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Ethics By the Sea: Atlantic City Honors Boxing Promoter Don King

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Don King, the boxing promoter whose signature hairstyle may have inspired the Russ Trolls school of grooming, will be honored today in the New Jersey city where he is still officially barred from doing business with the number one local industry.

Though boxing promoters must have a N.J. casino service industry license in order to stage fights in Atlantic City, a loophole allows promoters to do their thing as long as they have applied for the license. During the last five years, King has promoted fights in A.C. casinos by applying for a license, then withdrawing the application just as investigators from the state Division of Gaming Enforcement were gearing up to call him in for some tough questioning. King is an unindicted co-conspirator in a bribery scandal, and in April 2002 he pulled his license application just as state investigators were setting up a little chat about King’s dealings with former International Boxing Federation president Robert W. Lee Sr., who had just been convicted of taking bribes from promoters in order to inflate the rankings of prizefighters.

Former officials of the East Orange-based IBF say King and other promoters paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to get their fighters moved up the IBF’s monthly rankings, thereby putting them in line for big-ticket fights and fat paydays for promoters.

Last April, the state Casino Control Commission allowed King to pull that application-withdrawal dodge for the fourth time, but barred him from reapplying for a full year. (They could have barred him for five years, but that’s money for you.) Even if he does reapply, King will not be able to promote fights in Atlantic City until the Division of Gaming Enforcement completes its investigation and he is granted a license.

Despite all this, Atlantic City mayor Robert Levy and a bunch of state and local bigwigs will gather today to rename a section of Mississippi Avenue as “Don King Plaza” in honor of — how do they put it? — “his tireless commitment to establish Atlantic City as one of the great resort destinations of the world since 1980.”

But then, this is a city and an industry long known for landing on small-time rule-breakers with both feet, even while playing footsie with big-time offenders. Woe betide the croupier who gets caught bending a rule, but somebody like Don King can clown around for years with a bribery investigation hanging over his head and get treated with utmost deference.

For those who are careful about what they step on, Don King Plaza will lie between the Boardwalk and Pacific Avenue.

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About Steven Hart

  • Eric Olsen

    good eye for this and nice job, Steven – money makes strange bedfellows, as you say

  • sal m

    this licensing scam was used in the movie where robert deniro’s character was in a perpetual state of application in order to qualify to run the sports book operation, while he held a variety of non-gambling related positions.