Alderney Considers US Play for Sports Books

8 February 2005

Alderney's top gaming regulator indicated last month at a meeting of the Interactive Gaming Gambling and Betting Association (iGGBA) held in conjunction with the International Casino Exhibition that the jurisdiction might start allowing its licensed bookmakers to accept wagers from U.S. bettors.

Andre Wilsenach, chief executive of the Alderney Gambling Control Commission, said regulators there "may have to revisit the way we treat sports betting," which has been off limits to U.S. customers since 2002. Casino games, on the other hand, are not restricted in this manner.

Alderney is home to online operations for major British and Irish bookmakers, such as BlueSquare and Paddy Power, but hasn't attracted operators from continental Europe or elsewhere. It also lost major licensees, such as Sportingbet, when it adopted its current policy on U.S. play.

Wilsenach said that "recent events" have prompted the commission to reconsider its stance, although he made no mention of sites leaving the jurisdiction for locales that allow U.S. play.

He instead pointed to changes in the political environment.

"When we first made our policy that we wouldn't accept sports bets from the U.S., it was based mainly on the Jay Cohen case," Wilsenach said. "A lot has changed since then, and we have a lot more information about where a transaction takes place."

He added, "People will say that clearly sports betting is illegal in the U.S. Then we have a question of whether or not we are obligated to enforce the laws of other jurisdictions. And it isn't just the U.S. we are talking about here; there are a lot of other jurisdictions with similar laws in place."

Shifting back to allowing to a U.S.-friendly policy could be a way for Alderney to hedge its bets with sports book operators looking to get a head start on the competition as the U.K. government moves closer to overhauling its gambling laws. The U.K. Gambling Bill, currently awaiting action in the House of Lords, could become law as early as the fourth quarter of this year. The bill continues to undergo changes, but officials overseeing the procedure announced last month that the policy would allow U.K.-licensed operators to accept bets from U.S. residents.

Competing European offshore jurisdictions could affect Alderney's decision-making process as well. Policymakers in the Isle of Man last year amended the isle's e-gambling provisions to allow licensed online casino and poker operators to accept U.S. residents and this month approved the same policy for sports books.

The Alderney Gambling Control Commission will further discuss the matter at a meeting scheduled for Feb. 28, at which time Wilsenach expects a decision to be made.

A policy change would go into effect immediately.