“I Do not Believe In Gambling”

And neither should you. In 1993 60 Minutes sat down with the man that would start the offshore sports betting craze. He’s still there, and bigger than ever.

Alas, much has changed since this segment ran on CBS over 7 years ago. The subject of this interview now runs the biggest offshore sports book in the world.

If you’d ever wondered how big the sports betting market place truly is, one can rest assured that its still growing by leaps and bounds. The $100 Million a month Sacco was writing back in 1993 is undoubtedly much more than that today.

If you’ve ever thought beating the betting line was easy, or that bookmakers actually lose, then be advised of Mr. Sacco’s opening remarks “I don’t believe in Gambling”.

(any webmasters that want to cut and paste this, feel free — I’d just appreciate a link back crediting my site for finding this almost-ancient document)

60 Minutes
7:00-8:00 PM
Profile: “Cigar” Sacco; US’ most successful bookie


STEVE KROFT: If you had any money riding on one of this afternoon’s major league baseball games, chances are you’re part of what the federal government calls a $50 billion-a-year business that’s illegal in most states. As we reported when we first broadcast this story, the federal government says that more than a billion of those dollars are bet with one man, Ron “Cigar” Sacco. And while you may win or lose that bet, the “Cigar” always wins.

(Footage of Ron Sacco)

KROFT: (Voiceover) According to his colleagues in the business, and the cops, Ron Sacco runs the biggest and most successful illegal bookmaking operation in history. Sacco’s operation is nationwide and uses satellite communication as well as toll-free 800 numbers for his clientele. Sacco takes bets on everything from horse racing to baseball, but his biggest action is on basketball and NFL football.

Mr. RON SACCO (Bookmaker): I don’t believe in gambling.

KROFT: You don’t believe in gambling?

Mr. SACCO: No.

KROFT: Not at all.

(Sacco shakes his head no)

KROFT: Why not?

Mr. SACCO: You can lose.

KROFT: You’re a businessman.

Mr. SACCO: Absolutely.

KROFT: If you had to compare this to a business that everyone in the audience would know, what’s it like?

Mr. SACCO: Probably be like a broker of a commodity, stockbroker–anything, anything in that area. When you’re talking about finance, all this is is finance. This is all a game of dollars, and the bookmaker is just a broker of the dollars.

(Footage of Jim Moody)

KROFT: (Voiceover) And according to Jim Moody, who’s the chief of the organized crime section of the FBI, Ron Sacco is a very big broker.

How big is Ron Sacco, how big a bookie?

Mr. JIM MOODY (Chief, Organized Crime Unit, FBI): The top bookmaker in operation. A hundred million a–a month is an awful lot of money.

(Footage of money being counted, a bookie tally board and Don Hanks and Fred Valis)

KROFT: (Voiceover) A hundred million dollars a month. That’s more than a billion dollars a year. And so for four years the FBI has been conducting a nationwide investigation of Ron Sacco and his associates, using these two men, Don Hanks and Fred Valis, to get inside to infiltrate Sacco’s world. For 15 years, Hanks and Valis have worked as professional informants for federal law enforcement.

Mr. DAN HANKS (Informant): We are bounty hunters. We look for crooks wherever they may–may be and where there’s a price on their head.

(Footage of Hanks and Valis)

KROFT: (Voiceover) And the people they hunt have given Valis and Hanks nicknames, nicknames they’re proud to repeat.

`Vermin’ and `Pestilence,’ right?

Mr. HANKS: `Vermin’ and `Pestilence.’ That’s true.

KROFT: Who’s `Vermin’ and who’s `Pestilence?’

Mr. FRED VALIS (Informant): I’m `Pestilence,’ he’s `Vermin.’

Mr. HANKS: I’m `Vermin.’

Mr. VALIS: Now they mostly call us rats, you know.

Mr. SACCO: You really want me to tell you what they are? Two pieces of puke. How low is that?

(Footage of Sacco and his attorney talking to Kroft)

KROFT: (Voiceover) Ron Sacco agreed to meet with us if we didn’t reveal where the interview took place and allowed his attorney to be present. Sacco asked that we point out that he was not admitting any involvement in any illegal activity when he talked with us about the business of sports bookmaking.

Mr. SACCO: If I was running a book, I would run it where you try to be the best you can at your business. You let the customers know that they get paid, and then they pay you. People play because they want to–they want to play and they want to get paid.

(Footage of a betting parlor)

KROFT: (Voiceover) Like any broker-businessman, the bookmaker makes his money by charging a commission, 10 percent. That commission is known as the `Juice,’ the `Vigorish’ or simply the `Vig.’

And that’s the lifeblood of the bookie?

Mr. SACCO: Can’t live on love.

KROFT: If you’re a bookie, the key to success is to get the public, the gamblers, to bet as much money on one team as the other. That way the bookie doesn’t care who wins; he gets his 10 percent commission either way.

(Footage of a newspaper)

KROFT (Voiceover) And to make it come out even, he offers a point spread, like the one you see in your daily newspaper that tells the bettor how many points his team must win or lose by for him to collect a bet.

If too much is bet on one team, the bookie could lose a lot of money. So to attract bets to the other side, he adjusts the point spread, literally changing the odds. And how does the bookie, who usually extends credit to his clients so they can bet–how does the bookie know that he’ll get paid?

Mr. HANKS: People pay their debts in the bookmaking world where they may not pay them in the rest of the credit world.

Mr. VALIS: A guy’ll pay his bookie before he’ll pay his mortgage.

KROFT: Why, do you think?

Mr. VALIS: Well, on the East Coast because the bank isn’t going to come back and blow your brains out because you didn’t pay the mortgage. That’s one reason.

(Footage of Valis and Hanks)

KROFT: (Voiceover) Unaware they had been government informants, Ron Sacco and his associates hired Hanks and Valis to install phones that couldn’t be traced. Hanks and Valis are geniuses at that. They’re so good at what they do that even the police can’t always tell where a bookie joint is located.

How do you do that? The phone company’s got to know where the phone’s located.

Mr. HANKS: Oh, no, they don’t. When a phone company installs a phone–like, say they’re going to install a phone at your house, the dial tone goes over miles and miles of cable to get to your house and you can tap into that cable anywhere along that line.

(Footage of Hanks talking to Kroft near a telephone pole)

KROFT: (Voiceover) Hanks says it’s easy. You order phone lines for one location, then masquerade as a phone company technician, cut into the phone line and run a wire down the street to a house where the phones are actually answered and the bookie takes your bets.

So you just climbed up on the telephone pole and you did the wiring?

Mr. HANKS: Yeah.

KROFT: Nobody was suspicious?

Mr. HANKS: You’re wearing a phone–phone tool belt, you look like a phone man; walks like a phone man, it must be a phone man.

(Footage of Hanks, Valis and Sacco)

KROFT: (Voiceover) As trusted phone mechanics, Hanks and Valis were allowed into the inner sanctum of Ron Sacco’s operation.

Mr. HANKS: Ron Sacco’s the king of the bookmakers who recognized the potential that if you could bring all bookmakers under one roof, if you could set up a clearinghouse for every bet made in the United States

Mr. VALIS: What he did eventually is he set up a system where it was almost like MasterCharge. His system is so big that you have to know this person has a credit limit of $1,000. `Oh, they want to extend over their limit, we have to send them to a supervisor to get that approved.’

KROFT: A bookie with vision.

Mr. HANKS: A bookie with vision. He was a bookie with vision.

(Footage of Hanks and Valis talking with Kroft)

KROFT: (Voiceover) Once Hanks and Valis gained the trust of Ron Sacco, they went straight to the police and offered to work undercover.

Mr. HANKS: We approached the FBI and they welcomed us with open arms. They said, `We’ve been trying to get these guys for years.’

(Footage of Hanks and Valis walking)

KROFT: (Voiceover) The FBI made a deal with the two informants, agreeing to pay them a salary to work undercover and a reward once the case was over. But `Vermin’ and `Pestilence’ admit that wasn’t enough. They say they supplemented their salary by charging Sacco for work they never did and equipment they never installed.

You were getting paid by the FBI, you were getting paid by the bookies and you were stealing from the bookies.

Mr. VALIS: No, that’s part of pay. We–we prefer to think of it as tem–temporarily misdirecting funds.

KROFT: Temporarily?

Mr. VALIS: Yeah.

KROFT: You plan to pay that money back?

Mr. VALIS: No, we plan for them to go to jail and we won’t have to pay it back.

Mr. SACCO: How can you pay somebody, have them rob you and then try and put you in jail? Those are credible people? I don’t think so.

(Footage of Sacco, Hanks and Valis)

KROFT: (Voiceover) When you make a bet with Sacco’s operation, you do it over the phone. The payoff is handled by a network of neighborhood agents. Valis and Hanks also acted as collectors and couriers of cash and checks between Sacco and his associates and those neighborhood agents.

What kind of places would you pick up money and deliver money to?

Mr. VALIS: Oh, dental labs, bars, restaurants, union halls.

(Scenes of a street, the front of Mission Jewelry & Loan and Daryl Kaplan)

KROFT: (Voiceover) And Fred Valis says in San Francisco, he made deposits and withdrawals at what he calls a special `bank for the bookies,’ this pawnshop in the middle of the city’s high-crime Mission District. Daryl Kaplan, who admits he’s a gambler, is the owner and operator of Mission Jewelry & Loan.

Mr. DARYL KAPLAN (Owner, Mission Jewelry & Loan): I’ve cashed checks for bookmakers. That’s illegal? I’m supposed to qualify that? I mean, where’s this money from? What about when they go to a bank and cash a check?

KROFT: Mm-hmm.

Mr. KAPLAN: What’s–what the difference?

KROFT: Mm-hmm.

(Footage of Kaplan in his store)

KROFT: (Voiceover) According to the government, Kaplan didn’t just cash checks; he kept money on deposit in accounts for bookmakers associated with Ron Sacco. In essence, he was their banker.

You would hold money for people?

Mr. Kaplan:

nts. Lots of people–for sure.

Mr. KAPLAN: Yeah. Just–I mean, I

KROFT: Bookies?


got probably–one time someone said, `Do me a favor, you know, would you put this in your safe for me?’ You know, `I’ll be back in a week or two,’ OK?

Mr. KAPLAN: Yeah. Is that a crime?

Mr. MOODY: Basically, his little one-man operation took in over $80 million. Eighty

KROFT: Pawnshop?

Mr. MOODY: Pawnshop. Eighty million dollars.

(Footage of Kaplan talking to Kroft)

KROFT: (Voiceover) Convinced that Kaplan was playing a pivotal role in Ron Sacco and associates’ billion-dollar bookmaking operation, the FBI raided Kaplan’s pawnshop.

Mr. KAPLAN: Twelve to 14 agents with guns came in here with a search warrant and a seizure, and they proceeded to take all my money.

KROFT: How much money?

Mr. KAPLAN: They took a million dollars, said it was gambling money. This was my money.

KROFT: It raises the obvious question–I mean, where did you get a million dollars? I didn’t realize that the pawnbrokering business was that profitable.

Mr. KAPLAN: This was the beginning of the month when we cashed lots of welfare checks, Social Security checks. And many people here, when they cash their checks, can’t go to a bank. Their ID isn’t good enough to go to a bank so we become their bank. We’re kind of the poor man’s bank.

KROFT: But you don’t work for the mob?

Mr. KAPLAN: I’m a gambler. I’m not a money launderer. I–I have no mob connections. I don’t know anyone in the mob. What is the mob?

Mr. MOODY: Sports gambling–or gambling itself, to include sports gambling–is probably the biggest producer of money for the American La Cosa Nostra there is.

KROFT: (Voiceover) The federal government says the bookmaking business is still controlled by the mob. True?

Mr. SACCO: False.

KROFT: Not at all?

Mr. SACCO: Not at all. The mob don’t want to get involved in anything where they can lose their money.

KROFT: So you’re saying that you’ve got no connections, no associates in organized crime whatsoever?

Mr. SACCO: None whatsoever. Never have had, you know. If those people were to walk up to me, I wouldn’t walk away; I’d run. They just take; they don’t give you nothing.

(Footage of Sacco)

KROFT: (Voiceover) The FBI says the mob does give the bookies something, they give the muscle to help collect from their clients.

Are there still people out there–bettors, gamblers–who’ve lost money to bookies, who are getting their legs broken?

Mr. SACCO: Not to my knowledge. In my opinion, that went out 30 years ago.

Mr. MOODY: Now, that’s not reality. They–that is not reality. They may not personally collect that money, but they’re going to turn it over to a factor, a loan collector, that will. Somebody’s going to collect that money.

KROFT: What kind of a loan collector?

Mr. MOODY: Probably a man with a bent nose is going to come out and get your money. That’s the way business is done.

(Footage of Sacco talking to Kroft and of the Gambino crime family)

KROFT: (Voiceover) And sources in the Justice Department say that’s exactly how Ron Sacco’s business is done, with organized crime approval; the approval of these men, New York’s Gambino crime family, and its recently failed boss, John Gotti.

You got a call asking you if you wanted to be the Gambino family’s bookie. True?

Mr. SACCO: I don’t even–I don’t want to talk about that. I mean, that–that was–I don’t even know if it was true. I mean, I–I did get the call, but who’s to say it was true? I don’t know. Somebody called a friend. The guy was from New York and, you know, I thought it was comical. I said, `Not–not–forget about it. I don’t even want to talk to anybody.’

KROFT: But you’re saying you can’t operate a nationwide operation without La Cosa Nostra.

Mr. MOODY: In my opinion, working organized crime 21 years, you cannot do it.

(Footage of Sacco and the location of his new bookie operation)

KROFT: (Voiceover) And so Ron Sacco and company are currently under investigation by a federal grand jury in San Francisco and by FBI offices all over the country for everything from bookmaking to trying to fix a college basketball game. To try and avoid the heat, the billion-dollar bookie came up with a new ploy. He moved his operations offshore, here, to the Caribbean island nation of the Dominican Republic where gambling is legal. Sacco installed TV satellite dishes. And to keep in touch with his clientele, Sacco arranged for toll-free 800 numbers connected to AT&T in the United States.

Mr. HANKS: He is the largest telephone subscriber in the Dominican Republic.

(Footage of a street in the Dominican Republic)

KROFT: (Voiceover) But if Sacco thought he was safe here in the Dominican Republic, he was wrong.

The US Justice Department put pressure on the Dominican government, and in January of 1991, just before the Super Bowl, Dominican authorities raided this home and arrested a score of people they said were involved with Ron Sacco’s 800-number bookmaking operation.

But a few weeks later, Ron Sacco was back in business at another location nearby, with the blessing of the Dominican authorities.

Mr. SACCO: You’ve got a multibillion dollar–multibillions being wagered across the United States in the course of a year. I mean, it’s there. You can deny it all you want, but it’s not going to go away. It’s there. People are going to play.

KROFT: Want to place a bet? Well, first you need to know one of Ron Sacco’s agents. He could be a bartender or the cashier at the corner cafe. He’ll arrange for your credit line and how much you can bet. Then he’ll give you an account number and an 800 telephone number.

What do you got on the Vikings tonight?

Unidentified Man: I get five and a half and 42.

KROFT: OK, give me–give me the Vikings for $200.

Man: You got it. Two plays 2088.


Man: Thank you.

KROFT: Thank you. Still in business.

Sacco’s 800 number stopped working briefly after the broadcast; Dominican authorities arrested him but then let him go. Ron Sacco and his 800 number went back into business, but sources in the Justice Department say that Sacco and his, quote, “banker,” unquote, pawnbroker Daryl Kaplan, will be indicted later this summer.
thedailyspread.com | December 28th, 2000

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