Pennsylvania gaming regulators gave conditional approval this week to an international online sports betting company whose apparent ties to the Iranian gambling market have raised concerns about the rush in many stateside to launch legalized online sports betting.
The Malta-based company, SB Tech, is a major provider of online gambling technology internationally. It recently entered a partnership with Churchill Downs, the owner and operator of Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie, to provide mobile and interactive gaming.
Recent reports have raised questions about SB Tech’s apparent ties to gambling in Iran, which is subject to a wide range of economic sanctions from the US. In November, the Trump Administration imposed a new round of sanctions on Iran requiring any company that operates in the US to cut off all connection to the Iranian market.
SBTech maintains it does no business in Iran or Turkey and thoroughly vets customers who rely on its technology. Companies are checked for compliance with anti-money-laundering regulations and gaming regulations in their jurisdictions, company officials told the Statesman Journal in a statement.
Customers are contractually banned from operating in forbidden territories, the company's statement said, and SBTech takes action to stop any activities found in restricted areas.
SBTech deactivated one of its websites this week after the Statesman Journal inquired about its link to sports leagues, including Turkish teams, listed by JokerBet. A separate company that used to be affiliated with SBTech, JokerBet operates in multiple countries, including Turkey, according to its online profile.
Asked about the reason for the change, the company said the link was a "very old operator website."
"The company it was associated with has not had any relationship with SBTech for some time," SBTech officials said in a statement. "When it was brought to our attention yesterday that the testing URL was still left out there by mistake, it was removed."
The company said it "categorically denies that any of its customers or resellers are taking wagers from Iran or Turkey" and those countries are on its list of excluded territories that customers and resellers are expected to follow.
The company says information that "may appear on random affiliate sites on the web is inaccurate, unverifiable and cannot be relied upon."