The Bicycle Hotel and Casino in Bell Gardens is one of Southern California’s most popular casinos. The casino was raided and shutdown by federal authorities earlier this week but once again opened its doors to the public on April 5.
Federal agents shut down the facility after presenting a warrant to raid the premises of the Bicycle Hotel and Casino on April 4. Gamblers on the site were asked to leave. The raid which lasted for 20 hours was related to a criminal fraud investigation according to media sources.
Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Los Angeles, confirmed that a raid was conducted at the casino but refused to comment on the nature of the investigation. The raid was carried out by a joint taskforce comprising ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations unit, the California DoJ Bureau of Gambling Control and the IRS Criminal Investigation unit along with the U.S. attorney’s office.
Nathan Davalle of the state gambling control bureau assured worried players during the shutdown that those with outstanding chips would be able to cash them out once the casino reopened. A media report quoting law enforcement sources has stated that the casino is being investigated for money laundering.
The raid started at 7 am on April 4 when the agents entered the casinos and asked guests present to stop playing and keep away from the tables. Witnesses said the agents took away several boxes of evidence from the Bicycle Hotel and Casino. A LA Times report later stated that the agencies had seized thousands of financial records as a part of the raid.
Gaming experts expressed surprise at the closure of the casino. According to I. Nelson Rose, a Whittier law school professor and expert on gambling law, agents typically don’t close casinos during raids. The casino issued an initial statement stating that it would reopen once the federal authorities were done. A subsequent statement said that the casino would reopen at 3 am on April 5.
The 33-year old gaming facility is privately owned by Bicycle Hotel & Casino LLC, and has 185 gaming tables. This is not the first time that the casino has been in legal trouble. In 1990, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the IRS took over the casino after it was uncovered that laundered drug money had been utilized for the construction of the casino.
After a jury found that $12 million of the total $22 million used for the construction of the casino was from Florida-based drug smugglers, the federal government took over part ownership of the casino. It subsequently sold its interest to a British gaming company.