Bodog’s Calvin Ayre Latest Gambling Figure Named in Panama Papers Leak

More news from the massive leak of shell-company ownership games originating with Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, where Bodog founder and maybe-billionaire Calvin Ayre is the latest online-gambling figure outed within the massive leak.

Calvin Ayre was featured in a Forbes expose back in 2006.Connections to Ayre within the “Panama Papers” leak were ballyhooed in a massively-hyped piece published this week by NBC News, titled “Panama Papers: On the Run with Fugitive Gambling Czar Calvin Ayre.”  Which is all well and fine, of course, if one overlooks the big-big-big problem within the piece: It has virtually nothing to do with the small links to Ayre in the Panama Papers and is instead a history of Ayre’s “Catch Me If You Can” history of offering services to US-based gamblers from various international jurisdictions who don’t have extradition treaties with the US.

In the process, the NBC News piece on Ayre exposes as much regarding the flaws in the whole “Panama Papers” leak-revealing process as it does about the presence of any of the names or business entities found within.  One has to read 17 paragraphs deep into an expose running several thousand words to find the first paragraph with specifics regarding Ayre:

But authorities confirmed that they were not aware of another offshore company that Ayre created in the tax haven of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, and controlled from 2007 to early 2013. They believe that company and others revealed by the Panama Papers could help them connect the dots between Ayre and potentially dozens of other associates as he expanded his gambling, betting and alleged money-laundering operations to the Caribbean, Europe and Asia and even a Canadian Indian reservation a short drive from the U.S. border.

Even then, the actual linkage to Ayre is slim; one has to dive down through another 20 or 30 paragraphs of Calvin backstory to find this:

The Mossack Fonseca documents show that Elegant Step Group Limited was created on Nov. 26, 2007 by Calvin Wilson and Anita Rose Ayre. U.S. authorities confirmed to NBC News that Wilson was a known alias of Ayre, and that Anita Rose Ayre is his sister.

And as to the purpose of the company, it might have been illegal in some jurisdictions… or maybe not.  From the story:

The documents in Mossack Fonseca’s database pertain to only one of many dozens of offshore entities that authorities say Ayre set up over the years through a complicated web of transactions. They don’t show any wrongdoing by Ayre, as it is not necessarily illegal to have offshore companies.

For the record, Ayre is at least the third well-known executive from the gambling world to be connected to the Panama Papers leak, after Teddy Sagi of Playtech and David Baazov of Amaya, though the Baazov connection came from an earlier Mossack Fonseca leak.  The NBC screed focusing on Ayre mentions numbers four and five on that list as well.  Two American citizens who made their names in the Caribbean gambling world are also cited in the NBC News piece: Gary Kaplan of BetOnSports.com, and Mickey Richardson (real name Michael Flynn III) of BetCRIS fame.

Ayre, for his part, fired back immediately on social media.  Posting on Twitter from wherever Calvin might be living these days, he wrote something to the effect that the entity in question was related to the purchase of a house for his sister.  The Tweet seems to have been deleted since then, but that’s hardly the greater point of this tale.

First, anyone with a reasonable grasp of online gambling’s history shouldn’t be surprised by any of these connections.  If there’s a surprise, it’s that more of them haven’t been exposed as yet.  I’m cynical enough to expect that dozens of well-known names and companies will be found to have some sort of busness connections within the Panama Papers document trove, if and when all 11 million documents are fully searched.

And that leads to the biggest problems with the Panama Papers leak: A lack of general availability and context.  One can easily visit a generic database showing top-level connections of the Panama Papers leaks, since that’s been put online as of last week.  But the supporting documentation… that’s all being selectively warehoused and disseminated by the few dozen large media organizations who currently the leak.

In other words, the general public is being spoon-fed information about whatever person or company is being exposed.  More often than not, there seems to be some political purpose behind whatever stories are being written.  The whole NBC News thing on Ayre, for example, has an overwhelming “evils of online gambling” vibe.

I, for one, hate filtered news.  Right now, the entire Panama Papers story is being heavily filtered, for as yet unclear purposes, and it’s making the whole episode suspect as a result.

From a US-based perspective, it would be nice to see one of the media outlets with real access to the leak to do some searching on the names and companies that did real damage to US consumers.  Four spring to mind, above all others: UltimateBet, Absolute Poker, Full Tilt (the Lederer/Bitar/Ferguson version), and Lock Poker.  I could easily amass a list of several dozen individuals and business entities well worth searching for within the Panama Papers leak… if only the access was available.

The Panama Papers leak should be an all-or-nothing deal, not the pre-picked bazaar we’re currently being given.  What’s being presented is much less, much weaker than it should be.  In the current context, it makes the presence of an Ayre or a Sagi or a Baazov little more than a curiosity.  Newsworthy, but not as newsworthy as you’re being led to think.

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