As entrepreneurs go, Calvin Ayre is simply cut from a different cloth. His life is the classic story of a man coming from humble beginnings, following the advice of his idols, stumbling upon a brilliant gap in the market and capitalising on said gap, becoming a success and then almost losing it all due to a legal faux pas. This is pretty much that same story, except it does eventfully have a happy ending for the plucky billionaire. He overcame his legal battles and today continues to grow his brand.
Ayre grew up on a farm in the Canadian city of Lloydminster. His father is the one who instilled the sense of business, entrepreneurship and philanthropy that would become the cornerstones of Ayre’s life. His father gave him his own herd of baby pigs to look after, raise and eventually sell at the local market, with the deal being that Ayre could keep any profits he made off the sale.
Calvin eventually paid his college fees with this same business sense when he used a truck to start his own fresh produce transport company, taking fresh orchard fruits from British Columbia all the way to Saskatchewan. Ayre left his childhood behind with a BSc in the sciences and a MBA in management finance.
Founding an Empire
1992 was the fateful year that Ayre’s life would change forever. He read a news article about a company in the Caribbean that handled telephonic betting services for customers from around the world. This got the gears in his head working.
At the time there was a new form of telecoms that started to gain transaction, a little thing called the Internet. Ayre had read about this new phenomenon and realised that he could combine the two things into one international gambling-based business. He, quite amazingly, taught himself Internet network systems by self-study of the Cisco Systems manuals. Ayre started Bodog as a fledgling Internet start-up that then developed into a software and support firm.
Bodog’s strength was that they knew the gambling industry and had the technical skills necessary to program, manage and adapt their own computer code. This firstly reduced the need for any licensing fees, as they owned all their intellectual property. Secondly, it also placed Bodog at a very important junction on the online gambling process, making the company absolutely indispensable to the industry at the time.
Even though the online casino games company found almost instant success, it wasn’t until the 2000s that Ayre became an almost household name. He was on a mission to grow the brand rather than the company, and he stumbled into the role of company spokesperson. Whether by chance or by design, he was an excellent figurehead, flaunting his lavish lifestyle very publically.
Things came to a head however when he was arrested and indicted in 2012 with charges of illegal gambling. This charge came shortly after the US implemented the strict Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act, which has repercussions to this day. Not only did the government seize his company domain name, they also brought felony charges against Ayre.
It was only in 2017 that the majority of the charges were dropped after Ayre agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanour charge under the federal Wire Act for transmitting money unlawfully. Ayre walked away with a 1 year probation sentence and a $500 000 fine.
Philanthropy And Charity
Calvin has never been shy about sharing his wealth. His casino eventually moved its charitable functions into the Calvin Ayre Foundation. This body has worked with the LA Lakers Youth Foundation, Animal Avengers and many more. They have done extensive work in Costa Rica, the Philippines and his other home of Antigua.
Calvin rose from humble beginnings to a place of prominence. Despite legal setbacks, Ayre never shied away from a challenge and today is still seen as one of the major figures in online gambling.