|Four men operating a BetonSports mobile betting office parked outside Raymond James Stadium in Florida were arrested on gambling charges earlier this week. |
Two police placed officers placed the bets. 'Then we pulled out our badges,' said Detective Bill Todd.
The four men were charged with soliciting wagers ranging from $25 to $100,000.
But the owner of www.BetonSports.com says the mobile home and the betting is completely legal because the bets are placed in Costa Rica and other offshore sites, where gambling is allowed.
Promoting his company in the United States isn't a crime, either, said David Carruthers, the chief executive of BetonSports.
'You have a great law in the US,' Carruthers said. 'It's called free speech.'
By using the Internet, he said, gamblers can place bets via Costa Rica, avoiding US laws against gambling.
The detectives think otherwise. They agree with the state Attorney General's Office, which in 1995 issued the opinion that if a bet is placed on Florida soil, it is a violation of state and federal law regardless of where the betting operation is located.
'If part of that transaction is taking place in Florida, then it's illegal,' Todd said.
Some experts estimate Internet-based sportsbooks will take in up to $4.5-billion in revenue this year. But the legality of doing it in the United States remains debatable.
The four men who were arrested inside the motor home don't actually work for BetonSports. Carruthers said they work for Mobile Promotions, which was hired to advertise and market the betting site.
Still, detectives arrested the four because they were representing the company.
Jeremy Smith, 30, of Miami and Chad Williams, 25, of California were charged with bookmaking and keeping a gambling house. Manny Lenis, 23, of Miami and Jose Espinoza, 21, of Weston were charged with being an agent for keeping a gambling house. All were booked into the Hillsborough jail and were released on bail.
The mobile home, and a similarly decorated Chrysler PT Cruiser, are sitting in a Tampa police impound lot.
None of this is stopping Carruthers from continuing to promote his company in the United States. He said that he advertises on the Howard Stern radio show, on several Florida radio stations, including one in Tampa, and in several national magazines.
Carruthers also has asked the Miami promotions company to drive another motor home emblazoned with his company's name to St. Louis for the Oct. 20 Rams-Seahawks game.