For operators of online casinos around the world, the issue of allowing customers and taking bets from the United States has always been a difficult issues. While there has been some liberalization of gambling laws in America since the 1960s and up through today, the federal government still holds the position that all online gambling is illegal and operators of casinos that take bets from Americans online are at risk of being shut down. One illustrative example is that of BetonSports, a Costa Rican company that was shut down by the feds in 2006.
BetonSports was so successful that it was able to float a $100 million IPO (Initial Public Offering) and get listed on the UK’s London Stock Exchange JOKER123 . The company was licensed by Costa Rica and had plans to expand its operations further into Central and South American countries. Unfortunately, the company also took bets from the US and its CEO David Carruthers was a public advocate for further liberalization of gambling laws in the US and worldwide, especially for online games.
The American government was quick to take action against the company and its directors with an indictment against the both the founder and the CEO. The indictment included charges of money laundering and tax evasion, which put both of them at risk of being extradited to the US. While online gambling and taking bets from Americans may not be illegal in some countries and would not lead to extradition, money laundering is always illegal, so this put the founder and CEO at greater risk.
CEO Carruthers was arrested in Dallas while waiting to change planes and the company was issued a restraining order against the company which prohibited it from taking bets from Americans. In addition, press releases were sent out that implied connections between BetonSports and the mafia, making the story even more sensational that it already was. The negative publicity helped to bring the company down, leading to layoffs of most of its staff.
The company stopped its operations in 2006 with the arrest of the CEO, and the case had been pending for trial for several years. The government has used the case to show that it has the laws and lawyers already to take on internet gambling, especially sports betting. Finally in early 2010, Carruthers was sentenced to 33 months in jail after pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy and racketeering. A news story by Reuters in January claimed that he was the first of the defendants to plead guilty and would be willing to testify against other co-defendants.
The BetonSports indictment and shutdown happened just as the story of Antigua’s complaint against the US for not allowing internet casinos into the States began to escalate. The WTO began to come around to Antigua’s position against the US in terms of forcing America to open its trade to foreign online gambling operations, just as the US was going after other online casinos around the world. The irony should not be lost, but this also shows that America will desperately cling to its protectionist online gaming policies even in the face of WTO and worldwide opposition to its anti-gambling laws.