Gambling firm eye Sealand

SEALAND could become home to a gambling firm trying to escape American hard-line laws on internet betting, it was revealed today.

SEALAND could become home to a gambling firm trying to escape American hard-line laws on internet betting, it was revealed today.

The US is so anti internet gambling that last summer the British boss of a major web gambling company was arrested at an airport shortly after arriving in the country, while other executives from America were already in custody.

But Sealand could be the answer to escaping the ban - providing operators with their own country and laws.

Spanish estate agency Inmonaranja, which is handling the sale of the tenancy for the independent mini-state six miles off Felixstowe, say there has been fantastic interest from around the world from people wanting to run their own island. It was put on the market two weeks ago.

Negotiations are already taking place between officials from the principality and a group called The Pirate Bay, an internet site which wants to set up a copyright-free country, as revealed in The Evening Star on Tuesday.

Now BetCRIS Sportsbook, a Costa Rica-based firm that allows customers to bet on everything from the Super Bowl to the Oscars, has thrown its hat into the ring for the former war-time fort, providing Sealand's existence is legally recognised by other countries.

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Eric Williamson, head of international operations for BetCRIS, said the idea of owning a country “sounds crazy” but said it could be a way of reaching American web customers.

He said: “We could write our own laws, and it would be pretty hard to extradite us.

“But we would need to go the full route and get diplomatic recognition, so that we can be sure no outside source can intervene in our affairs.”

While the Bates family which has ruled Sealand for 40 years has set the price of handing over control at £500million, Mr Williamson said BetCRIS might be willing to pay “in the tens of millions” to take control.

Sealand's ruler Prince Roy Bates, now 85, who set up the mini-state in 1967, has retired to Spain, and the family is looking to transfer tenancy to someone else to raise money for investment.

However, they would still want the new tenants to run Sealand as an independent country with the same constitution, stamps, coins and flag, and would remain its royal family.

n Can you think of a good use for Sealand? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail


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