Véhicule Magazine Presents: The Bicycle Club
These days, The Bicycle Hotel and Casino is a respected Los Angeles-area staple. With considerably more than 100,000 square feet containing around 185 tables, The Bike is a go-to—despite a 2017 raid and its even more controversial past.
The card room originally called the Bicycle Club opened in 1984 in Bell Gardens, California—one of the few cities in Los Angeles County to allow gambling establishments. On paper, George Hardie, Sr. was the founder and proprietor. Behind the scenes, the club was financed by a network of people and entities stretching from Los Angeles and Miami to Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Why would there be so much interest in a casino? Because it was the perfect cover for money laundering.
At the center of the operation, according to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in 1991, were Ben Kramer and his father Jack, their lawyer Mel Kessler, Ben’s business and smuggling partner Randy Lanier and L.A. construction magnate Sam Gilbert. They came to be the subjects of a federal R.I.C.O. case and the targets of racketeering accusations pertaining both to the funding of the casino and its operations. By the time the case concluded, it was decided that over half of the $22 million that went into developing the property was derived from smuggling, and that certain partners in the venture knew about this. Ben Kramer and a small selection of his partners were required to forfeit their stakes in the Bicycle Club, which constituted the single largest asset forfeited to the U.S. government at the time of the verdict. The federal government sold its share of the casino in 1996.
Read more about the Bicycle Club and its storied history in the second edition of Véhicule.