Calvin Ayre, one of the more controversial characters in North America’s online gambling market, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Baltimore on charges including money-laundering. The domain name of the Bodog website he founded has been seized.
The six-page indictment against the billionaire Canadian, his company and three others was unsealed by prosecutors in Maryland. It accuses them of illegal online sports betting over a seven-year period.
It alleges that they conspired to move funds from Bodog accounts in Switzerland, England, Malta, Canada and other parts of the world to pay winnings to gamblers and fees to media brokers and advertisers.
The US attorney’s office for Maryland said that Mr Ayre and his fellow defendants face five-year jail terms if convicted of the charge of conducting a gambling business and 20 years for the money-laundering conspiracy. Bodog.com potentially faces a $500,000 fine.
Mr Ayre, who describes himself as an “industry pioneer, megalomaniac and adrenalin junkie”, launched Bodog.com in 1994. His calvinayre.com carries the strapline “Gambling, Drinkin’ and Carryin’ On” and he writes regularly about regulatory developments in the US and Europe.
Bodog is the shirt sponsor of West Bromwich Albion football club in the English Premier League and Ayr United in Scotland.
The indictment alleged the conspirators caused a media broker to carry out an advertising campaign worth $42m over four years to attract US gamblers to Bodog.com. The other defendants are James Philip, David Ferguson and Derrick Maloney, all Canadian citizens who were described in the indictment as “operators”.
BodogBrand, which holds the rights to the Bodog name, said in a statement on the Calvinayre.com website that the bodog.com domain name had not been in use since last May. It said Bodog operations in the UK, Europe and Asia – which remain operational – had never taken bets from the US.
“The BodogBrand is currently consulting with its legal advisers with a view to having the domain returned,” its statement said.
The indictment is the latest in a series of enforcement actions by the justice department against online gambling operators taking bets in the US. Last year, the DoJ moved against executives of three gambling sites– Full Tilt, PokerStars and Absolute Poker.
However, the industry’s hopes of a regulated US market were boosted just before Christmas, when the DoJ issued a statement clarifying the 1961 Wire Act, the principal piece of American legislation on gambling, saying illegality applied only to sports betting.
Rod Rosenstein, US attorney for Maryland, said: “Sports betting is illegal in Maryland, and federal law prohibits bookmakers from flouting that law simply because they are located outside the country.
“Many of the harms that underlie gambling prohibitions are exacerbated when the enterprises operate over the internet without regulation.”
Bodog has eight offices around the world, including London, Barcelona, Montreal and San Jose, Costa Rica.
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