Is there such a thing as an ex-gambler? 

April, 26, 2013

I don't know many ex-gamblers. It's not the kind of gig that you can just decide you don't want to do anymore, like lawyering or doctoring or being a banker. And it's not the kind of career where you suddenly say one day that you're not going into the office. No one is giving you a gold watch (more likely you would get a pair of silver bracelets). People become gamblers because they don't want the 9-to-5 job; they don't want to work for anyone else. And because of that, it's hard for any of them to stop working at all. The feeling is innate.

That goes for bookmakers too, the suits of the sports-betting world. I know of only one guy who truly walked away from the sportsbook, and that was to go work at the Borgata. I'm not even sure that counts. Another bookmaker I know left the biz as the boss at one of the biggest books on the strip. He made some nice money, thought he could move his family away from Las Vegas and turn his back on it all. A few years later, he was back.

I've been thinking a lot about old-time gamblers and how they have no second acts the past couple of weeks. In mid-April, the Justice Department announced the arrests of several dozen people from Florida to New Hampshire for being a part of an illegal sports-betting operation that had earned more than $1 billion over 10 years. The list of aliases among those named in the bust reads like they were pulled from the best (or worst) mafia movies of all time: Gooch, Top Cat, Rico, Wild Bill, Fat Mikey, Limo, Big Dog, Big Lou. But it was one name at the top of the list of defendants that caught my eye. The Greek.