US settlement desirable to reassure investors
Jim Wilkinson, the financial director for British online gambling group Sportingbet plc, has opined that his company is unlikely to be a player in industry consolidation until it has agreed a settlement with United States authorities to protect it from the threat of prosecution for activities pre-UIGEA.
The Sportingbet executive told the Reuters news agency: "We think it’s pretty difficult for us to take part in anything until the U.S. issue is settled. People perceive it as a block. I can’t really see much happening for us until that’s sorted out. If and when it does we’ll see what the opportunities are."
It’s not for want of trying on Sportingbet’s part; the company has been reporting it is in talks with US authorities for the past two years, apparently so far without a conclusion.
Wilkinson said: "It’s difficult to have a timeframe. If you had asked me this time last year, I’d have thought it would happen last year. It’s out of our hands; it’s in DoJ’s [US Department of Justice] hands. The talks are positive and amicable and they’re going to end up doing it when they’re ready," he said.
Analysts say a settlement in the US would give confidence to investors and perhaps make Sportingbet an attractive target for a lucrative takeover by one of the mega-groups interested in the online industry.