Sportingbet chairman arrested in US


The chairman of online gambling firm Sportingbet has been arrested in the US over allegations relating to the violation of Louisiana gambling laws.

In a statement this morning, the British-based firm confirmed that Peter Dicks had been served with a warrant for his arrest initiated by the Louisiana state police "for the alleged violation of Louisiana state laws relating to gambling by computer".

Sportingbet said that its chairman was arrested yesterday at the John F Kennedy International Airport in New York after travelling from London to the US on business unconnected with the company.

The exact nature of the charges against Mr Dicks, 64, is unclear, but reports suggest that his arrest could be part of the US government's crackdown on illegal online gambling, with officials claiming that betting websites can be used to launder money and lack safeguards to protect gambling addicts and minors. Republican senators in the US Senate are currently trying to push through a proposed law to ban online gambling.

Mr Dicks is the second internet gambling executive to be arrested in recent weeks, with former BetonSports chief executive David Carruthers currently facing a trial in the US next year after being arrested on racketeering charges at Dallas airport in July.

Louisiana state police spokesman Dwight Robinette confirmed that Mr Dicks is being held on a warrant filed in May in the state as part of an investigation into illegal gambling.

Mr Dicks, who is expected to fight against extradition to Louisiana, appeared at a court hearing late yesterday seeking bail.

His lawyer Peter Neiman told the Queens county court in New York: "He is not the type of person who would flee. This is not some mobster who has connections to the crime world."

"This is a highly reputable businessman from the United Kingdom," he added.

Mr Dicks is expected to make a further attempt to secure bail at New York's supreme court today after the judge at yesterday's hearing said that he did not have the authority to make a decision over the case.

Sportingbet said that they expected a further hearing to take place next week.

"The company is closely monitoring the situation and will continue to operate as normal," the firm said in a statement.

Sportingbet's shares were suspended on the London stock exchange following news of Mr Dicks arrest, but the case has hit the stocks of other gambling firms, with shares in PartyGaming Plc, the world's largest internet poker company, falling by as much as 19 per cent.

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