Ontario police busted an illegal online sports betting ring in December 2019 that allegedly brought in well over CAD$100 million in revenue. Police further allege that this ring was run by the infamous Hells Angels biker gang and also possibly by the Ndrangheta crime family.
This investigation is commonly referred to as “Project Hobart.” Project Hobart resulted in no convictions due to administrative errors by police. Ontario officials are now trying to keep $40 million CAD of seized assets from the bust. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice will decide the case.
- Ontario police’s case against the Hells Angels’ sports betting ring fell apart in 2022.
- Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General claims the CAD$40 million seized belongs to the province, despite there being no convictions.
- By legalizing sports betting, Canada is fighting organized crime.
BetVictor SportsUp to $300 100% Matched Free Bet on your first bet
Project Hobart defendants cleared
Project Hobart involved years of investigations by Ontario Police. This investigation culminated in December 2019 when Ontario police busted an enormous sports betting and money laundering ring operated by the organized crime group the Hells Angels. 28 people were arrested in this bust and over 200 charges were filed against them.
Ontario police’s case against the Hells Angels’ sports betting ring fell apart in 2022 following years of administrative issues by the Ontario police and judicial system. Canadian law requires that criminal cases be dealt with in a timely fashion. In addition to delay, over a dozen of the alleged criminals were released following errors made by Ontario police illegally accessing confidential attorney-client communications.
Overall, 27 of the original 28 criminals arrested are now released with no pending charges relating to Project Hobart. The 28th defendant has since been murdered, which is a sign of just how serious an operation this sports betting ring was.
Civil Remedies Act key to asset dispute
Since all Project Hobart defendants have been released, one might assume that the assets being held by the government of Ontario would also be released. This would normally be the case, if not for the Ontario Civil Remedies Act.
The Ontario Civil Remedies Act allows for the government to seize and retain assets that were procured through illegal activities. Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General claims the CAD$40 million seized belongs to the province, despite there being no convictions.
The Attorney General’s claims require proving that the assets were procured through criminal activities. Even though there is strong overwhelming evidence of this, Dimitris Kellesis, the man attempting to reclaim the CAD$40 million, claims the money was obtained legally.
Kellesis claims his family is from Czechoslovakia and therefore have a strong distrust of banks. This is his reasoning for having so many assets outside of traditional banking systems.
Whether his argument is successful is something the Ontario Superior Court of Justice will decide in the coming months.
Ontario using legal sports betting to combat organized crime
Canadian Parliament made sports betting legal on June 23, 2021 by passing bill C-218. While controversial to some, legal sports betting undoubtedly has benefits when it comes to combating organized crime in Canada.
The Hells Angels and Ndrangheta crime family are two of the biggest crime syndicates in Canada. They are both responsible for untold amounts of violent crime, drug addiction, and many other types of illegal activity.
The sports betting ring broken up by Project Hogart allegedly produced as much as CAD$160 million per year. That money was not only used to fund the sports betting ring. It was also used to finance numerous other violent and drug-related crimes across Canada.
By legalizing sports betting, Canada is fighting organized crime. Generally speaking, most sports bettors would prefer to gamble with a legal, regulated site. This means that as more of these sites become available, less and less money will be going to illegal sites run by criminal organizations.
The early numbers from Ontario’s legal sports betting experiment bear this out. To celebrate the one-year anniversary of legal sports betting in Ontario, iGaming Ontario released results from a survey conducted earlier this year that showed 85% of online gamblers played at legal, regulated online sports betting sites and casinos.
iGaming Ontario also revealed that legal iGaming in Ontario earned CAD$1.6 billion in its first year.
Obviously more people are gambling online since it is relatively accessible now. But, if even just 10% of that revenue came from people who otherwise would have been gambling at illegal sites, that means legal online gambling in Ontario has diverted CAD$160 million from illegal operations and potentially from dangerous criminal organizations.
Julian Miller is a Canadian writer and an avid sports fan. He has years of experience in the iGaming industry, having started writing while completing his university studies in Montreal, Quebec. In 2022, he graduated, and has since been working full-time in the iGaming space. He has a particular fondness for the English Premier League — though he also has plenty of experience covering football, basketball, and other sports.