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A big bear hug for Bodog's embattled bad boy Ayre

Calvin Ayre has attracted the bilious attention of U.S. regulators over his online gambling empire, Bodog Entertainment in the past year or so. So much so, in fact, that the Saskatchewan-born mogul had to move his company's operations from Costa Rica to the more gambling-hospitable Caribbean island of Antigua, and he has seen revenue from his gambling websites plummet after a U.S. law forbidding financial institutions from facilitating payments to and from American bettors came into force. Mr. Ayre even fell off Forbes' billionaires list because of trouble over his illegal-in-some-jurisdictions business. He's also known as something of a wild man because of his lifestyle.

But Mr. Ayres is showing a softer, cuddly side -- no, we don't mean his place on People magazine's world's-hottest-bachelors list. We mean his love of cute animals. Yesterday the Calvin Ayre Foundation, founded in 2004 and also based in Antigua, announced it was giving major dough (specific amount not announced) to the World Society for the Protection of Animals. The donation is earmarked specifically for the WSPA's campaign to end the practice of farming captive bears in China, Korea and Vietnam for their bile. The practice is horrendous and involves terrible living conditions for the bears and cruel daily extraction of the bile from the gall bladder. Bear bile is used in traditional Asian medicine to treat some ailments. The WSPA is happy with Mr. Ayre, whose support "will enable us to sustain and increase our efforts." And this is not the first or the only effort Mr. Ayres has made on behalf of "bile bears," as the small Asiatic bears are known. His foundation has given money to various other groups working to end the farming. And his money is also going to establish a bear sanctuary in Vietnam, according to his foundation's website.

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