The online entrepreneur behind innovative betting site Betcha.com, Nick Jenkins, won his case in a Washington state appeals court last week after the site was shut down two years ago for allegedly breaking the law.
Betcha.com went live in June of 2007 after Jenkins, who has a law degree, researched online gambling to make sure his idea was legal.
The site was modelled on eBay and didn't actually hold games or lotteries but paired bettors to propose wagers. A person could place a wager on anything they liked, from sports to the weather, and if someone took that bet then the game was on. Participants provided their credit card numbers while the site held the purse and collected a small fee from each player.
But, bettors had the right to refuse to pay, which was listed in the site’s terms and conditions, and Betcha.com relied heavily on the honour system.
However, within two weeks of launching, agents from the Washington Gambling Commission told Jenkins to shut down the site. After he refused, they raided his Seattle office and seized computers and business records. Jenkins was soon jailed and even extradited to Louisiana to face charges there.
The court ruled that the state needlessly raided Jenkins' offices to stop his patent-pending idea because there was no guarantee that any money would actually change hands due to the site’s ‘I refuse to pay’ button.
'Accordingly, there is nothing risked, which is the essence of both the common law and statutory definition of 'gambling’,' said Judge CC Bridgewater from the Court of Appeals, Division Two.
Despite the victory, Jenkins told The Seattle Times newspaper that he would not be starting up Betcha.com again any time soon.
'This could really be a big business,” said Jenkins.
“It could be a really big deal. But it makes it tough when the government is standing on your neck.'