For most of the past 150 years, organized crime and gambling have gone together like peanut butter and jelly. In the early days when gambling was not legal, it was the mob that ran many of the largest underground gambling houses in the country and as gambling became legal, it was the mob that had control, in one way or another, over most of the casinos that opened. Today, the former organized crime operations handle many legal businesses in some of the biggest gambling towns in the country and still exert control over much of the gambling industry. However a new breed of organized crime has emerged, one focused not on allowing an illegal service to happy customers, but instead at targeting customers of the now legal gambling establishments.
The newly organized crime groups are committing crimes such as cyber-fraud, identity theft, robbery and kidnapping, all targeting specific customers who travel to casinos to gamble. Physical security has always been an issue and casinos and their big winners have always been a target for robberies, and as time has gone by, the casinos have adapted to crimes against their customers. But many of the ways that casinos have used to fight physical crimes have resulted on more emphasis on electronic commerce, and as expected, the criminals have adapted and now electronic identity theft and cyber-theft are on the rise. But that does not mean physical crimes are still not a major issue.
In the Philippines last month, a high-roller was kidnapped by an organized crime group based out of China and held for a $200,000 ransom before being freed during a raid by Philippino police. But the startling part of the arrests that followed was the scale of the criminal operation, with over 41 individuals being arrested for participating. The group had been operating mainly as a ´loan´ providing service for gamblers who were having a run of bad luck, but often resorted to criminal activities in order to collect on the loans. As the operation began to be unraveled by police, it became clear that the organized crime group was doing research on their clients, and simply using kidnapping and ransom rather than even trying to give or collect on risky loans. In the case of the high roller who finally brought the operation down, she was kidnapped before actually accepting the loan.
The same type of tactics have been going on in Las Vegas and Atlantic City for years, as ´loans´ are given to high rollers, and then kidnapping, blackmail or other crimes are used to ensure payback. In the case of the Philippines the organized crime group was also using social media to track the travels of potential victims, usually people with gambling addictions but with rich families who would be willing to pay the ransom.
It is often a topic that is not discussed with online gambling, but especially overseas, a rather large benefit of gambling online is simply the ability to avoid being a target of tourist-related crime.