Maine Man Behind Illegal Sports Betting Operation Gets 15 Months in Federal Prison

Posted on: January 9, 2019, 11:25h. 

Last updated on: January 9, 2019, 11:31h.

The man who ran what is believed to be the biggest illegal sports betting operation in Maine has been sentenced to 15 months in a federal prison.

Illegal sports betting Maine
Stephen Mardigan illegally ran Maine’s biggest sports book out of his home for 15 years. (Image: Kennebec Journal)

Lawyers for Stephen Mardigan appealed to the judge for no jail time after the Portland, Maine man pleaded guilty to charges of money laundering, unlawful gambling, and filing a fraudulent tax return.  Prosecutors wanted 21 months, and Chief Judge Jon Levy ultimately settled on 15.

“Whether lawful gambling is a good or bad thing is not a policy question for a judge to decide,” the judge said in handing down his sentence. “That’s for others to decide, but unlawful gambling is another matter entirely. It’s done in secret. It begets money laundering, as was the case here.”

Sports betting is currently illegal in Maine, and while lawmakers have rejected gambling expansion in the past, new legislation on the way in 2019 could eventually legalize the activity. The state is currently home to two casinos, and a third, tribal casino was narrowly defeated last year.

The Man in Maine

Those laws left a big gap in the market, a hole which Mardigan filled quite well, albeit illegally.

According to court documents, starting in 2003, Mardigan was taking wagers on everything from golf tournaments and car racing, to college and pro football, and everything in between. Bet sizes ranged from $30 to $10,000, and two specific clients were said to have bet more than $4 million through his illicit book.

Prosecutors that it was the largest gambling operation – legal or otherwise – in the state, although the defendant’s lawyers have argued that the size of the enterprise has been blown out of proportion and don’t account for his losses.

The 62-year old admitted to running the sports book out of his home, all the while channeling the money through the used car dealership he owned in Portland. He also admitted to laundering his profits through local real estate, buying up some 19 different properties with a combined value of $13 million.

“I now realize that I was out of control,” Mardigan wrote in a statement to the court. “It was a gambling roller coaster. During the day I had business dealings, at night I had my gambling.”

Casting a Light on the Black Market

Now that the US Supreme Court has struck down a federal ban on sports betting, the scope and size of illegal operations is sure to shrink in the years ahead.

But just how big are those illicit betting markets?

  • The American Gaming Association has previously claimed that the underground betting market in the US is worth $150 billion.
  • However, 2018 calculations by Market Watch pegged the figure at closer to $67 billion a year.

In addition to the 15-month sentence, Mardigan must pay back $1.3 million to the IRS, a figure which actually balloons to $3 million after interest.