September 30th, 2006
LOUISIANA governor Kathleen Blanco has voiced support for the state’s
crackdown on online gambling and renewed an extradition request for Peter
Dicks, former chairman of Sportingbet. The governor’s intervention came as
Mr Dicks prepared to attend a court hearing in New York yesterday to learn
whether he will be sent to Louisiana to face illegal gambling charges.
Lawyers for Mr Dicks, who was arrested in New York three weeks ago on a
Louisiana warrant, had hoped to halt the extradition process before the
hearing. But a spokesman for Ms Blanco said she was still pushing for his
extradition as part of efforts to enforce the state’s law against online
gambling. “If we do not enforce this law, online gambling would be
completely unregulated and that would clearly be an expansion of gambling,
which is unacceptable,” she told the FT. Barry Slotnick, lead defence
lawyer, acknowledged that Louisiana had “dug in” over recent days, raising
the prospect of a courtroom battle over Mr Dicks’s fate. “They are not
backing off,” he said in an interview. “We’re preparing our argument to
rebut what Louisiana says.” Thursday’s hearing in New York comes amid
increasing alarm among online bookmakers about the legal threat posed to the
industry by US anti-gambling laws.
William Hill, the British bookmaker, said on Wednesday it would no longer
accept casino and poker business from clients with a US address or credit
card, pending clarification of US laws.
The company had already stopped accepting online sports bets from US
Congress is considering the introduction of tough new federal laws against
online gambling, in addition to existing state laws such as those used by
Louisiana, to arrest Mr Dicks.
Louisiana’s Police Gaming Enforcement division told the FT this week that
arrest warrants had been issued for four Sportingbet representatives,
including Mr Dicks, after state police placed a bet with the company.
On Wednesday, Sportingbet, which is listed in Britain, said it had banned
board members from travelling to the US.
Mr Dicks may still be spared prosecution in Louisiana because of legal
questions over the legitimacy of the state’s extradition request.
Defence lawyers have argued that he cannot be extradited to Louisiana under
New York law because he was not in either state at the time of the alleged
Mr Dicks was allowed to return to Britain on bail two weeks ago while the
case was reviewed but he was ordered to return for yesterday’s hearing.
George Pataki, New York governor, has withdrawn a warrant needed for Mr
Dicks’s extradition because of doubts about the case.