Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Closure of OTB Parlors in New York City Boom for the Mob at the Belmont Stakes

Looking for a sure thing at Saturday's 143rd running of the Belmont Stakes?

Bet on organized crime and illegal bookies to win, place and show a bigger profit at the first Belmont since Off Track Betting shuttered its 54 New York City betting parlors in December.

"Where there is money to be made, the mob is most certainly there," one veteran Bonanno family soldier said of the chance to cash in on the Triple Crown race. "They were taking bets when OTB was operating," he continued. "And I'd bet — no pun intended — that they have been taking bets on this race for weeks now."

There's a lot of money to be made: NYC OTB handled nearly $2.4 million in Belmont bets last year — a lucrative one-day windfall. A good portion of those wagers will wind up as illegal action.

Gamblers "are going to go with a bookmaker, sure," said Arnie Wexler, former head of the New Jersey Council on Compulsive Gambling. "Not all these people are going to run to the track."

A city rackets prosecutor agreed: "This has got to increase business for organized crime-controlled horse parlors."

Mob gambling rings offer other short-term benefits — no taxes taken out of your winnings, credit terms available. The latter inevitably leads to a long-term problem: loan-sharking.

"It's the constant circle of the mob," said ex-FBI undercover Jack Garcia, who spent three years inside the Gambino family. "They keep on ticking like Timex."

Last month's bust of a Staten Island sports betting operation showed how much gambling money is out there. Officials said the ring handled $100,000 a week in wagers, including bets on horse racing.

Its reputed boss even bragged that his operation, in contrast with New York's politicians, would have saved OTB from becoming the only local bookie bathing in red ink.

Jerry Stentella "was confident of his ability to run OTB well" after the success of his storefront betting parlor, prosecutors said.

He might be right.

The Bonanno soldier recalls a mob buddy pulling in about $10,000 a week from an offshore gambling operation — "and he wasn't nearly as big as most."

Garcia said the Belmont betting pool offers too great an opportunity for the mob to ignore.

"The mob is all about making money," Garcia said. "If there's an opportunity there, they'll be there like white on rice. So if you want to put some money down on the Belmont, who do you see? It's Joey Pots and Pans! He'll take that bet for you."

Thanks to Larry McShane

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