Two years after indictment, Bodog founder Calvin Ayre is still one of America’s most wanted men.
In 2012 the Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted Calvin Ayre, the founder of sportsbook and online casino in Canada Bodog, for illegally accepting wagers from American bettors.
Ayre is also accused him of laundering money made illegally in the US. Two years later, federal prosecutors are still seeking extradition.
Ayre on the “most wanted” list
Ayre, a Canadian citizen, in currently on the US Immigration and Custom Services “most wanted” list, meaning that federal authorities are still attempting to make him face charges for alleged violations of American gambling laws between 2005 and 2012.
Assistant US Attorney Richard C. Kay has affirmed the DOJ’s steadfast intention for Ayre to be extradited to the US, stating that “the parties intend to continue to try to find a resolution that will not require extradition of the defendants, but, in the meantime, I am pursuing extradition.”
• Calvin Ayre is on the US Department of Immigration’s most wanted list
• He was indicted in 2012 for violating American gambling laws
• If found guilty he could be sentence to up to 20 years in prison
Kay admitted, though, that the “process can take a number of years” and recommended that the case be administratively closed in the meantime so that the DOJ can focus on extradition.
The government believes that Ayre is currently in either Canada or Antigua, both places with which the US has limited extradition treaties, meaning that they will have to negotiate for him to be sent to the US to face trial.
While Ayre is accused of having served customers from across the US, prosecutors claim to have proof that the company wired $100 million to American customers living in the state of Maryland, so if indicted he would stand trial there.
If brought in front of a court and found guilty Ayre could be sentenced to up to 5 years in years in prison and ordered to pay $500,000 in penalties and back taxes. If found guilty of money laundering he could face up to 20 years in prison.
In 2013 Bodog’s offices in Manila, Philippines were raided on suspicion that the company was illegally offering services to bettors in the country, although it was determined that while Bodog was based there, it was only accepting wagers from customers based outside of the country.
The 2012 case explained
Ayre and some associates were indicted in 2012 for violations of the Unlawful International Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), a 2006 bill which made it a crime for any individual or company to accept money for a betting or gambling service from an American jurisdiction.
While Bodog was based in Costa Rica at the time, the case was built on accusations that it had accepted hundreds of millions of dollars in wagers from American gamblers and paid roughly $100 million to Americans through offshore accounts in Malta, Switzerland, the UK and Canada.
Federal prosecutors also claimed that the company had spent $42 million advertising their services to American internet users, although it has never been established whether that was a violation of the law.
The site’s domain name was seized, and Calvin Ayre has been careful not to enter any jurisdiction which could plausibly extradite him to the US.
After he was indicted Ayre called it an “abuse of the US criminal justice system for the commercial gain of large US corporations,” implying that the case was political.
The DOJ had spent several years building a case against Ayre, who for years had successfully exploited the gray zone of internet gambling laws in America. While the activity was nominally illegal under the 1964 Wire Act, there was no framework for enforcing it until the UIGEA was passed.
Forbes reported that in 2005 the company took in 95% of its $7.3 billion in sales from the US market alone. While the Bodog Entertainment Group is registered in Costa Rica, legally the company was also required to pay federal taxes on income earned from the US market.
The combination of alleged violations of America gambling laws and tax evasion on a very high scale motivated the authorities to devote serious attention to Calvin Ayre, finally going after him for crimes they claim he committed over a span of seven years.
How American gambling laws have changed
While the DOJ continues to pursue Ayre for crimes allegedly committed before and after passage of the UIGEA, the same department reinterpreted the Wire Act in 2010 to allow states to create and regulate their own online gambling markets.
Bodog’s actions would still be illegal under this interpretation however, as internet betting in America is still completely banned, as is serving customers in jurisdictions without legal online gambling.
American gambling law is a messy pile of interwoven state and federal regulations and restrictions, but in order for a company to legally serve customers there it must obtain a license in a state with legal online gambling (currently only Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware apply), and take appropriate measures to ensure that out of state gamblers cannot access their services.
Casino companies MGM and Caesar’s Entertainment have capitalized on this relatively relaxed interpretation of the Wire Act, it appears to be too late for Mr. Ayre and the Bodog brand.