Sportingbet chairman bailed in US

09-09-2006

The chairman of online gambling firm Sportingbet has been granted bail by a court in the United States following allegations that he violated Louisiana gambling laws.

Peter Dicks, 64, was granted a $50,000 (£26,800) bail by New York's supreme court yesterday after spending Thursday night in custody in the city.

British-based firm Sportingbet confirmed yesterday that Mr 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".

He was arrested on Thursday at the John F Kennedy International Airport in New York after travelling from London to the US on business unconnected with the company.

Mr Dicks, who was forced to surrender his British passport as part of his bail conditions, now faces a further hearing on September 14th to determine whether he should be extradited to Louisiana.

The Sportingbet executive told reporters that he was "too tired" to comment as he emerged from the New York court.

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.

The exact nature of the charges against Mr Dicks 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' lawyer Peter Neiman told the judge at yesterday's hearing that the willingness of his client to travel to the US so soon after the arrest of Mr Carruthers proved that he had nothing to hide.

Requesting bail, Mr Neiman added that there were "serious questions" about whether New York's extradition rules covered conduct allegedly committed entirely overseas, stressing that Mr Dicks had not visited Louisiana for over 20 years.

News of Mr Dicks' arrest sparked a sharp fall in online gambling shares, amid fears that other companies besides Sportingbet might be targeted by the US authorities.

Sportingbet's shares were suspended on the London stock exchange following the arrest, but shares in rival firm PartyGaming plunged by 19 per cent on Thursday, closing almost ten per cent lower before steadying yesterday. Shares in 888 Holdings were also up by 1.04 per cent yesterday after slumping by 16 per cent on Thursday.


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