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September 28, 2006 1:32 am

Louisiana renews call for Dicks’ extradition

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Kathleen Blanco, governor of Louisiana, has voiced support for the state's clampdown on online gambling and renewed an extradition request for Peter Dicks, former chairman of Sportingbet.

The governor's intervention came as Mr Dicks prepared to attend a court hearing in New York to learn whether he will be sent to Louisiana to face illegal gambling charges.

Lawyers for Mr Dicks, who was arrested in New York three weeks ago on a Louisiana warrant, had hoped to halt the extradition process before Thursday's hearing.

But a spokesman for Ms Blanco said she was still pushing for his extradition as part of efforts to enforce the state's law against online gambling.

"If we do not enforce this law, online gambling would be completely unregulated and that would clearly be an expansion of gambling which is unacceptable," she told the FT.

Barry Slotnick, lead defence lawyer, acknowledged that Louisiana had “dug in” over recent days, raising the prospect of a courtroom battle over Mr Dicks' fate.

“They are not backing off,” he said, in an interview. “We’re preparing our argument to rebut what Louisiana says.”

Thursday’s hearing in New York comes amid increasing alarm among online bookmakers about the legal threat posed to the industry by US anti-gambling laws.

William Hill, the UK bookmaker, on Wednesday said it would no longer accept casino and poker business from clients with a US address or credit card, pending clarification of US laws.

The company had already stopped accepting online sports bets from US customers.

Congress is considering the introduction of tough new federal laws against online gambling in addition to existing state laws such as those used by Louisiana to arrest Mr Dicks.

Louisiana’s Police Gaming Enforcement division told the FT this week that arrest warrants had been issued for four Sportingbet representatives, including Mr Dicks, after state police placed a bet with the company.

UK-listed Sportingbet said on Wednesday that it had banned board members from travelling to the US.

Mr Dicks may still be spared prosecution in Louisiana because of legal questions over the legitimacy of the state’s extradition request.

Defence lawyers have argued that Mr Dicks cannot be extradited to Louisiana under New York law because he was not in either state at the time of the alleged crime.

Mr Dicks was allowed to return to the UK on bail two weeks ago while the case was reviewed but he was ordered to return for Thursday’s hearing.

George Pataki, New York governor, has withdrawn a warrant needed for Mr Dicks’ extradition because of doubts about the case. That warrant would need to be reinstated before Louisiana could take custody of him.

“Louisiana has taken a position where they are demanding extradition. Our position is that extradition is not a proper remedy,” said Mr Slotnick.

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