This was a long time coming: earlier today, bodog.com, the domain name for online betting hub Bodog, was shut down by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (if you try going to bodog.com now, there’s what you get). In addition, Bodog founder Calvin Ayre and three operators, James Philip, David Ferguson, and Derrick Maloney, were charged with “conducting an illegal sports gambling business and conspiring to commit money laundering.” (Here’s the indictment, by a U.S. District Court in Maryland.) Investigations into Bodog have been ongoing in one form or another (initially via an undercover IRS agent posing as an everyday online gambler) since 2006.
Not surprisingly, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Ayre have substantially different views as to what’s going on here. A statement from U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein made it sound like justice had been done:
“Sports betting is illegal in Maryland, and federal law prohibits bookmakers from flouting that law simply because they are located outside the country [note: Eyre is originally from Canada and is currently living in exile].”
… whereas a statement by Ayre suggested the opposite:
“I see this as abuse of the US criminal justice system for the commercial gain of large US corporations. It is clear that the online gaming industry is legal under international law and in the case of these documents is it also clear that the rule of law was not allowed to slow down a rush to try to win the war of public opinion.”
And from here, we’re not totally sure what happens. Ayre went on to say that the indictment “will not stop my many business interests globally that are unrelated to anything in the US and it will not stop my many charity projects through my foundation,” and we’re not even 100 percent sure what kind of effect this will have on Bodog itself. As The Baltimore Sun noted:
Last year, [Bodog] stopped offering online access to United States residents, though it transitioned customers to a new site, Bovada.lv, according to reports. That site was still operational Tuesday.
Indeed, Bovada.lv is still alive and kicking, and it sure looks like you can still bet on things. So while some action has been taken, and Ayre & Co. may eventually lose their entire operation, right now this reminds us of when a whole bunch of sports streaming sites got taken down right before the Super Bowl… and were promptly replaced with slightly different URLs leading to the exact same service. Time will tell if this most recent seizure has more than a symbolic effect.