Michael Franzese has turned into a Mafia rank-and-file to a proponent of responsible gambling and an advocate against gambling expansion that could endanger people’s livelihoods.
From Mafia Match-Fixer to Do-Gooder
As Connecticut has now explored its options to legalize mobile betting and gambling in collaboration with state tribes, some skepticism persists whether regulation can fully counterweigh the bane of match-fixing.
Michael Franzese, a reformed Mafia handicapper who has fixed gambling contests in his time, spoke to at the University of New Haven during a virtual discussion on Wednesday and argued that bringing more gambling options to the state might backfire.
He shared his opposition to online gambling and the overall expansion of the gambling industry, citing issues such as gambling addiction, increased gambling due to the on-tap access of gambling products, and match-fixing.
Yet, Franzese’s objection looks a little misplaced as the American Gaming Association (AGA) has repeatedly furnished proof that illegal gambling operators benefit from consumers’ unfamiliarity with gambling products and have no obligations to maintain the highest standards of responsible gambling whereas regulated operators do, as required by their licenses.
Franzese though is worried about people’s livelihoods. Regardless of his objection, though, sports and online gambling are well on their way in Connecticut. Last month, Gov. Ned Lamont negotiated an agreement with the state’s tribes, allowing the Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino and Foxwoods Resort Casino to launch in the online gambling segment, subject to 18% tax for the first five years to be followed by a 20% tax on all iGaming operations.
Sports gambling, though, will be taxed at 13.8%, a much more lenient rate that should boost competitiveness and allow the tribes to fully develop their product. Future tax hikes are not completely ruled out. A lot rides on the success of Connecticut’s legal gambling expansion, as the proceeds will be used to fund the Pledge to Advance Connecticut (PACT) among other key underfunded pieces of state life.
The state is now moving quickly hoping to clip the next NFL season when it begins in September and coincides with the NBA, and later in 2022, cater to March Madness audiences.
Why’s Franzese Worried After All?
Despite all the good that would come out of legalizing gambling in the state, Franzese has a few qualms. He didn’t mince his words stating bluntly that: “As long as you have people willing to gamble and other people willing to take advantage of that person, then you’re gonna have match fixing.”
Franzese has played a role in fixing matches himself as a capo for the New York’s Colombo family. His days in the Mafia are long gone and he has left that life behind. Yet, his insight is valuable.
He detailed how he would approach officials or athletes who had a gambling debt, a unique angle to explore, and would convince them to help the family fix a game. Nevertheless, Franzese sees light at the end of the tunnel, and that is educating everyone involved about the potential dangers of match-fixing.
Today, this is a federal offense that bears a stiff penalty in every state in the United States, and Connecticut is no exception. “Remember, an organized crime member is never going to go up to somebody and put a gun in their face and say ‘you have to do this. They’re going to get into trouble on their own,” concluded.
Sportradar, a global integrity tech company, has outlined a similar scenario happening with match-fixers. Illegal gambling rings and criminal syndicates do not want to coerce individuals into doing something they do not want to.
Rather, they want to identify vulnerable and underpaid athletes who would be willing to at least consider fixing a game. The cancer of match-fixing is back, as Sportradar warned earlier this year, but the good news is that Connecticut has a chance to do things right.