Bookies Behaving Badly Part 3 – The Lawsuit Edition

Written by:
Jagajeet Chiba
Published on:
Bookies Behaving Badly Part 3 – The Lawsuit Edition

When country crooner Johnny Cash sang about "A Boy Named Sue," he wasn't referring to pioneer offshore bookmaker Dennis Atiyeh.

But he could have been.

Atiyeh, to many, was one of the original "bookies behaving badly."

He was a real-life "Dennis the Menace" to those who crossed him, ready to file a devastating lawsuit at the drop of a hat against anyone who got in his way.

Others, however, would say he was simply being a good businessman, protecting his interests and the interests of his companies, by going after in court those who sought to attack or harm him or his businesses.

Atiyeh's most famous court fight was against the late Ken "The Shrink" Weitzner, a mentally ill, medical school flame-out who pretended to be a psychiatrist and created ThePrescription.com, one of the Internet's first websites dedicated to supplying information about offshore sports betting.

Atiyeh owned and operated English Sports Betting--known as ESB--which was one of the first offshore sports betting operations, accepting wagers on college and professional sporting events via telephone, fax and email.

ESB first set up shop in the mid-1990s in Antigua, but then quickly relocated to another Caribbean island, Jamaica, after represetnatives of Antigua's ruling Bird family tried to shake down Atiyeh for bribes and he refused.

At the same time Atiyeh ran ESB, he also served as owner and publisher of the Las Vegas Sporting News, known as LVSN.

LVSN was weekly tabloid-sized newspaper that served up facts, figures, stats and predictions about upcoming sports events and how to bet on them.

Originally called the Las Vegas Sports News and sold or given out free mainly in Las Vegas, Atiyeh purchased the paper to use as a marketing tool for ESB, renamed it the Las Vegas Sporting News and distributed it nationally, including free to ESB customers.

It quickly became the most popular and best-selling sports betting publication in the U.S., sometimes selling as many as 100,000 copies a week and at its height around the turn of the century being published in four languages--English, Spanish, Chinese and Arabic.

LVSN contained ads for only one offshore sportsbook--ESB--and the move turned out to be a marketing success, as Atiyeh, who held a marketing degree from the University of Pittsburgh, where he starred at football, saw signups for ESB explode.

LVSN also had a website at LVSN.com and eventually spawned its own national radio show, co-hosted by Atiyeh and former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, and then a television show.

Atiyeh's multi-media marketing blitz earned him comparisons as the sports betting world's Rupert Murdoch, whose own media empire involved radio, TV, print and Internet.

But then a pill-addicted faux shrink tried to get in the way.

Bad blood between Weitzner and Atiyeh went back even before the lawsuit.

In the early days of The Prescription and LVSN, the entities were rivals in selling sports handicapping services.

Weitzner touted his touts on his website and LVSN touted its touts in LVSN--both entities were going for the same sports betting audience.

The competition for 'capper customers spawned a rivalry and, eventually, dislike, between the factions.

So it didn't take much for things to eventually heat up in a really big way.

One of the writers for LVSN at the time was a sportswriter named Lynda Collins, who previously had toiled for and was fired by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a Vegas newspaper.

Collins had written for LVSN for a short while when, due to a bank error, one of her LVSN paychecks bounced when she tried to cash it at a Las Vegas Strip casino.

She immediately complained about the rubber check not only to Atiyeh, but, for some reason, also to Weitzner, who aired a daily podcast about sports betting on ThePrescription.com.

Weitzner immediately invited Collins to appear as a phone-in guest on his podcast, and that's where the snit hit the fan.

During that podcast, Collins gave details about her bounced check from LVSN.

Weitzner then made an inane, some would call crazy, connection between LVSN and ESB--ESB was going out of business!

Because Atiyeh owned both LVSN and ESB, and because LVSN bounced one small check one time to one employee, Weitzner mused, all Atiyeh-owned businesses must be in financial trouble.

Weitzner, in what would turn out to be one of the costliest mistakes of his life, then advised his podcast listeners who were ESB customers to immediately close their wagering accounts with the company, lest they end up losing all their monies when the offshore bookmaking operation folded, which Weitzner predicted was imminent.

"I'd rather be at the front of the line than the back of the line when ESB goes under and I want my money," Weitzner fumed on the podcast.

Then, in an effort to further salt the apparent ESB wound, Collins during the podcast told Weitzner she would send him a copy of the bounced and returned LVSN check, which Weitzner could post on ThePrescription.com.

Weitzner later did post a photo the check on his site and Atiyeh was apoplectic.

Although no ESB customers ever abandoned the company because of what "The Shrink" said or did, Atiyeh feared potential new customers might be dissuaded from signing up with ESB and sued Weitzner for big bucks.

The lawsuit was heard in Virginia, where Weitzner resided.

Atiyeh's attorney hired a private investigator to get dirt on Weitzner that he could use in the suit, and the p.i. struck mud.

It turned out Weitzner, who passed himself off as a legitimate psychiatrist on his website, wasn't.

He attended medical school for psychiatry but never became one because he failed the medical boards not once but twice.

He wasn't legally allowed to write medical presciptions but did so anyway, and when he wrote a phony script for painkillers for his then-girlfriend (later wife) he was busted and only got off after turning in some doctors he knew were involved in a Medicare fraud.

The p.i. also learned that Weitzner had numerous arrests for drunken driving, had been treated for clinical depression, a mental illness, was addicted to pills and was heavily in debt, with his parents owning his Chesapeake, Va. condo.

Atiyeh, whose brilliant Virginia lawyer was televangelist and former Presidential candidate Rev. Pat Robertson's personal attorney, was able to get the judge to issue a court order preventing Weitzner from further tarnishing ESB's reputation (which Weitzner initially ignored and almost went to jail for).

Atiyeh was unable to get any money out of Weitzner, however, for the simple fact that Weitzner--at the time--had no money.

Years later, Weitzner sold The Prescription for several million dollars, but by then the lawsuit was long gone.

But that was just one of many legal efforts by Atiyeh, who had more suits than the Men's Warehouse.

On another occasion, Atiyeh sued Gambling 911 owner Chris Costigan, but years before Gambling 911 was created.

Costigan at the time was writing a sports betting column for The Prescription and Costigan's boss was Weitzner.

Costigan wrote an article critical of Atiyeh that appeared not just on The Prescription but also on a Canadian website called PlayersOdds.com.

Detailing numerous arrests Atiyeh had prior to starting ESB, Costigan in his "Sting's Offshore Insider" online column wrote that Atiyeh, among other things, was a "bully", but that was just the beginning.  We won't go into detail here since this is a family website.

Atiyeh sued for libel not only Costigan but also Weitzner, the owner of The Prescription and Costigan's employer at the time, and the owners of PlayersOdds.com.

The lawsuit was dismissed because, of all things, Atiyeh got Costigan's name wrong--the suit had been filed against Christopher Tostigan, not Christopher Costigan.

Atiyeh never refiled the suit.

On other occasions, Atiyeh either sued or threatened to sue Collins, his former employee; Alfred "Buzz" Daly, a writer for a rival sports betting publication; Brian Georgia and Jeff Brown, co-owners of sports betting info website Bettorsworld.com; Jay Cohen, co-owner of rival sports betting operation World Sports Exchange; Spiros "The Greek" Athanas, owner of rival sports betting operation Olympic Sports; and numerous ESB customers who ripped off or tried to rip off ESB via credit card chargebacks and other scams.

A boy named sue? A menace? A bookie behaving badly?

Atiyeh, to some, usually those on the other end of his lawsuits, was all three.

And you can even add a fourth term to that list, that of instructor.

Atiyeh taught Weitzner how to sue.

Because when Weitzner had his own lawsuit vs. Brian Georgia of Bettorsworld.com, over disparaging comments Georgia made about Weitzner in a mass email Georgia sent to his website devotees, Weitzner hired as his attorney the same attorney Atiyeh had used to sue Weitzner in the LVSN paycheck case.

- Jagajeet Chiba, Gambling911.com

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