Federal authorities in Illinois claim a Chicago-area man acted as a bookie from 2014 to 2018.
Dominic Poeta, a 63-year-old owner of a meat and Italian food market north of Chicago, was charged with “illegal sports bookmaking” and filing a false federal income tax return to hide the sports betting. Poeta was alleged to have “unlawfully operated a business that provided sports betting and wagering services, both domestically and abroad,” according to a criminal information filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
It’s unclear what “abroad” refers to. No evidence has been provided that Poeta took bets from gamblers outside of the United States.
Poeta also allegedly filed a federal income tax return for the calendar year 2016 that “falsely reported his total income was $81,609, knowing his actual income substantially exceeded that amount.”
Poeta’s arraignment remains unscheduled.
The tax charge is punishable by up to three years in federal prison, while the bookmaking charge is punishable by up to two years. The criminal information document indicates that Poeta is likely to plead guilty. He could avoid prison time. Prison could be a death sentence due to the coronavirus.
Not the first accusation for Poeta
According to the Chicago Tribune, Poeta in the late 2000s was accused in a civil case of involvement with an illegal sports betting operation. Poeta allegedly “accepted” more than $647,000 in checks for gambling debts as a middleman for the operation. A judgment was handed down against Poeta.
His 2020 case comes as the state of Illinois recently kicked off legalized sports wagering under the control of the commercial gambling facilities and their respective online/mobile sportsbooks. Licensing fees range from $3 million to $20 million, and the business is heavily restricted.
The idea behind legal sports wagering wasn’t to create mom and pop shops. While it’s unfortunate legal sports betting mostly benefits big businesses and not small businesses, the argument for that statutory structure is that the integrity of sports betting contests would be at greater risk if the activity isn’t highly regulated. A massive barrier to entry into the legal business is believed to help safeguard sports.
In other words, states have gone with new laws and regulations rather than decriminalization.
Still, the so-called underground sports wagering market in states with legal industries is expected to continue — and perhaps even grow alongside the above-ground market. It will take years to phase out the relationships sports bettors have with their local bookies.
Poeta’s case appears likely to shut down one alleged unregulated option for bettors in the Chicago area, but there are likely many others still in existence.