Marisa Lankester

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Marisa Lankester
in Zurich 2014
in Zurich 2014
Born1963 (age 60–61)[1]
Rome, Italy[2]
OccupationWriter, author
EducationMarymount Manhattan College[3]
University of British Columbia[3]

Marisa J. Lankester (born 1963[1]) is a memoirist whose 2014 book, Dangerous Odds, told the story of her life, from growing up privileged in the suburbs of New York City and post-grad years in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, to working in the heart of the largest illegal sports betting operation in US history, including arrests in Los Angeles and Dominican Republic), to living a comfortable life in Switzerland.[2][3] The book won three awards.[4] In January 2015 discussions began for a movie based on the book starring Margot Robbie as Lankester.[5]

Early Bookmaking Years[edit]

Marisa Lankester was born in Rome, and raised in Westchester County, NY by an English father who worked at the United Nations and German mother, and attended the all-girls Catholic independent Ursuline School.[1] She attended Marymount Manhattan College before moving to Vancouver, BC, and later to Los Angeles, CA [3]

In June 1987, Lankester was arrested on charges of bookmaking, along with six other employees, after Los Angeles sheriffs, aided by information by two FBI informants, raided the office where she worked as a clerk for Ron (the Cigar) Sacco, operator of a sophisticated horse racing and sports betting operation that processed "at least $40 million" in bets in 1986 and considered the biggest bookmaker in American history.[1][6]

Lankester married Sacco's right-hand man, Tony Ballestrasse, in 1987 and gave birth to a daughter before locating with Sacco's operation to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic where gambling was legal; although a top model on the Island, she was jailed twice and endured repeated rapes after the FBI and local police raided Sacco’s headquarters in January 1992 (at the time the operation was taking in $100 million/month in bets and considered the "nerve center of American sports betting.")[2][3][7][8][9][10] Dominican police corruption included hiding Lankester from the FBI against her will.[11] As an insider, Lankester was also aware of the role off-shore (shell companies) played in Sacco's operation.[12][13]

Later years[edit]

Retiring permanently from bookmaking in 1994, she moved back to New York in 1996 to attend college in Manhattan. She remarried and moved to Switzerland where she had her second daughter (later divorced). She currently resides in Zürich, Switzerland with her family.[3][2] Lankester was interviewed by the NY Daily News[14] and active in debates surrounding US gambling laws (refer "Works" below) including input on the recent ban reversal in pro-sports.[15] She published her memoirs, Dangerous Odds, with the book rights optioned in 2015 by Warner Bros to become a motion picture starring Margot Robbie and screenplay by Andrea Berloff.[16][17][18][19] On February 27, 2018, it was announced that BoldFilms is financing the movie.[20] .[21] Lankester did not approve of the way Bold / Berloff / Robbie wanted to tell her story and declined to further pursue this cooperation.[22] In an April 2019 interview, Lankester expanded on her current life and movie development activities.[23]


  • Marisa Lankester (2014). Dangerous Odds: My Secret Life Inside an Illegal Billion Dollar Sports Betting Operation. Cappuccino Books Publishing. ISBN 9783906196008.
  • Marisa Lankester (May 29, 2014). "Feds should fold in their fight against N.J. sports gambling: Opinion".
  • Marisa Lankester (December 9, 2015). "Tough odds for daily fantasy: A former bookmaker offers advice to DraftKings and FanDuel".


  1. ^ a b c d "$40-Million-a-Year Bookie Ring Broken". Los Angeles Times. 21 June 1987.
  2. ^ a b c d Max Dohner (December 6, 2014). "Illegale Wetten: Sie suchte Thrill und fand einen Gangster". Aargauer Zeitung.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "'Dangerous Odds' tells story of woman's life inside an illegal sports-betting operation worth billions". NY Daily News. 18 May 2014. Retrieved 15 October 2014.
  4. ^ "International Book Awards - Honoring Excellence in Independent & Mainstream Publishing". Archived from the original on 20 October 2014. Retrieved 15 October 2014.
  5. ^ "Margot Robbie to lead sports betting film 'Dangerous Odds'". Yahoo News. 23 January 2015.
  6. ^ Betting Sports: Beating the Odds. Video news clip: Special Report by Michael Tuck, KCBS Channel 2 Action News Los Angeles, refer timeline 4:00-8:10.
  7. ^ Brian Ross Reports On Ron Sacco. video news clip: CBS Nightly News, Brian Ross (Date Jan. 1992 = as per Ross' mention of raid on Sacco headquarters ahead of Super Bowl weekend).
  8. ^ "Cigar Sacco". 60 Minutes (Steve Croft). 18 July 1993.
  9. ^ "Cigar Sacco". 60 Minutes, Season 25/Episode 44. 18 July 1993.
  10. ^ "26 Indicted in Sports Betting Probe: Crime: Bookmaking ring took in more than $1 billion a year, officials say. Prosecutors will seek deportation of suspects from Dominican Republic". Los Angeles Times. 16 August 1993.
  11. ^ "Betting 360 Ep 047 – Dangerous Odds with Marisa Lankester". David Duffield. Champion Bets. 10 March 2016.
  12. ^ "Panama Papers:Creating far-off companies, with few questions asked". McCatchyDC(National). 7 April 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-19.
  13. ^ "Catch Me If You Can". Forbes. 3 November 2006. Retrieved 2016-10-19.
  14. ^ "'Dangerous Odds' tells story of woman's life inside an illegal sports-betting operation worth billions". NY Daily News(Sherryl Connelly). 18 May 2014. Retrieved 2018-07-01.
  15. ^ "Sports betting world believes Supreme Court's ban reversal is too little, too late". ZLotoNews. 15 May 2018.
  16. ^ "Movie Database: Dangerous Odds".
  17. ^ "Warner Bros Closes Deal For Margot Robbie Sports Wagering Tale 'Dangerous Odds'". Deadline, Mike Fleming Jr. 29 January 2015.
  18. ^ von Maike Johnston (26 January 2015). "Spiel mit dem Feuer: Margot Robbie lebt als Insiderin ein gefährliches Leben im Sportwetten-Drama "Dangerous Odds"" (in German). Film Starts (Kino News). Retrieved 2016-10-19.
  19. ^ "Margot Robbie Age, Profile, Wiki Details & Biography". iDaily Times. 29 May 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-19.
  20. ^ "Margot Robbie's 'Dangerous Odds' Movie Gets Backing From Bold Films". Variety, Dave McNary. 27 February 2018.
  21. ^ "Margot Robbie Sports Wagering Tale 'Dangerous Odds' Finds Big Roller in Bold Films". 28 February 2018.
  22. ^ NZZ AM SONNTAG, Dez. 16, 2018
  23. ^ von Doerte Welti (April–May 2019). "Wetten, Dass...?". 50 Plus( CH/Switzerland). Retrieved 2019-06-01.