William Hill bars US online bets

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William Hill is the latest gaming company to stop taking bets from US citizens as a result of the crackdown on online gaming. It will block all attempts by clients with a US address or credit card from participating in its online casinos and poker games.

The UK's second-largest bookmaker has taken the advice of lawyers concerned with the current uncertainty about the internet gaming industry in the US. Over the past two months there has been a spate of arrests of online gaming executives entering the US; they face charges including conspiracy, fraud and racketeering. The charges relate to the Wire Act that prohibits the use of telephone lines to make bets and until the situation is clarified, William Hill has decided to play it safe. The company already bars US citizens from betting on sports over the internet in compliance with the Wire Act.

William Hill has stressed that the move does not have a significant impact on its results and that it has never actively marketed its online gaming business in America. A spokeswoman for the company said that suspending the US operations would have only a minimal impact on revenue. She said that bets from US citizens account for less than 1 per cent of its online gaming revenue and about 0.5 per cent of its overall online revenue.

In the first half, the company reported that online revenue increased more than 14 per cent to £70.7m. The rival UK bookmaker, Ladbrokes, does not accept bets from the US.

The crackdown on online gaming stepped up a gear this week after Louisiana police warned all online gaming companies to stop accepting bets in the state and that executives of such companies faced arrest if entering the US. Shares in the sector have suffered since David Carruthers, chief executive of BetonSports, was arrested when entering the US in July. Peter Dicks, chairman of Sportingbet, was arrested three weeks ago. Both executives have since resigned. The Ritz Club Online, owned by the billionaire Barclay Brothers, closed its gaming site to new members earlier this week, while two executives at World Gaming decided to stand down due to the uncertainty in the sector.