US Homeland Security has accused Costa Rica-based online bookmaker 5Dimes of instructing US sports bettors to use Amazon gift cards to fund their online betting accounts.
In a seizure warrant filed with the US District Court in Philadelphia, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sought the seizure of 15 Amazon accounts that DHS investigators claim are linked to 5Dimes.
The warrant claims the accounts currently hold a combined $159k but allege that nearly $1.9m has passed through these accounts in the past few years. Re/code reported that Amazon has shut down one of the accounts, which was listed under the name GC Lover.
DHS says 5Dimes has been using the cards “in violation of Amazon’s terms of service” to facilitate payments to and from US sports bettors. The warrant alleges that 5Dimes paid out winnings to US bettors via the gift cards, or via merchandise the customers selected from the Amazon.com site.
5Dimes’ use of the Amazon cards was no great secret, as betting forums routinely cited the cards as one of the company’s preferred financial options. Customers were instructed to purchase the cards locally in cash, then to submit digital photos of the card information to 5Dimes. Customers who opted to receive their winnings in gift card form were offered 10% bonuses.
5Dimes was recently singled out in Costa Rican media reports of a money laundering investigation involving the company’s local manager and funds transferred from companies in Malta and Dubai. US federal agencies are also reportedly investigating the use of Costa Rica-based Western Union outlets to facilitate online gambling payments with US customers.
5Dimes’ increasing legal headaches only serve to underscore the ridiculous levels of subterfuge that online betting companies and their US customers must engage in to enjoy what is a perfectly legal form of entertainment in the state of Nevada and many other jurisdictions around the globe.
Given the revenue that the US government could derive from taxing sports wagering – as well as the savings the government could enjoy from putting a stop to this King Canute-like throwback to the failed policy of alcohol prohibition – it’s time for politicians in Washington to have a serious conversation about putting an end to this farce.