Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Great British Lobby - The Telegraph

A technology group advised by David Blunkett, the former Home Secretary, is one of several British companies spending millions of pounds lobbying American politicians in a bid to shape legislation in the US.

UC Group, an online payment services group, has spent some $5.23m (£3.2m) on lobbying fees in recent years, one of several companies deploying millions to influence gambling legislation in the US.

Sportingbet, PartyGaming and Pokerstars have all hired high profile lobbying firms in the US to represent their interests as they prepare for the likely opening-up of the US online gaming market.

UC Group acts for 10 gaming companies, offering back-office and anti-money laundering operations and hopes to profit from any opening of the market. The group has worked to promote Senator Barney Frank's efforts to overturn the ban on online gaming.

The size of the company's lobbying expenses - which stretch to $2.31m since last September - are particularly eye-catching given it made just £3m in pre-tax profits last year.

Kobus Paulsen, UC Group's chief executive, suggested it was part of the group's long-term strategy. "We are certain that our efforts will yield an open market for non-US based gaming operators," he said.

Ruth Parasol and Russell De Leon, the PartyGaming founders, have spent up to £929,000 on lobbying fees since last September to influence online gaming legislation in the US.

It remains unclear whether any of those fees have been channelled towards lobbying over issues related to their potential prosecution for allegedly breaking US laws banning internet gambling.

Anurag Diskit, another founder, stunned the gaming industry in April this year by pleading guilty to breaking US laws and agreeing to pay a $300m fine. Ms Parasol, Mr De Leon and a third founder, Vikrant Bhargava, have yet to settle with the US Department of Justice.

Lobbying records for Sportingbet, the online gaming firm that also faces potential charges, show the company has paid $60,000 over the last year in relation to the "settlement of potential criminal charges related to online gambling". (Credit: The Telegraph)


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