The United Kingdom has long had a “special relationship” with the United States of America. Right back to the beginning of Tony Blair’s time as premier on this so quaint of islands, there’s been a lasting connection between the two countries. Whether it be a war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Nato involvement in Kosovo, flouting United Nations conventions, potential wars in Iran, North Korea, and so on, the two countries have been together to the end.
Although, in recent times, the relationship has started to sour. Barack Obama’s first act as President was to immediately send a hamper packed full of goodies such as Spaghetti O’s, Lucky Charms, and even a couple of kegs of Root Beer, but Gordon Brown was having none of it. Ach nayyy!!!
Even before this though the relationship was strained and proceedings had commenced into getting the complex civil partnership annulled. Online gambling makes its appearance towards the end of George W Bush’s tenure, when the UIGEA is rushed through government in the latter part of 2006. The House and Senate passed the report on 30th September, President Bush signing the Act as law on 13th October. Lucky for some, unlucky for most, it had taken THIRTEEN days for it to become a reality. All hell broke loose, and it’s where we find ourselves now.
Now, as we are readying ourselves for a move into the next dimension on online gambling in the United States, companies are scrambling to make huge settlements with the US Department of Justice to avoid prosecutions, hoping to one day grab some of the US online gambling cheese cake.
The latest company to have saved up all their allowance for a shot at this oh so small of targets is London-based sports gambling company Sportingbet. Their long-running dispute with US prosecutors, over the fact that it used certain payment methods to hide the fact it was dealing with US gamblers, has ended up costing them an estimated $33m (£21m), and even saw their chairman, Peter Dicks, imprisoned back in 2006 when he was visiting the Big Apple.
The question still remains though; after getting on their collective hands and knees, have they actually achieved anything?
In essence what Sportingbet have done is to buy out the DoJ in order to obtain a clean bill of health, ahead of the expected liberalization of the US market, for an eight figure sum. It is, however, far from likely that they will obtain anything at all from the eight figure sum they’ve put up, apart from immunity from prosecution. Think of it akin to purchasing a new 80” HD-ready 3D TV, to find nothing in the box but the instructions. That’s how Sportingbet may end up feeling at the end of all this.
Although if the US government are seen to give these companies who have paid off the DoJ a contract to operate online gambling, then they’re surely flouting their own Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which states American companies offering money to foreign government for business contracts is illegal. It’s not the same situation here, but if and when liberalization happens, alarms bells will certainly be ringing ever so slightly.