NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Sports

October 31, 2012

9 charged in Fla. youth football gambling ring

(Continued)

Emails and phone calls to several officers in the league were not immediately returned Tuesday.

The website says the sole purpose of the league “is to benefit children” and instill wholesome values.

Bold print on the league’s website warns that anyone taking bets on games will be asked to leave. “The SFYFL is taking a hard stand on gambling, recruiting, paying kids to play and big hits on players.”

Perhaps more disturbing than the gambling operation was the extensive criminal background of six coaches, authorities said.

An affidavit claims Bivins ran a fake barbershop, complete with barber stations and vending machines, as a front for a gambling house. But behind what appeared to be a closet door was a narrow hallway leading to a seedy gambling room where Bivins and others took bets on professional, college and youth games behind conspicuously dark tinted windows.

An informant placed numerous bets at Red Carpet Kutz Barbershop and another gambling front, Showtime Sports, during the investigation, according to the affidavit.

Authorities said they seized nearly $40,000 from a drop safe at one of the storefronts and took another $20,000 from Bivins’ home. They believe ‘Coach B’ was skimming off the top of the bets.

“(Bivins has) been to Florida state prison. He’s out and he’s coaching youth football,” Lt. Frank Ballante said.

Bivins was the president of the Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes, one of the most successful teams, and oversaw the coaches. He also interacted with the players, Ballante said.

Deerfield Beach City officials ramped up their background screening process for youth coaches about 18-months ago when authorities told them about the investigation, but each city is in charge of setting its own ordinances and they vary widely on the issue.

Authorities worry that betting on games can lead to violence and other crimes. The gambling bust comes after a Miami youth football coach was arrested earlier this month for punching a referee in the face during a game. In another South Florida city, a coach followed another coach home and killed his dog in front of him, Ballante said.

Those incidents were not related to the gambling busts, but authorities said it’s a lesson for cities to ramp up their background check ordinances.

Ballante warned gambling could end “up with a human being being shot over a football game and it’s not because their team lost a game or their kid didn’t score the touchdown it’s because they lost $40,000 on that play.”

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