Georgia Raid Catches Dozens

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Staff member
May 3, 2008
On Monday evening officers from four jurisdictions descended on a local pizza shop in Alpharetta, Fulton County, Georgia and detained sixty-five members of a gambling ring, detaining twenty-one.
The officers were comprised of SWAT operators, undercover cops, and uniformed detectives who decided to take action due to the fact that it may have been the busiest night for betting this year.
The bets were being taken on the NCAA tournament March Madness. The events for betting were undertaken under the guise of a “private party” as the owners went to great lengths to try to keep their
illegal endeavors secret. To some business owners in the neighborhood it came as a surprise that a restaurant near them would be raided for illegal activity. But one shop owner was not surprised, noting
that he has seen gaming tables set up in the store before, though the owners said that they were just for nighttime friendly games.

At the scene, law enforcement officials found over $135,000 in cash, an undisclosed amount of cocaine on one of the attendees, and two loaded handguns. According to police the operation is the biggest
gambling circle ever seen in the area. The heads of the gambling ring are being charged with felony commercial gambling, which can result in up to five years imprisonment and $20,000 in fines. Those
being charged are John Joseph Spagnuolo, John Charles Roveto, Phillip Jeffrey Campbell Sr. William Gazdik, Phillip Brown, Robert Forbes Howe, and two others whose names have not been released
to the public. Thirteen others were arrested for various misdemeanors, one of which was for disturbing the peace. Police did comment and state that many of the patrons had been previously arrested for
related charges in 2007. The patron in possession of the cocaine may face felony drug charges and the proprietors of the business as well as those that ran the betting ring may face additional weapons charges
and possibly face more time in jail.

According to Georgia state law, what differentiates commercial gambling from gambling among friends is if an owner “operates or participates in the earnings of a gambling place” which, in this case,
may be from cuts of the bets or from running the pizza restaurant that housed the gambling ring. Also, if the organizers of the gambling event “receives, records, or forwards a bet or offer to bet” and
“becomes a custodian of anything of value bet or offered to bet.” In short, what set them apart from a friendly wager was the fact that they were profiting from the bets regardless of the outcome, thereby
“selling bets” so to speak.

The patrons engaged in what was known as a “Calcutta auction” in which, to use the example of March Madness, each competing team is auctioned off to the highest bidder and the money bid is put into
the pot. During the course of the tournament, the pot is divided among the betters depending on how many games their specific team has won. For instance, in the case of March Madness and in a completely
fair auction where no one takes a cut from the pot, one way that the pot can be divided is that if a team wins once, their “owner” receive the smallest amount from the pot and for those teams that advance
further in the tournament, the “owners” of the team would win an incrementally larger percentage of the pot until the winner received the remaining money in the pot.

Though law enforcement officials know that other bets are taking place amongst co-workers and friends, they are not particularly concerned with those instances of gambling. Rather, they are dedicated to
focusing on more serious and commercial ventures, as was the one raided on Monday.

It is estimated that nearly 40 million American will fill out a March Madness bracket this year, according to the American Gaming Association which will result in nearly $9 billion dollars, total, changing
hands this season through workplace pools, friendly bets, or commercial enterprises. Although the chances of filling out a perfect bracket are slim to none, it’s obvious that people will still happily participate
in the event. The exact chance of filling out a bracket is disputable, but for a newbie who is essentially randomly picking brackets the chance of a perfect bracket is .0000000000000000001%. Those who
pay attention to all the history, nuances, and statistics have an advantage. Specifically, they have a .0000000000004% chance of a perfect bracket (for those of you not counting, that’s twelve zeroes instead
of eighteen). To put that in easier-to-swallow language, that means that out of the 40 million people betting this year, between one one-trillionth of a person and one one-millionth of a person will write out
a perfect bracket. That being said, one in sixty-eight people will correctly pick the winning team (or 560,000 people).

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