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Friday, October 07, 2005

Gambling relation

The PartyGaming directors could, in theory, be charged, fined and even jailed if they set foot on US soil. They include some well-known British businessmen, such as Michael Jackson, chairman of the software group Sage, and Brian Larcombe, former chief executive of the investment firm 3i. The PartyGaming prospectus is a porridge of health warnings spelling out the risks to investors. The company could be badly hit, for example, if the US put pressure on the banks to stop processing the payments that enable Americans to place their bets.

These risks are being eagerly seized on by potential investors as a lever with which to force down the issue price of the shares. It is doubtful whether Uncle Sam is really going to clamp down seriously. PartyGaming has been supplying Americans with the delights of Texas Hold'em and online craps and roulette for the past three years with barely a squeak from US legislators or regulators.

PartyGaming's phenomenal story is a parable of our times. It is a thoroughly modern company. But it should give pause to every tax-gatherer, regulator and future job seeker in the west.