Bodog's Case in USA
The United States Justice Department dropped all charges against Calvin Ayre, the founder of the Bodog brand in 1994. A U.S. federal grand jury charged Calvin Ayre with conducting and illegal gambling business and laundering money in 2012.
The Baltimore-based Federal Judge, Catherine Blake, dropped all felony charges against Calvin Ayre and his gambling website, Bodog. In the deal, Calvin Ayre was not required to admit to felony charges. In fact, he can reacquire the Bodog website and use it for online gaming purposes, if he so requires.
Mr. Ayre admitted to the misdemeanor charge of “accessory after the fact” and paid a $500,000 fine. He also agreed to a year of unsupervised probation.
Calvin Ayre Ends Claims on US Seizures
In the plea bargain deal, Ayre agreed to make no claim on the $66 million once seized by the Feds from payment processors which serviced internet casino Bodog. At the time the funds were seized, the feds claimed Calvin Ayre’s online sites had broken the law between June 2006 and January 2012, in violation of the UIGEA and other laws.
Over the years, Calvin Ayre denied the accusations. At one time, he called the case an “abuse of the U.S. criminal justice system”. Since 2012, Mr. Ayre has lived in Antigua and Barbuda, the tiny Caribbean nation which has its own disputes over online gambling games with the USA.
Calvin Ayre Founded Bodog
Calvin Ayre is an Canadian citizen, which is where he founded real money casino Bodog in 1994. At the time, Bodog consulted and supported gaming operations, while dabbling in the entertainment business. In 2001, Bodog became an online gaming operator, eventually building successful online casino, poker, and sports betting operations. Calvin Ayre maintained his love for entertainment, as he signed music acts and produced live productions on the gambling website, Bodog.
By 2006, real money casino Bodog was one of the most popular online gambling sites in the world. Calvin Ayre was a billionaire. The years 2003 to 2006 were the Poker Boom, so the timing of Bodog’s rise was perfect — or almost perfect.
United States Passes UIGEA
The increased attention that televised poker broadcasts and the mainstreaming of the online gambling hobby brought unwanted scrutiny from the United States federal government. Calls from social conservatives, parents groups, and law-and-order politicians called for a ban on online gambling in America. That led to the Unlawful Online Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), a bill introduced to the US Congress in 2006.
Though the UIGEA did not have the popularity to pass as a standalone bill, it was attached to the Safe Port Act in September 2006. The Safe Port Act was a move by Congress to keep foreign (Arab) states from managing American ports, because of fear that foreign interests would allow terrorists to slip into the country. Few American politicians would have voted against such a “patriotic” bill during the War on Terrorism, so the UIGEA passed into law. On December 31, 2006, the UIGEA went into effect.
Online gambling sites listed on the London Stock Exchange pulled out of the US gaming market. So did many online gaming software providers, like Microgaming, Playtech, IGT, and CryptoLogic. (NetEnt never entered the US market.) Payment processing services that supported online gambling also left the US market.
Calvin Ayre Sells Bodog
Privately-owned online gambling websites and those with proprietary software continued to accept US real money players, and Bodog was one of those sites. Even though Calvin Ayre sold Bodog to the to the Morris Mohawk Gaming Group (MMGG) of Kahnawake, Quebec shortly after passage of the UIGEA, he maintained control of the Bodog brand name. Over the years, Ayre licensed the Bodog name to other offshore operators. Those licenses are what the US Justice Department targeted in its indictments.
Like the Justice Department seized the PokerStars, FullTilt Poker, and Absolute Poker domains during the 2011 Black Friday case, the Justice Department seized Bodog.com in 2012. Since then, the site’s homepage has shown the DOJ seizure warning. Under terms of the new deal, Calvin Ayre has the right to buy back the domain from the US government for $100,000.
Stradbrooke: “Bodog…Will Re-Enter the Online Gambling Market” Steven Stradbrooke, a writer for the CalvinAyre.com website, said that the Bodog domain’s return has no strings attached. Stradbrooke said the deal “virtually guarantees” that Bodog.com one day “will re-enter the gambling market in some form at some future date.”
The resolution of the indictments is vindication for Calvin Ayre. Since 2012, Ayre maintained that he never violated US law. Last year, Calvin Ayre said, “Our position has always been that we are operating legally in all of the jurisdictions that we are in. We don’t operate in the US.”
Ayre Plans to Live in Antigua
Despite the end of the case, Calvin Ayre says he plans to continue living in Antigua. In an interview since the case, the Canadian billionaire said,
“I don’t see this settlement changing anything, as I’m happy with my life the way it is. I’ll continue to focus on being an online gaming industry analyst, a tech investor, and a philanthropist. Most importantly, I’m just going to continue enjoying life to the fullest.”
Even before this week’s deal, Ayre has continued to travel to Canada and back. Last month, he spoke at a Canadian gaming conference, in which he predicted bitcoin payments and blockchain technology to be the future of online gambling payment processing. Calvin Ayre is working with possible bitcoin creator, Craig Wright, on over 70 blockchain patents filed in the United Kingdom.