BETCHA SAGA – Jenkins Goes Back to Jail (Update)

By Brian Cullingworth, Last updated Mar 9, 2021

In the latest developments in the almost surreal Betcha.com tale (see previous InfoPowa reports) website owner Nick Jenkins was sent back to jail when he appeared at an extradition hearing in Seattle yesterday, according to reports on his blog.

For new readers, here’s a recap of an increasingly complicated story of a US citizen and Washington State resident who appears to be fighting persecution rather than rational prosecution:

Jenkins is a lawyer in Seattle who made no secret of the fact that he had opened a P2P betting site branded Betcha.com. Jenkins was convinced of the business model’s legality even under stringent Washington State law, because although bettors could use the site to meet and exchange bets, no payment took place and the site merely levied a small facility fee.

After only a month in business the high profile Jenkins and his site caught the eye of the Washington State Gambling Commission, which demanded that Jenkins shut the site down. Jenkins argued the legality of the site, and this seems to have precipitated the significantly more drastic official action of a night raid on Betcha.com and the confiscation of equipment.

Jenkins and his lawyer sought a meeting with WSGC officials at which they served notice of litigation on grounds that state law had been misapplied, and shortly after that meeting the first ever bet from Louisiana – a $35 bet from which Betcha.com made a mere 70 cents – was made on the website.

Coincidence, perhaps but undoubtedly suspicious and made more so by a statement in a subsequent Louisiana State Police press release, revealing that the case had involved a month of investigations in cooperation with WSGC officials.

Last week the technical director of the site was arrested by Seattle police, apparently at the behest of Louisiana State Police for the “illegal” activity in respect of the $35 Louisiana bet. Jenkins and another employee immediately gave themselves up to the local constabulary and incredulously found themselves spending the night in a King County jail.

It should be noted that Jenkins grew up in Seattle, owns his home in the city, where he lives a settled family and respectable professional life with his wife and infant daughter.

Despite a reported opposition to bail by Louisiana authorities, the trio were released on their own recognisance the next (Thursday) evening, at which point Jenkins returned home and wrote a blog entry on the traumatic experience of being deprived of his personal freedom.

The three men had been ordered to appear Monday afternoon in King County Distict Court, Seattle for an extradition hearing and all three appeared “suited and tied”…and an hour early for the hearing.

Jenkins was probably stunned to then hear the prosecutor arguing that he should be returned to jail on bail of $50 000 despite his voluntary appearance in court. The prosecutor quoted a passage from Jenkins’s blog entry as evidence of an “intent to flee”. The offending passage was a hypothetical comment as follows [italics for emphasis – ed.]:

“Next step is an extradition hearing on Monday. If we win, I guess we don’t go to Louisiana on Tuesday. The warrant will remain intact, however, so travelling for the three of us will be difficult to impossible. If I ever get picked up for speeding in Oregon, for example, I’ll go through the same thing all over again.”

That part in italics, said the prosecutor, demonstrated an intent to flee from Washington. Unfortunately for Jenkins, the new judge accepted the prosecution’s argument and Jenkins was handcuffed and found himself back in jail!

The extradition hearing to decide whether Jenkins and co. are transferred to face charges in Louisiana, is now scheduled for the King County Court on September 5, but the court date to decide on the legality or otherwise of Betcha.com’s business model is not set down until September 21 in Thurston County.

One would have thought that some common sense and discretion would have been applied by the officials involved in these astonishing proceedings.

Jenkins tongue-in-cheek but perhaps wisely in view of the attitudes on display by officialdom here, ended his blog entry with the wry words: “PLEASE NOTE: Nothing in the above blog entry should be read as a demonstration of my or my colleagues’ intent to flee the state of Washington.”

In a subsequent blog entry Jenkins points out yet again that Betcha.com doesn’t faciliate “gambling.” It facilitates betting. “All gambling involves bettting, but not all betting involves gambling,” is his view.

“Placing bets electronically is not illegal in Louisiana per se,” he argues. “Gambling electronically is illegal in Louisiana.”

In his latest blog entry, Jenkins claims that the judge’s order that he be returned to custody could be due to false information in the prosecution’s case.
Jenkins writes: “Seems the prosecutor either lied to him or, at the very least, recklessly disregarded the truth about my story. To wit: in the State of Washington’s complaint against me, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Stacy A. Connole swore under oath that I “fled from the state of Louisiana” after being charged with “Gambling by Computer” on or about July 23, 2007.

“One big problem: I haven’t so much as set foot in Louisiana since April 1994, well before I knew the Internet even existed and at least ten years prior to the enactment of the statute I’m being charged with violating. As such, I couldn’t very well have “fled” the state.

“Not knowing this, however, the judge boosted bail from zero to $50 000 and threw me in the can. It’s easy to see why: he thought I was a seasoned vet in fleeing prosecutions.”

Jenkins claims that this isn’t the first time law enforcement and its agents have “played a fast one” on a Washington state court.

He goes on to cite earlier official moves in the Betcha.com case, in which he claims that the Washington State Gambling Commission admitted in its answer to his complaint that, when it obtained the search warrant to raid the Betcha.com offices, it did not disclose to Judge Paula Casey that, just hours earlier, Betcha had sued it for declaratory relief based on its wrongful application of the gambling laws.

“I don’t know for sure whether the WSGC was legally obligated to disclose that fact, Jenkins writes: “I do know, however, that if I were sued on Friday, and raised money from investors on Saturday without mentioning that I was sued the day before, those investors would sue me six ways to Sunday.”

 

Brian Cullingworth

Infopowa news was a staple of Casinomeister’s news from 2000 until 2019. Brian Cullingworth was the main writer, contributor, and was one of the most knowledgeable persons I have ever known involved in the online casino industry.

We first met in January 2001 at the ICE in London where I observed him going booth to booth interviewing online casino, software, and licensing jurisdiction representatives. Brian was also heavily involved with our forum as “Jetset“, he was involved as an informal consultant to eCOGRA, the OPA, and was a player advocate who assisted countless aggrieved players with his connections to industry folks. He also published “Casino Cautions” via Infopowa news for quite a number of years. These can be found in our news archives.

His passing in February 2019 was a dark day for us. He will be forever missed.


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