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Give Poor Calvin Ayre a Break Already...By Jay Graziani

Bodog's quest to be media darling has often brought to question the ethics of their head, Calvin Ayre. Internet gambling forums have provided chatter about Bodog's ownership ad nauseum. And a couple of mildly-psychotic internet stalkers seem to jump from forum to forum with the sole intention of blathering about Calvin Ayre's prior misdoings.

It is no secret Mr. Ayre has a rap sheet. In 1996, he settled an insider trading accusation with a $10,000 fine and 20-year banishment from running any company listed on the Vancouver exchange.

Certainly not a pristine track record for someone running a semi-legal internet gambling enterprise. But let's call a spade a spade. Mr. Ayre is an illegal bookie, intentionally and maliciously skirting the law by operating out of a more crime-friendly jurisdiction - at least in the eyes of U.S. prosecutors. If he stepped into the United States today there is little doubt that he would be arrested on the spot. There is a reason Mr. Ayre has no assets located in the U.S., and it's not because he's broke.

Let's be realistic -- the average internet gambler has almost zero information about the ownership of any sportsbook they patronize. Most people connected to sportsbooks use aliases for their public face, and many have charges already awaiting them if they ever return to the U.S. Few, if any, have spotless records, but as long as they stay behind the scenes, no one notices. Mr. Ayre's highly-public persona only puts him through a finer comb.

Many sportsbooks grew out of illegal stateside operations, so ownership almost always has had prior brushes with the law. A lot of sportsbooks have stateside agents. I doubt any sportsbook has a completely clean rap sheet, just by the nature of their business. They (and I guess we) are all criminals in some regard just for doing what it is we're doing. And although all gamblers are good citizens and report their offshore accounts for tax purposes, I am sure we could turn up some less-than-ethical behavior on our side of the counter as well.

The simple rule of thumb is this: when you operate in a criminal element, you are going to be dealing with criminals. Deal with it or stick to bingo halls. And until the muddy legal waters are cleared, taking bets over the internet is certainly a criminal enterprise in the eyes of federal and even state prosecutors.

Are prior offenses of owners something to consider? Sure, when you are trying to figure out how likely it is that you get paid. But there are a lot of factors that figure into that equation - financials, business model, clientele, and track record among them. Mr. Ayre's status as a low-level pseudo-celebrity has given us vastly more information about Bodog's ownership and business doings than nearly any of its competitors.

When did everyone suddenly start expecting bookies to be saints? My top priority when choosing someone to take my bets has never been "meticulously stays within the bounds of the law", whether it was a parlay card in the back in the corner bar or electronic transmissions across the internet. If you are going to crucify Bodog, do it for the low limits or 40-cent lines. Not for the personal dirty laundry of the owner.

Let me say I am not a fan of Mr. Ayre, and I am not a tremendous fan of his sportsbook. I am especially not a fan of his stupid fantasy jungle romps and other shenanigans. His antics likely do much more to harm this industry than better it. But he settled his prior charges, and paid his debt to society with a fine and restrictions. And his sportsbook is not exactly the worst choice for a recreational player in the current environment.

I guess the bottom line is, let he without sin cast the first stone. Or at least let him hit the first soft $500 limit overnight opener at Bodog.

Jay Graziani

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