U.K. firm eyes U.S.
Internet betting

Feb 28, 2006 3:38 AM

Internet gambling may be illegal in the United States but that has not stopped English gaming giant PartyGaming Plc from accepting bets from customers on this side of the big pond.

That is what has been bothering Ladbrokes Plc, the British company that recently shed its hotel business in a sale to Hilton Hotels Corp. (HLT). So far, Ladbrokes has refrained from accepting U.S. action but that may soon come to an end.

The company’s policy is under review.

"We always review our position," said company CEO Christopher Bell in a recent conference call. "We’re the biggest online brand that doesn’t take U.S. players. We are going to review that even quicker this year."

Ladbrokes, with betting shops in Belgium, Ireland and the United Kingdom, is no stranger to the U.S. In the 1990’s, the company owned and operated racetracks and an Indian casino in various parts of the country before selling them in order to concentrate on its core holdings.

Now that it is out of the hotel business, company officials have been looking at ways of expanding its gaming empire.

Recently, the company concluded a deal to set up betting shops in Beijing Province in China, a deal that Bell said was "central to the company’s strategy" for expanding its international brand.

"China has the potential to be one of the biggest betting markets in the world. This demonstrates how well the (Ladbrokes) brand travels."

Up until now, Ladbrokes has refused to accept U.S. wagers since federal law prohibits Internet gambling. However, the growth of business among U.K. competitors and from Caribbean offshore betting sites has caused Ladbrokes to review its previous decisions.