Italian authorities have broken up an illegal online gambling business that handled daily bets worth €11.5m and allegedly had ties to organized crime groups.
On Wednesday, Italian authorities arrested 11 individuals, including Luigi Tancredi (pictured), the alleged ringleader. The investigation, which police dubbed The Imitation Game, resulted in the seizure of assets worth €10m, including arcades, restaurants, cars and corporate bank accounts.
The ring reportedly controlled some 12k online gaming and video lottery terminals in bars and gaming halls across the country. Police said the machines – which required a special password to access – offered unlimited stakes and paid better odds because the operators paid no taxes on the revenue.
Roma Today quoted police saying the machines allowed punters to access the DollaroPoker site, which was set up in Romania under the banner of Dollarobet SRL and operated from servers based in Tampa, Florida.
Some of the venues in which the machines were situated were reportedly mafia-controlled. Among those arrested were a member of the Camorra clan and a boss of the ‘Ndrangheta group, Nicola ‘Rocco’ Fernia. The ‘Ndrangheta organization was the subject of a police operation last summer that targeted data transmission centers (CTD), internet cafes with machines linked to international online gambling sites.
Finance Police Colonel Allessandro Cavalli told reporters that wiretaps revealed some mafia members observing that online gambling was “more profitable than drug trafficking.” The Casalesi clan reportedly struck a deal with Tancredi to allow his machines in their halls north of Naples, from which the clan’s cut came to €45k to €60k per month.
Tancredi, who was known as the ‘king of slots’ from his previous tenure with the country’s legal gaming industry – which included founding the Italypoker.it site – has been charged with criminal association of a transnational character as well as violations of the country’s anti-mafia laws. Prosecutors called Tancredi the “indispensable link” between mafia groups and the world of information technology.
Tancredi and Fernia were previously the subject of another investigation dating back to 2013, in which Tancredi was accused of running 33 illegal online gambling sites, including Dollaro and Starpklive. The following year, the Court of Bologna dismissed indictments against Tancredi, but it appears prosecutors weren’t put off the scent.