The Las Vegas sports betting scene could be on the verge of change as federal investigators take aim at one of the town’s biggest players.
According to the Wall Street Journal, federal prosecutors are investigating whether Cantor Gaming’s top executive, Lee Amaitis, was aware that illegal wagers were being accepted by the company’s former Vice President of Risk, Michael Colbert.
Colbert pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge in late September. Court documents state that Colbert knowingly accepted wagers from runners for an alleged illegal gambling operation out of Queens, N.Y., known as the “Jersey Boys.” The documents also accuse Colbert of recruiting a runner for the “Jersey Boys.” It is illegal in Nevada to place bets for another person in exchange for compensation.
Citing unnamed sources familiar with the case, the Wall Street Journal reported Colbert “is cooperating in an investigation that reaches farther up Cantor’s chain of command, including Mr. Amaitis.”
Cantor Gaming spokesperson Robert Hubbell released the following statement Thursday: “We feel compelled to address this irresponsible and baseless rumor. The notion that Lee Amaitis is a target of federal prosecutors or that he participated in illegal bookmaking is baseless and false.”
Amaitis is a polarizing figure in Las Vegas. He brought a Wall Street attitude to the town’s sports betting scene that has been criticized for not keeping up with the times. He appeared in a 2011 “60 Minutes” feature on professional sports bettor Billy Walters, but has kept a lower profile recently.
A branch of Wall Street brokerage Cantor Fitzgerald, Cantor Gaming arrived in Vegas in 2006. The company took over the sportsbook operations at several high-profile casinos and publicly claimed they’d take any size bet from anyone. Big sports bettors embraced Cantor’s innovative and aggressive approach. But industry veterans questioned the company’s methods.
Nevada Gaming Control began investigating Cantor last summer after receiving a call from New York investigators who had linked Colbert to an East Coast gambling ring.
Colbert was indicted last October, along with 24 other individuals, on multiple gambling-related charges. He initially faced state-level charges of enterprise corruption, promoting gaming in the first degree and money laundering in the second degree. Those charges were dismissed in deference to the federal case, a spokesman for the Queens district attorney told the Wall Street Journal. Colbert is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 9.
NGC Chief of Enforcement Karl Bennison told Betting Talk that the investigation into Colbert and Cantor Gaming was ongoing. The NGC believes the investigation will be wrapped up soon. Cantor’s gaming license could be at stake.
The company currently operates eight Las Vegas sportsbooks.