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Poker News | World Poker News

18 Arrested at Borgata Casino

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Atlantic City's Borgata Casino and Hotel was the site of an illegal gambling bust recently when an illegal bookmaking ring was discovered operating out of the poker room.

So far, 18 people have been arrested for bookmaking and five more are being sought by authorities. The illegal sports gambling ring was being run out of the high stakes poker room, with many of the Borgata's employees being involved in the operation.

Four of those arrested are reportedly associated with Philadelphia mob boss, Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino. The men are identified as, Andrew Micali, of Ventnor, Anthony Nicodemo and Michael Lancellotti, of Philadelphia, and Vincent Procopio, of Brigantine. Merlino is the suspected ringleader of the operation.

The charges against the men include: bookmaking, money laundering, loan sharking and promoting gambling.

In all, twenty-three people were charged, including several casino employees. The employees who were charged include poker room supervisors, a bartender, and poker dealers.

One of the employees arrested was Borgata supervisor Joseph Wishnick, 42, of Brigantine. Bail was set at $50,000 for all of those charged, except for ringleader Micali, his bail is $100,000. No word yet if any of those jailed have posted bail.

Casino Control Commission spokesman Daniel Heneghan, said his department was expected to punish the casino employees who were involved.

The illegal operation was discovered thanks to a tip by an informant. Authorities then watched the poker room surveillance cameras to catch the illegal betting in action.

According to New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram, this was a very lucrative operation, with the ring pocketing over 22 million in bets since March of 2006. The bets were made on professional and college basketball and football games.

"They sought to escape detection by enlisting casino employees in their crimes," Milgram said. "I'm pleased to say they greatly underestimated our vigilance and determination to keep organized crime out of Atlantic City casinos."

In regards to how the casino employees were involved, Milgram said, "The ring engaged in massive money laundering, facilitated by casino employees who would not record certain exchanges of cash and gambling chips. This is a common method of money laundering at casinos called chip washing."

"It involves taking cash, turning it into chips, 'washing' the chips by betting and then turning them in, and taking cash out," she added.

Rob Stillwell the Borgata spokesman, said of the sting, "The ring involved rogue employees. No one was arrested on the casino floor, and the integrity of the casino's operations was never compromised."

Word of mouth is how the ring became well known among gamblers looking to place an illegal sports bet. As the word spread, the gamblers were told who to place their bets with in the poker room.

Business is booming for the illegal bookmakers because Atlantic City has no legal sports book like Nevada does.

The loan sharking side of the operation, saw losing bettors forced into getting a loan from the ring to pay for their losses. Authorities said these loans were made with an astounding 50 percent interest.

Authorities searched a safe deposit box, which Micali had at the casino and seized more than $40,000 worth of cash and Borgata chips from it. They also got a warrant and froze his bank account, which had a balance of over $200,000.

If the charges in this latest raid prove to be true, it will be one of the worst mob involved incidents to occur within the N.J. casino industry since 1978, when the first casino opened in Atlantic City.

New Jersey held a tight reign on legal gambling when casinos were first legalized, fearing involvement from the mobs. Over the years the regulations have been loosened, but no doubt this incident will see the reigns tightened again.

Former Governor Brendan T. Byrne, upon signing the law legalizing casinos in 1977 said, "I've said it before and I will repeat it again to organized crime: Keep your filthy hands off Atlantic City. Keep the hell out of our state!"

This is not the first incidence of an illegal betting ring being busted in New Jersey. In 2006, NHL hockey coach Rick Tocchet, along with a state trooper, and another man were charged with running an illegal sports betting ring. All of them pleaded guilty.

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