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Tampa Ironman Corp. Paying Feds $2.7M

more_than_2_400_marines_and_civilians_biked_56-miles_through_base_during_the_ironman_70.3_triathlon_at_oceanside__calif.__march_30__2013_130330-m-ld192-533.jpg
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The Tampa company that runs the Ironman World Championship triathlon has agreed to forfeit to federal authorities more than $2.7 million obtained in lotteries since 2013.

According to a sworn complaint by World Triathlon Corp. filed in U.S. District Court in Tampa, the company illegally charged triathletes for a chance to win the opportunity to compete in the Ironman World Championship, held each October in Hawaii.

Such lotteries are against the law in Florida.

Generally, athletes earn a spot in the Hawaii event by qualifying in one of several dozen international triathlons, through an auction, through an “Ironman Legacy Program,” or the lottery, which has been held since the 1980s.

In this case, the company must forfeit $2,761,910 collected from three annual lotteries held since October 2012, as well as two specialized lotteries in 2014, according to U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III. Athletes paid $50 to enter each of the lotteries.

Lotteries, generally defined as “a scheme” that involves “consideration, chance and prize,” are prohibited by Florida law, according to court documents. The U.S. government is authorized to gain the forfeiture of such “specified unlawful activities.”

With the forfeiture, federal prosecutors agreed not to press charges against the Ironman company.

World Triathlon said it would change how it operates the lottery programs.

“While we do not agree with U.S. Department of Justice’s interpretation of the relevant statutes or that there has been anything untoward or inappropriate in our operation of the Ironman Kona Lottery, Ironman chose to settle so that we can focus on our priorities – our athletes and our events,” the company said in a statement.

World Triathlon said winners of the 2015 lottery were unaffected by the forfeiture agreement and their slots in the Hawaii event would be honored.

The original Ironman race started in Waikiki, Hawaii in 1977. Its expansion blossomed after Tarpon Springs ophthalmologist James P. Gills launched World Triathlon Corp. in 1989. He sold the race series and company to a private equity firm in 2008.