Gamblers hoping to get money back after betting Web site shuts down
By ADAM GOLDMA, AP Business Writer
Since BetOnSports PLC started accepting wagers online, gamblers played the odds on plenty of sporting events. But they also gambled on whether U.S. prosecutors would one day target the Costa Rica-based company for possibly violating federal law.
Now, gamblers are wondering if they’ll ever get their money back after a judge’s temporary restraining order forced BetOnSports to disable its Web site, blocking access to player accounts.
“I just can’t get past how much I could lose,” a New Jersey bettor named Eric wrote recently on a gambling blog.
BetOnSports faces a 22-count indictment on fraud and racketeering charges in the U.S. District Court in St. Louis. David Carruthers, the firm’s former chief executive, remains in jail in the United States after being arrested while changing planes in Texas.
Prosecutors are seeking the forfeiture of $4.5 billion, plus several cars, recreational vehicles and computers from Carruthers and 10 other people associated with the gambling operation.
U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway told The Associated Press that last month’s federal restraining order requires BetOnSports to return any money that American customers have tied up with the site.
The order, which expires Monday but could be extended, also prevents BetOnSports from taking U.S.-based bets.
But Hanaway said if BetOnSports doesn’t return the money, the U.S. government has every right to seize it.
Hanaway contends the bets were placed illegally, violating the 1961 federal Wire Act. That means the government could take the money to settle legal claims in the same way it takes money from drug cartels, Hanaway said.
“In all kinds of crimes we forfeit money that someone has paid,” she said.
An executive with BetOnSports says the company is trying to return deposits and pending wagers before that scenario plays out.
“Customers will get their money,” the executive said, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the case.
But the executive said that because of the judge’s order on July 17, some payment processors, or e-wallets as they’re known, have stopped doing business with BetOnSports. The executive said BetOnSports has no way to transfer the bulk of the pending wagers or deposits to gamblers.
“We are in a difficult position,” the executive said.
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