Tue, Feb 18, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Online betting company attracts ire of minister

LITTLE LEEWAY The minister of the interior said that he would closely monitor a British Web site that offers, in Chinese, sports gambling services

By Tsai Ting-I  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister of the Interior Yu Cheng-hsien (余政憲) yesterday vowed to clamp down on illegal gambling, reacting to reports in yesterday's Chinese-language press that a British sports betting company intended to promote its online business here.

"Gambling without the government's permission is definitely illegal in Taiwan. We will not hesitate to clamp down on such behavior," Yu said at a press conference yesterday morning.

Accompanied by officials from the ministry's Criminal Investigation Bureau, Yu said that the bureau had organized a special team to monitor "very closely" the Web site of the company, Sportingbet.

Sportingbet held a press conference yesterday afternoon to officially introduce its business to the country.

Yu said that any online gambling transactions would be considered a violation of the nation's laws.

Under criminal law, gambling attracts fines of NT$1,000 or jail terms of up to two years. Gambling is not defined in the law.

Sportingbet launched its Chinese-language Web site a year ago, providing online betting using credit cards or through bank accounts.

Customers can bet on soccer, American football, tennis, golf and basketball.

According to the company, it has more than 500 Taiwanese customers.

At yesterday's press conference, Sportingbet said that they didn't regard online gambling as illegal.

"Online gambling is not legal, but not illegal either," said Victor Yang (楊人凱), manager of the Taiwanese public relations company engaged by Sportingbet to promote the company locally.

Yang said that the gambling Web site was set up in the UK and overseas betting should not be considered a violation of this country's regulations.

In response, Ministry of Economic Affairs' Commercial Section Chief Liu Kun-tang (劉坤堂), said, "Any kind of gambling is considered illegal in Taiwan, even though online gambling is a international activity."

Kao Cheng-sheng (高政昇), secretary-general of the Criminal Investigation Bureau, said that the company's behavior challenged the law.

The company was founded in 1998. It says it has more than 700,000 customers and trades in more than 100 countries, 11 languages and 11 currencies.

The company's founder, Mark Blandford, gave a speech to the local press yesterday. He is scheduled to visit China on the next stop of an Asian tour to promote his company's business.

Minister of Finance Lin Chuan (林全), meanwhile, suggested that the government should formulate a new law to regulate online gambling.

Also see story:

British betting firm sets record straight

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