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Chicago, New York make almost half of gambling arrests

– The odds favor America’s illegal gamblers these days.

Police departments nationwide dramatically have cut the number of arrests they make for unlicensed lotteries, sports-related wagering and other illicit betting activities. Gambling arrests reported to the FBI have declined from 21,000 in 1996 to slightly less than 11,000 two years ago.

Five big-city police departments with full-time vice squads made more than half of the reported gambling arrests in 2002, the most recent year for which complete information is available from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. Police departments in Chicago and New York City, together, accounted for 42 percent of all gambling arrests.

“That’s really surprising,” said sociologist Michael Maltz, an expert in national crime statistics. “After all, most of us gamble to some extent. Some of us use bookies and some of us don’t. But I can’t imagine the only gambling violations are occurring in Chicago or New York.”

Chicago led the nation with 2,317 arrests, according to a Scripps Howard News Service study of FBI computer files. A fifth of the nation’s arrested gamblers were in the Windy City, 98 percent of whom were black and 25 percent of whom were juveniles.

“I can’t speak for what other police departments are doing, but gambling is still a priority here,” said Lt. John Kupczyk, head of vice enforcement in Chicago’s Organized Crime Division. “We’ve found the amount of illegal gambling hasn’t diminished at all even though legalized (lottery-style) gambling has increased 10 fold.”

New York was second with 1,951 arrests. “If Chicago’s ahead, we’ll just have to work a little harder,” joked Inspector James O’Neill of New York’s Vice Enforcement Division.

However, the two cities reported entirely different profiles for the kinds of people arrested for illegal gambling. Just 42 percent of people arrested in New York were black and only 4 percent were children. About 11 percent were female, in sharp contrast to Chicago’s report that only 2 percent of gambling arrests were made against women.

New York led the nation in making 219 arrests for illegal lottery operations, the so-called “numbers racket” that was long a staple of organized crime.

“Instead of doing the New York State Lottery, a lot of people will still play the daily numbers game,” O’Neill said. “The payout is usually bigger than you would get with the state lottery, and you don’t have to pay taxes if you hit your number.”

In a distant third place was Trenton, N.J., where police made 366 arrests, followed by Milwaukee, Wis., with 271 and Los Angeles with 265. More about Agen Poker Online

Only a dozen police departments in America reported making at least 100 gambling arrests in 2002, while 91 other departments made from 10 to 99 arrests and another 607 law enforcement agencies reported making at least one but less than 10 arrests. The typical municipal or county law enforcement agency reported making just two gambling arrests three years ago.

Maltz said it is “impossible to determine” whether declining gambling arrests result from new enforcement priority by police or an actual decline in the amount of illegal gambling. He said difficult-to-prosecute Internet gambling operations in foreign countries are probably not the cause of reduced gambling arrests since large decreases in arrests occurred in 1997 and 1998, well before on-line gambling became popular.

“There is a question of how much time police can devote to making such arrests,” Maltz said. “At the same time, the number of drug arrests have increased sharply.”

O’Neill said he doesn’t know why gambling arrests are declining either. “I know here in New York we have a very dedicated vice unit with people well versed in the gambling world,” he said. “Chicago also has a very effective vice unit.”