Q & A: Harris Hagan

25 May 2004

British lawyers Julian Harris and John Hagan left their firm, Pinsents, in early May to form Harris Hagan, a legal office of their own. With over 30 years of gambling law experience between them, the two say the new firm is specifically dedicated to providing legal advice in all areas of the gaming industry in the United Kingdom and overseas.

Julian Harris has advised some of the world's largest gaming corporations and trade associations, including the British Casino Association and the Casino Operators Association. He has also represented the Gaming Board of Great Britain.

John Hagan has become internationally known for his expertise on Internet gambling and is a frequent speaker at many conferences and contributor to many publications. He has advised operators all over the world on issues relating to online gambling, including establishing operations in the United Kingdom and in offshore jurisdictions as well as advertising.

With all that is happening--not just in England with the new gambling bill, but also across Europe with uncertainty of operators' rights to offer and promote services across borders--the two couldn't have opened shop at a better time.

IGN caught up with John Hagan and Julian Harris and asked them a few questions about their new firm and what sort of advice they could offer prospective clients.

IGN: How did the two of you reach the decision to separate from Pinsents and create your own firm?

HH: The idea really came from our clients. They felt that there was a gap in the market for a specialist law firm dedicated to the gambling law industry and, in a role reversal, we took their advice! In addition, it enables us to offer services to other law firms who do not have gambling law expertise, and we have already had a number of approaches from lawyers in the UK and overseas. In view of the present climate of gambling reform in the U.K., we believe that the timing is right for our new venture.

We have also set up an associated company, Gambling Governance Limited, to provide non-legal consultancy services to the gambling industry, including training, compliance, operational and set-up advice. Gambling Governance is headed by Marie Stevens, formerly general counsel to Ladbrokes and until recently a member of the Gaming Board for Great Britain.

IGN: Tell us about the objectives of the Harris Hagan. Who have each of you represented in the past (and now), and what remote gambling-related projects have each of you undertaken?

HH: Our objective is to provide professional and commercial legal advice to gambling industry clients in relation to all aspects of their business. We continue to act for some of the leading international gaming operators in relation to their U.K. interests. We were among the first to identify the importance of remote gambling, and have been addressing conferences on the subject since 1997. We obtained for clients two of the first remote licenses in the Isle of Man, where we subsequently represented five of the six licensees in discussions with the government on the regulatory system. Most recently we obtained the first remote license for Harrah's in Alderney.

IGN: What will be the most important legal issues in the near future for remote gaming companies in the United Kingdom?

HH: The most important issues in the U.K. are likely to be tax, tax and tax! Until we know what the tax regime is going to be for regulated remote gambling in the U.K., we cannot say whether it will be attractive to operators to be licensed here. If a reasonable tax regime is introduced, then this will be an attractive jurisdiction. The other unknown is whether the government's succumbs--and there is no sign of it doing so at present--to pressure from some of its European partners, notably in the Scandinavian countries, to prevent operators licensed in the U.K. from offering their services to citizens of other E.U. countries.

IGN: Do you have any advice to operators in the United Kingdom as well as continental Europe as to how to proceed with expansion plans now that the European Commission is considering I-gaming regulations that would apply to all states?

HH: We do not yet know what those regulations will be, but given the nature of the judgment of the European Court in the Gambelli case, it is in our view unlikely that the commission will enable states to continue to operate restrictive practices with a view to protecting their own government monopolies. Unfortunately, any uncertainty inhibits expansion, but we do not believe there is any need for an over cautious approach.

Bradley Vallerius

Articles by Bradley P. Vallerius, JD manages For the Bettor Good, a comprehensive resource for information related to Internet gaming policy in the U.S. federal and state governments. For the Bettor Good provides official government documents, jurisdiction updates, policy analysis, and many other helpful research materials. Bradley has been researching and writing about the business and law of internet gaming since 2003. His work has covered all aspects of the industry, including technology, finance, advertising, taxation, poker, betting exchanges, and laws and regulations around the world.

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