Sportingbet’s $1.9 payback time
By Paul
Online bookmaker may have to pay £1.3 million ($1.9 million) to an Australian business after a former employee spent the proceeds of an alleged fraud at the site.

A former company secretary at Australian transport business K&S is believed to have stolen about £7.5 million ($11.3 million) from his employers and to have lost a portion while betting with the online bookie.

The employee is thought to have spent the rest of the money on a lavish lifestyle that included a private yacht moored in Sydney harbour.

K&S is suing Sportingbet for the money through the Australian courts.

The news was revealed in documents last week as the bookmaker unveiled its interim results. They showed profits would be hit by £3.4m because of higher transaction costs caused by a squeeze on the use of US credit cards for online gambling.

Sportingbet takes most of its bets out of the US. Many market watchers have argued that this practice is illegal, although Sportingbet claims that the law only applies to American companies.

Several US credit card companies block online gambling transactions following pressure from US lawmakers. To get around the problem, Sportingbet sends its transactions through intermediaries, that have increased their prices.

Mark Blandford, vice-chairman, insisted: 'Some might view this as a downgrade. Others will say we are still one of the most profitable internet companies in the world.'

For the six months pre-tax losses increased to £3.8m, from £1.6m last time. The shares hit a new low of £0.42 ($0.63) last week, after hitting a high of £1.67 ($2.51) in December.

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