Delaware sports betting exploding

By David Purdum / @DavidPurdum

Heading into its fifth football season, the Delaware sports lottery has blossomed into a viable opportunity for bettors of all levels, even noted wise guys.

More than $25 million was wagered on the NFL in Delaware in 2012, a 42 percent increase from 2011.

But bettors also won a much higher percentage last season. Approximately $20 million was cashed, a 60 percent increase from 2011. The sports lottery suffered net losses in November and January. Those were only the second and third losing months the lottery has suffered since its inception in 2009.

“Our bettors are getting a little more sophisticated,” said Vernon Kirk, Delaware Lottery Director. “We’re gambling at their mercy.” Continue reading

What happened when I tried to interview Incarcerated Bob

IB-4USE

By David Purdum / @DavidPurdum

I just wanted to interview Incarcerated Bob.

Instead, I got the names of family members and my home address published on Twitter in a threatening manner. I got publicly accused of being affiliated with the “KKK in the south.” Incarcerated Bob even went as far as to fabricate an email exchange between us that never occurred, posting it on his site in a sensational piece of fiction that had me using racial slurs and attempting extortion.

All I really wanted was an interview.

I’ve covered the sports betting industry for five years, for multiple sites. There is an ugly underbelly. What I uncovered this past week is unquestionably the slimiest of all.

Incarcerated Bob first gained notoriety as a regular caller on the Boomer and Carton Show on WFAN in New York. He provided picks and claimed to have inside sources feeding him information about the sports world.

Some people think it’s all one guy running the scheme. Others believe there are just too many Twitter accounts, too many email addresses and way too many ugly stories to be just one person. As with any elaborate scam, though, it is very difficult to nail down the parameters.BobTwitterAccounts copy

But one thing is very clear – Incarcerated Bob was not happy when he became aware that criminal background checks were being performed on a middle-aged man from Elmont, N.Y., named Louis Mendez.

On May 9, 2011, Louis Mendez of Elmont, N.Y., was accepted as a “Tiered Revenue Share Sportsbook Promoter” of an offshore sports book. According to registration records provided by a first-hand source, Mendez signed up under the username Randizzle14, with the email address Randizzle14@gmail.com and phone number with a New York 347 area code. Mendez registered with the website Gamblersfinalword.blogspot.com. At the top of that site, it currently reads “Incarcerated Bob’s Picks-N-Rumors.”

Randizzle, aka @TeamMoneyPicks, is a major player in Bob’s network. Randizzle may very well be Bob, who may very well be Mendez.

According to his Linkedin page, Incarcerated Bob hails from Elmont, N.Y. Mendez’s criminal record lists the same Elmont, N.Y. address, but has him currently residing in Elmhurst, N.Y.

The criminal background checks began last week. It became personal on Thursday.

Before the background checks were completed, I received a barrage of venomous tweets from @BigEastProfit, one of the Twitter accounts linked and likely controlled by Incarcerated Bob.

He posted my home address, named a family member in a threatening tone, accused me of being affiliated with the KKK and added things like “we have investigators, as well” and “Stop now, my friend.”

#thinkaboutit

Four days later, @IncarceratedBob tweeted the following (notice the hashtag):

BobThinkOnIt

A scan of the #Thinkonit hashtag archive on Twitter reveals Incarcerated Bob has used it frequently, including Monday in regards to Tim Tebow signing with the Patriots. Surely, just a coincidence, right?

But the bigger question is why would @BigEastProfit know criminal background checks were being performed on Louis Mendez? The increase in severity of the threats and the acknowledgement of the ongoing investigation were, at minimum, indications that I was on the right track.

The confirmation came a few days later from a financial executive and recreational sports bettor, who we’ll call Steve.

Steve had been on Twitter for only a short time, when he received a series of direct messages from @IncarceratedBob.

Steve had gotten off to a hot start with his picks on Twitter and quickly built a following of a few thousand followers. Incarcerated Bob saw an opportunity and offered Steve $10,000 to buy his account for six months. He tried to persuade Steve by telling him that his account only had value for a limited time

Incarcerated Bob gave Steve a phone number. It was the same number with the 347 area code that Louis Mendez used to register with the online sports book.

The two talked, but Steve declined the offer. Shortly after, a Twitter account with the exact same avatar as Steve’s and a slightly altered handle appeared. And the vicious attacks on Steve’s real Twitter account began.

Why even give him the publicity, other writers asked? Why put yourself through the harassment that comes from trying to interview Incarcerated Bob?

I considered it all and came up with a line of reasoning that is going to come off as overly dramatic and righteous, but here it is:

It started with a report that Floyd Mayweather bet $5.9 million on the Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last Monday. The report was typical of Bob’s crew, completely unattributed. It came from his @Pregame_Steam account, which uses a logo of the sports betting site Pregame.com as its avatar. @Pregame_Steam is not affiliated with Pregame.com, according to company CEO R.J. Bell.

@Pregame_Steam also tweeted last Monday night that a $50,000 bet had been placed on the Heat -7 at the MGM sports book.

PregameSteamBogusMGMTweet

According to Jay Rood, Vice President of MGM Race and Sports, no such bet had been placed.

After being called out on their reports, the IBN crew has since begun reporting their make-believe big bets are occurring at offshore books. Their Vegas sources must have disappeared.

Despite the obvious and redundant signs of fraud, mainstream media outlets continue to treat the Incarcerated Bob Network as a legitimate source. The Mayweather bet is the most recent example. Some called @Pregame_Steam a Vegas site. Others were duped by the avatar and credited Pregame.com.

The Chicago Tribune ran an online report with the headline, “Vegas site claims Mayweather bet $6M on Heat.”

The article’s lead: “Boxing champion Floyd Mayweather is betting nearly $6 million on the Miami Heat to beat the Indiana Pacers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals Monday night, according to pregame.com.”

The New York Daily News, the Daily Mail in the UK, Bleacher Report, FoxSports and many, many more outlets all published forms of the unsubstantiated rumor. Some were more cautious than others, but they all unknowingly helped fuel Incarcerated Bob’s persona and ego.

Incarcerated Bob uses these ridiculous, made-up reports to manipulate the media. He then uses the notoriety he receives to sucker sports bettors into buying picks from his handicappers. In doing so, he damages the credibility of my profession and the industry I cover. Plus, I feel bad for the naive bettors who are conned into believing Incarcerated Bob is something he’s not.

Look no further than the illegitimacy of Incarcerated Bob’s Twitter following for proof. As of Friday morning, 78 percent of his 105,000 followers were listed as fake, with another 12 percent inactive, according to fakers.statuspeople.com.

FakeTwitter

In addition, if you believe that @IncarceratedBob and @BigEastProfit are operated by the same person, as the above hashtag coincidence seems to indicate, then clients deserve an explanation for why they gave out opposite sides for Sunday’s Game 2 of NBA Finals.

BobSpurs

BigEastProfitHeat

I’m far from the only member of the media to be attacked by Incarcerated Bob. He’s relentlessly harassed ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio, going as far as tweeting threats to Florio’s son. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman also has been targeted. He’s taunted reality TV star Snooki and even went after the Ole Miss football program, including coach Hugh Freeze.

I mentioned to another media member and fellow victim of Incarcerated Bob’s attacks that Bob’s shtick was hurting our profession. His response, in my mind, solidified that I had to follow through on this story.

“There’s a lot of fun in this biz but it gets worse and worse every day,” he said.

He’s right. The media often deserves criticism, but it certainly doesn’t make our job easier, when we have people intentionally trying to deceive reporters with fabricated info. I felt that if I didn’t pursue this story, I was not doing my part to help the future of journalism and media. The bad guys are winning, I thought.

See, pretty damn dramatic and righteous, especially since all I really wanted was to interview Incarcerated Bob. I thought he deserved the chance to tell his side of the story.

All interview requests to Incarcerated Bob purposely were made through Twitter only. When he didn’t respond, I asked anyone who had purchased picks from Incarcerated Bob’s crew to reach out to me, adding that both positive and negative stories were welcome.

About a dozen emails came in, some with detailed tales of Bob’s handicappers trying to bilk clients out of money with things like unannounced commission fees after winning weeks. Others had screen shots of losing picks that evidently had been deleted or were not included in Bob’s handicapping records. Several who responded were embarrassed that they had fallen for the ploy.

“It’s inexcusable that someone with my level of education (I’m actually a real doctor, not just a silly twitter handle) would be so gullible,” one former client of the Incarcerated Bob crew wrote in an email. “But I was completely unfamiliar with twitter and never considered that someone could just create dozens of false extra personas to create positive reviews for a service. I also didn’t realize that tweets could be deleted (I was VERY unfamiliar with twitter) so I didn’t see how his record could be fake.”

Another former IBN client wrote: “I lost money with his plays. Especially bowl season. But it was cheap, so I couldn’t really complain. The worst thing about that set of guys is that they (make) 5 unit, 10 unit, 20 unit plays. But then they drop these 100 unit plays, and the guy taking my action has limits. I’m a college kid. So if I’m playing a $10 unit, I can bet $50, $100, $200, whatever. But $1,000? No way. Nobody I knows can afford to take that. And then they brag about how they went 2-1 but are +104 units on the day when the customers actually don’t have the ability to get down on that action. I probably learned the most valuable lesson of my young betting career from them, however. You can’t blindly tail picks. So I guess for that $90 bucks, I actually gained something, just not money I wanted.

There were a couple of positive responses, made exclusively on Twitter, from bettors who said they made money off of Incarcerated Bob’s network of handicappers.

Between threats, @BigEastProfit asked that I mention how Incarcerated Bob had donated to a random golf outing for a group of guys who were remembering a lost friend.

I also learned, though, that there were entire Twitter accounts dedicated to exposing Incarcerated Bob. It was all very telling, but not as incriminating as what happened last Tuesday.

Around 8 a.m., I received an email from Vanessa F., with the subject header “Randizzle Info.”

Vanessa F. bought picks from Randizzle, I thought? Hmmm …

The email read, “I may have something on Randizzle that will help out with the story your [sic] doing.

Please instruct me on how to get you the material.”

From my previous encounter with Bob’s crew, I quickly recognized the porous grammar in “the story your doing.”

Wary, I removed my phone numbers from my normal email signature line before replying to Vanessa F. If my suspicions were correct, I certainly didn’t want Vanessa F. to have my phone numbers. Altering my signature also would be a way to mark these emails in case something went astray.

A few hours later, things went astray.

This article appeared on Bob’s site last Tuesday morning. It concludes with a fabricated back-and-forth exchange with my email signature without my phone numbers.

“So I take it you’re declining the interview?” I tweeted to Bob after the story published. He cursed at me.

My goal of interviewing Incarcerated Bob was apparently dead.

In the end, Incarcerated Bob is a man, who lives by a unique set of ethics in an alternate reality that only he can understand. His worst crimes may very well be manipulating the media to sell picks, like plenty of unscrupulous sports handicapping sites do.

Perhaps this quote from Incarcerated Bob from a recent interview with Barstool New York’s KFC Radio best sums up this man: “I’ve been on Twitter, doing what I do on Twitter. I make a lot of enemies, which is actually good. People don’t understand the method to my madness. They get caught up in it. I’ve got guys, draft experts and all of these ESPN (guys going) ‘Ahhhhh, Incarcerated Bob.’ They get all uptight. Whatever, just keep talking about me.”

Wonder why Bob didn’t want me talking about him?

Note: I initially began reporting on this story for The Linemakers on Sporting News, but my editors and I agreed that it had escalated past content appropriate for that platform.

As a journalist, you never want to become the story, but, in this case, the best way to show how malicious Incarcerated Bob’s crew can be is by telling the story of what happened to me.

I considered pitching the story to other media outlets and having them independently report and write it, but ultimately decided that I didn’t want to subject anyone else to the backlash and harassment that is sure to follow.

I am confident in my reporting and believe this is a story that needs to be told.

If you’d like to help with this cause, please pass along this link or tell the story to members of the media—radio, online, TV and print—as well as any inexperienced sports bettors, so they do not get fooled by Incarcerated Bob and his army of goons.

David Purdum is a professional freelance writer. You can reach him on Twitter @DavidPurdum.

Source: Indicted ailing Philly bookie was in on Tim Donaghy games

By David Payne Purdum / @DavidPurdum

One of the men allegedly in on the Tim Donaghy NBA gambling scandal is headed to trial – if he survives.

Joseph Vito Mastronardo Jr., the accused head of a multimillion-dollar Philadelphia-based sports betting operation, was among 16 indicted Wednesday on gambling and racketeering charges.

A source close to the family said that Joe Vito is battling cancer and isn’t expected to survive the trial.

According to the source who asked to remain anonymous, a lot of Mastronardo’s money was wagered on the games Donaghy, a former NBA ref, provided information on. Sean Patrick Griffin, author of “Gaming the Game,” described Mastronardo as “one of the most influential bookmakers and bettors on the East Coast” in a 2010 blog post.

Griffin told Philly.com’s William Bender that Mastronardo mentored James “Baba” Battista, who is said to have been the primary co-conspirator with Donaghy.

“It’s Joe Vito’s records that led them to Battista,” Griffin told Philly.com. “Battista initially thought Joe was a rat.”

The indictment charges Joe Vito Mastronardo and John Mastronardo as being the leaders of the operation that allegedly had more than 1,000 bettors and generated millions of dollars a year. Multiple offshore websites were used in the operation, according to the indictment.

A gambler who claimed to be one of Mastronardo’s clients pointed to Bellaction.com as one of the sites used in the operation. Limits were reportedly $150,000 at the Costa Rica-based site, which appeared to be up and running as of Wednesday evening.

Prosecutors told  The Times Herald that the bookmaking organization was non-violent and debts were sometimes settled by making donations to charitable organizations.

 “There are no facts alleged in the indictment or charges of any acts of violence or retaliation against a bettor who could not pay,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Bologna told The Times Herald.

The source close to the Mastronardo family added that Joe Vito paid millions of dollars in taxes on his gambling income for over 25 years.

Last year, police discovered more than $1 million in cash buried in the yard of Joe Mastronardo’s Philadelphia mansion. Some of the stash was found in specially-built compartments and in PVC pipes buried in the yard, according to NBCphiladelphia.com.

New Jersey sports betting: Gov. Chris Christie responds to suit

This is a transcript of an exchange New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had with a reporter regarding the NCAA, NFL and other major sports groups filing a legal complaint against the state’s push for legalized sports betting. Some questions were inaudible.

Governor Christie: Well, listen, there was a federal law that was passed that restricts the states that can participate in sports gambling to just four states. We believe that that law is unconstitutional. We have put the question before the voters of New Jersey. The voters of New Jersey said they wanted to allow sports gambling in New Jersey. We’re moving ahead. We issued regulations to allow for the issuance of licenses for sports gambling and once we did that, the sports leagues have now sued and the battle is engaged. I have a conference call at 5 o’clock this afternoon with the Attorney General to talk to him about the next steps and the direction of the division of law, talk about the next steps that we’ll take legally to defend our position.

Question: How do you think it’s going to play out?

Governor Christie: I think we’re going to win.

Question: Will you expand on that a little?

Governor Christie: No. Winning is winning, David. You know, I think we’re going to win. Because I don’t believe the federal government has the right to decide that only certain states can have sports gambling. On what basis? And it does not acknowledge that there is illegal sports gambling going on in every state in America as we speak. And so why is this more injurious somehow than illegal sports gambling to the operations of the league or the NCAA. Listen, I don’t believe it’s up to the federal government to decide what happens within the borders of a state on this issue especially when they permit other states to do it. If there was a grand nationwide prohibition there wouldn’t be an argument, but how is it sports gambling in New Jersey is going to affect the sports leagues more than it already affects the sports leagues in Nevada. It happens every day all over the state of Nevada and three other states. I don’t understand why New Jersey would make it so much worse. So I think, ultimately, I think this is going to be found to be unconstitutional. We’re going to have a long road ahead of us with the courts but we’re prepared for the fight.

Question:(N/A)

Governor Christie: I have no idea. I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know. But if in fact it was found to be constructional. If the law was found to be unconstitutional they would have, I would think, a major hurdle to get over to pass a law that would restrict us to do it that would be constitutional. But who knows, you know if they try, I have no idea. Sports leagues have a lot of money. They spend a lot of money supporting Congress, so who knows what will happen. But my view is that it’s very difficult to make an argument that this is constitutional when you allow certain states to do it. I believe ultimately we’ll prevail but you know we’ll see what happens. That’s what the courts are for.

Question:(N/A)

Governor Christie: Are you concerned they’re going to pull the Superbowl? I’m not. We’re well along the way us and New York in terms of planning the Superbowl and I have no concerns. Have I gotten any direct assurances from Commissioner Goodell? No I haven’t. But I saw him last week or two weeks ago when I was in Idaho. He certainly didn’t raise the issues with me in our conversation about pulling the Superbowl so I think we’ll be fine. I think we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We’ll prepare for the Superbowl. We’ll do a great job with the Superbowl and we’ll have our separate legal fight over whether or not sports gambling should be legal in more than four states in the United States.

Question: Before the Superbowl did you know you were going to push sports gambling or did you sit on it until after…

Governor Christie: I think there was discussion well before that by Senator Lesniak and others about sports gambling and I think I always took the position that I thought it needed to go to referendum so we could hear from the public as to whether they supported it or not. So, you know, Terry, I can’t remember all the dates but it seems we’ve been talking about this issue since the gubernatorial campaign in 2009. No I don’t think there was any…you’ll have to find the bait and switch on this one but I don’t think there is.

Transcript courtesy of Michael Drewniak, Press Secretary to NJ Governor Chris Christie.

Court: Tim Donaghy owed $1.7 million from book publisher

By David Payne Purdum / dpurdum@sportsdirectinc.com

A rough week for ex-NBA ref Tim Donaghy ended on a high note Friday, a $1.7 million high note.

A Florida civil court awarded Donaghy $1,718, 375 in its final judgment against his former book publisher Shawna Vercher and her defunct company VTi Group Inc.

The ruling came four days after a New York court ruled that Donaghy must terminate his employment with a sports betting website and radio show due to the company frontman Danny T. Biancullo’s past felony convictions.

Donaghy has filed paperwork asking the court to terminate his probation and eliminate any employment restrictions. His probation is currently scheduled to end in November.

Meanwhile, Vercher, a political radio talk show host in Tampa, has 30 days to file an appeal and 45 days to provide all financial information.

Tim Donaghy asking to end probation, after court terminates sports betting employment

By David Payne Purdum / @DavidPurdum

Tim Donaghy’s probation office wouldn’t allow him to take a job managing a chain of Florida-based ice cream shops, but signed off on the ex-NBA ref working for a sports betting radio show and website.

That changed Monday, when a New York court ordered Donaghy to end his employment with sports handicapper Daniel T. Biancullo, aka Danny B.

“My extreme disappointment in the outcome of the hearing in front of U.S. District Judge [Carol Bagley] Amon leaves me no choice but to file a formal appeal with her court this Friday, in order to restore my ability to earn a living,” Donaghy said in an emailed statement Thursday.

Donaghy’s attorney Nick Mooney later clarified that his client is not appealing the ruling, but instead asking for his probation to be terminated, ending his employment restrictions. His probation is currently scheduled to end in November.

Donaghy had been working as an analyst for Danny B. since Oct. 2010, roughly a  year after was released from prison after serving 13 months for being the centerpiece in an NBA gambling scandal.

He appeared on the radio show “The Sports Connection” and had been providing sports betting insights with Bianculla on Sportsconnectionwins.com. Donaghy’s picture was still on the front of the website early Thursday evening.

Before joining Sports Connection Wins, Donaghy went through a series of steps, including undergoing multiple mental evaluations, to get cleared by his probation officer to work with Bianculla, according to court documents.

But when it was uncovered that Biancullo, who also uses the alias Danny Berrelli, had a past felony conviction on gambling charges, an investigation was launched, resulting in a Monday hearing conducted by phone. As a part of his probation, Donaghy is not allowed to associate with felons.

During the investigation, Biancullo told probation officer Ms. Gerri Cotter that Donaghy did not know of his previous convictions and had done nothing wrong, court documents show.

Donaghy represented himself at the New York-based hearing that Mooney says was unnecessary and unusual. Most probation employment issues are handled directly by the probation office, which, according to Mooney, just “tell you to stop working there.”

“That’s an unfortunate situation that restricts Mr. Donaghy’s ability to earn a living and support he and his family,” said Mooney, who is representing Donaghy in his civil case against his former book publisher Shawna Vercher. “Mr. Donaghy looks forward to putting everything behind him about this case and move forward with his life, daughters and family.”

After his release from prison in November 2009, Donaghy submitted 150 resumes while looking for employment.. He had secured a job overseeing several ice cream shops, but his probation officer didn’t allow him to take the position due the travel required.

He worked for a licensed gambling treatment center, Firststep Inc., for brief period, but the the New Jersey-based center was unable to pay due to financial issues.

All this came on top of his book publisher failing to pay him royalties on his book, “Personal Foul: A First-Person Account of the Scandal That Rocked the NBA.” Donaghy won a judgment against his former publisher, Tampa-area political radio host Shawna Vercher, and will be in civil court Friday, when the final ruling, including the exact settlement figures, will be announced. The initial ruling found Vercher to be liable for more than a million dollars in unpaid royalties.

Link

There was no “good job, good effort” at the end of a women’s doubles badminton match between world champion China and South Korea on Tuesday.

In fact, there was very little effort at all.

The Badminton World Federation released a statement Tuesday, accusing four teams—two from South Korea and one from China and Indonesia—with “not using one’s best efforts to win a match” and “conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport.”

Gambling didn’t appear to be behind the lack of effort. Instead, the teams threw the matches to get a better draw in the knockout round. All eight athletes were expelled from the tournament on Wednesday, hours before they were scheduled to compete in the quarterfinals, according to the Associated Press.

On Tuesday, the South Korean team of Jung Kyun-eun and Kim Ha-na upset the China’s world champion team of Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang as 8/5 underdogs. The longest rally in the first game was only four strokes, and fans booed the teams as they left the court.

“We would try hard in every match if they were elimination games,” Yu told reporters after the match. “Because they are group stage that’s why we are conserving energy. If we’re not playing the best it’s because it doesn’t matter — if we’re the first or the second (in the group) we’re already through. The most important thing is the elimination match tomorrow.”

A second team from South Korea and Indonesia repeated the act in the following match, reportedly hitting serve after serve into the net or out of bounds.

“It’s not good when you create a tournament where the players are put in this situation,” Australia coach Lance Bundagaard told the Associated Press said. “If you can win a medal by losing, but not by winning, that’s not a good situation to be put in. I totally understand why they are doing it. Now the Indonesians are doing the same but it’s not a good situation to be put in.”