The coronavirus has succeeded where lawmen like Bobby Kennedy and Rudy Giuliani failed for more than a century — by putting the freeze on the mob.
The wholesale cancellation of major sports in the face of the contagion has wiped out tens of millions of dollars in illegal gambling income, a “historic” blow to the Mafia, law-enforcement sources told The Post.
“There’s never been a time when they weren’t making money through gambling,” said one insider said. “Since the days of Lucky Luciano, when the Five Families started.
“This is historic.”
Thanks to the Internet — which replaced the cramped social-distancing nightmares of yesteryear’s wire rooms — it looked as though illegal betting would emerge unscathed during the virus’ early days, sources said.
Then came the postponements and cancellations — the NBA, MLB, March Madness, the NHL, MLS, horse-racing and pro golf, to name a few.
With virtually all American sports in an indefinite timeout until the disease burns out, a few dedicated gamblers have tried their hands at wagering on African cricket and Australian soccer matches, sources said, but the underground betting scene has largely gone dry.
“A lot of people are living off that money,” said one source, with the lost lucre estimated to be in the eight figures — and the worst of the disease yet to come.
Other mob mainstays have also been hard hit. The extortion of restaurants has fallen, with eateries ordered closed except for takeout and delivery, and construction rackets had been bringing in the bucks until Gov. Cuomo halted all nonessential projects on Friday, sources said.
“Construction’s a very big deal because it has a lot of branches,” one law-enforcement source said, noting that goodfellas don’t just profit off of jobs themselves but related ventures like trucking and the ports.
And with fewer businesses open and generating garbage, private-carting companies, historically a popular mob enterprise, are also feeling the pinch, sources said.
Money-hungry made men may soon be forced to lean more on narcotics, which is still doing a brisk business even as much of the world grinds to a halt.
“There’s still deals being made,” one insider said, speaking generally of the drug trade and not the mob’s involvement.
Chatter captured recently on surveillance wires indeed portends a possible shift to drug peddling, according to sources.
“A of the lot time, the big topic of conversation would be talking about gambling. That’s dried up,” one source said, noting the focus has turned to narcotics.
But even that comes with its share of coronavirus-induced headaches. Much of the product once moved in mobbed-up restaurants, bars and strip clubs that are now shuttered by state order.
It’s a shutdown that anti-mob crusaders like US Attorney General Kennedy, then-federal prosecutor Giuliani and pioneering NYPD Lt. Joseph Petrosino — slain by Sicily’s Black Hand extortion racket in 1909 — tried for more than 100 years to achieve, one source said.
“This is doing what they couldn’t do,” one source said.