Rumors swirled Wednesday morning that US law enforcement agents were preparing to pounce on a major sportsbetting business with operations both inside and outside the United States, and online sportsbetting fixture Pinnacle Sports’ name was bandied about as a likely target. Later in the day, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Mike Colbert, Cantor Gaming’s sportsbook director and manager of the M Resort race and sportsbook had been arrested in Las Vegas on a warrant filed by the District Attorney’s office in Queens County, New York. Colbert is facing eight charges of conspiracy, money laundering and enterprise corruption.
Seven other related arrests were made in Las Vegas on Wednesday. [UPDATE: The Associated Press reports their identities as Joseph Paulk, Jerald Branca, Steven Diano, Brant England, Kelly Barsell, Ian Mandell and Paul Sexton.] The LVR-J’s sources claimed agents reportedly operating within the US on behalf of Pinnacle were also arrested, which Nevada Gaming Control Board enforcement chief Jerry Markling told the AP had occurred in California and New York. The New York DA’s office is expected to reveal more regarding the arrests on Thursday morning. Pinnacle Sports abruptly withdrew its services from the US market shortly before the Patriots-Giants Super Bowl in 2007, but Wednesday’s arrests suggest the firm had maintained some kind of credit-betting activity within the States. In highly ironic timing, Las Vegas-based brick-and-mortar casino outfit Pinnacle Entertainment chose today to release its Q3 earnings report. D’oh…
Adding an extra dose of irony, Colbert was interviewed by SportingNews.com just last week regarding New Jersey’s chances in its legal fight with the major sports leagues over the state’s sports betting plans. Regarding the leagues’ claim that sports betting damages the integrity of their games, Colbert called it “a complete façade … If you’re in the business and know what’s going on, you know that if there is ever anything close to something shady that we will be the ones that are able to point it out.” Colbert’s assertion that Cantor Gaming “will explore any and all opportunities in the race and sports business” will likely cause massive eye-rolling down at Cantor HQ. For the record, there is no indication that Cantor Gaming is in any way connected with Colbert’s arrest.
[UPDATE: The M Resort is owned by Penn National Gaming. Last week, former thoroughbred owner Michael Gill lost a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission regarding Gill’s ejection from Penn National racetrack in January 2010. On Oct. 17, the Paulick Report claimed Gill “predicted a slew of federal indictments will prove that he was railroaded by Penn National ‘insiders’ who were engaging in offshore betting and other illegal activities.” The Paulick Report article goes on to state that “an FBI investigation of jockeys, jockey agents, trainers, racetrack and Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission employees will lead to as many as 42 federal indictments. The indictments, Gill said, will involve manipulation of races, offshore gambling, collusion between trainers and test barn personnel, and embezzlement.” Gill is quoted as saying that after these indictments drop, “then we’ll see if people will believe what I was saying at the time about all of the corruption at Penn National.”]
It might not be related, but around the same time Colbert was arrested, Baltimore County Police conducted raids on 10 internet café/sweepstakes businesses. While these raids might not appear to have any connection to Pinnacle or even to sports betting, the local police issued a statement that revealed it had conducted the raids in conjunction with the US Attorney’s office (which was responsible for the Blue Monday sportsbook indictments) and two federal agencies – Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security – after what the police referred to as a year-long investigation. Traditionally, these types of internet café busts don’t require more than the involvement of the local Barney Fife, so while it’s unlikely, there could be more to this than meets the eye. No arrests were made during the raids, but police are examining the evidence seized.