Federal prosecutors said Friday they will continue prosecuting BetOnSports PLC even though the online gambling company is shutting down its operations that take bets from U.S. customers.
Separately, U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway's office approved conditions for the release of London-based BetOnSports' former Chief Executive David Carruthers, according to his attorney, Scott Rosenblum.
Hanaway's case against BetOnSports is one of the most high-profile prosecutions of online gambling. Last month, her office unveiled a 22-count indictment against the company. It seeks a $4.5 billion forfeiture from Carruthers and 10 other people associated with the operation that the government claims fraudulently took bets from U.S. residents by phone and the Internet, and failed to pay excise taxes.
Carruthers, then the company's CEO, was arrested last month during a layover in Texas and should be released within days. Rosenblum said prosecutors are waiting for $1 million in bond money to be wired to St. Louis before his release. The large wire transfer was delayed by technical complications Friday but should arrive no later than Monday, he said.
In a brief statement released Friday, Hanaway said she learned that BetOnSports was closing its Costa Rica and Antigua offices that processed billions of dollars worth of bets placed from the United States.
"If true, closure of BetOnSports PLC will not affect the prosecution of the civil and criminal actions filed in the Eastern District of Missouri," the statement read. A spokeswoman said Hanaway wouldn't comment further on the matter.
The closure will have little effect on the government's case, said I. Nelson Rose, a professor at Whittier College of Law and an expert on Internet gambling.
"It's like robbing a bank and on the way out you change your mind — which does happen — you can't give the money back" and avoid prosecution, Rose said.
Carruthers was arrested during a layover in Texas as he flew from London to Costa Rica. His attorneys have been negotiating with Hanaway's office over the technical terms of his release since a bail hearing July 31.
On Friday, Rosenblum met with prosecutors in the chambers of U.S. Judge Mary Ann Medler. He said all parties agreed on the terms of Carruthers' release, which will require him to stay in the St. Louis area under electronic monitoring until his trial on racketeering and fraud charges.
Rosenblum said Carruthers likely would not be released until Monday afternoon because of the delay.
BetOnSports spokesman Kevin Smith said the company will lay off roughly 800 workers in Costa Rica and Antigua. He said the company will remain in business although it will no longer take any bets from the United States.
Smith said the company will focus on customers in Asia and South America, which together accounted for about 20 percent of BetOnSports' total revenue before the indictment.
However, Wayne Brown, an analyst at Altium said the decision was the "worst case scenario" that effectively spelled the end of the company, which currently generates almost three-quarters of its business in the United States.