Italian Mafia-Run Gaming Group Busted, Made €5m in 24 Months

  • Prosecutors are targeting a group run by the Casalesi Clan (Venosa-Schiavone faction)
  • There could be indictments against up to 71 individuals
  • The organization reached millions worldwide
  • Italian lawmakers want to see a central authority to help kick out illegal operators
shady gangster playing cards
A mafia-backed organization has been busted for running an illegal gambling operation in Italy. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Dozens caught in sting

A criminal group based in Mercato San Severino, Salerno, Italy has been busted for running an illegal online gambling operation. 

group is run by the Casalesi Clan

Prosecutors allege that the group is run by the Casalesi Clan (Venosa-Schiavone faction), an organized mafia group. The operation made €5m ($5.4m) in two years, according to reports.

An investigation led by the Salerno’s carabinieri— a gendarmerie that primarily handles domestic policing— uncovered the mafia-backed enterprise. Thirty-three precautionary orders were issued in January, and indictments could now be presented to up to 71 people.

Detailing the charges against the Mafia

Prosecutors Giancarlo Russo and Francesca Fittipaldi of the Naples Local Antimafia Directorate (DDA) are leading the judicial charge. Charges against the 71 people range from criminal association to money laundering to reuse of illegal money.

reach a gaming base of millions of people around the world

The organization used an early-2000s electronic management and administration system to reach a gaming base of millions of people around the world. The masterminds behind the ring used .eu and .com domains without approval from the Customs and Monopolies Agency (ADM), which is the Italian regulator for such businesses.

The military seized the assets of 11 websites and two offices in Mercato San Severino four months ago; this resulted in the confiscation of nearly €3m ($3.24m). The physical servers for the websites were located in tax havens like Panama and Curacao.

This was another major victory for the Italian legal system, which scored an €88.65m ($95.8m) bust last year. That investigation, nicknamed Operation Double Game, led to 23 restriction orders being placed against Sicily’s Cosa Nostra-linked operators.

The bust also implicated nearby Malta, an island nation with over 525,000 citizens south of Italy’s boot. The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project noted that “Maltese online gambling is an infamous cash cow” as it was linked to the ‘Ndrangheta family.

Changes brewing in Italy

Italy’s Ministry of Economy and Finance penned a plan to guard against illegal betting operations back in February. Unanswered questions over license expirations directed at the ADM spurred the decision.

calls for a central regulating body

The plan deals with limiting stakes and payouts but does not explicitly describe the upper thresholds. It also calls for a central regulating body, which would handle self-excluded persons, problem-gambling schemes, and regulated agencies in harmony.

Valentina Vezzali, Italy’s undersecretary for sports, is also lobbying for a permanent 1% tax on sports betting revenue. This is based on research that suggests the permanent tax would create another €160m ($172.83m) in addition to the €500m ($540.12m) already collected from retail (18%) and online (22%) fees.

Under Italian law, only the country – through the Autonomous Administration of State Monopolies – can issue gambling licenses. The country has long avoided liberal legislation out of fear of interference from illegal operators, such as the Mafia.