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Feds Shut Down Massive Online NFL Survivor Pool and Seize $2.5 Million in Entry Fees

As NFL fans waited for Thursday Night Football to kick off last week, one of America’s largest football betting pools was raided by federal authorities.

According to business reporter Darren Rovell of ESPN, the owners and operators of Ron & Mike’s Football Pool were served with search warrants issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

Federal prosecutors declined to offer any comment regarding this matter, citing internal policies prohibiting the confirmation or denial of an ongoing investigation.

On November 7, after interviewing participants in the pool who chose to remain anonymous, Rovell tweeted a screenshotted image of a message emailed to players taking part in Ron & Mike’s Football Pool:

“Please be advised that the Ron and Mike website has been forced to shut down at this time and is unlikely to open again.

We understand your frustration and anger at this time, but closure of the pool is beyond our control. We apologize to those that are still alive in our various pools and we ask for your patience and understanding while we contemplate the next steps.

Unfortunately, at this time we cannot make any additional comments.”

Players told Rovell that the series of NFL “Survivor” pools had been organized by Ron Kronengold and Mike Bernstein during each of the last eight NFL seasons.

Joe Conway, who identified himself as an attorney representing both Kronengold and Bernstein, told Rovell that his clients had voluntarily suspended their RonAndMike.com website. Per Conway, the men have heard nothing from federal prosecutors after having been served the search warrant.

In an NFL survivor pool, players must select one winner from the weekly slate of games, and that pick must win for the player to advance. Teams can only be selected once, and the field is whittled down week after week as upsets take their toll. The last player left standing takes the lion’s share of the prize pool, or all of it, depending on “house rules.”

In the case of Ron & Mike’s Football Pool, players reported that two primary pools – Red and Blue – cost $100 each to enter. Both the Red and Blue pool were capped at 10,000 entries apiece, and they sold out to create ostensible prize pools of $1 million each.

Because of their size and scope, the Red and Blue pools expanded to two picks per player from Week 11 through Week 15, and three picks in Weeks 16 and 17, in order to cull the massive fields by season’s end.

Kronengold and Bernstein also offered a Second Chance pool for $200, and a High Roller edition which cost $500 to play. By the midway point of the NFL season, the duo also created a Second Half pool with a $100 price tag.

All told, Rovell reports that Ron & Mike’s Football Pool hauled in more than 23,000 entries across the five pools, generating over $2.5 million in potential prize money.

As participants detailed, Kronengold and Bernstein had players send entry fees, in cash only, to “Green River” in Plainview, New York. Rovell reported that the Green River Capital mortgage brokerage operates in Plainview, but neither Kronengold and Bernstein are employed there. Instead, the mailing address used is connected to a UPS Store.

With only four weeks left in the NFL regular season at the time of the seizure, just a handful of players were left in contention for the pools’ top prizes.

Section 225.00 (3) of the New York Penal Code prohibits individuals from “advancing gambling activity,” a term which applies to operators who profit from illegal bookmaking and other wagers:

“One advances gambling activity when, having substantial proprietary or other authoritative control over premises being used with his or her knowledge for purposes of gambling activity, he or she permits such to occur or continue or makes no effort to prevent its occurrence or continuation.

A person PROFITS FROM GAMBLING ACTIVITY when, other than as a player, he or she accepts or receives money or other property pursuant to an agreement or understanding with any person whereby he participates or is to participate in the proceeds of gambling activity.”

The seizure of Ron & Mike’s Football Pool is the largest such shutdown since 2010, when federal prosecutors in New Jersey charged John Bovery with promoting gambling and money laundering in connection with a $100, 8,000-player survivor pool.