The owner of the horse currently vying for Triple Crown honors has been accused of failing to honor a $1.65m online gambling debt.
Ahmed Zayat (pictured), who owns Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner American Pharoah, was sued in March by a Florida man who claims Zayat owes him $1.65m. In a filing with US District Court in New Jersey, Howard Rubinsky says he acted as a “recruiter” for internationally licensed online gambling sites and that Zayat was one of his clients.
Rubinsky was connected with the illegal betting operation run by brothers Michael and Jeffrey Jelinsky, who pled guilty in 2009 to felony bookmaking charges in Nevada. Rubinsky himself pled guilty to illegal transmission of wagering information, money laundering and abetting, but avoided jail time, settling for a three-year probationary sentence.
Rubinsky claims he had a “personal services” contract with Zayat under which he agreed to provide Zayat with “a place to wager.” Rubinsky says he originally hooked Zayat up with Pinnacle Sports but Zayat was banned from the site after winning $2.8m in a short period.
Rubinsky then steered Zayat to Costa Rica-based Tradewinds, where Zayat was given a $3m line of credit. Rubinsky claims Zayat lost $2m of this sum, repaid $350k then refused to honor the rest of his marker. As a result, Rubinsky claims he personally lost $1.65m in commissions plus interest.
In his own deposition with the court, Zayat denied having asked Rubinsky “to put up a line of credit for me anywhere.” Zayat also denied placing sports bets “though the internet or telephone (or any other means) at Pinnacle or Tradewinds, or any other online-telephone sports betting venue, either directly or through the Jelinsky’s.”
Zayat did cop to wagering with the Jelinsky’s in 2007 while he was in California and lacked access to his personal online wagering accounts. The following year, law enforcement officials played Zayat a secret recording that indicated the brothers had been scamming him, advising him on no-hope nags they recommended while never actually putting all of his money into the pool.
Zayat admitted funneling $25k to Rubinsky but claimed this was to help Rubinsky pay medical expenses “and if he needs money to eat I am happy to help him every week with money to eat.”
Rubinsky submitted evidence in the form of text messages in which Zayat appears to promise to settle his debt via monthly payments. But Zayat pointed out that Rubinsky had failed to provide evidence of the alleged personal services contract or any invoices indicating Zayat owed anybody anything.
Zayat is a recognized betting whale. In 2013, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA) was accused of illegally extending hundreds of thousands of dollars in credit to “preferred client” Zayat, who was betting up to $200k per weekend with the state’s online wagering system. Zayat eventually ran up a $286k debt, which the NJSEA carried for months, in violation of state law.