Gambling Crackdown Descends On Illegal Operation In California

Posted on October 25, 2019

As one California pastor arrested on suspicion of operating an illegal gambling ring could soon discover, it doesn’t pay to play outside of the confines of the law. Across the nation, law enforcement is cracking down on such operations, and that recently hit home for Californians.

Just days before Los Angeles police raided a ring in the San Fernando Valley, Stockton police did the same thing in their jurisdiction. The takeaway is that there’s no gold to be had in gambling illegally in the Golden State.

California pastor arrested in connection with gambling ring

According to a local news report, Pastor Thai “John” Nguyen was arrested Sept. 24 after Stockton police raided a building he owned on North El Dorado Street. Police confiscated a large amount of cash, several computers and a cache of weapons.

The report also states there were several stolen items on the premises. Nguyen refutes the allegations, however, mostly claiming ignorance.

Nguyen said he did not know the weapons were on site, and the business was a thrift store. He further stated he thought the gambling machines were simple arcade games.

His professional relationships don’t help his case. Nguyen’s partner in the business was former Stockton mayor Anthony Silva. Silva has been arrested on suspicion of multiple felonies since he was ousted from his post as the city’s mayor in 2016.

Although it’s uncertain yet exactly what the charges against Nguyen will entail and if Silva will be arrested as well, it doesn’t look good for Nguyen. Even if he was ignorant of the actual function of the gambling machines and the stolen items, ignorance of the law is no excuse.

California isn’t the only place where law enforcement is bearing down upon people who either offer unlicensed games or illegally try to influence the outcomes of games. Another major bust recently occurred on the other side of the country.

Other efforts to crack down

The feds recently indicted several members of an organized criminal operation for trying to fix an NCAA men’s basketball game. The US Department of Justice filed the charges in the Eastern District of New York’s federal court.

According to the allegations by the DOJ, members of the La Cosa Nostra attempted to bribe individuals to influence the outcome of a game last December. They also assisted with placing bets on the same contest.

These stories demonstrate exactly why it’s so important for gambling to be legal and regulated. Illegal gambling fosters other crimes and takes advantage of people in lower-income brackets.

That’s true about sports betting, as well. People who try to fix games using legal sportsbooks find it much more difficult because of the integrity checks those books use.

That’s a reason why Californians should approve a possible constitutional amendment on sports betting in the next election. It discourages illegal gambling.

What fate awaits Nguyen is uncertain right now. What’s clear is that law enforcement isn’t ignoring illegal gambling rings. California residents and visitors are wise to avoid such establishments.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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