(toc)ESPN is reporting that a massive NFL survivor pool set to hand out $2.5 million to its winners this season has been shut down by federal authorities.
The sports network says Ron & Mike’s Football Pool had more than 23,000 entries for its three $100, one $200, and one $500 pools. It was shut down by federal law enforcement officials last week after a warrant to seize records and all the money in the pools was issued to the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Ron Kronengold and Mike Bernstein reportedly ran the pools for the past eight years. They did it through a website and post office box based in Plainview, New York.
Survivor pools ask participants to pick one winner each week of the NFL season without using the same team twice. A loss eliminates the participant from the pool, and it runs until there is just one survivor left.
Survivor pool not illegal, profits are
Survivor pools are not illegal in New York state, unless organizers take a percentage of the money. If Kronengold and Bernstein did so, they could be charged with bookmaking and profiting from a gambling activity. ESPN says listed rules and conditions on the pool website did not include mention of an organizer cut.
Joe Conway, a lawyer representing Kronengold and Bernstein, told ESPN the Ron & Mike’s Football Pool website was voluntarily shut down after the seizure. Neither Kronengold or Bernstein have been charged with a crime. Plus, Conway said federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials haven’t given them any information outside of a search warrant.
Participants in the pools told ESPN there was at least $2.5 million up for grabs.
All entries still alive in the pools were issued the following statement:
“Please be advised that the Ron and Mike website has been forced to shut down at this time and is unlikely to open again. 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.”
The cash is in the mail
Ron & Mike’s Football Pool asked participants to enter by sending cash in the mail addressed to Green River in Plainview. According to ESPN, a mortgage brokerage called Green River Capital exists in Plainview, but neither Kronengold or Bernstein work there. The mailing address for the pools is a post office box inside a local UPS store.
Kronengold filed to trademark the name “Ron & Mike’s” for survival pools in 2011. The trademark was received in 2012.
The United States Attorney’s office declined to comment to ESPN. Officials cited an office policy against confirming or denying the existence of an investigation.
According to ESPN, this marked the largest survivor pool shut down since 2010. New Jersey school teacher John Bovery was arrested in 2010 for running a $100 survivor pool with some 8,000 entries. He was charged with promoting gambling and money laundering. Bovery was put into the state’s pretrial intervention program in 2015 after the case had still not gone to trial.
The state seized $846,000 from Bovery’s bank accounts, and has not returned it. Bovery has long maintained $123,000 of that money was his and unrelated to the pool.
Legalizing sports betting
This latest sports pool bust case comes at a particularly interesting time for sports betting in the US.
The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in New Jersey’s case against a federal ban on sports betting earlier this month. A decision is expected in 2018 that could allow states to decide for themselves whether they want to legalize sports betting inside their borders.