By David Sheldon
It seems like every year there is a story of a multi-million dollar (or more) gambling ring getting busted. Yet there is seemingly so much money to be made that people are still willing to take the risk in exchange for the mega cash. Below are seven of the biggest illegal gambling rings of all-time.
7) Operation Slapshot
Athletes and coaches betting on sports is nothing new, and in 2006 it was announced that Phoenix Coyotes’ assistant coach Rick Tocchet was the next in a long line of those that have tried to use insider knowledge to their advantage.
Tocchet plead guilty to being the ringleader of the $1.7 million gambling ring that got busted in what the New Jersey State Police called Operation Slapshot. To be fair, hockey betting was reportedly not involved in the ring, avoiding a Pete Rose-type situation. And Tocchet was also not the only sportsperson to be involved: an NHL owner, a half-dozen players, and even the wife of Wayne Gretzky were also mentioned by law enforcement officials.
Tocchet only missed two years of coaching after running an illegal gambling ring. (Source: 3.cdn.nhle.com)
6) Mobsters and Wall Streeters
Sounding like a movie plot, a 2013 takedown of a gambling ring involved Russian mobsters, Wall Street millionaires, and even high-profile celebrities. In addition to NYC gambling dens seemingly straight out of Rounders, federal agents also shut down a number of illegal online sport gambling websites suspected of laundering over $100 million.
One of the heads of the operation was Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, who was once one of the world’s 10 most coveted fugitives and was previously indicted for accusations that he bribed figure skating judges at 2002 Winter Olympics. Among the A-list gamblers were Alex Rodriguez, Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Mr. Rounders himself, Matt Damon.
Mobsters and wall streeters
Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov led a poker ring involving stock brokers and A-listers. (Source: espncdn.com)
5) Seoul’s Gambling Dens
In May 2016, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency announced that they had completed the biggest ever gambling raid in their country. Inside the seven different Seoul apartments the department swept through, they arrested seven and booked 80 others that were either running or participating in illegal gambling.
The department had been on the ring’s case for about five years and estimates that the den was handling $12 million in wagers a day, had profited $25 million since 2011 and accounted for 70% of all the illegal gambling done in the city.
Seoul police knocked out 70% of illegal gambling in one fell swoop. (Source: calvinayre.com)
4) Gateway Organization Bust
What investigators called the largest gambling bust in South Carolina may also be one of the largest the country has ever seen. In 2013, two men in Greenville were arrested on charges of illegal gambling and money laundering. Despite just being two of them, they were playing bank for illegal gambling houses across the country, making in excess of $400 million.
In addition to seizing countless gambling machines, computers, and bank accounts, the feds also acquired sports cars and a million-dollar private plane. Both men were forced to forfeit $20 million each but faced jail time no longer than a year.
Illegal gambling machines were just some of the things SC prosecutors discovered.
3) Macau World Cup Betting Ring
Usually, large-scale betting ring busts take place where betting isn’t illegal, but such is not the case with a bookmaking ring that was pinched in Macau. The ring was estimated to have handled $645 million in wagers for the 2014 World Cup, including individual bets as high as $5 million.
Twenty-two were arrested in the three hotel rooms they were taking bets via phone and internet from around the world. Coincidentally, just hours later another, separate, betting ring was busted in the same hotel.
The biggest gambling city in Asia was home to one of the biggest gambling stings. (Source: cdn2.com)
2) Costa Rican Catch
The 2015 NFL season was an incredibly profitable one for four men running a gambling ring in Costa Rica, and later, the authorities. The men were running a gambling ring through sites like WagerABC.com and TheWagerSpot.com and reportedly took $1 billion in wagers during the NFL season.
To launder their massive earnings, the guys bought over 20 houses in Costa Rica. In what a district attorney called the “largest gambling operation ever dismantled by a local prosecutor’s office”, they ended up facing bails as large as $2 million and up to 25 years in prison.
$1 billion in bets turned into potential jail time. (Source: gannett-cdm.com)
1) The Five-Billion Dollar Bust
Everything is bigger in Texas, including its illegal gambling rings. One that got busted in 2013 in the Plano-area may have been the biggest of all. Run by Albert Reed Jr. and a number of retired businessmen, a decade-long investigation revealed that the men had handled more than $5 billion in sports bets over a period of four years.
The operation spread far beyond north Texas and was set up through a company called Global Internet Corporation running out of Curacao. There the company operated 25 different betting websites through which bettors could log in secretly and place their wagers. For their crimes, only one of the 18 men (Reed Jr.) got any prison time. However, they did have more than $10 million in property confiscated, including signed Tiger Woods condominiums and golf shoes.