Breaking news... the Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens, California (located just outside the Los Angeles city limits) was raided this morning by multiple government agencies including Homeland Security, ICE, the IRS, and California Gaming Control Board. The Bicycle Casino, a.k.a. the Bike, is currently under a criminal investigation for money laundering. According to a report by the L.A. Times, the scope of the investigation is unknown due to a sealed warrant.
It was supposed to be another lazy Tuesday in sunny Los Angeles. Word quickly spread that the Bicycle Casino, otherwise known simply as "The Bike" to local poker enthusiasts, got raided by the feds. According to the L.A. Times, "The raid was executed at the casino, 888 Bicycle Casino Drive, by members of the Los Angeles High Intensity Financial Crime Area Task Force, a group that includes ICE's Homeland Security Investigations; IRS Criminal Investigation; the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Gambling Control."
At different times over the last 30 years, the Bicycle Casino was regarded as one of the largest and most popular poker rooms in Southern California. The Bike hosted numerous televised poker tournaments and was a popular stop on the international poker circuit, specifically for the World Poker Tour. The card room also hosted the popular live cash game stream “Live at the Bike.”
The Bicycle Casino, founded in 1984 by George Hardie, had checkered past. Sometimes it's tough to distinguish lore from fact in the gaming industry, especially when trying to uncover the murky origins of how casinos were originally funded. Back in the cocaine glory days of the 1980s, the Bike got raided for the first time. The government accused its owners/partners, Sam Gilbert, of funding the Bike with drug money and use it to launder dirty money. Gilbert, a prominent businessman in Los Angeles, made the bulk of his fortune in commercial construction. Gilbert was also known as one of the biggest boosters for UCLA's athletic teams.
In the 1990s, the feds returned to the Bike to investigate racketeering and money laundering charges. In 1991, the U.S. Government seized the Bike and eventually took over as its owner. During a jury trial, it was revealed that half of the Bike's construction funds originated from a drug cartel based out of Miami. In 1994, the head of the Asian games at the Bike got accused of extortion and loansharking. In 1996, the government sold the Bike to a British gaming operation, who ran the Bike under an LLC.
The specifics for the current raid is still unknown. The Feds have still not said why the Bike got raided this morning other than money laundering involving potential ties to Asian gangsters. Stay tuned for more information as it comes available.