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US prosecutors drop all charges against Calvin Ayre and Bodog

Felony charges of illegal gambling and money laundering conspiracy filed against former online entrepreneur Calvin Ayre and the Bodog Entertainment Group over five years ago have been dropped by US federal prosecutors after the former gambling boss pleaded guilty to misdemeanour charges.

Bodog owner Calvin Ayre
Bodog founder Calvin Ayre.
The US Attorney for the District of Maryland originally charged Ayre, Bodog and three Canadian men as responsible for more than USD$100 million in gambling proceeds being transmitted to customers in the United States of America via online casinos, in violation of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) between June 2006 and January 2012. First filed in February 2012, the charges carried a hefty USD$1 million in fines and up to 25 years in prison.

According to information filed in a Baltimore federal court, Ayre pleaded guilty to an accessory after the fact charge over the phone from his lawyer’s office in Vancouver, Canada, for transmitting gambling information in violation of the Interstate Wire Act of 1961, which prohibits placing bets using a wire communication facility.

Chief Judge Catherine Blake of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland also sentenced Ayre to one year of unsupervised probation, a $500,000 fine, and heard Ayre come to an agreement that he would not make a claim against the USD$66 million seized by federal prosecutors from American third-party payment processors who confiscated accounts with online gambling funds related to the Bodog case.

Ayre had long since reimbursed all Bodog players affected by the US government’s seizing of their accounts and gambling funds, according to court documents.

Ultimately, Judge Blake dropped the much more significant felony charges in the wake of Ayre’s misdemeanour and an agreed resolution on July 14.

The Bodog.com domain has since been returned to its owners with an accompanying payment of $100,000, after it had been seized by US federal prosecutors as part of the criminal case.

Ayre never entered the U.S. to face the charges against him in court directly, nor did any of the other men charged in the same case or any company representative of Bodog.

Ayre announced his retirement from the Bodog online gambling business in 2008, following the enactment of the UIGEA and the US government’s crackdown on online gambling operators targeting US-based customers, even from foreign gaming jurisdictions like Bodog, which was based in Antigua at the time of the charges.

Ayre sold the Bodog.com domain to Morris Mohawk Gaming Group (MMGG) in 2006 and had ceased using the Bodog brand in the United States online gaming market. MMGG, who are based in Kahnawake in Quebec, Canada, would independently continue to accept US customers with their purchased Bodog.com domain until 2011, when it re-branded the hounded US-based online casino and sportsbook into the Bovada brand.

In 2009, Ayre founded CalvinAyre.com, an online gambling industry news and entertainment site. In a statement to his site following the court case resolution, Ayre 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. But most importantly, I’m just going to continue enjoying life to the fullest.”