Wagering at New York Bar on Number of Shooting Deaths Leads to Outcry, Inquiries

Posted on: September 5, 2020, 07:07h. 

Last updated on: September 5, 2020, 12:48h.

A betting pool at a Long Island, New York bar on how many people would die in shootings in either New York City or Chicago this Labor Day weekend was disbanded following public outrage. Now the bar, called The Cliffton, faces an uncertain future, with multiple investigations underway.

The Cliffton Shooting Pool
The Cliffton, a Patchogue, New York bar, is in hot water following its attempted betting pool predicting the number of shooting deaths this weekend in two US cities. (Image: GreaterPatchogue.com)

Suffolk County police said its officers are investigating the incident, Newsday, a regional newspaper, said. The New York State Liquor Authority (SLA), which is also looking into the controversy, explained in a statement sent to Casino.org that “gambling is … prohibited under the … law in any [New York] business holding a liquor license.”

Under the pool’s rules, patrons could wager on four boxes placed on a betting form, Newsday reported. Each box listed a possible total of fatal shootings in the cities, Newsday added.

When announcing the recent pool, the Patchogue bar posted on a social media site, “Let the shooting sprees begin!” according to News 12 Long Island, a regional cable TV station.

The Cliffton Says We’re Sorry

The Cliffton, which describes itself as a “dive bar,” has apologized for the idea. It claims in an Instagram post it was an attempt at “raising awareness of the disturbing rise in gun violence across the nation,” News 12 said.

“Here at The Cliffton we take pride in the fact that we are different, unique, and push the boundaries outside of the norm. This time, however, it appears that we have taken it a little too far. We would like to issue a formal apology to everyone offended by our latest fundraising pool,” the post said.

Still, as knowledge of the pool reached state officials, Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, issued a statement that said, “These reports are repugnant and those responsible for this gambling pool should be ashamed.” The SLA called the “alleged gambling pool … sickening.” It “also appears illegal under the Alcoholic Beverage Control law.”

In an unrelated matter, the bar “refused to allow investigators  … to inspect the premises earlier this week — a blatant violation of the law, which alone constitutes grounds for their liquor license to be revoked,” the SLA statement adds. “This establishment will be charged for the violation we have already observed and can expect to hear from us again.”

Under state law, a bar can be inspected by SLA agents and police officers during business hours. Refusing an inspection is grounds for losing a liquor license, the SLA said.

Following the outcry, money involved in the pool will be donated to the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York’s Widows’ and Children’s Fund. The Cliffton will match donations.

In response to the pool, Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce Executive Director David Kennedy asked the owner of The Clifton, identified in press reports as Brian Neal, to resign from the Chamber.

“I did send the owner an official notice from the chamber asking him to cease and desist the very disgusting and disturbing betting pool. I told him I will be recommending he be removed from the Chamber and I will be convening our Chamber board this week and taking an official vote,” Kennedy told the Long Island Advance, another local newspaper.

Bar’s Earlier Social Media Post Called Transphobic

Last year, The Cliffton got into trouble for a social media post that was viewed as transphobic, News 12 reported. That post led to a protest involving 100 participants.

Later, The Cliffton issued an apology.