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Kevin Smith

Land-Based P2P Gets Green Light in Scotland

24 March 2004

P2P betting scored a major victory Friday when the Scottish courts cleared the way for Henry Spurway to develop a chain of terrestrial betting exchange shops in Edinburgh.

Spurway last year opened an Easibet shop, complete with computer terminals tied into Betfair's network, and planned to open more than 100 shops across Britain by 2005.

High street bookmaker William Hill challenged the plan, arguing that Glasgow and Edinburgh councils acted beyond their power in granting the licenses for a shop. The 1963 Gaming Act, they argued, does not cover betting exchanges.

William Hill took its argument to the Court of Session, where Lord Menzies ruled in favor of the Glasgow and Edinburgh Councils. Menzies also ordered William Hill to pay all the court expenses, which could cost the group a six-figure sum.

Spurway said the early success of his first shop proves that land-based P2P shops can be successful in England. He said the ruling proves that betting exchanges should be seen in the same light as traditional betting shops.

"Scotland has led the way," Spurway said. "As we take cash bets in the shop, I needed to get a license, but I also wanted to show that it was legitimate. After all, bookmakers have always been able to lay horses to lose. I will soon be opening my second shop in Glasgow, then Dundee. And then, as I understand it, we can open across Britain over the next 18 months, with some of the shops being franchises and some being directly run by Easibet."

The ruling is the first major victory for exchanges in a head-to-head court battle with traditional bookmakers.

Spurway said it's also great news for Scotland, which he said is "now at the forefront of this new and potentially lucrative industry."

The Easibet concept is to merge the rising popularity of betting exchanges with the traditional facilities of the betting shop. The Easibet shops, though, are complete with high-tech computers usually seen in a London trading room.

Concerned that the betting exchanges should be seen as legitimate, Spurway sought, and was granted, licenses by both Edinburgh and Glasgow licensing boards.

In an earlier hearing, William Hill's lawyer, Gerry Moynihan, raised doubts about the integrity of betting exchanges, concerns that have continued to be raised in the light of race-fixing allegations involving jockey Kieren Fallon.

Spurway's lawyers said a case could be made that Internet-based betting exchanges don't even need licenses, but if they did, the city councils had every right to grant licenses to Easibet.

A spokesperson for William Hill said the firm is evaluating its options and will determine shortly whether it wants to appeal.

"We are obviously disappointed that his lordship took the decision that he did," the company said in a statement. "We will take time to consider the implications of the case."

Naturally, Spurway is quite pleased.

"Betting exchanges are the future," he said. "William Hill feared for their business, so they tried to intimidate me out of competing against them. It has been an uphill struggle, but well worth it."

Land-Based P2P Gets Green Light in Scotland is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith