Monday, December 14, 2009

Gaming the Game: The Story Behind the NBA Betting Scandal and the Gambler Who Made It Happen

For a host of reasons (especially the dribs and drabs mentioned in the press, and spread throughout the blogosphere), here (again) is a synopsis of my current project, Gaming the Game: The Story Behind the NBA Betting Scandal and the Gambler Who Made It Happen (Barricade/2011). 

Though not expressly my research area, illicit gambling has never been far from my organized crime work. Certainly, the two-degrees of separation that often mark the underworld commonly involve the extortion of bookies by local syndicates. Further still, organized crime groups usually have complex relationships with bookies (and with bettors, for that matter). These complicated areas include: financial assistance (usually in the form of loan sharking by the syndicate, though there may be occasions bookies and bettors in fact assist the crime organization) to “mediation” between various parties to money laundering and so on. For these reasons - and more, I wholeheartedly welcomed the opportunity to research the recent NBA betting scandal when granted access to the scandal’s progenitor, professional gambler James Battista, back in March of 2008.
Researching the NBA betting scandal has consumed my time and energy since I first interviewed the man known in big-time betting circles as “the Sheep” - Jimmy “Baba” Battista - in the spring of 2008.  The new book, like practically all else I have penned, relies upon a mix of numerous interviews, court and law enforcement documents, and related media coverage. Battista did not cooperate with authorities, and has not spoken publicly about the extent, duration and mechanics of the outrageous scheme. Though the book details the activities which placed him in federal prison, it also discusses his remarkable bookmaking and betting career, and examines the fascinating, close-knit fraternity of the world’s most consequential sports bettors.
Now that the research and writing of Gaming the Game is all but complete, more will be posted about the current project as events warrant.  Please know this would have been done ages ago if the project was simply a primary interview subject (pro gambler Jimmy "Baba" Battista) speaking into a tape recorder.  Documenting as much of the story as possible required considerable legwork, and I hope the readership appreciates the final product.  (Related note: It didn't help humoring interest from Hollywood throughout the process).
A note to my students and colleagues: Whereas Black Brothers, Inc.: The Violent Rise and Fall of Philadelphia’s Black Mafia (Milo, 2005/07) was a conventional read that followed considerable academic writing on similar and related subject matter, Gaming the Game will be mainstream reading followed by academic journal articles (and perhaps an academic text on the general sociology and history of big-time betting).

A note to the media: I will post as much info as possible when time and circumstances permit.  As a courtesy, I would very much appreciate interested parties contact me through Chuck Marsh of Penn State's University Relations Office.  Thanks as always for your understanding.