In a press release, the Department of Justice today announced they have received indictments on 34 individuals and 23 entities for soliciting more than $1 billion in illegal sports bets. Spiros Athanas, widely known throughout the offshore betting industry as “The Greek,” is among those indicted. Athanas founded TheGreek.com, one of the sharpest offshore books in the industry, which stopped accepting US customers nearly two years ago. The other bookmaking shop targeted by the indictment is the Legendz Group which operates BetLegends.eu.
Today’s indictments are the result of a multi-year investigation by the Department of Justice, the FBI and the IRS.
The indictment alleges Bartice Alan King, 42, of Spring, Texas, worked with others to set up an illegal bookmaking operation in San Jose, Costa Rica before moving the operation to Panama City. The company, known since 2003 as Legendz Sports, took wagers online and through bookies located throughout the United States. According to the DOJ, Legendz (and its affiliate companies) handled more than $1 billion in sports bets since 2003.
Jim Finch, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Oklahoma City Field Office, said “individuals cannot skirt the laws of the United States by setting up illegal internet gambling operations in a foreign country, while living in the United States and enjoying all the benefits of U.S. citizens.”
In addition to Bartice King, Spiros Athanas was indicated. The founder of TheGreek.com, Athanas is alleged to have loaned between $1.5 and $3.5 million to Luke King (another person indicted) to build a call center for Legendz Sports in Panama. For nearly two decades, Athanas has been considered one of the sharpest and most well-respected offshore bookmakers. It’s unclear how this indictment will impact TheGreek’s remaining operation which now only handles bets from non-US customers.
The indictment calls for the forfeiture of assets held by all 34 defendants which, combined, total over $ 1 billion. Now, something doesn’t add up. If this group facilitated $1 billion in wagers over a 9 year period, they likely ‘won’ somewhere $50 million handling all those bets (the average hold rate for Nevada sports books has been 5% over the past decade). And that $50 million is gross profit so it doesn’t account for the cost of running an offshore sports book: call centers, IT infrastructure, marketing, agent commissions, etc. If this group onlyhandled $1 billion in sports bets, there is no possible way they could have amassed $1 billion in assets from this gambling enterprise. So, one of two key points in this indictment are incorrect: either the group handled far more than $1 billion in bets or the group has nowherenear $1 billion in assets.
Some other interesting notes from the indictment:
* Assets listed to be forfeited include dozens of properties in Texas (specifically, in The Woodlands) and New Hampshire
* Other assets include banks accounts at a number of large institutions including Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, TD Bank, and Wachovia. Vehicles tagged for seizure include a 2009 Maserati Quattroporte and a 1969 Ford Mustang.
* One of the indicted purchased a $1.65M condo in Sarasota, Florida in 2008 and used $400,000 in gold coins as partial payment.
* The domains that were used by Legendz (and its affiliates) include Legendz.com, betlegends.eu, betwalrus.com, mvpplay.com, betjamaica.com, olympicsports.com and others.
* Nicknames, always the most colorful part of sports gambling indictments, include “Bubbles,” “Gooch,” “Fat Mikey,” “Frank the Bank,” “Big Dog,” “Top Cat,” “Big Lou,” and “ROLLTIDE.”
* Between March 31, 2008 and October 31, 2012, Spiros Athanas is alleged to have transferred $3,349,650 from a bank account in Jamaica to a bank account in New Hampshire.