Canada TV on Online Gambling with BodogBy: Fabian Rictor, Sunday March 14th 2010
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Early last week Canada TV had announced that it would be airing a program on Canadian online gambling on Saturday, March 13. The program titled The Jackpot was something the online gambling industry was looking forward to. However, the focus of the program was Calvin Ayre, whom not many know is a Canadian entrepreneur.
The Jackpot described Calvin as "a youthful, retired millionaire" who cultivates the image of a womanizing bachelor. Calvin began life as the son of a Saskatchewan pig farmer. In the program Calvin recounts how his father gave him little pigs when he was small and told him to raise them and sell them. This was his grounding in business. After a graduate degree from Ontario, an MBA from Washington and a failed medical company, Calvin staked his all on the online gambling brand Bodog and hit the jackpot. Bodog was soon in trouble with the authorities in the United States and Canada. Though it was licensed in Antigua, where it was legal, Bodog serviced online players in America and Canada, where online gambling was considered illegal. Calvin told Canada TV, "I've never done any business in the U.S. All the business I've ever done has always been in countries where I have a license." The TV show aired the alternative view, that of Rod Rosenstein, a U.S. Attorney involved in the prosecution offshore online gambling operations. Rosenstein said, "It doesn't matter where your business is located, if your customers are here in the United States and you're communicating with them in the United States, then you're subject to the American restrictions."
2006 was the best year for Bodog. It crossed $7 billion in gambling revenues. Ayre featured on the cover of the Forbes annual billionaire issue. However 2006 was also the year in which the United States started its clamp down on online gambling. David Carruthers, the CEO of BetOnSports, was arrested while changing flights in Dallas and was later sentenced to 33 months. The UIGEA was passed towards the end of 2006. In 2008, Rosenstein went after Bodog. He seized $24 million from the company's payment processors. To avoid arrest Ayre had to stop traveling to the United States. He further announced that he would no longer operate online gaming sites.
It was then that Calvin showed his real business acumen. He licensed the Bodog brand to different online gaming operators in different parts of the world and earns millions of dollars from these licensing transactions. The U.S. facing gaming operation was sold to Alwyn Morris, a Canadian Mohawk Indian. The Mohawks claim to have rights as natives to offer gaming services from the Kahnawake Reserve near Montreal. The situation in Canada is equally messy. The Criminal Code outlaws private online gambling sites. However the Canadian constitution allows Indian municipalities to frame laws on matters from "dog catching laws to gaming to sporting events". The next episode of The Jackpot will discuss Alwyn Morris and the Canadian issues.
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