Calvin Ayre: Bodog Founder and Self-Made Billionaire
How does someone go from being a poor farmer’s son to a self-made billionaire
and owner of a thriving online gambling empire? Just ask Calvin Ayre, because
that’s exactly what he did.
Read this page to learn everything there is to know about Calvin Ayre, from
his humble beginnings to his hand in one of the most successful online gambling
sites in the industry to his run-in with the law. You’ll also learn more about
his sheer devotion to charity, as he consistently goes out of his way to give
back to those in need.
Calvin Ayre was born on May 25, 1961, near Lloydminster in northern
Saskatchewan, Canada. He grew up on a farm and lived a very modest lifestyle, as
his parents often struggled to make ends meet. His dad wanted him to learn about
the value of working hard while he was still young, so he gave him his own pigs
to raise each year. Ayre woke up early each morning to take care of the pigs by
giving them food to eat and cleaning out their pigpens. Once they reached the
appropriate size, he would sell them at the market and keep any of the profits
he made off them.
Around the time Ayre was ready to enter high school, his family moved to
Salmon Arm, Columbia, where his dad started his new job of selling water
systems. Ayre received good grades in high school but was unable to afford
college tuition due to his family’s financial situation. So, after graduation,
he started transporting fresh fruits from the orchards of Columbia to the people
of Saskatchewan. He sold fruit out of his truck on the weekends so that he could
pay his way through college. In 1984, he graduated from the University of
Waterloo with his B.S. in general science. He then attended the City University
of Seattle, where he earned his MBA in financial management.
Once he was finished with his studies, he received a job offer from Bicer
Medical Systems, a heart valve manufacturer that was experiencing major
financial difficulties. He was determined to keep the business from going under,
even if that meant bending some of the rules. He got in trouble for selling
300,000 shares without releasing a prospectus and for moving company shares
around without filing the necessary paperwork. He had to pay $10,000 in fees for
this incident, and he would no longer be allowed to list a company on the
Vancouver Stock Exchange.
The Creation of Bodog
After reading an article in 1992 about a bookie named Ronald Sacco, Ayre
became inspired. Sacco had set up a betting shop in the Dominican Republic in
order to take sports bets over the phone from people who lived in the United
States. Although operating this type of facility is illegal in the United
States, Sacco was able to get away with it because it was completely legal in
the Dominican Republic. Even though Sacco would eventually face charges from the
US government, this story still stood out in Ayre’s mind.
Realizing there was a lot of money to be made in the gambling market, Ayre
committed both his time and money to developing software for offshore gambling
companies. He taught himself how to design software by reading through Cisco
Systems manuals. His software was a big hit, and many gambling sites started
using it. It wasn’t long before Ayre was ready to move on to bigger and better
things, though. His next goal was to create his own online sportsbook.
When it came time to choose a name for his online sportsbook, Ayre knew he
wanted it to be simple and catchy. He stayed up late one night punching
different 5-6 letter combinations into a domain registration search engine. The
last combo he typed was B-O-D-O-G. He said the name out loud several times
before deciding that was the one.
He officially launched bodog.com in 2000. It was a sportsbook exclusively
designed to meet the needs of the casual bettor. It covered a wide range of
different sports and had a variety of betting options to choose from. Bettors
could place wagers ranging from $1 all the way up to $5,000.
What made Bodog different than other online sportsbooks at the time was their
unique marketing scheme. Ayre became the face of the company, filling the Bodog
website with pictures of himself partying with celebrities and enjoying time on
his yacht with gorgeous models. Their goal was to sell the luxurious lifestyle
that can be made possible by being a successful sports bettor. Letting people
see the man behind the website also gave the site some authenticity.
Since the sportsbook was doing so well, Ayre decided to expand his website by
adding casino games and poker to the mix. He offered special bonuses to entice
players to try out the newest sections of the site. Players loved being able to
visit this one-stop destination for all of their gambling needs. This change
helped increase the company’s yearly revenue.
Ayre was always looking for new ways to expand the company. He decided to
host a Bodog Marketing Conference in Las Vegas so that gambling executives and
sports handicappers from around the world could meet up. They would be able to
exchange ideas and learn about the latest market trends. This event was well
attended each year he hosted it. Other events Ayre hosted were Bodog Fights (a
mixed martial arts competition) and the Lingerie Bowl (a football game between
two teams of models wearing only lingerie).
Ayre even expanded the Bodog brand into areas of entertainment outside of the
gambling industry. He started his own recording label called Bodog Music, which
released albums for artists like Bleed the Dream, Wu-Tang Clan, and Pitbull. He
also launched the television series called Bodog Music Battle of the Bands,
where unsigned bands would compete for a $1 million record deal from Bodog
Music. The celebrity judges on the show included John Lydon, Bif Naked, and
The company continued to thrive, and by 2005, they were processing more than
a million bets per day with an estimated yearly revenue of $210 million. Ayre’s
personal wealth also skyrocketed, as he was now a self-made billionaire.
Ayre Faces Hard Times
When the United States passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act
in 2006, Bodog had to close its doors to US customers. Ayre decided to sell the
US side of his brand to the Morris Mohawk Gaming Group of Quebec. This was a
hard decision for Ayre, and it caused him to withdraw from the direct operation
of his company for several years.
Then, in February 2012, Ayre received awful news. He was indicted by the US
Attorney for Maryland on charges of money laundering and illegal gambling. This
was a direct result of his involvement in Bodog prior to the institution of the
UIGEA. He was placed on Homeland Security Investigations’ Most Wanted list, and
as a result, he avoided going to the United States for several years.
His Most Recent Endeavors
The United States officially dropped their charges against Calvin Ayre in
2017, after he willingly forfeited $60 million worth of assets to pay off his
debts to the government. He currently doesn’t have plans to return to the United
States, but he is free to do so if he ever changes his mind.
Ayre now serves as Economic Envoy of Antigua and Barbuda. He is responsible
for overseeing the economic cooperation between Antigua and Barbuda and other
countries. He will help the government understand how to use cryptocurrencies
and blockchain technology so that they can stay up to date with the latest
technological advancements. Ayre is happy to serve in this new position, saying,
“It’s nice to have an opportunity to give back to my adopted homeland.”
Calvin Ayre is a very generous man, which is why he launched the Calvin Ayre
Foundation as a way to give back to those in need. Although the foundation is
based in Antigua, it helps serve over 8 countries around the world. It focuses
on 5 key areas of giving: child welfare, animal welfare, education, emergency
response, and social development. By taking a deeper look at how the foundation
serves in each one of these areas, we will have a better understanding of who
Ayre is and what he cares about.
Ayre has a desire to see children thrive. His foundation has raised over
$150,000 for the L.A. Laker’s Youth Foundation. Each year, they hold a
sportsfest in the Philippines, which provides a fun-filled day of sports and
entertainment for the youth. This program is completely free and is designed to
get kids active and to show them that there are people who care about them.
This foundation also helps fund the Lomonosovsky Dom Rebenka facility, which
provides resources for babies born with neurological conditions. It is located
in Russia and houses over 100 children who don’t have parents that are willing
or able to care for them. The facility was falling apart, but this foundation
paid for its renovations, which included a new foundation.
Ayre forced his foundation to focus their attention on animals after hearing
about the thousands of cats and dogs that were wandering around homeless as a
result of the devastating natural disaster known as Hurricane Katrina. He teamed
up with Animal Avengers, a non-profit organization created by actress Shannon
Elizabeth, to raise money so that those animals could be re-homed and given the
proper medical attention they deserved. A celebrity poker night brought in over
$50,000 for this cause.
The Calvin Ayre Foundation works closely with the World Society for the
Protection of Animals to raise awareness for bear bile farming. Many Asian
countries use bear bile as a medicine to reduce pain and swelling. In order to
extract the bile from the bears, hunters trap bears in small cages and insert a
long syringe into their abdomen. This process is very painful for the bears, and
it will eventually lead to their death. The Calvin Ayre Foundation has opened a
sanctuary for bears who have been rescued from these farming facilities. They
also have created a documentary in the native language of these countries that
explains the declining wild bear population and provides ideas for alternative
medicines they can use.
A trip to Costa Rica opened Ayre’s eyes to the poor school conditions in the
area. These schools’ lack of resources has led to low literacy rates and
increased dropout rates. That’s why Ayre started the Adopt-A-School program,
which helps provide schools with completely renovated facilities that are
designed to create a more conducive learning environment. They also organize
field trip opportunities for the students.
This recognizes the importance of integrating technology into a student’s
education, which is why they have provided several schools with fully-equipped
computer rooms. They don’t just supply the equipment, but they also take the
time to show the students how it works and how they can use it to help enhance
their learning experience.
This foundation has funds set aside to help people who face unexpected
tragedies. A family in Costa Rica found themselves homeless after a devasting
house fire destroyed their home and took the lives of two of their family
members. The Calvin Ayre foundation immediately came to the rescue. They
provided a place for the family to stay while they rebuilt their home. They also
provided them with clean clothes and fresh food.
When an earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, this foundation rushed over to offer
medical assistance to those who were injured. They also challenged the online
gaming industry to donate to this cause so that they could rebuild the homes
that were damaged by the earthquake. The foundation agreed to match all
donations up to $1,000,000.
This foundation has two main programs that look to improve social
development: the Adopt-A-Family program and the Adopt-A-Village program. Their
Adopt-A-Family program helps provide families with clean water, nutritious food,
and basic toiletries. They also send nurses and doctors to educate these
families on personal hygiene.
The Adopt-A-Village program helps provide food packs and construction
materials to villages who have suffered from natural disasters. Their volunteers
work closely with these families, giving them emotional support and helping them
cope with the loss of their homes and loved ones.
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