Online Betting Firm Founder Sentence To Four Years In Jail

The founder of a London-listed online bookmaker has been jailed for four years in the US. Internet gambling is illegal in the US and Kaplan and his company were based in Costa Rica.

Kaplan's company, BetOnSports.com, was floated on the London Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in 2004 and he had no permanent role with the company by 2006. Its chief executive David Carruthers was arrested that year while stopping off in the US en route between Costa Rica and London.

Kaplan has already spent more than two and a half years in custody and awaits a decision about whether this will count towards his four year sentence, news service the Associated Press reports.

Kaplan, whose float of BetOnSports.com earned $100 million, will also pay a $46m fine. He pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and violating and conspiring to violate the Wire Wager Act.

Costa Rica does not have an extradition agreement with the US, and Kaplan became renowned for the lavish parties he held there for high-stakes gamblers.

He was arrested in the Dominican Republic and extradited to the US under the Wire Act, a law that prohibited inter-state phone betting and which the US Department of Justice said also extended to internet betting.

BetOnSports.com sacked Carruthers and distanced itself from Kaplan after the arrests, emphasising that Kaplan had no management role in the firm. It has since ceased trading.

The US has faced criticism in the past from the World Trade Organisation. In 2006 it ruled that the US broke free trade rules in banning online gambling processing abroad. It said that the US had failed to amend its laws to bring them into line with agreements to which it had signed up. The case had been brought by Antigua and Barbuda.

Two relatives of Kaplan's will soon be sentenced. Carruthers, who has also lodged a guilty plea to some charges, is due to be sentenced in January.

In the aftermath of those arrests US authorities also arrested Peter Dicks of Sportingbet at an airport in New York. New York authorities refused to extradite him to Louisiana because, they said, he had committed no crime in New York. He returned to the UK.