Even at this time in the history of online gaming and poker, the differing laws between nations continues to be a contentious issue. While some nations, such as England and many locations in the Caribbean, freely embrace the business and trade it stock on their markets, some have taken the tactic of arresting corporate leaders of organizations due to violations of an individual nation’s gaming laws or nationalization of their gaming operations. A case that has garnered a great deal of attention seems to be on its way to completion as the British based company Sportingbet on Monday stated that the final employee charged in May 2008 with violating Turkey’s anti-gaming laws had testified in the case, setting up for a potential decision to be handed down soon.
In 2007, Turkey enacted gaming laws that didn’t outright ban online gaming but nationalized the business, forcing outside companies to either quit accepting Turkish action or face potential prosecution. Last year while traveling through the country on vacation, two British citizens were arrested in Turkey, along with several other people who had worked with the organization in the country. The two employees of the company on holiday, described by Sportingbet as middle management personnel, became the focal point of Turkish authorities in the case.
After their detainment in May of 2008, one employee was eventually released and allowed to return to England in late July. The second unnamed employee was detained until October of last year and was only released after agreeing to travel stipulations as the case was investigated. According to reports released yesterday, this employee recently returned from Turkey after presenting his defense in a Turkish court and has had his travel restrictions removed after his testimony.
At the root of the problem seems to be some of Sportingbet’s Turkish facing operations. Turkish officials with the Financial Crimes Investigation Board accuse the company of allowing over 600,000 Turkish citizens to participate in action on one of their sites, SuperBahis.com. The FCIB charges that money from Turkish citizens was shifted through the English-based arm of the company before either going to Swiss bank accounts or being returned to Turkish players for their participation on the site.
Sportingbet has stated that they are reducing the amount of action accepted from Turkey. In 2008, the company figured that only about fourteen percent of their action was coming from the nation and, by the end of 2008, had dropped to only nine percent. Sportingbet was still pleased that all testimony in the case has been heard and looks to a resolution in the case.
The last several years has seen several nations detain and/or charge people connected to online gaming as they travel through their countries. In 2006, the former chairman of Sportingbet, Peter Dicks, was arrested in New York by U. S. Department of Justice officials as he prepared to travel to that year’s World Series of Poker. Although he was later released after then Governor George Pataki refused to sign an extradition warrant so he could be extradited to Louisiana – where the charges originated – Dicks still lost his position with the company.
Soon after that, French authorities arrested two directors of the Austrian company bwin, regarding their online gaming ventures. In the last year, CEO’s of such organizations as Victor Chandler, 888 Holdings and Unibet have either been detained by or requested to testify regarding their online businesses in such countries as France, Israel and Denmark.