• US needs to declare its hand on online gambling

    10 September 2006


    The Sunday Times
    John Waples
    September 10, 2006

    PETER DICKS, chairman of the online gaming group Sportingbet, had to raise $50,000 on Friday for his bail. He was also forced to surrender his passport. But a lot more rides on the outcome of his Supreme Court hearing this Thursday.

    That is when Dicks will be told whether he will be extradited to Louisiana to face a charge of soliciting a local citizen to make a sports bet online. If he is extradited, the fallout could be immense.

    Dicks would be the latest British businessman to face criminal charges in America. But his predicament deserves more sympathy than that of many others.

    Yes, Sportingbet has been taking illegal bets in America, but there were other ways of seeking redress than seizing Dicks at New York’s JFK airport. He is a non-executive chairman and has no operational interest in the company.

    America has a real chance this week of lowering the temperature before this develops into an international incident. At the moment every executive of a gaming group — and many fund managers who invest in them — are refusing to travel to America for fear of being arrested. For two countries that have a special relationship, that is not a satisfactory situation.

    It appears that an enthusiastic Louisiana law enforcer was behind the warrant for Dicks and he is preparing to serve a lot more of them. If Dicks is sent south, a number of things will happen. Gaming stocks will become stock-market lepers and any non-executive director of one of these companies who holds a position on another board will come under pressure to resign.


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