Gambling911.com was the first to bring you the news of Sportingbet’s settlement with the US Government for $33 million. Senior International Correspondent Jenny Woo, who is in Manhattan for a speaking engagement, recently had the chance to sit down with Sportingbet’s attorney who made it all happen. Stuart Slotnick, the managing partner of national law firm, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC's New York City office, and he was able to give Gambling911.com a better understanding of how everything played out with Sportingbet, one of the premier online gambling sites in the world.
JENNY: Give us some history as to how you got on board representing Sportingbet.
SLOTNICK: We were first retained after Peter Dicks was arrested coming into the United States in 2006. Obviously the result in that case was a very favorable one to Mr. Dicks. Ultimately what happened was that the state of Louisiana had issued a warrant for Mr. Dicks’ arrest and we persuaded the authorities in New York not to extradite Mr. Dicks to Louisiana. We prevailed and the case was ultimately resolved.
JENNY: How does Sportingbet deal with overly aggressive states like Louisiana and Washington? Then there is Kentucky. That state is looking for damages and they named PartyGaming in their suit immediately following that company's settlement agreement. How does Sportingbet expect to go about dealing with the Commonwealth of Kentucky since they seem to be watching these settlements rather closely?
SLOTNICK: I can’t address the specifics of any particular action that may be pending against another party but what happens is if there are legal proceedings – if the company has to hire lawyers and hopefully they hire good lawyers that know how to deal with the issues to get them resolved. In this case it took several years and a significant amount of time and negotiation in resolving Sportingbet’s issues with the Department of Justice in an appropriate manner.
JENNY: What has the overall reaction been to the $33 million settlement agreement? We know the Sportingbet shares went up dramatically on the news.
SLOTNICK: We believe that the news of the settlement was favorable for several reasons. One is the fact that Sportingbet received a Non-Prosecution Agreement from the Department of Justice. This was very important because that meant that Sportingbet will never be charged with a crime by the Department of Justice for it’s United States facing Internet gaming operations. It’s also important because Sportingbet did not have to appear in court in the United States and the Department of Justice agreed not to prosecute them. That was a very favorable outcome and additionally the forfeiture of $33 million was clearly viewed as a positive factor in the settlement judging from the reaction of the gambling world and the market.
JENNY: Finally, what are some of the most important points raised in the Non-Prosecution Agreement? Is there anything you are not happy about? Obviously, the settlement amount is the most positive outcome?
SLOTNICK: That’s a good question. I can’t say that there are things that I am not happy about. We were pleased that Sportingbet was able to receive a Non-Prosecution Agreement from the Department of Justice. We were pleased that Sportingbet had a payment schedule to pay out the total of $33 million instead of being required to pay it out in a shorter time period or in one lump-sum. We were also pleased that there is a prevision in this agreement that stated, “Nothing in this agreement shall prevent Sportingbet from offering Internet gambling services in the United States should the law of the United States be subsequently changed to permit Internet gambling services.” That is a very important point here. Sportingbet is public company that provides Internet gaming services. The United States market that Sportingbet voluntarily withdrew from in 2006 is a market that if it were to become legal – Sportingbet would presumably reenter. And by this statement being in the Non-Prosecution Agreement, it’s important to the company that it’s clear that this agreement does not prevent or bar Sportingbet from reentering the United States market when it becomes legal. And there is an expectation that it’s a question of when and not if.
Additionally, getting to your prior questions about what you do with aggressive states. The agreement has a provision, “If requested by Sportingbet, this office (Department of Justice) will bring the cooperation…of Sportingbet to the attention to other prosecuting and other investigating offices or other licensing or regulatory authorities.” So if Sportingbet requests that the Department of Justice contact another agency and tell them about this resolution with a Non-Prosecution Agreement – and the fact that Sportingbet has cooperated with the Department of Justice, they will do so.
JENNY: I know you worked with your father, Barry I. Slotnick, a veteran White Collar Criminal Defense Attorney in negotiating the Sportingbet deal. What was that like?.
SLOTNICK: It was great working with Barry. He is one of the most respected, and I would say effective, criminal defense attorney's in the country. He is known for his ability to persuade not only juries, but prosecutors. We have worked on numerous cases together with what I would say is a perfect record of success. He is the Chairman of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney's Litigation Department in New York City and brings invaluable experience and insight into any litigation or negotiation. I never end up being surprised at the number of people that Barry knows in the Department of Justice.
I guess we know each other pretty well so we work well together as a team and share mutual respect for our ideas, even if we disagree.
JENNY: Tell me about the process leading to the resolution of Sportingbet's criminal liability with the Department of Justice.
SLOTNICK: Without getting into certain details, I can tell you that the prosecutors in the Southern District of New York that we dealt with were tough, smart, ethical and fair. The process of coming to a deal took several years. Needless to say, we did not always agree with one another, but at the end of the day, we were able to find a way to resolve the Sportingbet case in a way that the both the Company and the Department of Justice could live with.