Bookie Getting Out of Jail Looking for a Book Deal

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A bookmaker who was sentenced to five years in prison for running a sports betting website that earned hundreds of thousands of dollars will be released next week--and he wants to write a book about his experience!

"I've got a great story to tell," said Thomas Welch in an interview with Gambling 911 from his prison cell in West Palm Beach, Fla. "Actually, I've got a lot of great stories to tell. That's why I'm going to write a book. I'm looking for a publisher."

Welch, 51, of Naples, Fla., was arrested in 2014 by Florida law enforcement authorities and charged with 14 felonies, including bookmaking, racketeering, extortion, conspiracy, money laundering and collecting illegal debts.

A former submariner in the U.S. Navy originally from the Boston area, Welch owned and operated the popular sports betting website, which was named after his pet dog and the number of the submarine he served on.

(Details of his arrest can be it here )

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Thomas Welch Playing the Role of Alydar With a Customer

Welch recently contacted Gambling 911 to tell his story and how he wants to publish it.

"I was in the Navy for five years, from 1984 to 1989," said the native of Beverly Farms, Mass. "I was a nuclear engineer and served on a nuclear-powered submarine called the USS Ray and I had the highest level of security clearance.

"After leaving the Navy, I started booking bets small-time with people around the Boston area. I really got hammered by three local betting groups and owed a lot of money, which I couldn't pay. One of the groups was headed by Spiros "The Greek" Athanas, a local sports bettor, and he bailed me out. He later became a bookie himself and I immediately went to work for him, taking bets over the phone in my apartment. It was 1993. I was his first clerk.

"By 1996, Spiros' bookmaking operation had offices in three area cities and had gotten so big that he decided to move the operation to Montego Bay, Jamaica," Welch said. "I moved there too. The operation, legal in Jamaica, offered phone and Internet sports wagering and was called Olympic Sports. The operation's name was later changed to The Greek after the U.S. Olympic Commission threatened legal action over its trademarked name."

Welch moved his family from Massachusetts to Florida so he could visit them frequently from Jamaica.

But he had young children and was spending too much time away from them, so in 1999 he quit The Greek and moved back permanently to Naples, Fla.

Five years later, in 2004, he started his own online sports betting site,, which was based in Costa Rica and which he ran from Naples.

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"Through the years, I battled extortion, syndicates, beards, all the nonsense you deal with when running a sports betting site," Welch said. "But I was very successful. The website was taking in millions of dollars worth of bets a year.

"Then, in 2012, there was a group betting with me that was headed by a guy who was drafted by a Major League Baseball team and was currently playing in the minor leagues. The group owed me $36,000 and he stiffed me. I went through the normal bookie process of trying to separate a man from his money but failed.

"Six months later, he contacted me and said he wanted to start paying it back. I bit. Little did I know that it was the start of an undercover police operation that eventually led to my arrest and being charged with 14 felonies. I pled guilty to racketeering and money laundering and received a prison sentence of four years and eight months."

Welch said he was held in high regard by the other prisoners because of the nature of his crime.

"Bookies are at the top of the prisoner hierarchy," he said.

For a time, he added, he even ran a popular sports betting operation inside the prison, with inmates using prison canteen items such as packs of tuna or coffee to bet in lieu of cash.

"I really want to write a book," said Welch, who is scheduled to be released from prison on March 13. "I think I have a lot of interesting tales that people in and out of the gambling world would like to read about. In fact, I'm betting on it."

Welch said anyone interested in helping publish his book may contact him at

By Tom Somach

Gambling 911 Staff Writer

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