|The recently installed chief executive of UK based online gaming firm Sportingbet, has hit out at the British Government for its failure to protect the interests of the industry in the US, following the passing of a bill by US Congress to crack down on Internet gambling.|
The bill, part of a sustained clampdown on online gaming in the US, intends to make it illegal for banks and credit card firms to process online gaming payments from the US, although Sportingbet boss Nigel Payne told the BBC that the decision was simply ‘overt protectionism’ by the US against foreign firms in the sector.
'Specifically, US internet horse racing, US internet lotteries, US fantasy sports, intra-state betting and intra-tribal betting are made expressly legal by this bill,' he said. 'What in fact is happening is overt protectionism going on between the United States and the United Kingdom, and it is somewhat disappointing that the European Union and the UK government seem somewhat disinterested in protecting the UK companies.'
Shares in UK-listed gambling sites have stabilised today after plummeting following news of the bill’s passing in congress yesterday. Sportingbet's shares fell 64 percent whilst rivals PartyGaming dropped 58 percent and 888 Holdings tumbled by 26 percent.
All three companies have significant US customer bases with Sportingbet having 50 percent of its customers in the US, PartyGaming 49 percent and 888 Holdings 19 percent.
It is expected that US President George W Bush could sign the bill into law within the next two weeks, which would give the US Treasury Department and Federal Reserve a further nine months to suggest new rules.
Industry experts expect the proposal of a so-called ‘coding-and-blocking system’ that would prevent payment to gambling sites.