Bicycle Club Casino Money Laundering

These days, The Bicycle Hotel and Casino is a respected Los Angeles-area staple. With considerably more than 100,000 square feet containing around 185 tables, The Bike is a go-to—despite a 2017 raid and its even more controversial past.

Today, this massive 185-table games casino is privately owned by Bicycle Hotel & Casino, LLC. 2017 Bicycle Casino raid. The Bike was, again, the subject of controversy when it was raided by federal law enforcement in April 2017 for money laundering. This time, some players allegedly used the casino to exchange “dirty” money for chips.

The card room originally called the Bicycle Club opened in 1984 in Bell Gardens, California—one of the few cities in Los Angeles County to allow gambling establishments. On paper, George Hardie, Sr. was the founder and proprietor. Behind the scenes, the club was financed by a network of people and entities stretching from Los Angeles and Miami to Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Why would there be so much interest in a casino? Because it was the perfect cover for money laundering.
At the center of the operation, according to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in 1991, were Ben Kramer and his father Jack, their lawyer Mel Kessler, Ben’s business and smuggling partner Randy Lanier and L.A. construction magnate Sam Gilbert. They came to be the subjects of a federal R.I.C.O. case and the targets of racketeering accusations pertaining both to the funding of the casino and its operations. By the time the case concluded, it was decided that over half of the $22 million that went into developing the property was derived from smuggling, and that certain partners in the venture knew about this. Ben Kramer and a small selection of his partners were required to forfeit their stakes in the Bicycle Club, which constituted the single largest asset forfeited to the U.S. government at the time of the verdict. The federal government sold its share of the casino in 1996.
Read more about the Bicycle Club and its storied history in the second edition of Véhicule.

Less than 24 hours after being raided and shut down by federal agents, the Bicycle Hotel & Casino in Bell Gardens was reopened Wednesday morning, according to information reportedly provided to the Los Angeles Times by law enforcement officials. One of Southern California’s largest gambling rooms, the facility was raided by investigators from the Los Angeles High Intensity Financial Crime Area Task Force when they entered the casino’s main floor and seized thousands of financial records during a money-laundering investigation.

Money Laundering News

Betting ended abruptly at the casino at approximately 7 am on Tuesday morning and the facility was closed for about 20 hours. Agents from the task force, which includes investigators from Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. attorney’s office, and the California Department of Justice’s bureau of gambling control, led the raid. The focus of the probe will be whether the club was used by individuals to launder funds by using dirty money to place bets before trading in their chips for clean cash, according to what the news agency was reportedly told by law enforcement sources that are familiar with the investigation.

Bicycle Club Casino Money Laundering Case

Casino spokeswoman, Becky Warren, said that management was “cooperating with authorities,” but she declined to add to her statement at the time. It’s not the first time the Bicycle has been the focus of law enforcement efforts. Control of the casino was seized by the IRS and the Drug Enforcement Administration in April 1990 after authorities discovered the casino’s construction was financed with laundered drug money. A jury found that Florida drug smugglers had funded $12 million of the $22 million in construction costs.

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Bicycle Club Casino Money Laundering

Gambling And Money Laundering

Partial ownership of the casino was taken over by the federal government in 1991, with its share eventually being sold to a British gaming company five years later. By the time the government had sold its share of the Bicycle Club in 1996, it had reportedly made a substantial profit from its share of the casino. The casino, which was founded by George Hardie Sr. in 1984, is now privately owned by Bicycle Hotel & Casino LLC and is host to the Word Poker Tour and the World Series of Poker.