The histories of gambling and organized crime in the United States are deeply intertwined. However, gambling advocates maintain that present concerns about mob involvement in casinos and other forms of legal gambling are relics of a bygone era. American Gaming Association President Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., contends, "The only place where organized crime can be linked to today's (casino) industry is in the movies."1 Despite such denials, the reality is that organized crime continues to make its presence felt in various aspects of state-sanctioned gambling operations.
- In 1998, several Detroit Mafia figures stood trial for, among other charges, attempting to gain a secret interest in three Nevada casinos.2
- Further, the premise that legalizing gambling would undercut illegal operations has proven false. William Jahoda, a former Chicago-area Mafia gambling director, testified before members of Congress in 1995 that legalized gambling has been a boon to mob gambling operations: "[A]ny new form or expansion of existing state-controlled licensed gambling always increased our market share. Simply put, the political dupes or stooges who approved riverboat gambling houses, lotteries, off-track horse betting sites, Las Vegas nights, etc., became our unwitting-and at least to my knowledge-unpaid pimps and frontmen."3
- The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Philadelphia mob boss Joseph Ligambi and Peter "Petey Boxcars" Cosoleto of New York were permanently banned from all Atlantic City casinos by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission after promoting the use of casinos for mob meetings. The commission voted unanimously to add these mobsters to the state exclusion list already numbering 150.4
- In April 1997, the Associated Press reported: "A reputed crime syndicate tried to infiltrate and control an Indian casino near San Diego, the second time in 10 years that the casino was allegedly targeted, according to federal indictments." Seventeen people were charged, including numerous members of organized crime families from Pittsburgh and Ohio. In the previous incident, nine reputed Chicago organized crime figures were convicted of racketeering, extortion and other charges.5
- In Louisiana, 25 individuals were convicted for taking part in a scheme designed to skim video poker profits for the Marcello, Genovese and Gambino crime families in Louisiana and New York. Among those convicted was a former New Jersey deputy attorney general, who also had served as an executive with the Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, N.J.6
- In February 1998, the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier reported: "South Carolina lawmakers left the door wide open for organized crime when they wrote the law on video gambling. And it looks as if organized crime walked right on in. Federal court documents and South Carolina corporate records show a link between South Carolina's video gambling industry and a Pittsburgh organized crime ring."7
- In 1994, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported: "Companies and individuals with links to East coast Mafia families have made millions of dollars doing business with five northern Minnesota casinos."8
- Reputed organized crime members from New Orleans and Los Angeles were convicted along with casino employees in a blackjack-cheating scheme at the President Casino in Gulfport, Mississippi.9
- In the 1980's, the Christian Science Monitor reported, "Atlantic City has become a magnet for organized crime members." After reviewing court documents and public records, the paper identified 11 different organized crime families that had participated in rackets designed to profit from labor unions and casino service providers in Atlantic City.10
1 Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., letter to the editor, (Baton Rouge, La.) Advocate, August 8, 1997, p. 8B.
2 Associated Press, "Skimming Scheme Overheard, FBI Agent Testifies at Detroit Trial," Las Vegas Sun, March 3, 1998, p. 6B; David Josar, "Defense Rests in Mob Trial," Detroit News, April 9, 1998, p. C2.
3 William Jahoda, Statement before the House Judiciary Committee Hearing on the "National Gambling Impact and Policy Commission Act," September 29, 1995.
4 Amy Rosenberg, "Casino Panel Bans Reputed Philadelphia Mob Boss," The Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb. 14, 2003.
5 Matthew Fordahl, "Indictment Alleges Organized Crime Infiltration of Indian Casino," Associated Press, April 18, 1997.
6 Joe Gyan, Jr., "Book Closes on Mob Try to Infiltrate Louisiana Gambling," (Baton Rouge, La.) Advocate, October 13, 1996, p. 1A.
7 Mike Soraghan, "Crime Ring Linked to Video Poker," (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, February 15, 1998, p. A1.
8 Chris Ison and Lou Kilzer, "Mafia Associates Had Ties to 5 Casinos," Star Tribune, May 29, 1994, p. 1A.
9 Michael Perlstein, "Arrests Link Mob to Casino Card Scam," (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, June 2, 1995, p. A1; "The Mob and Gambling Scam," Times-Picayune, February 21, 1996, p. B6.
10 Victoria Irwin and Warren Richey, "Holding the Mob at Bay?," Christian Science Monitor, August 28, 1986, p. 18.