How Do Illegal Gambling Rings Really Work?

Illegal gambling is a highly profitable business with a high risk and even though government agencies work hard to take action against illegal gambling rings the practice is still rife as individuals look to circumnavigate the laws in place to tax winnings.

 Illegal gambling ring cash
Cash confiscated from an illegal gambling ring in Nashville, Tennessee. (Source:

The Set-Up

Technically, anybody can set up an illegal gambling ring. There have been instances where rings have been established within the premises of an ordinary house but anywhere that has closed walls and avoids arousing suspicion can be used as a venue for the ring. The subtle the premises, the better.

In order to get the ring up and running, a certain number of roles must be agreed. These can be carried out by any number of people but the smaller the numbers of those involved the less likely it is that problems will crop up down the line.

Firstly, the head bookmaker must be assigned. This will usually be the role taken by the ring leader. A second individual is then required for managing operations on site and making sure things tick over. This individual will work closely with the bookmaker to ensure everything runs smoothly. Other duties that require tending to include manning the phone lines, collecting debts, processing bets, and transferring money to others involved in the ring.

Illegal gambling rings will need to have enough financial backing to cover the bets placed by all customers. It is usually a case of having enough funds to cover 2-3 months of straight losses on outcomes.

Larger scale illegal gambling rings can be set up behind the mask of a company. One example of this was the $5 billion ring bust in Texas back in 2013. A ring organised by Albert Reed Jr operated under the name of a company called Global Internet Corporation. It would accept bets from customers online through 25 different websites after they had used a secret log-in to access the sites.

How Are Bets Placed?

The method of betting depends on what sort of ring is in place. If it is a small scale operation, then bets can be taken by telephone with debt collectors visiting customers to collect bets and handing out winnings.

However, the larger operations offer more sophisticated means of placing bets. The operations that exist online can require intricate log-in processes or can even be located on the dark web which is an encrypted network that is present between hidden servers and their listed clients.

How Do Illegal Gambling Rings Make Money?

Illegal gambling rings can be extremely profitable despite being very high risk. The reason for this being that due to being operated illegally there are no outgoings on tax. They operate outside the arms of the law and over time this can prove to be very financially rewarding.

To put the amount that can be earned in perspective, the American Gaming Association states that gambling premises are forced to pay up to 6.75% in gambling tax on any profits made. Each year, it is estimated that casinos and sportsbooks in Nevada pay $868.6 million in taxes. If all of those casinos and sportsbooks operated illegally then you can begin to see how profitable gambling can become. As if it wasn’t profitable enough already!

The Big Bet Bonanza

One reason that illegal gambling rings can also be very profitable is due to the removal of all tax and regulatory issues that are enforced by different jurisdictions around the world there is an attraction for wealthy punters to place bigger bets.

It is not unusual for “whale” punters to place single bets worth £1 million upwards. On the global scale that is one punter, placing one bet, with one illegal gambling ring. It puts into scale how much money is floating around amongst these schemes.

Macau illegal gambling ring criminals
Macau police parade criminals from an illegal gambling ring bust. (Source:

The Façade

Illegal gambling rings survive due to some first class shadow puppetry that creates a façade of the problem being dealt with. An example of this is where bookmakers will give tip-offs to government officials about illegal schemes that are set up and where they can be found. The government officials will then move to bust the ring and make a big show and dance about it. In reality, the ring is a small-time venture without any real big players or huge sums of money being exchanged.

The reason for these sorts of raids happening is for the government to make it appear to the public that they are addressing the issue. Show the public that the raids are being carried out and that the criminals are being caught. In truth, the real big fish operating the larger illegal gambling rings are left untouched and allowed to continue their schemes without interference from the government.

It is no secret that officials are paid off to keep quiet about these rings. Whether it is in the US, UK, Asia, or anywhere else there is this level of corruption that goes on. There really is a similarity between illegal gambling rings and the speak easy joints in Prohibition-era America. Everybody knows they exist and most people suspect where they exist but they are conveniently ignored and allowed to carry on their operations with little to no fuss. It always has been that way and it likely always will. Illegal gambling rings are rife and that looks set to continue.

The Future…

Illegal gambling rings are as much a part of the betting scene as casinos, bookies, and racecourses. This underworld of organised gambling with a criminal slant has roots firmly set in society and the establishment. The right people are kept on a leash and silent and the right people are targeted to bring the money in.


Laptop computer
The evolution of the web could make illegal gambling rings more elaborate. (Source:

It is a dark world. There is no obligation to pay taxes or abide by the law but by operating outside of the law there is no protection from it. Violence and extortion are commonplace, addiction is left untreated, and there is absolutely no regulation so a ring is not required to play by the rules. The continued evolution of the internet and technology opens up new possibilities for illegal gambling rings. The appetite by the government agencies to deal with the rings head on simply does not appear to exist and until it does illegal gambling rings will continue to thrive out of sight and out of mind.