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 Billy Duffy.
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.