Not since the Ali-Frazier Thrilla in Manila has the Philippines seen a battle like the one currently being fought between a couple of online casino industry heavy weights there.
In the red corner, Bodog Asia and the Calvin Ayre PR machine.
In the blue corner, a group of ex Bodog Asia execs including former CEO Jan Robert Gustafsson, Sherwin Quiambao and Arleen Aldaba as well as former Bodog Europe CEO Patrik Selin.
The fight’s scheduled for 12 rounds and the bell has just sounded for Round 5 (cue Bodog Girl strutting across the ring with round card held overhead).
Here’s how the judges have scored it so far.
All judges scored this one in favour of red corner, which came out swinging hard and looking to end the fight early.
The first big body blow came on October 24 with charges filed against Gustafsson and others by the Philippines Department of Justice Office following accounting irregularities uncovered during a forensic audit at Bodog. This was followed by a barrage of jabs being landed, in the form of very colourful accusations at the CalvinAyre.com website. Some memorable highlights, included:
Selin is rumoured to currently be living in Bangkok Thailand on the lam from tax authorities in his native Sweden.
Both [Selin & Gustafsson] have a gluttonous appetite for the red light districts of Asia…
Jasmin Singh-Arcilla and Edwin Erfe and Filipino-American Sylvia De Guzman are suspected to be involved with a large Manila based criminal organization. It’s rumored the women are paramours of the former Bodog executives.
Illicit activities being investigated in this crime wave include but are not limited to estafa, fraud, extortion, embezzlement, forging documents, uttering threats, filing false criminal actions, corruption of a public official, using corrupt officials to plant narcotics, frustrated bank robbery, the attempted theft of companies and real estate with forged documents, theft of intellectual property and auto-theft.
Gustasfsson and Co. quit the rope-a-dope strategy and come out with more purpose in this round, catching their opponents with knee-buckling right hook landed flush on the chin.
At 4pm Manila time, on 24 November Bodog Asia’s headquarters are raided by the the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG). Seems three ex employees (guess who?) had managed to convince a local judge that Bodog was illegally accepting bets from players in the Philippines and search warrants were authorized accordingly.
Bodog/Ayre steadied and worked their way back into the round, even suggesting the raid soon turned into a pizza-eating love-in. They even managed a late round flurry, alleging:
Prior to his dismissal, Bodog staff said Gustafsson had exhibited symptoms of what’s known in the industry as Manila Rock Star Syndrome
Too little, too late.
The judges scored this one to Gustafsson.
Off the record, judges also concede that if they had to be afflicted with any syndrome then they would like it to be Manila Rock Star Syndrome.
More charges are laid against Gustafsson. Bodog’s audit team also says they have just, ‘scratched the surface’, but the amounts identified as stolen by Gustafsson have now topped $250,000.
A deep cut has opened up over the challenger’s right eye. It’s going to need some serious attention from his corner.
Bodog edges ahead this round.
If Gustafsson’s corner didn’t do a good enough job on that cut, perhaps the make-up department at Philippines TV5 can work something out.
Monday evening (25 Nov) he appears on Erwin Tulfo’s popular prime-time current affairs program to tell his side of the story.
We’re now 2 rounds a piece.
That’s the bell to end round 4 folks.
We’ve got a fight on our hands here.
Grab a cold one. Grab some snacks.
Whatever you do, don’t turn that dial!