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Thursday, November 15th, 2007

Poker Bookies Busted

BY TOM SOMACH

An illegal sports betting operation that was run from the poker room of an Atlantic City casino was busted Wednesday, with 18 people getting arrested, including four with mob ties.

According to the Associated Press, New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram said the bookmaking operation since March of last year took in about $22 million in bets on college and professional football and basketball in the poker room of the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, N.J.

Police said the suspected ringleader of the operation, Andrew Micali, 32, of Ventnor, N.J., is an associate of Philadelphia mob boss Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino, A.P. reported.

Three associates of Micali also were arrested on charges of promoting gambling, money laundering and loan-sharking: Vincent Procopio, 41, of Brigantine, N.J.; and Anthony Nicodemo, 36, and Michael Lancellotti, both of Philadelphia, Pa., A.P. reported.

Milgram told A.P.: “They sought to escape detection by enlisting casino employees in their crimes. I’m pleased to say they greatly underestimated our vigilance and determination to keep organized crime out of Atlantic City casinos.”

Authorities said the Borgata cooperated with the investigation and let investigators use casino surveillance video, A.P. reported.

Borgata spokesman Rob Stillwell told A.P. the ring involved “rogue employees” and that, “No one was arrested on the casino floor and the integrity of the casino’s operations was never compromised.”

The casino employees involved in the sports betting ring included poker room supervisors, dealers and a bartender, A.P. reported.

Milgram said authorities followed the money from the casino to the wire rooms in Philadelphia, which were used to tally the bets and calculate winnings and payouts, A.P. reported.

She added that the sports betting operation was publicized mainly by word of mouth among illegal gamblers, who were advised whom to see in the poker room to place their bets, A.P. reported.

She also said the bookmaking ring engaged in massive money laundering facilitated by casino employees who would not record certain exchanges of cash and gambling chips, a common method of money laundering at casinos called chip washing, A.P. reported.

During the bust, authorities seized more than $40,000 worth of cash and Borgata chips from a safe deposit box Micali maintained at the casino, A.P. reported.

(E-mail Tom Somach at [email protected])

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