BETonSPORTS pleads guilty

Washington (Reuters) — Online gambling operator BETonSPORTS plc. pleaded guilty to U.S. racketeering charges and agreed to cooperate in a case against the company’s founder and other co-defendants, federal prosecutors said on Thursday.

BETonSPORTS admitted to a „pattern of racketeering acts,“ including mail and wire fraud, operating an illegal gambling business and money laundering, U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway said in a statement.

The company agreed to supply witnesses and evidence against founder Gary Stephen Kaplan and other co-defendants in order to avoid further criminal prosecution, according to Hanaway, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri.

„This plea, combined with the terms of the civil injunction should put an end to the BETonSPORTS illegal gambling empire,“ Hanaway said in her statement.

BETonSPORTS submitted its plea in federal court in St. Louis. Kaplan earlier this month pleaded innocent to racketeering and other charges.

Kaplan was arrested in March on racketeering charges in the Dominican Republic after being indicted last year by a U.S. grand jury. He and 10 others are accused of engaging in racketeering, conspiracy and fraud, arising from the operation of Costa Rica-based Internet gambling businesses, including

BETonSPORTS, which once traded on the London Stock Exchange, was forced to close its U.S. business, which accounted for 95 percent of its profits, in August 2006.

Online gambling has created a new market within an industry dominated by such traditional casino operators as MGM Mirage, Harrah’s Entertainment and Las Vegas Sands.

The U.S. crackdown on online gaming began last July with the arrest of BETonSPORTS Chief Executive David Carruthers during a layover at a Texas airport. Carruthers is among co-defendants.