Betcha Three Hand Themselves over to Louisiana Authorities

11 October 2007

Three members of Seattle-based flew to Louisiana Wednesday and handed themselves over to authorities.

Lee Rousso, a Renton, Wash.-based attorney, is representing the "Betcha Three," of which the site's founder, Nick Jenkins, technician Josie Imlay and systems administrator Peter Abrahamsen are part.

Rousso told IGN that attempts to persuade Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire from signing the extradition warrant "fell on deaf ears."

"We then thought we had a good chance of fighting extradition on a legal basis," Rousso said. "We were concerned that while we were waiting to fight it, Nick and his two employees would be spending time in jail in Washington. So, with our short-term goal basically being to avoid jail time, they decided to go down to Louisiana and turn themselves in."

Rousso explained that the three would likely face charges under the felony provision of Louisiana's statutes covering Internet gambling, or gambling by computer, which former Sportingbet Non-Executive Director Peter Dicks also faced last September. Dicks, then detained in New York, was subsequently cleared of the charges after New York Gov. George Pataki refused to sign the extradition warrant. Sportingbet later settled with the St. Landry District Attorney's Office for $400,000.

A trial date has been set for Jan. 3, 2008.

As to how the case will be litigated, Rousso said the three had not yet agreed on how best to proceed.

"We may challenge the statute down there, we many plea bargain or we may defend on the merits," Rousso said. "We just haven't decided which of those three, or which combination thereof, we will be doing."

Throughout the course of the investigation, Jenkins said (and documents corroborate) that the site facilitated just $35 in bets from a single Louisiana resident, netting the company a total of $0.70 on the transaction.

The Louisiana resident turned out to be an undercover trooper with the Louisiana Special Gaming Enforcement Division (SPGED), acting as part of a month-long joint investigation conducted by the SPGED and the Washington State Gambling Commission (WSGC).

"The only customer had in Louisiana was the state trooper, and the transaction that the state trooper did at the obvious instigation of the [WSGC] netted $0.70," Rousso said. "These are the facts; these are the undisputable facts. This was a misuse of government resources and government power."

Jenkins' beef with the WSGC began in July when the commission shut down Betcha on grounds that its mode of betting violated state statutes covering Internet gambling. Jenkins has argued that the honor-based betting system the site employs does not violate the state's definition of gambling, as bettors are not required to pay when or if they lose.

"Betcha does not 'take' or 'accept' bets--that is, we take no position on either side of a bet," Jenkins explained in an e-mail last month. "This is a very important point because, as you know, accepting/taking bets is the essence of what bookmaking is."

Separately, Jenkins is challenging the commission on whether the company's activity runs contrary to Washington's Gambling Act.

"We have a hearing scheduled for Nov. 9," said Rousso. "We're working hard to keep that hearing date, and we think we're going to be able to keep it."

After spending roughly 24 hours in Louisiana, the three are out on bond and back in Seattle.

Chris Krafcik is the editor of IGamingNews. He lives in St. Louis, Mo.