In Legal Sports Betting States, How Will Justice System Handle Illegal Bookies?

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“I’m not mad, I’m proud of ya. You took your first pinch like a man, and you learned the two most important things in life. You listenin’? Never rat on your friends, and ALWAYS keep your mouth shut.”  

Those were the Goodfellas words spoken from Jimmy Conway to Henry Hill during his first “pinchin’.”  In the movie, Hill got pinched for selling illegal cartons of cigarettes, but it made us think: What happens to an illegal sports bookie when he gets arrested?

We sat down and talked with former judge John Wilson of the Brooklyn and Bronx Criminal Courts to discuss his experiences with illegal bookies during his time as a lawyer and judge, and to see how law enforcement might proceed with illegal bookies now that sports gambling has been made legal. 

Illegal Bookies Found Themselves in Court More Often in the 1980s-90s Then They Do Now. That Could Change As Number of Legal Sports Betting States Grows. 

brooklyn ny criminal court

Wilson began his career as an assistant district attorney in the Bronx in the late 1980s, before becoming a criminal defense lawyer for 11 years.  In 2004, he got elected to be a civil courts judge, and because of his experience with criminal law, Wilson was placed on the criminal bench serving in Brooklyn and the Bronx. He’s been around the legal system and collected a great amount of experiences during his time in law, and he has had his fair share of run-ins with illegal sports bookies during his tenure. (Disclosure: Wilson is the author’s uncle.)

As a young ADA, Wilson said gambling violations were much more prevalent then than they are now. He recalled that most violations he saw were from bookies “running numbers.” This deals with horse-racing trifectas, and it’s what people in the poorer neighborhoods bet on because they can’t afford to get to the track. The bookies or the number runners would have actual slips of papers of that people from these neighborhoods had bet on when they got arrested.

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