Sportingbet chief resigns but is free to return to UK

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A New York judge yesterday lifted the bail restrictions on Peter Dicks, the former chief of the internet gambling company Sportingbet, thereby allowing him to travel back to the UK for two weeks, pending a further court hearing at the end of the month.

Earlier, the bookmaking company said in a statement to the London Stock Exchange that it had accepted Mr Dicks' resignation as independent non-executive chairman of its board with "immediate effect". It added: "Mr Dicks indicated that he wishes to concentrate on personal matters."

The travails of Mr Dicks began last week after he was arrested at John F Kennedy airport while on a business trip to the United States that was unrelated to Sportingbet. His arrest prompted the company to suspend trading of its shares. They dropped 41 per cent when trading was resumed on Monday.

Mr Dicks is still wanted on internet gambling charges in Louisiana. However, at his court appearance before Judge Gene Lopez it emerged that documents prepared in the New York Governor's office approving his immediate extradition to Louisiana had been withdrawn.

The reasons for the withdrawal were not explained but could have been due to errors in their composition. Mr Dicks, 64, put up $50,000 (£26,500) in bail to secure his temporary freedom on 8 September. It was ruled that he should stay in New York, however, until yesterday's hearing. He is now free to travel home but is required to return to Judge Lopez's courtroom in Queens, New York, on 28 September where the issue of his extradition to Louisiana will be considered again.

Only two months ago David Carruthers, formerly chief executive of the online betting company BetOnSports, was similarly taken into custody in the US and charged with violating the 1961 Wire Act.

Mr Dicks was charged under more recent laws regulating "gambling by computer" in the US. The drop in shares in Sportingbet on Monday wiped $400m off its value. In a sharp recovery, shares in the group shot up 25 per cent yesterday on news of his resignation.

Federal authorities in the US have been cracking down on internet gambling in recent months, catching the two British executives in their net. Investors appeared to sense the crisis for Mr Dicks may not be as bad as first thought, however, because his charges are being filed at the state rather than federal level.

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