Coxon Club site re Major Coxson and Muhammad Ali has a lengthy post, complete with photos, about the late hustler extraordinaire Major Coxson, who was slain in 1973 by members of Philadelphia’s Black Mafia.  The site, which borrows heavily from my work (with attribution, thankfully), discusses things like Coxson’s close relationship with boxing legend Muhammad Ali and incorporates long form pieces from South Jersey Magazine, JET, and the New York Times.

Note: Publication date is unclear.  Site was active at least as early as October 2020.

Betting battleground: The fight over where people bet in the future

David Purdum,

A battle to be the place to watch and bet on sports is raging around the country, and the Las Vegas casino owner sitting on his corner barstool chuckling like Norm Peterson from “Cheers” is very much in the fight.

Whether drinking with guests at Longbar at The D hotel casino, or making big sports bets with competing bookmakers around town, Derek Stevens has emerged as the most approachable casino owner in Las Vegas since arriving from Detroit in the 1990s. Now everyone is watching his next move, as if the future of sports betting in Sin City depends on it.


The coronavirus pandemic crushed Las Vegas’ gaming and tourism industry back in the spring. The sportsbooks sat dormant for months, and revenue plummeted. According to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, gaming revenue in April suffered a 99.6% decrease compared with April 2019. Casinos are back open now, and crowds (of mostly locals) have returned to sportsbooks, which are operating at limited capacity during their most lucrative time of the year, football season. But the pandemic is just one of many challenges facing giant sportsbooks such as Caesars Palace, The Mirage and the SuperBook.

The professional sports leagues themselves have entered the bookmaking business and are aiming to lure fans out of the casinos and into placing bets inside their own stadiums and arenas. The location of sportsbooks, however, has become somewhat irrelevant. As regulated sports betting spreads across the United States, most bettors have access to bookmakers in their pockets, on their phones. The bulk of sports betting now takes place online, so it’s understandable that casinos outside Nevada are more often opting to build sports bars rather than the giant amphitheater sportsbooks that are so popular in Las Vegas…

Rest is here.

For more on sports betting, see here.

New studio in Las Vegas allows ESPN to expand its sports betting presence

Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports

During a segment on ESPN’s Daily Wager broadcast last Tuesday, which aired ahead of Game 1 of the World Series, host Doug Kezirian asked the hosts of ESPN’s Baseball Tonight to weigh in on which player would hit the game’s first home run, a popular proposition bet on the contest.

The sportsbooks favored Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts at -300.

ESPN analyst Mark Teixeira, a former major league first baseman, three-time All-Star, and World Series champion, seemed to like those odds.

The ESPN Las Vegas Studio
(Photo by Al Powers / ESPN Images)

A few years ago, a mix between sports betting and the national sports network’s traditional programming would have been shunned. But times have changed now that legal sports betting is taking place in 18 states and Washington, D.C. The activity has been embraced by traditional sports networks and professional sports leagues….

Rest is here

Circa Sportsbook welcomes sharp bettors

By Jim Barnes,  Las Vegas Review-Journal

VSiN to have studio at Circa

The sports betting network VSiN is expanding its operations with a new studio overlooking the Circa sportsbook.

The studio will serve as VSiN’s primary broadcasting center, but some shows will continue to be broadcast from the South Point, VSiN’s current home. VSiN also has broadcast centers in Atlantic City and Chicago…. 

Rest is here

Billy Walters sues federal officials for media leaks during insider trading investigation

David Purdum, ESPN Staff Writer

Billy Walters, one of the most successful professional sports bettors ever, filed a lawsuit Thursday claiming an ex-FBI agent leaked confidential information to the media and that federal officials knew about the leaks and didn’t try to stop them during an investigation that led to Walters’s 2017 conviction on insider trading charges.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. Southern District of New York, alleges that in 2014, then-FBI agent David Chaves gave information to reporters for the New York Times and Wall Street Journal about an ongoing investigation into Walters, professional golfer Phil Mickelson, investor Carl Icahn and a series of stock trades involving now-bankrupt Dean Foods.

The lawsuit alleges that the FBI attempted to generate new information about the investigation by leaking stories to the media, while also maintaining a wiretap on Walters’s phone to catch incriminating statements that might’ve been prompted by the news reports, a tactic known as “tickling the wire.” According to the complaint, then-U.S. attorney Preet Bharara, one of six named defendants, and his deputies “took no steps to meaningfully investigate, impede, or remedy the unlawful conduct and prevent the harm caused to Walters.”

Rest is here

Also see coverage by Darren Rovell for the Action Network here, and by David Ferrara in the Las Vegas Review-Journal here

Documentary ‘Hold Your Fire’ Wins Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize

It was fascinating being a very small part of this important and timely film (I served on the advisory board for Hold Your Fire).  Director Stefan Forbes, who contacted me because of my work on Philadelphia’s Black Mafia and especially its ties to the Nation of Islam, is a real pro.

From Deadline:

Documentary Hold Your Fire directed by Stefan Forbes (Boogie ManThe Lee Atwater Story) has nabbed the second annual Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film, a $200,000 finishing grant for a filmmaker who uses original research and compelling narrative to tell stories that touch on an aspect of American history.

Produced by Amir Soltani and Tia Wou, the feature-length doc explores the longest hostage siege in NYPD history in1973 at a Brooklyn sporting goods store and how Harvey Schlossberg, an officer with a doctorate in psychology, averted a bloodbath.

In the incident, four young Black men stealing guns for self-defense were cornered by police. A violent gun battle ensued and soon a police officer lay dead in the freezing rain. Hundreds of officers poured into Williamsburg intent on carrying out then standard NYPD operating procedure: issue an ultimatum, then assault the store with deadly force despite hostages being trapped inside.

Rest is here.

Also see coverage in TIME Magazine.

The real reason Don King warned Mike Tyson to stay away from future wife Kiki Spicer

An article posted on June 2, 2020 by the celebrity news/gossip site was titled, “The untold truth of Mike Tyson’s wife.”  Months prior, another website posted an article titled, “7 Takeaways From The Mike Tyson Interview With T.I.” (rapper and entrepreneur T.I. hosts a podcast called “expeditiously”).  Each article discusses the courtship between the boxing legend and Lakiha “Kiki” Spicer, who began dating in 2000.  Each piece also includes the following quote by boxing promoter Don King (emphasis added): “Stay away from her. Don’t go talking to that girl. Leave these people alone. These are not the people to mess with.”  Each article notes this concern stemmed from concerns about Kiki’s father, Shamsud-din Ali, who is described – verbatim in each – simply as “an influential Muslim cleric in Philadelphia.”  These articles rely upon a 2012 New York Post article, “Tyson: Third marriage him turn life around”, for the quotes and the context.  Importantly, the Post article offers nothing further re Shamsud-din and these circumstances than do the others relying upon it.

What is fascinating – though tragically predictable by now – is that none of these three pieces addresses the elephants in the room, namely (1) why should Kiki have avoided someone merely described as “an influential Muslim cleric”?; (2) who did Don King mean by “these people”; and (3) why were they not to be “messed with”?

As I have written elsewhere in a related commentary about Muhammad Ali’s significant ties to the underworld:

The answers to those compelling questions fill many pages of my work on Philadelphia’s Black Mafia over the past 20 years…Unfortunately for someone trying to get a concise read on this complex and controversial history, these issues are all inter-related and thus require considerable explanation.

Shamsud-din Ali, who took over Philadelphia’s notorious Nation of Islam Temple 12 in 1976 following the demotion of the NOI’s influential and feared Jeremiah Shabazz, was a Black Mafia leader formerly known as Clarence Fowler.  Fowler (who was a captain in the paramilitary Fruit of Islam under Shabazz at the time) was convicted of a 1970 murder and served a few years in prison before his conviction was overturned by a divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court (a re-trial was ruled out by officials when the key witness against him refused to participate, supposedly after being visited by Black Mafia henchmen).  While in Philly’s corrupted Holmesburg Prison, Fowler was an influential figure inside the institution and on the street; he returned to society as Shamsud-din Ali.

Immediately following his 1976 release from prison, informants described Shamsud-din continuing the Black Mafia extortion racket, and in the late 1990s he became the subject of a massive federal narcotics investigation when wholesalers for a drug-dealing rap group (with Black Mafia origins) named RAM Squad discussed his alleged role on wiretaps.  That probe involved an overheard conversation of Shamsud-din asking a drug wholesaler for $5,000, explaining he needed the money to give to a longtime aide to Philadelphia Mayor John Street.  The revelation spawned a separate and distinct investigation into municipal corruption that involved “pay-to-play” shakedowns and “no-show” jobs; it was discovered Shamsud-din was a major power broker in municipal contracting and his stature was acknowledged by politicians and by violent entrepreneurs, alike.  Concerning the latter, Dawud Bey (son of founding Black Mafia member Roosevelt “Spooks” Fitzgerald) was recorded complaining to another prominent drug dealer that Shamsud-din was “walking with kings and we’re out here hustling.”  Bey was likely referring to Shamsud-din’s prominence in city politics, which included things like meeting President Bill Clinton during a visit with Mayor Street.  One of the FBI’s recorded conversations involved Shamsud-din boasting about young heavily-armed drug dealers fearing him, no doubt because of the Black Mafia’s legendary reputation on the street.  The drug investigation led to the convictions and/or guilty pleas of 37 people, and the corruption probe resulted in another 20 persons pleading guilty or being convicted at trial, including the City Treasurer.  In 2005, Shamsud-din was convicted of 22 counts of various racketeering and fraud charges and was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison; he was released from federal prison in December 2013.

Among those convicted in the corruption probe with Shamsud-din was his daughter, Lakiha “Kiki” Spicer, who was found guilty (along with her mother and Shamsud-din’s wife, Faridah Ali, formerly Rita Spicer) in October 2004 for her role in a “ghost teacher” scam.  Incredibly, Kiki (after dating a RAM Squad member and drug dealer named Tommy Hill – birth name John Wilson – who was later killed in 2011 when it was disclosed he had cooperated with authorities) went on to marry boxing great Mike Tyson in June 2009.  She met Tyson when she was 18 years old because of Shamsud-din’s relationship with Don King and thus she often attended boxing events.  Despite Don King’s much-publicized warning, Kiki, who discovered she was pregnant with Tyson’s child a week before she entered federal prison in April 2008 (she was released on October 30, 2008), wedded Tyson in 2009 and the couple have two children together.

Above is a classic photo of Shamsud-din Ali next to another boxing legend, Muhammad Ali, who is flanked by a Philadelphia Black Mafia leader named Robert “Nudie” Mims.  Mims, also known as Ameen Jabbar, died in prison in 2012 while serving a life sentence for his role in one of the city’s most infamous crimes.  In 1971, Mims and some of his Black Mafia confederates robbed DuBrow’s Furniture Store in South Philly, killing one employee and setting many others on fire.  (The robbery/murder/arson is discussed @12:45 in the 2007 BET American Gangster episode,“Philly Black Mafia: ‘Do for Self’.”)  The above photo was likely taken while Mims was briefly out of prison following the May 1980 PA State Supreme Court granting of a retrial.

Mims would soon be re-arrested after police executed a search warrant and discovered cocaine, a Thompson machine gun, an Israeli Army Uzi submachine gun, strainers, scales, and other drug-related equipment in his apartment.  When back in prison, Mims was crucial to major heroin deals in the Philadelphia area, working with Black Mafia and Italian-American organized crime figures.

Further information about the above can be found in Black Brothers, Inc.: The Violent Rise and Fall of Philadelphia’s Black Mafia (Milo, 2007).


On a different but related point I make at the end of the book, it remains remarkable how poorly a job media outlets do when it comes to African-American organized crime.  In this case, it was the seminal New York Post article which deprived its readers of vital context.  I have chronicled dozens of similar examples over my career, and this problem extends into academia and into Hollywood.  I recount my experiences in each of these areas in an Appendix of Black Brothers, Inc., and the common themes are political correctness and the fear of being labeled racist.  Depriving the public of important history is harmful to society in many ways, not least of which is the detrimental impact on informed public policy.  It also emboldens racketeers, who pray upon the public’s ignorance.  As I wrote (p. 296):

At a time when there are more than enough legitimate issues pertaining to race – especially in matters of crime and justice – it is an outrage that prominent, influential members of society can so easily exploit this situation for their own benefit. It harkens back to the 1973 exchange between intrepid reporter Jim Nicholson and one of his primary street sources concerning whether Nicholson would be labeled a racist if he continued his path-breaking reporting on the Black Mafia. Nicholson was implored to stay on the assignment, and admonished by his African-American source: “Listen. If you never believe anything I say, believe this: You will not get any flak whatsoever from the black community, and if you do, it will be a few hustling cats.”

The point he was making holds to this day: ordinary African-American residents are hip to the con artists, whether they’re on the corner or in a City Hall office, and want to see hustlers exposed for what they are. After all, these folks in the community are the very ones being hurt by the scams. As the source confidently and correctly noted, those most likely to cry “racism” are precisely those with something – status, power, financial endeavors – to lose if the con is exposed.

If only relevant parties including academics and members of the media weren’t so intimidated by the browbeating so shrewdly employed by these characters, which cows such investigators from covering these individuals and entities as they – properly, and without introspection about the propriety of the research – would if we were talking, for instance, about Italian-American mobsters aligning themselves with a labor union to, say, launder ill-gotten gains and pilfer pension funds.

Black Brothers Inc.

Thoughts on the Whistleblower podcast thru Episode 5

Disclosures: I was interviewed for the better part of a day as part of the podcast, and some of my work is discussed in Episodes 2 and 3 and is featured exclusively in the bonus segment “Head Fakes”.  Producer Tim Livingston has been generous with his time, and has graciously listened to my criticisms of the finished product (some of which appear below).

The main takeaway so far is that there is nothing substantively new to anyone who has read Gaming the Game: The Story Behind the NBA Betting Scandal and the Gambler Who Made It Happen or who has followed my ongoing coverage of the scandal with one exception I’ll get to shortly.  Interestingly, many previously known aspects of the scandal are presented as new; I’ll touch on a few of these in the “Miscellany” section of analysis below.

The first five episodes focus on – and rely heavily upon – former NBA referee Tim Donaghy.  Indeed, the entire premise of the podcast so far is based on claims made by Donaghy – a disturbed career con, pathological liar, and more.  We are treated to many of Donaghy’s Greatest Hits (once more!) on the usual subjects (off the top of my head; all falsehoods I debunked years ago, by the way):

I have literally chronicled dozens of Donaghy appearances just like this over the last decade, and they are almost identical (see my assessments, e.g., here, here, and here).

I’ll offer my commentary on the podcast below in sections: Donaghy’s evolving stories, Martino’s confession, and Miscellany.

Donaghy’s evolving stories

Donaghy’s story has evolved in at least two significant ways since his 2009 public relations blitzkrieg, and the Whistleblower podcast evidences his latest changes.  Unfortunately, the podcast doesn’t even acknowledge this evolution let alone highlight the significance of what he is telling the audience.

I’ll address the less consequential change first.

(1) In 2009, Donaghy was interviewed dozens of times in all forms of media.  Donaghy’s credibility enhancement was such a goal for Donaghy post-prison that hosts/interviewers were scripted to ask him why people should believe him so that Donaghy could then offer a version of this standard reply about Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) Phil Scala and the broader FBI: “The FBI stands behind everything in/stands behind every story in/fully supports the book.”  Here is a montage of Donaghy stating this during media interviews:

Needless to say, as I and others have noted, the FBI doesn’t vet the manuscripts of ex-cons.  Additionally, in the months and years following Donaghy making these absurd claims, Scala has explicitly rejected several key Donaghy claims.  Well, in a current Whistleblower episode, we are treated to a far more neutered version of these Donaghy assertions.  Gone is the ridiculous claim “The FBI” vetted his book and stands behind it, etc., and with respect to Mr. Scala’s supposed absolute support, Donaghy now meekly says (emphasis added), “Phil Scala of the FBI kind of supported me in a way even though I did something wrong.”

(2) Also starting in 2009, Donaghy claimed his lifelong best friend Tommy Martino and Martino’s good friend pro gambler Jimmy Battista were “petty thugs” who were “members/associates” of the Gambino Crime Family who threatened Donaghy and his family.  Here is a montage of Donaghy stating this during media interviews:

I have chronicled and debunked all of this on numerous occasions, but some in the media and in the public are obsessed with evidence-free sensationalism, especially when it comes to anything supposedly involving organized crime (my primary research area, btw).  Whistleblower listeners might be reading this and wondering, “Wait?  You mean the same Tommy Martino who is featured in the podcast, often together WITH Donaghy?”  Yes, that Tommy Martino.  We are only through Episode 5, so let’s hope Martino and Donaghy are asked to explain the many curiosities of their relationship the last decade.  For example, was Martino paid to stay quiet as his friend Donaghy (for self-serving reasons) told the world he was a mobster who threatened Donaghy and his family?  What was Tommy thinking and feeling when his best friend assailed his character, lying about his role in organized crime?  Why did Donaghy lie about this?  Didn’t it trouble his conscience doing this to such a close friend?

Donaghy changed his story re Martino and the mob in 2019, when Martino needed lifelong pal Donaghy to assist in various business ventures (more here).  The two men appeared in media together (just like in this podcast), and the story evolved with Donaghy now divorcing Martino from his mob claims, leaving Battista as the lone mobster in Donaghy’s fairy tale.  More questions which have yet to be asked in the podcast – Is Donaghy now admitting he lied for a decade?  When and how was this decision made re changing his story?

Martino’s confession

What little news was made through the first five episodes of the podcast concerns Tommy Martino speaking about one of the pre-eminent issues of the scandal, namely whether Donaghy was threatened by pro gambler Jimmy Battista in December 2006.  In essence, Martino finally admitted what many knew or suspected, namely that Martino has been lying for the last decade to support his best friend Donaghy, who has been lying about Battista threatening him.  I have posted a distinct analysis about this, complete with audio, here.  Aside: it is fascinating and curious the producers of the podcast have not hyped this revelation.

As Whistleblower listeners and my audiences know, Martino also says – on repeated occasions – Donaghy is lying about other consequential matters.  Readers of Gaming the Game know government cooperator Martino said much the same to the FBI during his 2007 proffer sessions.  Let’s hope that in addition to the serious questions yet unasked above (especially given the extraordinary access to these men over days, alone and together) we get to hear Donaghy confronted with his best friend Martino’s damning comments.


(NOTE: I am not analyzing each and every comment or decision made on the podcast or this would be a short book!  My comments are not remotely exhaustive)

Lifelong friendship between Martino and Donaghy, behaviors during scandal

This isn’t newsworthy, other than for members of the public and media who have not yet realized that in his book and/or media tour (for various self-serving reasons) Donaghy described Martino as a “petty thug” (as noted above) and as a “mid-to-low-level goombah” who is a Gambino Crime Family member/associate who threatened him.  Martino, for reasons we can guess, permitted Donaghy to promulgate these absurdities for a decade.  In the podcast, we are treated to various insights of their friendship from childhood through today.  Importantly, by getting Martino to describe the activities the men were engaged in throughout the NBA betting scandal, producer Livingston does a good job deconstructing the self-serving Donaghy lie he was in fear of his life.

Here is Martino briefly explaining their activities during the scandal.  WARNING: Explicit content.

Gaming the Game readers are already aware of such matters, of course, partly because government cooperator Martino described most of these activities and more in detail to the FBI.  For example (and these are not discussed in the podcast), Martino described the website he and Donaghy used to procure prostitutes in Toronto and Washington, D.C., as well as his role in the local drug trade as a low-level dealer.  It is unclear if the producers are aware of what I am describing, just as there is no sense they are aware the podcast offers Martino version of events “5.0”.  Martino 5.0 is a blend of versions 2.0 (his 2007 proffer sessions) and 4.0 (his 2019 media tour).

Donaghy’s temperament and personality

Then there is the issue of Tim Donaghy’s temperament and personality.  The podcast offers further confirmation of Donaghy’s disturbing personality, which impacted the federal probe into the betting scandal in various ways.  Tommy Martino’s father, Charles, is interviewed (Ep.4) and says of Donaghy, “Timmy…(had) a very short temper and a penchant for wanting to get revenge for anything that he perceived as having been done to him where he was wrong.”

I have described this about Donaghy in detail many times, including the ways in which it impacted the federal investigation and prosecution.  Related to this – even though it may not seem so as presented in the podcast – is Donaghy’s odd behavior.  In Ep.3, Donaghy – the 53 year-old father of four daughters – is at a restaurant with Martino and the producers.  When Martino is gone from the table a while in the restroom, Donaghy leads the producers into men’s room with a pitcher of water, kicks down a stall door to pour water on Martino as Martino is seated going to the bathroom.

Here is Donaghy explaining his prank to the producers.  WARNING: Explicit content:

Rather than express the expected shock or outrage, Martino simply rolls his eyes as if to ask, “Again?”; lifelong buddy Martino knows all too well Donaghy’s curious views and behavior.  One can imagine Donaghy’s troubled mind being animated – as Charles Martino and many other have explained –  when Donaghy seeks revenge for a perceived slight (often involving law enforcement).

Again, journalists and academics uncritically relying on the discredited and disturbed Donaghy is an ongoing concern for public policy and history.

Another missed opportunity

As the podcast notes (Ep. 3), Donaghy phoned his bets on NBA games to Martino using codes: “Chuck” (home team) and “John” (away).  Incredibly and problematically, the podcast misses an opportunity to explain to the audience the codes only work if the co-conspirators know which game that night is being bet.  Contrary to what Donaghy has always claimed (i.e., that – because he used “inside info” – he bet as much or more on games he didn’t officiate), the bets were almost exclusively on games officiated by Donaghy.  Indeed, the podcast, itself, includes Martino stating (as he did to the FBI in 2007) there were a few bets on non-Donaghy games and because they were losers Battista stopped taking them.  Let’s hope we get to hear Martino or Donaghy, especially, asked about this.

Other notable errors and omissions

(1) Producer Livingston asks (Ep. 2) the following question of Donaghy (emphases added): “The FBI watched all your games.  What did they find after watching all the games that you bet on?”

The declarative statement and the question are each misinformed and problematic.  “The FBI” (read: a few agents – who, it should be noted, through no fault of their own possessed no aptitude for such an endeavor) watched (1) a handful of games Donaghy officiated (2) in the 2006-07 season.  Want to know why they didn’t select specific games?  Because Donaghy claimed not to recall which games he bet.  So, if you’re the FBI, what the heck can you search?  For what as a Special Agent are you looking, when you don’t know which games, which sides, or what betting propositions?

(2) Sopranos star Michael Imperioli narrates the following (Ep. 2; emphasis added): “To approach the corrupted ref, Battista recruited their mutual friend and Donaghy’s closest buddy, Tommy Martino, to set up a meeting…Donaghy claims that at this meeting Battista threatened his family to get him involved.  Battista denies this and says that Donaghy was a willing participant.  Either way, a deal was made that took the scheme from small time to the big leagues.  There was only one problem – Battista was addicted to cocaine and pills and had gotten greedy.  He started betting and losing his clients money. So by the time Donaghy came along, Battista was in debt, desperate, and bound to fuck it all up.”  There is so much to say about this dubious narrative I can’t address it all here.  It’s all explained in Gaming the Game, of course.  Re: Donaghy being “a willing participant” in the meeting and in the scheme, it was not Battista but the federal government which wrote (emphasis added) Donaghy “has never taken the position that he was anything other than a willing participant in the scheme with Battista and Martino, and, before them, with Jack Concannon.”  Please also recall government cooperator Martino was asked about the meeting, resulting in the FBI memorializing that Martino explained, “Donaghy complained that Concannon was not giving him any money so he wanted to start giving picks to (Battista).”

(3) Based on his personal interactions with Donaghy, producer Livingston questions (Ep. 2) Donaghy’s oft-repeated claims he stopped betting with Jack Concannon and was dying to stop betting on games once his life was no longer in jeopardy from Battista.  Livingston is right to be skeptical, but he is apparently unaware this “question” was answered more than a decade ago.  Donaghy did not stop gambling when the supposedly “threatening” Battista was no longer around (as Donaghy would have everyone believe).  Battista went into rehab in mid-March 2007, and the conspiracy continued into April with another pro gambler, Pete Ruggieri, taking his place (Battista’s plea deal was thru March, all others were thru April for this reason).  In fact, when Ruggieri told Donaghy he was shutting down the scheme, Donaghy begged for one more game to bet (according to FBI files).  Beyond these facts, Donaghy admitted to the FBI that he returned to betting with Concannon February through April 2007 during the scandal; as such, Donaghy was betting with Concannon and Battista at the same time during that span.  I explain these circumstances here.

(4) Donaghy says (Ep. 3) he officiated 30 games and this is evidence Martino and Battista are not to be believed because they each allege he officiated more than 40.  There is no fact check by the producers on this, and the audience is left to shrug its collective shoulders with no resolution.  Donaghy officiated 42 games by the time Battista entered rehab.  Donaghy, kept betting, of course (with another gambler) for an undisclosed number of games. Donaghy reffed 44 games thru March, 52 regular season games thru April and 55 total games (incl playoffs) thru April (as noted above, plea deals for all except Battista state April).

(5) Because the podcast relies first and foremost on the words of Donaghy and Martino, there is no recognition of the significant fact Battista and other pro gamblers knew Donaghy was betting on games he officiated dating to the 2003-04 NBA season.  That the gamblers were copying those bets for three years before the infamous December 2006 meeting between Donaghy, Martino, and Battista is relevant to several issues not discussed in the podcast.  Indeed, in Ep. 4 we hear producer Livingston state definitively, “It’s hard to argue that (Martino) got dragged into this mess by Battista.”  Actually, it is very easy to argue that speculative point (for reasons noted above and in Gaming the Game).

(6) I am baffled as to why the producers asked Donaghy or Martino about betting and the gambling subculture, let alone published their takes on the matter. Forgetting for a moment each man’s remarkable history of lying and exaggerating, how/why would they know?

NBA conspiracy theories revisited

In Episode 5, Tim Donaghy’s criminal defense attorney, John Lauro, simply repeats the conspiracy theories he espoused when defending Donaghy back in 2007 (I detail and critique each of these, and the manner in which they manifested themselves, in Gaming the Game).  It is apparently lost on Lauro, and on Whistleblower producers, that the very Donaghy personality flaws illustrated in the podcast explain decisions made by authorities.  That is, Donaghy’s lies, curious behavior, and “penchant for vengeance” resulted in one federal official calling the former NBA referee “a fucking loose cannon”.  Thus, the plea deal for pro gambler Battista was not the result of some sinister plot by the NBA, as suggested by Lauro in the podcast.  The case, without wiretaps or betting data/records, relied heavily on cooperator Donaghy, and over time authorities properly evaluated putting him on the stand as their star witness as problematic.  The key legal issue of “venue” is overlooked entirely.

“The Mafia” and the NBA betting scandal

Voice-overs done with an attitude by Sopranos star Michael Imperioli, mobster Michael Franzese featured, “mafia-backed betting” splashed on the marketing imaging…all to hype a role for organized crime in the scandal which doesn’t exist.  It was unfortunate and yet unsurprising to hear producer Livingston say (Ep. 5), “what I found most odd about Delaware County (PA) is its plainness.  I guess I was expecting it to feel a little sinister; mobsters lurking in the shadows ready to break legs for unpaid debts.”  Um, what?  Why would he expect that?  The FBI agents and the Assistant US Attorneys who all worked the scandal case never said a thing about organized crime – in public or in confidential files. The only reason/s anyone would think to inject organized crime into the story is because (1) they believed Donaghy’s self-serving bs in the first place and/or (2) want to sensationalize this angle for business purposes.

What’s old is new again

Here are just a few examples of what I mentioned above re producers treating the already-known facts as new and/or noteworthy.

(1) Much is made of Donaghy making a distinction between “fixing” a game and “manipulating/influencing” a game.  A relevant exchange between producer Tim Livingston (TL) and Tim Donaghy (TD) went as follows (Ep. 2):

TD – “I think ‘fixed’ is you’re going out there with the agenda that you’re gonna do everything you can and make up fictitious calls or just totally do things that aren’t within the rules, but I think ‘manipulating’ is within the rules – it’s not wrong calls, but it’s just calls that you all of a sudden decide to enforce.”

TL – “But a good referee can manipulate the game within the rules.”

TD – “Sure.  Any chance you got to help a player or hurt a player based on your relationship with that player within the rules you could do it.”

Donaghy has been making this argument for more than a decade, and in one of his earliest post-prison media appearances he had an almost identical exchange with ESPN’s Mark Schwartz.  I transcribed the interview many years ago as part of my analysis and it can be found here for reference.  There is also a quote from his book I found telling in this regard (from my blog in 2010):

Because (NBA) referees are able to make calls or ignore violations with impunity, they can hide a whole lot of love or hate for players or a team with their calls. (p. 238)

My manipulation of Donaghy’s quote:

Because Tim Donaghy was able to make calls or ignore violations with impunity, he could – depending on which side he bet that evening – hide a whole lot of ‘love’ or ‘hate’ for players or a team with his calls.

People familiar with my work debunking Donaghy’s bs over the years know one of his staples in interviews circa 2009 was that he didn’t make “incorrect calls” which would raise “red flags” for authorities.  Here is a montage of Donaghy from back then:

(2) The podcast explores (Ep. 2) the much-publicized blizzard of calls between referees Donaghy and Scott Foster.  In response to my interview, producer Livingston says it is a “new theory” Foster was betting on games officiated by Donaghy.  I believe what Livingston meant to say was that it was a new theory to him (or to some of the audience/public), because I’ve been writing about and discussing this since 2008.

(3) In Ep. 4, there is a discussion about the childhoods of the three co-conspirators which includes Martino’s father stating the following about pro gambler Jimmy Battista: “His parents were probably some of the strictest individuals and most religious that I’ve known…(Jimmy) would have been the last person you would have expected to get involved in anything illegal or unethical.”  Producer Livingston then states, “I had no idea Battista grew up in a strict, religious home.”  For the record, Battista’s “strict, religious” upbringing is addressed in various ways no less than five times in Gaming the Game (2011).  As with numerous others matters (on topics trivial and significant), the production team suffered from not reading the heavily-sourced book long before embarking on this project, and the podcast is lesser as a result.  By themselves, the book’s footnotes would have provided a helpful roadmap to the primary source historical record.


While it is interesting hearing the voices of those we’ve been discussing since 2007, thus far the podcast suffers greatly throughout from a lack of knowledge and perspective.  It is a recurring problem and deprives listeners of much information and context (please note I am not speaking about objective “he said – he said” matters).  The omnipresent them of conspiracy also detracts from the effort.

10/31/20 Update: Analysis of podcast concluding episodes is here.

Anyone interested in an evidence-based history of the matters misrepresented or sensationalized in the Whistleblower podcast can find it here (confidential law enforcement records, court documents, betting data and betting line analyses, along with interviews of dozens of relevant persons including federal officials, pro gamblers, sportsbook managers, and others knowledgeable about the scandal).

Gaming the Game cover

“impeccably researched…insightful…[Griffin’s] street-wise writing sounds anything but academic…After reading ‘Gaming the Game,’ you’ll never watch an NBA contest the same way again.”

Las Vegas Review-Journal

“[Griffin] straddles the line between academic and storyteller, cop and journalist…[Gaming the Game] will blow your mind.”

Philadelphia Magazine

“An exhaustively researched book threatening to overturn some comfortable assumptions about the NBA’s referee scandal …[Gaming the Game] delivers the intrigue you’d expect from a true crime thriller”’s True Hoop

“Offers a fascinating look into the Donaghy scandal … intriguing”  

Philadelphia Daily News

“rewarding…[This] important new book … offers a full picture of how the world of big-time sports gambling operates…[and provides] the fullest depiction of the Tim Donaghy scandal to date”

The Painted Area (an official NBA blog)

“A book you can bet is worth reading…fascinating…a complete effort”

Delaware County (PA) Daily Times

“a tremendous read…fascinating…gripping…a must read for any bettor serious about the global marketplace…by far the most believable [account of the NBA betting scandal]”

“If you’ve ever wondered what the REAL story was behind Tim Donaghy and the NBA betting scandal, this is a must read…If you’re interested in sports betting, you won’t be able to put [Gaming the Game] down”

Bettors World

“compelling [and] many leveled…the research behind Gaming the Game is impressive…Griffin’s knowledge of the crime scene in and around Philadelphia illuminates Gaming the Game…He’s a fluid, crisp writer and an A-1 historian of crime [who] combines an eye for human detail with the ability to convey broad social themes.”

Blogger News Network

“An outstanding read that might make you change the way you view professional sports.” 

Beyond the Bets 

“A riveting story…fascinating…just a great book.”

“Griffin’s investigation into big time gambling is fascinating…
Highly Recommended”

Gambling Book and News

ESPN Chalk: Costa Rica-based sportsbook 5Dimes reaches $46.8 million settlement with feds

The issue of “third-party payment processors” has been paramount for federal authorities when it comes to offshore sportsbooks with U.S. clients.  As Gaming the Game readers know, the movement of “hot money” from these sportsbooks is its own fascinating story.’s David Purdum offers a significant update.

5Dimes, a popular Costa Rica-based sportsbook, has reached a $46.8 million settlement with the U.S. government following a federal money-laundering investigation, according to a settlement agreement obtained by ESPN on Wednesday.

5Dimes agreed to pay $15 million in cash, forfeit more than $30 million in assets and stop accepting wagers from U.S. customers while operating out of Costa Rica, according to the settlement agreement reached with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Full article here.

NBA betting scandal co-conspirator admits he and referee Tim Donaghy have been lying for the past decade

Anyone who has remotely followed my work on the 2003-07 NBA betting scandal knows I have exposed the many demonstrably false claims made by co-conspirators Tommy Martino and his lifelong best friend referee Tim Donaghy, especially.  Beyond those which can be disproven with hard evidence, there remained claims which remained unsupported yet which, to someone like me who has spent thousands of hours on the subject, were false but would require a confession from Martino or Donaghy after all these years for any sense of resolution.  One topic has consumed much media attention the last decade, namely Donaghy’s self-serving claims he was threatened by the Gambino Crime Family in December 2006 into continuing betting on games he officiated.

Please recall (1) the FBI never described the case as an extortion scheme, and (2) never mentioned (even in confidential files) a role for organized crime.  Also recall that during the sentencing phase, (3) the U.S. Attorney’s Office didn’t charge anyone with extortion and (4) wrote Donaghy “has never taken the position that he was anything other than a willing participant in the scheme with Battista and Martino, and, before them, with Jack Concannon” (Concannon was a Donaghy golfing buddy with whom he placed bets).  Lastly, recall (5) Judge Amon described the scheme as a business “arrangement” before noting that (6) Donaghy was “more culpable” than his two co-conspirators.

Despite the six FACTS outlined above (among others), since Donaghy’s release from prison a decade ago many in the media and some in the academy (see e.g., here and here) have permitted (and have often assisted) Donaghy in promulgating his claims (1) “the mob” – in the form of Martino and his buddy, pro gambler Jimmy Battista (2) threatened him in December 2006 (through April 2007).  I have debunked Donaghy’s absurd self-serving organized crime assertions on multiple occasions, just as I have illustrated (with overwhelming evidence) he lied/is lying about (1) wanting to stop betting on his games in 2006 and (2) only continued betting because of threats (generally, let alone from organized crime, specifically).

Donaghy’s primary tale is that when he and Martino met with Battista at the Philadelphia International Airport Marriott on December 12, 2006, he momentarily found himself alone with Battista at which point Battista threatened Donaghy and his family.  Martino, when asked about this in public appearances (just as he did when cooperating with the FBI), has stuck to something like the following: “I never heard Battista threaten Donaghy.  Donaghy says he was threatened, but that never happened when I was around.”  Martino’s version of events allowed Donaghy’s damning claims to persist, of course, thrilling the former referee and outraging the former pro gambler.

In a recent Whistleblower podcast episode, Martino tells producer Tim Livingston that Battista has been railing against Martino and Donaghy ever since Donaghy took to the media following his prison sentence: “The guy argued with me and Tim for years after we got out of jail that we were lying and Battista was telling the truth.” Also in the “formal” interview Livingston conducted with Martino, Martino offered his scripted storyline about the issue at hand.  Importantly, however, there are more casual moments with Martino where he offers different insights on the same topics.  Indeed, a tired and hazy Martino confesses (during a relaxed conversation in a 4am car ride to the airport) what many informed persons knew the last decade: Battista was just to be outraged at Donaghy and especially at his former pal all these years.  Martino on his lifelong best friend Tim Donaghy:

He fabricates (stuff? inaudible).  Like the amount of money he got and shit…He’s gotta stick by it.  It’s what he told the feds.  He doesn’t want to look like a liar…The big lying point was that Donaghy was threatened by Battista.  The fact of the matter is, he wasn’t.  But, Tim asked me to back him up, ya know?  So I always have to say ‘I never threatened him but I don’t know what happened with Timmy and Battista when I wasn’t around’ – but I was never not around.  Tim will be pissed if he heard that.

I put together a tidy audio clip of Martino’s startling admissions (taken respectively from Episodes 2 and 3).

As I have said for the past decade-plus, it was always clear what transpired in December 2006 but, short of a confession from Martino or Donaghy, there was no means of resolution.  Well, thanks to Tim Livingston and Tenderfoot TV, we can hopefully put this bs Donaghy claim to rest (just as we have done with dozens of others).  Oh, and here’s hoping a good portion of the media finally starts accepting they’ve been duped all this time, and that they’ve been depriving their respective audiences a full, evidence-based history of the scandal by instead choosing a sensational, fact-starved narrative.


P.S.  With respect to the lazy media who uncritically accept Donaghy’s absurd stories, I am always reminded of the scene late in the film Shattered Glass.  An exasperated editor Chuck Lane, who led a lonely and frustrating crusade within the publication to expose The New Republic‘s Stephen Glass’ many fake stories, has to school a colleague on how and why they repeatedly deprived the public of the truth.  He excoriates her before explaining (@ 1:50 of this vid clip) that Glass “handed us fiction after fiction and we printed them all as fact…just because we found him entertaining.  It’s indefensible.”  The same is true for many in the media when it comes to Tim Donaghy.