This article on Legends Sportsbook is not one of our typical scambook pieces, but it involves a US facing betting site getting into trouble with a familiar foe, the United States Department of Justice. Legends had been a valued bookmaker since the heyday of online sports betting in the US and was a pioneer in the industry.
Instead of our traditional, no-pay, slow-play scams, this article is more of a wake-up call to US players and how the use of agents and a persistent US DOJ, can bring a profitable bookmaker to its knees.
That is not to say every US facing company is facing intense pressure from the Feds, but there’s a fair chance that they might be found in the crosshairs of the US Government — especially industry leaders or books that have a long history in the industry.
Legends was one of the top choices for US bettors before being shut down by the DOJ
History of Legends
Legends came to prominence in the early to mid 2000s (they have been around since 1997), at the height of the online gambling boom in the US. On several occasions, they were rated as one of the top online betting sites by SBR and even spawned a scambook that used a similar domain name to lure players who knew of the “Legend” brand.
Yes, things were perfect for Legends in the early days. They were one of the top betting sites in an era when much of the industry went unchecked by governments, and offshore bookmakers were bringing in record profits.
Even after many of the once prominent offshore sites were busted by the Feds, went broke or left the US market all together – Legends remained a top option for sports bettors, perhaps the best.
Their lines and markets were never expansive, but they offered excellent customer service and always had fast payouts regardless of the time of year or season. They had the respect of both bettors and industry experts alike for their honesty and reliably. They embraced and stood by their slogan of “The Most Respected Sportsbook.”
Legends became an invitation only book in their last few years of operating, and had a massive client base built off of years in the offshore industry.
Thought of as more of a recreational book rather than a professional option, Legends default limits were around $500 a side for the big four American sports. However, players reported being able to speak with management and raise their limits rather easily. Also, they did not offer great odds on teasers and parlays, and overall their odds were around the industry average.
Most probably did not realize the extent of Legends involvement in both the offshore industry and the amount of wagers they took in through agents and other entities in the US.
In 2013, they made the news for all the wrong reasons. On April 13th, the owners, employees and associates were indicted by the US Department of Justice, in a Federal courtroom in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The indictment was a lengthy 95-pages and alleged that Legends accepted wagers from American citizens while being based and licensed in Costa Rica and Panama.
The document revealed that Legends had profited more than $1 billion dollars from their offshore betting industry since 2003. The indictment looked for fines exceeding $1 billion for a number of charges including, racketeering, money laundering and UIGEA violations. In addition, many of the defendants potentially faced more than 50 years in prison.
The list of indictments was rather large and consisted of both businesses and individuals. All and all, 34 people and 23 businesses faced charges after the document had been unsealed.
The acting assistant attorney in the case, Mythili Raman had a stern message for Legends and other offshore gambling operators servicing US citizens, “Today’s charges demonstrate that we are as determined as ever to hold accountable those involved in facilitating illegal online gambling by U.S. citizens, regardless of where the business operates, or where the defendants reside.”
Bigger Than Most Thought
No one is shocked anymore when the DOJ rolls over another online gambling site that services Americans, but it does seem like Legends may have had it coming more than most. As we see in the statement from the District Attorney above, US law enforcement is not playing around when it comes to offshore gambling operators.
There were a vast number of agents operating in the US taking bets from customers, both live and online. They placed these bets at Legends and were given a commission on the profits they brought the book. Some of these agents were making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and even used shell companies to pay out and collect gambling profits. They had many credit accounts, something that is not usually normal for post up, recreational bookmakers; something that most people perceived Legends to be.
The news of the indictment made bigger waves in the sports betting affiliate industry. For the first time ever, the DOJ indicted a sports betting affiliate. A New York man named Gregory Wilson was listed on the indictment and officials claim he listed Legendz Sports as a “Recommended Sportsbook” on one of his sports betting sites. While his involvement otherwise is not clear, (he did fly to Panama, and Costa Rica to meet with Legends employees) it appears he may have been more involved than your typical online gambling affiliate. Nevertheless, the indictment in itself is scary to affiliates, especially those based in the United States.
The indictment also named Spiros “The Greek” Athanas, the founder of TheGreek.com, one of the top best known online bookies of all time. The Greek stopped taking bets from US citizens several years ago, but Athanas was apparently still in the FBI’s crosshairs. He was listed as a part-owner of Legends. Athanas turned himself to authorities after police raided his home on the day of the indictments.
No one is quite sure how the Feds got all their information, but at least some of it was by monitoring electronic communications, such as phone calls, emails and even Skype conversations. Maybe it was an agent that flipped when he felt the weight of the US Government and gave up his bosses.
Business As Usual?
At least it seemed that way. Days after the indictment bettors withdrew funds wondering if they would get paid. Many assumed they were bust or perhaps had gone off into hiding with what was left of player funds.
Surprisingly, the company made no official statement in regards to the indictments. However, things seemed to be “business as usual” in the days after the charges and bettors even reported payouts within hours of requesting withdrawals.
While many bettors held their breath on receiving their funds, some rejoiced and praised Legends for staying and business and giving the proverbial middle finger to the FBI. Unfortunately, that optimism would be short lived.
Less than a week after the indictments, Legends closed their doors to customers. They lost their gaming license with the Panamanian government and officially stopped taking wagers. Sportsbook Review reported that Legends Sports released a statement that all player funds are safe and would be transferred to an A rated sportsbook.
Many speculated that Legends would work out a rollover deal with a site like Heritage, BetOnline or another key player in the US online sports betting market. The statement accounted for players who had post up money with Legends, but not for bettors who had private arrangements or who bet on credit.
It was unfortunate that Legends got hit by the Feds and was closing down, but at least players would get their funds fair and square, from an A rated book with a fair rollover. Of course, that would have been acceptable if that is how things turned out, but they didn’t.
WagerWeb Balance Transfer
Despite reports of Legends looking for compassionate bailout deal for players at a top rated book, customers were sad to hear they accepted another offer.
WagerWeb assumed player balances and demanded an incredible 10x rollover before players could withdraw. Also, WagerWeb was not a top rated book by any stretch of the imagination. They had a D rating on SBR and have been the subject of complaints from bettors since their inception.
They still paid customers eventually but were nowhere near the level of many others, even in the decimated US facing group of online sportsbooks. To make matters worse, the rollover made it nearly impossible for players to come away with more than half their balance. As SportsBettingSites.org explains, the 10x rollover is a 50% edge for the bookmaker, meaning the average sports bettor is expected to lose half of their balance.
After an outcry from former customers about these unfair conditions via sports betting forums, WagerWeb did lower their rollover requirements to 5x of the transferred balance. While this was a pleasant “concession” for customers, it is still far from the standard rollover rate in these situations, which is normally 2x of the account balance.
The Legacy of Legends
There is no doubt it is a tough time to be a book taking action from US customers. The Feds did work for years to take down Legends, but they can’t be absolved of blame in their downfall. Even with a relentless force like the US government, Legends made it easier on the DOJ.
Perhaps they were too ambitious for their own good or they just got greedy and got caught. They ran a vast network of agents, set up shell companies for payments and many key people in the company’s ownership lived and operated in the US. Legends was not just accepting US bets via the internet – which would have been enough in itself – they had agents roaming around the country paying out customers, running a massive underground sports betting operation. Legends always did pay their players on time and were a trusted name for nearly a decade, until this indictment sealed their fate. One wonders if they did things differently – perhaps a little less brazenly – if they would have stayed off the DOJ’s radar.
There are still plenty of reputable online sites to use for American players, but the US DOJ has clearly made it a priority to stamp out offshore bookmakers who offer their services to Americans.
Players did receive their funds – albeit with a 5x rollover at a poorly rated book – they were not screwed out of all their funds, which seems to happen quite frequently when operator’s become insolvent or face legal issues. If there’s a silver lining to be had in this situation, it has to be that everyone got paid (kind of).
The Legends Sports indictments, along with the October 12 indictments of Pinnacle Sports’ executives proves that the US government will go to extraordinary lengths to prosecute online gambling operators. We wonder why the DOJ does not go after the scam outfits or the poorly rated shops that screws bettors with no-pays and slow-pays. After all don’t they want to protect us from the evils and dangers of online gambling? Instead, they go after highly rated, trustworthy companies, which pay on time and truly care about their customers.