Early Thursday morning, agents from the Washington State Gambling Commission raided the Spokane Valley home of David B. Watkins, 54, and placed the man under arrest. Watkins is suspected of running an online car racing gambling website – a site that is clearly in violation of American gambling laws.
The site is called FantasyThunder, and it has supposedly been running for more than a decade without trouble. It let people across the US and around the world wager on NASCAR races. After several players complained that they had not been paid their winnings, officials became suspicious. They tracked down the source of the website, and obtained a search warrant to inspect Watkins’ home.
Several players who had placed bets at FantasyThunder were investigated. Many said that while Watkins was one prompt with payouts, the money stopped coming in a few months ago, and Watkins fell out of communication.
It has been made clear that any players who have not received their winnings from FantasyThunder will not get paid, because the site was operating illegally. Internet betting in the United States is a contentious topic. Many lawmakers believe online sports betting to fall under the Wire Act, which prohibits sports betting over the phone. Many argue that the internet is not the telephone, and that online sports betting should not be covered by the old law.
However the Wire Act is interpreted, Watkins has been taken into custody, and faces single felony charge of 2nd Degree Professional Gambling. Authorities don’t plan to pursue gambling charges against any individuals who placed wagers on the FantasyThunder website.
“We’d rather have them be witnesses,” said Gary Drumheller, the agent in charge of the investigation. “We’re more after the person who was putting this all together, and that would be Mr. Watkins.”