Sports forums – Bookies Forum Provides you links to the best Sports betting forums. Find free picks, contests, and sports betting discussions. With Southern Californians spending billions to gamble illegally on sports events–the “action” on Super Bowl XXXIIIX is expected to set records–why aren’t the cops taking a harder line?
BEFORE LAST YEAR’S Super Bowl, Larry Flynt had a hunch. Hustler magazine’s picaresque founder dialed one of his L.A. bookies–unconcerned about the illegality of it all–and placed a $25,000 bet on the underdog Denver Broncos versus the Green Bay Packers. “Whenever I bet against Denver,” recently recalled Flynt, sitting behind a sprawling oak desk in his penthouse office 10 stories above Beverly Hills, “they always won. So I bet on them.” Flynt’s intuition paid off. The bookie paid up.
Flynt is not a big sports fan, but he loves to gamble. So when he can’t get to Las Vegas for a high-stakes blackjack game, he gets his action with a local bookie. He usually bets $5,000 to $10,000 on NFL games and rarely goes without a wager. “It’s no fun watching the games,” he says emphatically, a stogie burning between his jeweled fingers, “without having a bet down.”
Flynt is not alone in his enthusiasm. Illegal wagering on sporting events has never been more popular in Southern California. Experts speculate that as much as $300 billion is gambled nationwide on sporting events annually. Even the most conservative estimates put L.A.’s share of that action into the tens of billions, securing bookmaking as one of the region’s healthiest enterprises, in a league with the entertainment and aerospace industries. With the Super Bowl–the granddaddy of all gambling spectacles–just around the corner, the illicit action will likely reach record proportions.
“Gambling on sports is at an all-time high,” says Lt. Jack Miller, head of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Special Investigation Unit, charged with investigating bookmaking. “It’s only going to keep growing. I can’t imagine it doing anything else.”
As recently as the 1960s, sports betting was a marginal pastime in Los Angeles, centered primarily on local horse races at Santa Anita racetrack. But in the last decade especially, satellite and cable television have brought an unprecedented number of professional and college sports events into the home, and that has unleashed a flood of illicit wagering. In a culture that mythologizes get-rich-quick schemes and sanctions wagering from the state lottery to Indian casinos, sports gambling has become as American as apple pie.
The dark side, the apple pie’s burnt crust, so to speak, is the trail of compulsive gamblers and the stench of organized crime that follow the party wherever it goes. In this era of the Internet and readily accessible offshore phone banks, savvy bookmakers have remained far ahead of the marginal efforts of law enforcement to contain the industry. Both the LAPD and the sheriff’s department are on record as having no interest in prosecuting bettors, and judges view bookmaking as a petty crime. All of which makes L.A. a place where bookies openly set up shop in tony Westside eateries, in sports bars, at golf courses and card clubs and on college campuses–and a place where the drug of choice for a growing number of Americans is the adrenaline-charged “action” of letting hundreds or thousands of dollars ride on a team to beat the point spread.
The bookie’s 800 number is ringing. It’s mid November, and Southern California’s favorite college football grudge match is just two days away. “Hello,” an older man answers. Lenny, a producer with a well-known film company who is letting me listen in, wastes no time talking business: “Hi. Brentwood 462. Can I get the line on the UCLA-USC game?”
There’s a brief pause as the bookie checks that Lenny’s status as a bettor is in good standing; Lenny’s bookie could be based anywhere–West L.A., Pomona, New York City, Antigua. Lenny is under the impression he works out of New York, some kind of Russian mafia operation. It took two people vouching for him to get this account. “Okay,” the bookie finally says, “UCLA by five and a half points.” The Bruins must defeat the Trojans by six points to beat the spread. “Give me a dollar on UCLA,” he tells the man, placing a $100 wager for me in code. I now have, as they say, action.
FOOTBALL,” an experienced wagerer explained at a recent party in West Hollywood, “is like Christmas for bettors. While people do bet on basketball, baseball and hockey, football season is truly a joyous occasion for sports gamblers. The sport’s fewer pro games–16 per team compared with 82 in basketball and 162 in baseball–it is believed, make the spread more predictable for bettors. The same is true for college football. And the once-a-week cycle of the contests intensifies the drama.
“There is nothing like watching a football game with a bet down,” says a television writer living in Santa Monica who didn’t want his name used. He’s got $200 riding on UCLA, and we’re commiserating about the game. “There is a passion to watching,” he says. “You really get into all the nuances, and it gets very intense.” This passion has him betting $1,000 a week with a local bookie this season.
Bettors love action–the jolt they get from risking hard currency on a volatile sporting event. The threshold for action varies and is often related to income. L.A.’s highest rollers, a class that includes Hollywood celebrities and business moguls, police officials say, commonly wager upward of $100,000 per game. Says one reformed compulsive gambler: “For me, there was no action if I could afford the bet. I had to let more ride than I could afford in order to get that adrenaline rush.” Rocky Eversman, an aspiring film producer and avid football and basketball bettor, says he believes the drive to wager is human nature. “I think risk is a metaphor for all of life,” says Eversman excitedly as he sips a cup of herbal tea at a sidewalk cafe on Wilshire Boulevard. “People crave the excitement that risk brings, and that’s what sport betting is.”
Despite its prevalence in Southern California, the sports-betting culture is often invisible. A recent foray to the San Francisco Saloon on Pico Boulevard for a Monday Night Football game between the 49ers and Giants turned up few guys with action. Bettors do congregate at sports bars and neighborhood saloons to watch games, but just as often they stay at home on the sofa. “You could be at home with your family and still have action,” says a New Orleans transplant watching the Niners game, the din of the crowd roaring off a nearby TV. “But to be truthful, it’s the action that holds your attention, so you really aren’t with your family.”
Sports betting may be the ultimate spectator sport, but in the end it’s a solo endeavor, making it the perfect obsession for Angelenos. “There is a loneliness to L.A.,” observes the TV writer, “and there is some of the same loneliness to sports betting.” Once a bet is laid down, all hometown loyalties are tossed out the window. “I don’t care about the Atlanta Falcons at all,” one bettor explains after a wild weekend in which he won a fistful of money betting on half a dozen college and pro football games, “but there I am last weekend, cheering like crazy for the Falcons to beat the Rams. I have never even been to Atlanta, but I wanted to win bad.”
Besides the money, a win validates one’s intelligence. Most bettors are convinced they understand the game well enough to make the right bet. Others seek an edge. An entire industry, in fact, has sprung up to provide “expert” picks to bettors for a fee. Generally considered latter-day snake oil salesmen, the 1,500 or so “touters” across the country advertise “sure bets” and “guaranteed” winners on radio stations and in sports magazines. “Touters are used by unsophisticated bettors,” says Doug Monteith, an LAPD detective with Organized Crime and Vice. “Touts don’t know more than anyone else.”
Eversman, a midwestern expatriate, spent 10 years working the pits of the Chicago Commodity Exchange and fashions himself a student of risk. From the pits, he took a credo: “The masses are asses.” The same principle, he believes, also applies to sports betting. “It’s impossible to consistently predict the outcome of games because you can’t gauge the emotion of the players on a given day,” he says, hauling out a stack of football guides and handmade charts. His system is to suss out those games the experts all agree on and bet the opposite way. The last two seasons, he won. “It’s the only logic that works for me,” he insists, “and the only system I use to pick games.”
The reality is that, in the end, almost everyone loses to the bookie. The more you bet, the more the odds work against you. Bookmakers encourage heavy wagering with options like parlays, teasers and over-unders, and make the bulk of their money from compulsive gamblers. “Bookies feed off people’s weakness,” says Lt. Miller of the sheriff’s department. “They know that, over time, they’ll come out ahead.”