Sunday, March 12, 2006

Costa Rica police raid gambling billionaire's home

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Reuters) - Dozens of police barged into the Costa Rican home of Calvin Ayre, a Canadian online betting mogul featured on the cover of Forbes magazine's annual billionaire issue, Ayre said on Saturday.

Ayre, founder of the Costa-Rica-based bodog.com gambling site, told Reuters a television company was filming a party at his mansion as part of a celebrity poker tournament, but police thought unlicensed gambling was taking place there.

"They came in like they were raiding Al Capone's lair," said Ayre, 44.

Police seized a laptop computer and small files containing organizational material for the shoot in Friday's raid, said Peter Karroll, head of bodog.com's entertainment division.

Ayre said no one was arrested. Police were unavailable for comment.

Raised on a pig farm in Saskatchewan, Ayre founded bodog.com 10 years ago and runs it out of Costa Rica, where gambling laws are less strict than in North America. He was featured on Forbes' newly released annual list as Canada's newest billionaire.

The Web site takes bets on sports events and runs online poker games. Ayre's profile on bodog.com describes him as an "online entrepreneur, jetsetter, maverick, industry leader."

He said his appearance on the Forbes cover prompted local press speculation that he was organizing illegal gambling in his home. A judge then ordered the raid. "When you're on the cover of Forbes, you attract a lot of attention," he said.

Ayre said only party scenes were being filmed at his house for the TV show about a poker tournament. Segments featuring gambling were filmed at a local television station, he said.

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