The divisional commissioner Stéphane Piallat is the head of the Central Service of Races and Games (SCCJ), the oldest specialized service of the French police.
This institution, which will celebrate its 130th anniversary next year, is responsible for controlling all gambling activity: casinos, Parisian clubs and horse racing.
Stéphane Piallat gives us all the secrets today.
What is an underground gambling den?
The gambling dens have always existed and are part of the world of banditry.
It is a bit like Epinal's image of the criminals who meet there to gamble the money they have illegally earned thanks to banditry, pimping or drug trafficking.
It's an enduring reality, but not all gamblers who frequent gambling dens are bandits.
There are also people who want to benefit from playing and reception conditions that are not those of establishments which respect the law.
For example, being able to smoke when they are playing, having meals served and benefiting from the favors of hostesses or waitresses who sometimes offer various additional services.
Some also seek to benefit from the anonymity offered by these gambling dens.
Where are these establishments located?
They can take up residence in pale-faced Airbnb apartments or in beautiful buildings on Avenue Foch.
The Paris region probably hosts the greatest number of them because of the high density of the population interested in nightlife.
They are often in the suburbs for two reasons: the drop-off points are easier to find and it is necessary to maintain a certain discretion.
The same organization can also manage two gambling dens, one in the suburbs, another in Paris and regularly change address.
How do the organizers make a living?
To open and run a gambling den, you need to have enough money to invest in tables and professional equipment with chips and hire dealers.
They charge an entrance fee, per hour or take a percentage off the games.
The organizers of the gambling dens can also act as a banker, that is, they lend money to the players so that they can continue playing when they have lost everything.
This can also generate somewhat muscular recovery actions.
Of course, these are places that offer no guarantee of the quality and honesty of the game. The world of illegal gambling dens is absolutely wild and uncontrolled.
While in the world of legal gambling, the origin of the money played is likely to be controlled beyond 2000 euros.
What do players play and for what sums?
It is very variable, some do not bet much and others start their game at 5000 euros.
We mainly play cash poker, classic or tournament mode.
Staging is essential for the player.
These are always obscure places which must have the appearance of a real gambling hall. With the health crisis, we have noticed a rise in clandestine activities because players can no longer legally visit casinos and Parisian clubs.
They have a taste for risk and go out in defiance of health instructions to go and play all the more easily because they can spend the night in gambling dens and go out in the early morning.
Are gambling den surveys easy to conduct?
What matters to us is targeting teams of major thugs. The races and games dismantle an average of five illegal establishments per year, and already three since the beginning of the year. This long-term work requires identifying the perpetrators and establishing the facts of illegal gambling offers. An offense punishable by seven years in prison and a fine of 200,000 euros when committed in an organized gang. These are increasingly complex investigations; the organizers are working to implement a form of mobility for their establishments. They are torn between two requirements: the desire to retain their customers and the desire to avoid being noticed.