Double Down

Gary Kaplan put all of his chips on BETonSPORTS and drew the worst hand of his life. Now hes making tuna casserole in a St. Louis jail.

BETonSPORTS was open for business 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Says Lindvall: "Scott (Neil Kaplan) and G. (Gary Kaplan) worked hours and hours and hours, and the only thing they ever talked about was money and gambling. Some people talk about the weather, or how the Jets are doing, or how's your wife? — or did you get laid last night. None of that ever came up. It was just about how much money can we make and how can we make more."

According to the indictment, BOS hauled in gross wagers of $1.09 billion, $1.23 billion and $1.24 billion in 2001, 2002 and 2003, respectively. Recreational bettors accounted for most of the proceeds. "They only liked having the guys that didn't know what the hell they were doing, because it was more profitable for them," observes Tom Jensen of Point-Spreads. "Gary Kaplan had the reputation of — pardon my French — telling the professional bettors to fuck off. He didn't make a lot of friends."

Weitzner, operator of the Eye on Gambling Web site, agrees. Citing an alleged incident in the late 1990s in which a well-known West Coast gambler had a "beard," or stand-in, wagering bets for him at BOS. According to Weitzner and others, the beard first lost thousands of dollars with the book, but then rebounded to win upward of $200,000. "Gary promised to make good on the bets, and he never did," says Weitzner. "I went down there a couple times to try to negotiate a deal. Gary gave a choice as to several payment methods or options, but he never honored them."

As Weitzner tells it, a lawyer also tried to collect from Kaplan on behalf of the West Coast bettor. "The attorney is inside Gary's office asking for a settlement and Gary has a gun that he spins around and says, basically, 'I can kill you now, or I can kill you later.'" Weitzner adds: "This story was put up on every gambling message board."

"'Crazy G.' was Gary's nickname," remembers Roberto Castiglioni, a one-time operator and the publisher of The Online Wire, a gambling Web site. "Everybody knew him and his employees for these kinds of behaviors. They were the bad apples, the thugs, the ones that gave the biggest contribution to destroying the image of an industry that was seeking regulation."

Eduardo Agami disagrees. "Gary is a stand-up guy," says Agami, president of a gambling trade association in Costa Rica. "We'd speak with politicians, meet with the presidents of the country and high-ranking officials about more regulation and better licensing, and he deferred to my position, never felt the need to undermine or compete with me."

Kaplan was technically a competitor, since Agami also ran an Internet gambling operation. But Agami considered Kaplan a friend. In fact, adds Agami, "If I was going to the beach, he would lend me his helicopter."

Kaplan in 2000 placed an ad in the Daily Racing Form looking for a CEO. The ideal candidate would have no interest in the minutiae of BOS' daily operations. Instead, the CEO would be an ambassador, so to speak, a professional public face for the business.

"Gary had come up with a plan to take the company public," recalls Weitzner. "He bragged about it to me. He said he was going to make his millions through stock. I laughed at him. I said, 'How are you going to go public? You're a bookmaker with a bad record.'"

Kaplan's answer was David Carruthers, a Scotsman who, at age nineteen, had become the youngest manager at the elder statesman of British betting shops, Ladbrokes. With an MBA from a British university, a grasp of international politics and a wide-reaching professional network, the 50-year-old Carruthers, according to insiders, became the crux of Kaplan's so-called "escape strategy."

"David was a breath of fresh air for the industry — well-respected, intelligent and well-rounded," remembers Kevin Smith, a former trade reporter who later became the spokesman for BOS. "When I covered the business I was used to dealing with fuckwads who'd say, 'I'm going to do so much for this industry,' and then never did a thing. With David, for once, I wasn't dealing with a used-car salesman."

Carruthers and Kaplan first attempted to float BOS on the London Stock Exchange in late 2001. When that failed, Kaplan reportedly retreated from the view of potential investors, apparently to buff up the corporate image of the company so convincingly portrayed by Carruthers.

Many believe it was Kaplan, however, who in 2002 quietly orchestrated BOS' most ballyhooed public relations campaign to date. The company plastered its name across a pair of luxury RVs and a PT Cruiser, recruited a squad of scantily clad "BOS Girls" and on game days parked the caravans outside NFL stadiums — including the Edward Jones Dome.

The firm kicked off the season with an extravagant bash atop its San José headquarters in its brand-new "VIP Club" featuring twelve adjoining suites, a cigar shop, blackjack tables and a pool bearing the BOS logo on its bottom. Soap suds wafted about the room while Carmen Electra and the Pussycat Dolls headlined the event. Models flown in from the United States entertained high-rolling customers in themed rooms like "Catholic School Girls" and "Dominatrix." Celebrities and assorted tabloid TV and gossip columnists were in attendance.

« Previous Page
Next Page »