Los Angeles

Bicycle Casino Shut Down as Federal Agents Serve Warrants in IRS-Related Investigation

The casino was seized in 1990 by the federal government after investigators determined part of it was built with laundered drug money

What to Know

  • Authorities confirm warrants are related to IRS investigation
  • Drug money laundering investigation led to federal government seizure in 1990
  • Government sold share of Bicycle Casino for millions in mid-1990s

Federal authorities executed warrants early Tuesday as part of a criminal investigation at The Bicycle Hotel & Casino in Bell Gardens.

Details about the investigation were not immediately available, but authorities with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed the warrants are related to the Internal Revenue Services. The casino was shut down early Tuesday as federal agents arrived

No arrests were immediately reported, and the casion reopened early Wednesday morning.

Few details about the investigation were available, but authorities told The Los Angeles Times that thousands of financial records were seized.

"A federal search warrant is being executed today by members of the Los Angeles High Intensity Financial Crime Area Task Force, which includes U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations; IRS Criminal Investigation; the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Gambling Control; and the United States Attorney's office," Virginia Kice, Western Regional Communications Director/Spokesperson, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said in a statement. "The search warrant issued by a United States Magistrate Judge was filed under seal in relation to an ongoing investigation. Because the warrant is under seal, we are not able to comment on the scope or nature of the investigation." 

The Bicycle Hotel & Casino said in a statement that it is working with investigators.

"We are working with authorities and currently do not have additional information," according to the statement. As soon as the federal agents have completed their work, we will be in full operation."

The casino, founded in the mid-1980s about 10 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, has a colorful history. It was seized in 1990 by the federal government after investigators said the club, featuring 185 tables for poker and other card games, was built partly with laundered drug money. 

Under the Bank Secrecy Act, casinos are required to implement and maintain programs designed to prevent criminals from using the clubs to launder the large sums of cash that illegal activity can generate. For example, casinos must record and report to the government the details of transactions involving more than $10,000 by any one gambler in a 24-hour period.

The government takeover itself also led to troubling allegations. Charges of fraud and waste prompted a hearing before a U.S. Senate subcommittee.

The government sold its share about five years later to a British gambling operation. The casino is privately owned by Bicycle Hotel & Casino LLC.

The hotel opened next door to the casino in 2015 on property previously used for parking.  

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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