The Feds this week busted up and shut down a sprawling NFL survivor pool operation with contests operating in the millions of dollars, according to a report from ESPN’s Darren Rovell. Ron Kronengold and Mike Bernstein reportedly ran several contests per year at Ron & Mike’s Football Pool over the course of eight years, and had attracted participants numbering in the tens of thousands:
ESPN has learned that two pools, blue and red, were each capped at close to 10,000 entries with a cost of $100 per entry. Those filled up so quickly that a second-chance pool was created, sources said, at $200 apiece. A high-roller survivor pool was also offered at $500 per entry. Another pool, which started midway through the season, was a second-half pool and cost $100 per entry.
All the pools combined had more than 23,000 entries, players with knowledge of the contests said, with a collective value that surpassed $2.5 million.
Spending hundreds of dollars to enter an NFL survivor pool that has literally thousands of other entries is definitely not something you should be doing with your hard-earned money, but like many other things that you definitely should not be doing with your hard-earned money, it is a vice that probably should not rise to the level of federal law enforcement. I suppose that is neither here nor there—what matters, here, is how in the hell you operate a gambling operation on this scale without getting pinched by the Feds a lot earlier! In the case of Ron & Mike’s Football Pool, subtlety was needed. For example, all the money exchanged for entry into the pools was collected as cash, via mail sent to an address in Plainview, New York that isn’t associated with either of the operation’s owners. Pretty advanced subterfuge, that is. ON THE OTHER HAND:
The two weren’t completely covert about their operation. Kronengold filed to trademark the name “Ron & Mike’s” for survival pools in 2011. He received the trademark in 2012.
Advanced hiding-in-plain-sight tactics aside, apparently what screwed this massive domestic sports betting operation wasn’t the sports betting, but its not-for-profit particulars:
If Kronengold and Bernstein merely ran the pools and took no share of the winnings, it would not be illegal, per New York state law. However, if they did receive a cut of the winnings, which is usually 10 percent, they could be charged with bookmaking and profiting from a gambling activity.
So the Feds seized all the cash from the operation, and the Ron & Mike website was shut down (if you want to watch your browser spin fruitlessly, you can go to ronandmike.com), with very little hope for an eventual return. This is surely a bitter disappointment for those still alive in those dang suvivor pools:
“Please be advised that the Ron and Mike website has been forced to shut down at this time and is unlikely to open again,” read a note sent to people who were still alive in the pools.
“We understand your frustration and anger at this time but closure of the pool is beyond our control. We apologize to those that are still alive in our various pools and we ask for your patience and understanding while we contemplate the next steps. Unfortunately at this time we cannot make any additional comments.”