On Oct. 3, US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York unsealed various indictments against a group of alleged members of the Colombo organized crime family. Those charges include an attempt made to fix an NCAA Division I men’s basketball game.
Prosecutors also say the federal Wire Act was violated when members of the criminal organization assisted in “the placing of bets” on sporting events.
Court-authorized wiretaps allegedly captured the defendants scheming to fix a December 2018 NCAA basketball game. The recordings reportedly include evidence that one member of the group offered players on an unspecified team thousands of dollars to lose intentionally.
Someone may have tried to bribe college athletes. However, the US Attorney’s Office did not release details regarding the game. Plus, the office charged one defendant with attempting to fix a game, not fixing it.
This all suggests the fix was never in and the defendant’s efforts were rebuked.
Regardless, the proximity of the criminal organization to New Jersey may bring up questions about the involvement of the burgeoning NJ sports betting market.
Or, at the very least, if these and other criminal organizations are somehow able to take advantage of legal sports betting in the Garden State.
Here are three good reasons why that likely didn’t happen here and probably never will.
1. The NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement
The state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) didn’t just put together the rules and regulations for sports betting in New Jersey, it actively enforces them.
The DGE is closely watching all sports betting activities in the state.
So much so it has already issued the former BetStars NJ a $10,000 fine for accepting multiple bets on the Rutgers and Monmouth men’s basketball teams. Sportsbooks can’t take bets on NJ college sporting events under state rules.
Plus, the DGE also fined Borgata Atlantic City $500 for taking unapproved bets on the now-defunct Alliance of American Football.
While anecdotal, both examples provide solid evidence the DGE is working hard and staying attentive to the market. The organization is in place to make sure NJ sportsbooks and their customers comply with state betting regulations.
It’s doubtful this dutiful gaming regulator would let any activities conducted by the Colombo crime family slip through the cracks.
2. The paper trail
Organized crime groups generally operate in the shadows. The legal NJ sports betting operates in the clear, regulated, and tracked light of day.
Making a fix profitable requires big bets or widespread betting patterns. This is the kind of activity that raises red flags at NJ sportsbooks. Plus, sportsbooks would not hesitate to blow the whistle if they found something untoward.
Mobsters know this. Operators create a paper or electronic trail every time someone places a bet in NJ. They know that, too. Criminals may attempt to avoid the obvious tracking that occurs with online betting. But retail sportsbooks will catch them on camera instead.
Setting up an account, let alone placing a bet, using one of New Jersey’s 17 legal betting apps aren’t simple tasks. For one, account registration includes your social security number, your personal info, as well as verifying your location.
Mobsters trying to fix a game are much more likely to
There’s certainly less chance the NCAA fix would be detected there.
3. Legal sports betting actually
Lawmakers created the original ban on sports betting (aka PASPA) to protect the integrity of sports and prevent match-fixing.
It didn’t work. Instead, an estimated $150 billion a year illegal sports betting market was born out of it.
Legalization does more than just provide a new tax revenue stream to NJ. It better protects the integrity of sports by turning a black-market activity into a legitimate and regulated one.
In fact, the tools are now in place in New Jersey for sports leagues to work with sportsbooks and gaming enforcement officials to identify corruption and go after it.
It’s not impossible that the bets in a fix could be made at legal sportsbooks in NJ. It’s just not likely, considering there are still illegal and offshore options available.
Until legal sports betting spreads further across the US and lawmakers and gaming regulators work to actively stamp out the black market, situations like this will continue to come up.
It’s just irresponsible to suggest it has anything to do with the launch of legal sports betting in NJ. Particularly when you consider the legalization of sports betting is doing more to prevent this kind of corruption than any other sports betting law ever has.