A police raid on a Markham, Ont., banquet hall was just one of at least 10 occurring across the southwestern part of the province on Super Bowl Sunday, as investigators moved in on players involved in an alleged multimillion-dollar illegal gaming operation.
More than 2,000 people were present at Markham’s Le Parc Banquet Hall when police showed up partway through the second quarter of the Super Bowl.
Six people are now facing charges, which police say relate to bookmaking, participating or contributing to the activity of a criminal organization, keeping a common betting house and conspiracy.
Among those facing charges is Martin Spruce, a man whose home in Thornhill, Ont., was searched by police on Sunday.
Spruce told CBC News he was present at the Super Bowl party that police raided in Markham.
"I was having dinner and watching a football game, but as far as I know that's not illegal," Spruce said the day after the police raid on the banquet hall.
Spruce said he had no knowledge of any gambling taking place at the event.
Police removed a safe from Spruce's Thornhill home.
In total, police report seizing some $2.5 million in cash during the Sunday raids, which they say took place at the banquet hall as well as private residences.
Police said this was the largest investigation to date targeting illegal gaming and organized crime, involving officers from different agencies at the federal, provincial and municipal levels.
"The people found within this gaming house were dispersed in an orderly fashion, while those profiting from this were arrested," said York Regional Police Supt. Paul Pedersen. "Six men have been arrested and charged with participating in a criminal organization and other gaming-related charges."
Gambling website hosted in Costa Rica
The Markham Super Bowl party was organized by an online gambling site called Platinum SB, police say. The website, which is hosted offshore in Costa Rica, was shut down by RCMP and redirected to a police portal. On Monday morning alone, the website received more than 17,000 hits, Pedersen added.
Someone who has used the website told CBC News that unlike like other gambling sites, Platinum SB doesn't require money, and no money is exchanged online. Instead, Platinum works through local bookies who broker bets between the website and gamblers, the source said.
At the banquet hall, police seized several items, including a Sea-Doo and other expensive door and raffle prizes on offer, as well as 20 computers, cellphones and business records.
The party, as well as the gaming website, was invitation only, police said.
"[Invites] were given out only to those associated directly with their criminal enterprise," Pedersen said.
Those involved were believed to be members of "outlaw motorcycle gangs" and other organized crime rings, he added.
The banquet hall appeared deserted by Monday morning, with just a couple of police cruisers outside. But the remnants of Sunday's festivities inside could still be seen through the glass windows, the CBC's Trevor Dunn reported.
"There are still lots of beer bottles on the tables," he said. "There's a red carpet set up, decorations, posters, banners — including some that appear to show the insignia of the Hells Angels biker gang," he said.
Raffle prizes at the party included two Kawasaki jet skis, a Rolex Yacht-Master watch, and cash in both $7,000 and $3,000 amounts, Dunn added.
Door prizes at the party included a 55-inch LED television, a pair of platinum Leafs tickets, and a Polk speaker system.
York Regional Police worked with the RCMP and other Toronto-area police organizations. The investigation was co-ordinated by the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU) — a joint police task force.