History – The Changing of Names

BookMaker ( is a popular US betting site with a rich and somewhat difficult to follow history. Today most gambling sites doing a history (or history) would focus entirely on the Ron Sacco gambling operation that started in 1985 and later evolved into becoming Costa Rica International Sports (CRIS). This is because in August 2006 CRIS acquired the company and all of their assets which included sister site On November 2, 2006, was shutdown with all accounts moved to BetMaker. CRIS however was merely cleaning this URL. 4-months later stopped accepting US players and on March 1, 2007 all their US accounts were migrated to a new Bookmaker brand which now operates at

Bookmaker is NOT BetCRIS

Worth pointing out is the difference of the two companies’ about us pages.

  • As of November 2011, The about us reads: “Following a legacy of quality in service and renowned bookmaking experience of more than two decades, BookMaker is born to aim and serve both professional and recreational players.”
  • As of November 2011, The about us page reads: “Costa Rica International Sports (CRIS or BetCRIS) is a recognized sports betting industry Leader since 1985.”

Many gambling portal owners are not yet aware these two companies are now entirely separate from one another. Notice that the about us page starts with the words “following a legacy” and then uses the word “born”. They are NOT simply a US version of BetCRIS. The two companies now have separate owners, management and are now headquartered over 6,000 miles apart from one another; BetCRIS in Malta and Bookmaker in Costa Rica. Still what’s important to note is that Bookmaker was founded originally as a US version of CRIS, the two became separate companies in late 2010. So very much so, if you’re looking for the history of it is closely linked to the info you’ll find in our BetCRIS history and Ron Sacco articles.

The Original

Bookmaker has a strong legacy with BetCRIS ties, but the original version has an interesting history as well. You see, back in 1996, Scott Barrett and Mike Hale left a small town in Ohio and headed to Costa Rica where they set up what was in their minds the first ever legal sportsbook targeting the US. This company was called Global Sports Connection S.A, which was initially a phone-in shop until going online on February 3, 1997 using the URL The initial version of their website addressed the legal situation right on its home page. This page read:

“There are very few places in the world where sports betting is totally legal. Now you can add the comfort of your home, office and mobile phone to this list. To ensure complete legality, all transactions and wagers shall be considered originating from and governed by the laws of Costa Rica. Global Sports Connection is fully licensed and authorized to operate a sports book based in Costa Rica. “ used the legality issue as a selling feature, and quickly became one of the largest brands in the US. There is no doubt in the mind of anyone who knew Scott Barrett that he sincerely believed his business was legal. During the 1990’s he frequently visited friends and family in the US, and he and his staff frequently spoke to major US media. Their company is mentioned in this January 1998 NY Times article that addressed the legal issue of the time. Here US Department of Justice Department (DOJ) spokesman John Russell is quoted as saying “We have no jurisdiction, the offense has not been made on U.S. soil” and a comment from Senator John Kyle, “we need a new tool to prosecute the same old activity.”

Needless to say the BetMaker founders were not hiding out; they believed, as did Jay Cohen, that their business was legal. This however changed when co-founder Jay Cohen was convicted in February 2000 of violating the Wire Act. His conviction left the industry in utter shock, because many respectable law firms had previously advised that so long as all business transactions were handled from countries they were licensed, there was no legal challenges involved in accepting US players. DOJ spokesmen had very much hinted the same numerous times, so when Jay Cohen was sentenced to 21-months in prison there was even more industry disbelief.

BetMaker Sold to SportingBet PLC

Realizing after Jay Cohen’s conviction that hiding under the corporate veil wouldn’t work, Global Sports Connection sold all of their assets to publicly traded SportingBet PLC. When this sale was announced on May 9, 2000 it was revealed had an annual turnover £100 million and 31,000 customers. at the time had about 11,000 customers so they grew several times over with this acquisition. Included with this sale was BetMaker’s sister brands,, and Interesting is this was the first of many future major acquisition SportingBet took part in; 15-months later they acquired the sites and and a few years later they acquired then once dominate US poker brand, Paradise Poker. 2001-2004 History

The history of Bookmaker from 2001-2004 is extremely difficult to follow. Original BetMaker players were moved to in early 2001, but soon later the name Global Sports Connection resurfaced as an Isle of Man registered company licensed in Curacao. This group operated the same websites previously sold to SportingBet which included,, and It was believed, though never confirmed these were owned by a series of private corporations and holding companies associated with SportingBet PLC. However, in April 2004 Global Sports Connection announced all ties with SportingBet were now severed and they immediately began operating from Costa Rica inside the BetCRIS building. 2004-2006

Although operating from the BetCRIS offices, the Global Sports Connection brands initially had several issues including poor customer service and occasional slow pays. These issues were eventually ironed out and by late 2005 and very much began to operate like and appeared to be BetCRIS skins. What appeared to be the case became a full reality in August 2006 when CRIS purchased all Global Sports Connection assets, and soon merged them into a single brand located at

Current Bookmaker Brand

Following the legacies of Ron Sacco and Costa Rica International Sports, the current was born on March 1, 2007 and was immediately the largest football betting site in terms of volume that serviced the US market. Of course it was, because they inherited all US players of America’s oldest and most prestigious betting site However, from March 1, 2007 until January 24, 2008 BetCRIS operated three self-owned brands as well as had a hand in running BetDSI. The self-owned brands were BetCRIS (non US players), Bookmaker (only US players), and BetMaker (both US and Non US). On January 24, 2008 and were for a second time their histories merged; this time all players moved to Bookmaker, as opposed to the vice versa that occurred previously. Since this merger BetCRIS continues to service all players except those from the US, while Bookmaker became an independent management brand that accepts players worldwide.

Current Bookmaker Player Base

To summarize the current player base of Bookmaker. The accounts holders now consist of the following three groups of players:

  1. All US players who opened BetCRIS accounts from early-1994 until March 1, 2007.
  2. All players who opened accounts with Global Sports Connection brands from early 2001 until January 24, 2008.
  3. All new player acquisitions who signed up at or since their launch on March 1, 2007.

The Legacy

There is a lot of history behind the company that now operates at The Ron Sacco story is no doubt a made for Hollywood true life story, and BetCRIS spent many years as the world’s largest sports betting company. However, it was meeting BetMaker founders Scott Barrett and Mike Hale in Costa Rica and then later reading about them in GQ magazine that motivated Dalton Wagner (with Betonline) to get into the business. He’d go on to start VO Group which consisted of Players Superbook, V-Wager and MVP Sportsbook, but his major contribution to the industry was his Pay Per Head innovations.

There’s no telling what the current industry might look like if it wasn’t for a.) Ron Sacco’s bookmaking operation started in 1985 b.) Costa Rica International Sports (CRIS) started by Harry Craft in 1994, and c.) Global Sports Connection started by Scott Barrett and Mike Hale in 1996 paving the way. VIP Sports, WSEX, Simon Noble, Pay Per Head innovations by the VO Group, and Players Only, Gary Austin, etc. are near always mentioned when discussing the industry’s roots. However, these gambling sites and betting operations all followed in the footsteps Ron Sacco, BetCRIS and BetMaker had previously set. So, when the website claims they were born following a following a legacy of quality in service and renowned bookmaking experience, these words are far from marketing hype. There are very few companies with anywhere close to the legacy attributed to them as the Bookmaker brand inherited at their start. FBI Notice

Two questions that come up on our search logs often are a) is legit? and b) why was the domain name seized by the FBI. As anyone who has visited is aware this domain is currently displaying notice

“This domain name has been seized by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations, Office of the Special Agent in Charge, Baltimore, Md. In accordance with a warrant obtained with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland, and issued pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 981 and 1955(d) by the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.”

This relates to a case, where a federal grand jury charged two gambling businesses and three defendants with running an illegal gambling operation. As a result 11 bank accounts located in North Carolina, Guam, Panama, Malta, Portugal and the Netherlands were seized as were ten domain names including:


If the comments this Maryland Patch article received are any indication, it might actually be law enforcement that the average American citizen views as the true criminals in this case. In any case, this sparked many online gambling sites changing their domain name to .eu instead of .com; even the first ever sportsbook Intertops changed to .eu. So, the same gambling site Americans enjoyed at now operates at The change of URLs happened in less than 30 minutes, and their company never missed a beat. This new URL ( is where the great legacies of Ronald Sacco, BetCRIS, and BetMaker now live on.

To see the current site view