Betting ended abruptly at the Bicycle Hotel & Casino in Bell Gardens on Tuesday as federal agents raided what is one of Southern California’s largest gambling rooms.
Thousands of financial records were seized during a money-laundering investigation at the California casino card room that began at approximately 7 am yesterday, when investigators from the Los Angeles High Intensity Financial Crime Area Task Force, entered the casino’s main floor, according to local news agencies.
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.
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, blocked the entrances to both of the casino’s parking lots on Tuesday morning and shortly before 9:30 am, an armored truck was waved toward the front door of the establishment by agents.
While declining to comment on “the scope or nature of the investigation,” ICE spokeswoman, Virginia Kice, did say that a “search warrant issued by a United States magistrate judge was filed under seal in relation to an ongoing investigation,” according to the Times report. Kice reportedly said that as of 5:30 pm, investigators were still working inside of the casino.
Casino spokeswoman, Becky Warren, said that management was “cooperating with authorities.” Declining to comment further, she said the casino would reopen today at 3 a.m.
Dozens of people were drawn to the edge of the Bicycle’s property, several of which had complaints about the casino, ranging from rude pit bosses to suspicions regarding the possibility of rigged gaming.
Several people, including employees, expressed concern regarding chips they were holding and whether the raid would render them worthless. An agent reportedly reassured one nervous man that ICE was not taking over the casino and that he could cash his chips in at a later date. The state gambling control bureau’s Nathan Davalle, also reportedly said that players possessing outstanding chips would be able to collect their money when the casino reopened, according to a Los Angeles Times report.
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 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. 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.
The casino, which is known for its 185 poker, and other card game tables, is now privately owned by Bicycle Hotel & Casino LLC. In 2015, the hotel opened next door to the casino on property which was previously used for parking.