The UK Gambling Commission has announced the suspension of its licence to Paradise Bet Limited, a Hounslow bookie firm that also operates websites such as ParadiseBet.com and Bet 1128.
The suspension is whilst a review under section 116 of the Gambling Act 2005 takes place as part of an ongoing Commission investigation.
The Commission will make no further comment until the investigation is complete, but on December 3rd the publication BNet reported that the assets of a London-based online betting company had been frozen by enforcement authorities in Italy as part of a police operation to break up a major mafia gang.
"Paradise Bet, a company licensed by the UK's Gambling Commission, has been linked to a three-year investigation into the activities of the Parisi clan, whose members are accused of attempted murder, drug trafficking, loan-sharking, interfering with the bidding process for public contracts and money laundering," BNet reported.
The report goes on to reveal that local politicians and businessman in the southern Italian city of Bari, where Paradise Bet lists an operating office, were believed to be among 74 people arrested by Italian officials, along with the 48-year-old head of the clan, Savino Parisi.
Police also seized 227 properties, 680 accounts, 61 luxury cars, nine stables and 71 horses, believed to be trotting horses, and 35 businesses said to be worth around GBP 200 million in a operation codenamed 'Domino'. The newspaper The Telegraph also reported on the case, revealing that Italian officials were aided in the operation by Britain’s Serious and Organised Crime Agency.
"Paradise Bet Ltd, of Hounslow in Middlesex, was granted a casino and general betting licence in April 2007," the Bnet article reveals. "The group financial statements for Paradise Bet Ltd from the year ended March 31, 2008, state the business made a loss in 2008 of GBP 1.6 million from turnover of GBP 105 million. The previous year the business made a profit of GBP 336 000 from turnover of GBP 108 million."
BNet reported that the company was unknown to the Remote Gambling Association, which represents the major online betting operators in Europe, but its managing director Clive Hawkswood told the publication that the seizure of the company was "not good news".
"The fact that they are licensed through the UK, assuming these things are proved, is not good news for anyone," he said.
"There are clearly lots of people opposed to gambling generally who latch on to this sort of thing and one of our reasonable lines is that if you regulate the activity, that's the way you deal with this problem.
"No regulatory system is foolproof but we will have to know a lot more to see whether the Gambling Commission might have done anything to pick up on this.
"I assume the Italians will be contacting the Gambling Commission for evidence."
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