Betfair boss: “Unblock the US market”

Take the US, for example. In 2006, Washington passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, making it illegal to gamble on the web. Since then, the Department of Justice has taken a hard line with foreign betting firms. In December last year, billionaire Anurag Dikshit, the co-founder of British-based gambling company PartyGaming, hit the headlines after breaching the US ban and is subject to a prison term of up to two years.

Is the States a gamble worth taking? The answer from Wray is a resolute “no”. “We’re not interested in going into grey areas,” he says. “We have 25 people in our legal team and we get professional, detailed opinions on every country that we operate in. As a rule, however, I don’t believe in prohibition; it’s futile. People will find a way to gamble online, regardless of whether you tell them not to do it.”

Opponents of the internet gambling clampdown in the US are betting on the Obama administration to overturn the rules. Obama is widely expected to be more lenient on gambling firms and there’s a real chance the ban will be reversed in favour of regulating the market. “I’m delighted that he won but, let’s face it, gambling legislation isn’t going to be on the first or second page of Obama’s to-do list,” says Wray, sipping his tea. “I think the country will move to regulation but it may take five years, it may take ten years.

“We’ve had the luxury of growing at our own pace over the past decade and we’ve spend tens of millions of pounds on technology. Our website won’t fall over. When the US does open up, we’ll be ready."

You can read the full interview with Edward Wray in the February edition of Real Business magazine.

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