Shops, residents of New York’s Soho outraged by street gambling

On Saturday afternoon, Soho shoppers began their Christmas spree by hopping in and out of Louis Vuitton, Yves St. Laurent and Loewe. But a more sinister group was trying to trick her into spending her money.

Between Patagonia on Greene Street and the upscale streetwear store Amiri, and across from Alexander McQueen, a man in tight white jeans and a shirt emblazoned with the Dior logo was holding a square of felt in one hand. With the other, he quickly pushed three plastic bottle caps around. Beneath it was a pebble-sized plastic ball—an efficient micro-spin of the ancient shell game.

And well-heeled retailers and loft dwellers on the famous cobblestone street squabble about it — say the well-organized illegals Wild, complete with shills and lookouts, has given this cobbled street a sometimes violent shabbiness.

People have complained about the “outdoor casino” in Soho.

“They turned Greene Street into an outdoor casino,” one resident snarled to The Post. “Place your bets!”

According to an NYPD spokesman, “deceptive form of address” — approaching a person with the intention of cheating them out of money or property through a scam or a trust game such as a shell game — is illegal. And a loft owner on the block said she’s worried about what this is doing to property values.

“It feels awkward and unsafe for my neighbors and I,” she told the Post. “If I was selling my loft and a potential buyer was walking up and down Greene Street, that wouldn’t be good. [At some point]I will Selling my attic. What is going on here scares me in this context – and makes me uncomfortable in everyday life.”

The game master features cash and a rectangular felt-topped surface topped with three bottle caps.  Underneath is a pebble-sized plastic ball - and players must guess the correct cap to win.
The game master features cash and a rectangular felt-topped surface topped with three bottle caps. Underneath is a pebble-sized plastic ball – and players must guess the correct cap to win.

As The Post watched, the match official – with a huge wad of cash – begged three men to guess where the ball had landed. They did it for almost an hour and won most of the time. He gave them hundreds of dollars each for “guessing” correctly: apparently coordinated to capture passers-by.

Not even the early sunset slowed them down. A Shill stood next to the game and shone his iPhone flashlight to illuminate the action.

“You want to play?” the wild runner asked passers-by. “You just have to look at the ball. Then tell me where it is. Just show me you have $5,000 and I’ll give you $5,000.”

“I saw someone lose $10,000;  I saw a woman lose $2,000,
“I saw someone lose $10,000; I saw a woman lose $2,000,” said a manager of the game’s Greene Street boutique.

But it is not that easy.

“I saw someone lose $10,000; I saw a woman lose $2,000,” said a Greene Street boutique executive who, like others interviewed by The Post, asked not to be named for reasons of personal safety. “I even saw a guy lose his Rolex. He made it a bet.”

And traders feel they are losing too.

Neighbors and merchants along this high-end Soho block are in an uproar over the game, which is usually played in Patagonia and Amiri stores.
Neighbors and merchants along this high-end Soho block are in an uproar over the game, which is usually played in Patagonia and Amiri stores.

“We’ve had situations where people came here to spend their money in Soho” — only to lose it, the boutique manager said. “They come into the store angry or have less money to spend. They lose money they wanted to spend. That costs our branch business.”

It has also, locals said, led to violence.

“[Some] People realize that this game is fixed and these guys are A-holes,” the boutique manager said. “They beat some kids out of their money. The kids said, ‘Give us our money back.’ The shell players refused and the kids attacked them. Those kids got their money back.”

The game appears to be well organized, complete with putative shills and lookouts.
The game appears to be well organized, complete with putative shills and lookouts.

Said the local resident: “It’s bloody scary. It makes you anxious about walking on the block. There were times when they had two games going. Tourists are scared and people who live here are nervous because there will be a fight that can turn into a gunfight. There was already a guy who lost money and pulled his gun to get it back,” the resident claimed. “Eventually there will be shooting at these games.”

The Post also observed a lookout at either end of the block who appeared ready to give the game runner a lead should law enforcement take action.

"Tourists are afraid and people who live here are nervous because there will be a fight," said a resident of the posh block.
“Tourists are scared and people who live here are nervous because there’s going to be a fight,” said a resident of the posh block.

A neighborhood fete claimed to The Post of having been approached by the group for being a chump: “I’ve been told, ‘We’ll give you over $1,000 a day in cash. I declined and was shocked at how much money they make. I’ve seen everyone get paid at the end of their day. They walk into a crowd and hand out cash.”

“It’s an organized crime thing,” the resident said. “They’re organized in such a way that if one guy isn’t there, another guy shows up.”

An NYPD spokesman told the Post that the commanding officer of the local police station, Precinct 1, “is very aware of the issue. There were 200 targeted site patrols and three arrests for fraudulent solicitation.”

Locals said authorities hadn't done enough to stop the games.
Locals said authorities hadn’t done enough to stop the games.

But according to the neighbors, that’s not enough. “The cops come and [the shell-game guys] walk,” said the boutique manager. “But they’re never gone for long.”

https://nypost.com/2022/11/30/shops-residents-of-nycs-soho-up-in-arms-over-street-gambling/ Shops, residents of New York’s Soho outraged by street gambling

JACLYN DIAZ

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