In the 446-word press release that accompanied the announcement of Alfa Romeo’s new sponsorship with Stake.com, not one of them was the word “crypto.”
Billed as an ‘entertainment and lifestyle brand’, Alfa Romeo became the latest F1 company to get into bed with a crypto brand, reportedly earning them $100 million over three years.
The move is the latest in an aggressive campaign by Stake to put its name on the world stage. Premier League football clubs, UFC fighters and even Drake have taken the money of Stake to promote the brand.
Alfa Romeo are by no means the first to take crypto money but they do so at a time when other teams are dropping their sponsors en masse. Mercedes removed FTX after the $32 billion company filed for bankruptcy. Ferrari dropped Velas after the value plummeted from $0.001 to $0.000081. Tezos will not feature on the RB19. So it should come as no surprise that Alfa were wanting to hide the crypto element behind their new sponsor.
Stake may not be like the others previously mentioned, operating as a crypto casino rather than a marketplace, but the absence of the term in Alfa’s press release is notable, especially when there is more than meets the eye.
Stake.com exploits a legal loophole to be based in Australia, despite online casinos being banned in the country
Upon first glance, Stake appears to be based in the Caribbean with their holding company registered in Curacao, just off the coast of Venezuela but dig a little deeper and not everything is as it seems.
A 2021 investigation by Australian outlets the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald revealed that the company was not operating out of Curacao but actually was based more than 9,000 miles away in Melbourne.
The revelation raised red flags from anti-gambling advocates in the country as online casinos were banned in Australia in 2001, making it illegal for companies to offer this service to Australian residents.
But, a loophole does allow a company to be based in the country provided it does not allow Australians to use the site. The company is also not allowed to advertise in Australia and as it is officially registered and licensed in Curacao, it also sits outside Australia’s money-laundering laws.
Despite their base in Curacao, Easygo Gaming – the company behind Stake – has employees listed as working in Australia, including that of founders Edward ‘Ed’ Craven and Bijan Tehrani.
The company is being sued for $400 million from a previous owner
Speaking of the owners, we are going to cross back across the world from Australia and to the Southern District Court in New York.
As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald in September 2022, Christopher Freeman was a former associate of Craven and Tehrani and is suing for punitive damages, claiming he was misled into not participating in the formation of Stake.com.
As a result, he is seeking $400 million in damages with Stake.com being listed among the defendants in the case.
Freeman claims he was a childhood friend of Tehrani and that when they were in university, they, along with Craven, decided to create a casino business called Primedice. Freeman alleges he held a 20 per cent stake in the company while Tehrani and Craven both held 40 per cent.
In 2016, he alleges he raised the idea of a cryptocurrency casino but Tehrani and Craven were not interested in his idea given the potential issues with regulation.
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Later that same year, Freeman claims he was persuaded from joining the duo’s new business (Stake.com) having been told he would have to move to Australia and the new venture would only deal in fiat currencies such as the dollar or the Euro, rather than crypto.
“Later, when Stake.com launched as a virtual casino which included a competing online dice game and many other features Freeman had proposed and helped design, Tehrani and Craven affirmatively tried to assuage Freeman’s dismay at having been misled by affirming that he still retained his stake in Primedice,” court documents allege.
“Eventually, Freeman’s access to the Primedice account was blocked and never returned.”
Stake.com have been reached out to for a comment by PlanetF1.com but their lawyers have previously said the claims were “internally inconsistent, intentionally misleading, and provably false.”
The statement added that Tehrani and Craven both have no interest in caving to Freeman’s demands “and are confident that these utterly frivolous allegations will be dismissed by the court in due course.”
Stake.com founder Ed Craven’s father was jailed and declared bankrupt but continues to be involved in a number of the companies that underpin his son’s business and property empire
According to the Australian edition of the Guardian, James Ashley Craven (Ed’s father) was jailed just a few years before his son’s birth due to his involvement in the collapse of companies known as the Spedley group.
Court documents filed in the Australian Securities Commission’s criminal case against Craven allege he breached his duty as a Spedley Securities director by trying to make a (AUS)$21.9 million shortfall on a rights issue by Bisley Investment Corporation in 1987-88.
The ASC alleged Craven – who was at the time a director of Greater Pacific Investments Ltd and an alternate director of Spedley – instructed a Spedley employee to draw a cheque for (AUS)$21.9 million made payable to the underwriter of the issue, the Bank of New Zealand.
The commission alleged Craven then approached three companies in February 1988 to participate in three “sub sub-underwriting” agreements, under which the companies would buy Bisley shares with a non-recourse loan from Spedley.
Craven pleaded not guilty but was jailed and disqualified for five years from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
Despite this background, the Guardian claims corporate records show Ed and his father have been involved in a number of the companies that underpin the son’s business and property empire, including one of his first gaming companies.
The sole registered director of Easygo is James Ashley Craven.
Craven junior is not one that hogs the limelight, rarely using his social media platforms, but is becoming a well-known figure, especially in Australia where he recently became the owner of Melbourne’s most expensive property, breaking the previous record with a purchase of an $80,000,088 mansion in the affluent area of Toorak.
He has also built up an online following on streaming platform dlive where he plays games on Stake.com to win his followers money.
PlanetF1.com has reached out to both Sauber and Stake.com for their response to this story but at time of publication, neither had replied.