The police have busted a video rental store near Atlanta for running an illegal gambling operation, according to WSB-TV.
Despite the legalization of sports gambling in several states, illegal, underground bookmaking continues to exist and even thrive, with crazy estimates theorizing the market size remains in the tens of billions of dollars.
Thanks to the internet, these operations can be fairly difficult to track down. They’re also rather innocuous compared to other forms of violent crime and drugs that require police resources.
But the accused, a man named Boonlert Boonsawang, did an awful job at concealing his business, if WSB-TV’s reporting is accurate.
First, Boonsawang was operating a movie rental store in 2019, more than six years after Blockbuster closed its last 300 company-owned stores. This is the golden age of streaming services. Netflix, Hulu, Disney/ESPN, HBO and others offer subscription packages with thousands of hours of programming.
In other words, no one goes to a physical store to rent movies.
On top of that, officers say the most recent movie on the shelves came out more than a decade ago.
“What one detective described to me was probably the most recent movie in there that was available to rent was an action movie from 2007,” Lt. Jake Parker said, according to WSB-TV.
What’s more, investigators claim they have been staking out the store since January.
“They saw lots of customers come and go,” WSB-TV’s reporting asserts. “But no one ever seemed to leave with a VHS tape or even a DVD.”
The story also asserts that law enforcement suspected the store was a front for a gambling operation years ago, but did not have the resources to go undercover in an attempt to make a case until recently, as they’ve been pursuing higher-priority items.
Operating a movie rental store with no inventory more recent than 10 years, with a frequent stream of customers who never leave the store with DVDs or VHS tapes, seems like one of the biggest red flags in the history of money laundering or bookmaking.
If the allegations are true, one has to assume that Boonsawang was so brazen because he just didn’t think anyone would take the time to investigate and prosecute him.
These types of busts do happen in the United States, but without much frequency. It will be interesting to see if that changes, especially in states that make it legal to operate sportsbooks.
That would seem to provide incentive to the government in those states to squeeze the illegal market as hard as possible in an attempt to control a larger portion of the dollars, therefore generating more tax revenue.