Being a “bookie” is a bit of an underground occupation or hobby and for good reason. This is because bookmaking is an unlawful gambling activity under New York law in most circumstances and could easily lead to criminal charges.
What do bookies do?
Bookies set the odds on who will win a game, race or other competition that people enjoy betting on. The bookie takes money from multiple clients who make bets on who will win the competition.
After the competition has concluded, the bookie pays out the winnings on behalf of all those who contributed to the bookie’s betting pool. Bookies generally do not place bets themselves, but I,nstead charge their client’s a fee for making a bet.
Let’s look at the example of a horse race. The bookie may set the odds at seven to six. One person bets seven to six on one horse, a second person bets seven to six on a different horse, etc. The bookie collects money from the gamblers based on their bet, along with a fee. The bookie then pays out the winnings after it is known which horse won the race.
Bookmaking is illegal in most circumstances
On its face bookmaking may seem relatively innocuous. But per New York Penal Code section 225.10, you cannot knowingly advance or make a profit from illegal gambling by receiving five or more bets totaling at least $5,000 in any one day by being a “bookie.” This constitutes promoting gambling in the first degree, and it is against the law.
So, if one engages in low-level bookmaking involving only a small number of relatively minor bets, their actions may not be against the law. But running a large-scale profitable bookmaking enterprise is very likely to be considered an illegal gambling operation in violation of New York law, with all applicable penalties.