou, capital of China’s southernmost island province of Hainan.

“In 2005 alone, we received 127,010 complaints from the public, including 68.2 percent about pornography and 8.15 percent about gambling frauds,” said Li Jiaming of the ISC.

Li said since his center was established on June 10, 2004, it has received 240,000 complaints from the public.

The work committee passed several self-regulation agreements in 2005, pledging to improve the conduct of Internet Industry Participants and promote and ensure the sound development of the Internet industry in line with the law.

China to cut down on pornography and gambling

While I was interviewed for a newspaper article on the subject, I observed that, in a nation where the President is under fire for allowing law enforcement to eavesdrop on people who call al-Quaeda, voters are hardly likely to get behind any attempt to prevent Americans from gambling where they want. It might be a bit of an oversimplification, but I’ve learned that pithy beats laboriously analyzed any day of the week, particularly when you’re talking to a reported on deadline. Still, it’s something to ponder: do we want the government exercising China-style influence over the Internet?

Illegal gambling and…parking?

I’m doing a quick hit today because I’ve been totally pre-occupied with getting ready for the big relaunch. But this story was hard to pass up. Check out the intro from the Philly Daily News:

KNOW IT’S wrong, but I feel for the lunks who got busted for operating that illegal Port Richmond casino.

You heard about these guys, right? They were nailed last week for operating a gambling parlor called “The Players Club” – so classy! – out of a Castor Avenue warehouse.

They had nine gaming tables, a poker machine, an ATM and a sixpack-per-gambler drink limit.

What they didn’t have was off-street parking.

Bad move, dudes.

Neighbors were so pissed about sharing car space with casino-goers, they tipped off City Councilman Frank DiCicco about the club. He called the vice squad, and the sting was done.

Parking will get you every time in this town.

While I don’t excuse the guys who ran the casino – the place also generated trash and noise at all hours – I can empathize with their hunger for a taste of America’s $73 billion gambling pie.

Knock off even a crumb, baby, and you’re rolling in dough.

When we Americans aren’t flushing the rent money at legal casinos, we’re betting it at the track, using it to play Powerball, or gambling it away online. When we’ve lost our last dime, we can still watch celebrities play “Texas Hold’Em” on TV.

God help us, our addiction has spread even to Iraq. According to online sports-betting organization, the company has seen a steady increase in Iraqi gamblers now that the U.S. government has broadened Internet access in that war-torn land.

“I wish I’d known it was a casino,” Port Richmond resident Pat Longacre told me Sunday, as we gazed at the shuttered club, which exudes all the glamour of an L&I clean-and-seal. “I’m tired of driving to Showboat.”

Ronnie Polaneczky | In gambling biz, all bets are off for average folks

Yeah, that drive to the Showboat can be rough.