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The law is an ass but it is the law

1st March 2012 8:21 am GMT

So Calvin Ayre finally got busted. Well, he didn’t really get busted because he isn’t anywhere near the US and isn’t likely to be anytime in the near future.

For what it’s worth, I understand he’s sunning himself in the Philippines. Bodog88 has an online gambling licence in the Philippines. I’d stay there if I were you Calvin. There are 94m people living in the Philippines. Unfortunately, much like in America, they cannot gamble on Bodog either.

Bodog88 is licensed by the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) - a free port in the far North of the archipelago. The Filipinos have to gamble with monopoly PAGCOR, which runs its online gambling business through PhilWeb’s internet cafes.

What a strange and crazy world we live in. No stranger and crazier than the fact that any American over the age of 21 can gamble in Vegas, New Jersey or any one of about 400 native American casinos but they cannot gamble online. But hey, you knew that.

It must be tempting for Ayre to really show his cojones (as they probably still say in the Philippines despite the Spanish selling it 114 years ago to the good ol’ US of A) and go stand trial - fight the good fight, show the DoJ what a foolish case it is fighting.

It could even be the pinnacle of his career. He could be the man who brought down the system, revealed the utter futility of fighting online gambling and ushered in a new era of regulated online gambling in the US.

Well, he could do that. And I’m sure there will be some people encouraging him to do that. It would fit the image. But Ayre is not daft. Well, he is daft but he’s not stupid. He’s made a fortune dodging the law - not confronting it.

It’s pretty clear cut that sports betting on the internet is illegal. The DoJ was kind enough to confirm this in its Christmas memo. And Ayre has seen this coming.

Maryland has been investigating Bodog for nearly two-and-a-half years, according to the warrant. But the Maryland authorities have been investigating online gambling for much longer than that. This will have cost the prosecutor a pretty penny.

However, the Maryland Lottery announced it made $13m in January alone. Adding to the many levels of irony, new casino Maryland Live! is set to launch an internet gambling website in April albeit in freeplay mode initially. But it would not be doing that without the expectation of legitimate wager-based gambling sometime soon. (Gawd, I’m kinda getting tired of pointing out the obvious here! But hey, if you’re reading this US Attorney Rod Rosenstein....)

So the law might be an ass and hypocritical but, unfortunately for Ayre, it is the law. It’s nice to read that Dickens quote in full though: “If the law supposes that, the law is a ass — a idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is that his eye may be opened by experience — by experience.”

Indeed. And, with i-gaming legislation emerging in various states, the law might be having its eye prised open by experience but it is opening slowly and painfully. In this case, it is doubtful that even the best lawyer that money could buy, would get Ayre off the hook completely.

Despite much bravado and rhetoric about the (should be) legality of online gambling in the US, Ayre has slowly withdrawn all his brands from the country. The world is his playground and it can continue to be so - as it is for many others, who have been the unharmed victims of the DoJ’s online gambling busts.

One thing we can be sure of is that Ayre is unlikely to keep as quiet as Isai Scheinberg or Ray Bitar. He has already railed against the “abuse of the US criminal justice system for the commercial gain of large US corporations”. So this could be entertaining.

But after speaking to a few US lawyers, I think Ayre would probably be better advised to keep quite with the taunts and maybe he could settle this with little more than a slap on the wrist. But that wouldn’t be good for the image, would it? Your move, Calvin.  

sah@gamingintelligence.com

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