5Dimes Applies for New Jersey Sports Betting License in Bid to Enter US Market

  • Costa Rica-based operator plans to move away from being an unregulated offshore sportsbook
  • Lawyers don’t expect a decision on the New Jersey application for several months
  • Some experts believe allowing offshore firms to enter the regulated US market is a good move
  • Creighton's widow and now 5Dimes owner Varela paid a $46.8m settlement to the US government
  • The 5Dimes founder was kidnapped and murdered during a federal investigation of his operations
two businesswomen shaking hands in agreement
Offshore sportsbook 5Dimes looking to establish a legitimate US market presence by applying for an operator’s license in New Jersey. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Looking to go legit

Offshore sports betting operator 5Dimes is seeking a gambling license in New Jersey in an attempt by the Costa Rica-based operator to go legit in the United States.

plans to transform 5Dimes into a US-licensed and tax-paying sports betting operator

Laura Varela took over the ownership of 5Dimes following the murder of her husband, William Sean “5Dimes Tony” Creighton, in 2018. She spoke to The Philadelphia Inquirer on Wednesday about the plans to transform 5Dimes into a US-licensed and tax-paying sports betting operator. Varela is working with gaming industry lawyers in Washington and Philadelphia to make this a reality, with the initial focus being the New Jersey market. 

There is no indication of whether the New Jersey authorities will approve this application. Varela’s lawyers expect that it will take several months to get an initial decision. 5Dimes would need to find a racetrack or casino partner in the state in order to launch.

Arguments for and against

As sports betting was federally illegal in the US until May 2018, many residents used offshore sportsbooks such as 5Dimes to place their bets. These operations reportedly handle billions of dollars worth of bets every year. 

Michael Pollock, formerly a spokesman for the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, believes that the possibility of 5Dimes getting approval in the state is “a huge if”. He said New Jersey regulators place a premium on suitability, and that licenses showcase honesty and good character. He also expects that sports betting competitors “will likely take offense at any effort that might appear to be a shortcut.”

the ideal strategy to help combat offshore platforms

Contrastingly, Chris Grove, a partner at the gaming industry research firm Eilers & Krejcik, highlighted that New Jersey regulators believe they must deal with the illegal gambling market in order for the regulated market to thrive. He believes that providing operators like 5Dimes with a path into the regular market could be the ideal strategy to help combat offshore platforms. 

Recent settlement

There is now a clearer path for 5Dimes into the US market. In September, Laura Varela agreed to pay $46.8m to the US government as a settlement over a tax and money laundering investigation regarding her late husband’s activities. She also agreed to stop accepting bets from US customers while the operator does not have a relevant license. 

Since September 21, US customers can no longer place bets at 5Dimes

The federal government confirmed that Varela did not have a role in the illegal business. It also acknowledged that, now that Creighton’s widow is the owner of 5Dimes, the sportsbook could become a licensed operator in the US.

Murder of former owner

At the time of his death, 5Dimes founder and owner Creighton was under federal investigation for illegal gambling, payment fraud, money laundering, and tax fraud. 

He was driving his Porsche in September 2018 when two fake policemen waved him off the road in Costa Rica. They kidnapped Creighton and took him to a San Jose apartment. His wife paid $1m of the $5m bitcoin ransom demand before communication stopped.

The discovery of Creighton’s body took place nearly one year later, about 100 miles from the kidnapping location. To date, there have been a dozen arrests as part of the kidnapping and murder investigations. 

Mike Lowe, a member of the economic crime unit at the Department of Justice, told The Inquirer that Creighton was close to accepting the charges and was planning to cooperate with the authorities before the kidnapping incident.

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