Former gambling chief Dicks is freed in US

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The Independent Online

The internet gaming industry breathed a sigh of relief yesterday when Peter Dicks, the former chairman of Sportingbet, was released from US custody and allowed to return to Britain.

Mr Dicks became the second UK internet gaming executive to be arrested when he was held in New York three weeks ago under a warrant issued by the state of Louisiana charging him with "gambling by computer".

A New York judge dismissed the warrant yesterday after the New York State Governor, George Pataki, refused to sign an order to extradite Mr Dicks to Louisiana to face the charges against him. However, his lawyer, Barry Slotnick, said the Louisiana warrant remained in effect. He said Mr Dicks would be dealing with the Louisiana authorities on the charges, "hopefully putting this entire matter to rest".

As he left the criminal court in Queens, Mr Dicks said: "I'm very grateful." Asked if he would return to Sportingbet, he said: "They've had enough of me." He resigned from Sportingbet a week after his arrest.

Sportingbet has continued to take bets from US customers and carried on advertising stateside, even though internet gambling is a legally grey area in the US.

Earlier this week Louisiana police warned all online gaming companies to stop accepting bets in the state. It is thought the state has issued warrants against more than 50 people connected to more than 10 online gambling or related firms.

Shares in the sector have fallen sharply since the arrest of the then BetonSports chief executive, David Carruthers, in July. The chairman and another non-executive director of World Gaming stood down from the board over the legal uncertainty this week.

Meanwhile, ukbetting yesterday bought the online gaming website of London's Ritz Hotel, owned by the Barclay brothers. The Ritz shut down the website earlier in the week but it went back up again on Thursday night. The price was not material enough to be disclosed.