Mark Blandford used to own six betting shops. The business was doing well but, in 1997, he sold up. As he saw it, the scope for expansion in the UK's already saturated betting market was too limited. The internet had far more potential.
His new business, Sportingbet, is based in the Channel Island tax haven of Alderney. With virtually no marketing, its internet site (www.sportingbet.com), launched last October, has attracted 1,200 customers in 60 countries.
'The internet allows me to reach people I couldn't have otherwise reached,' he says.
Punters sign up as members, depositing a minimum of £100 and placing bets of at least £5 a time on a range of sports in Europe and America.
The average bet is £50 and the highest so far has been £4,000. The advantage of betting over the internet is that punters avoid paying the usual rate of tax - 9% in the UK - because all transactions are deemed to originate on Alderney.
The company has just raised more than £1 million in a public offering, which it will invest in promoting the site to the betting hot spots of North America and East Asia. A small number of Asian gamblers currently contribute 30% of Sportingbet's revenue. 'We had a guy who opened an account from Tokyo and bet a substantial sum of money on Inter Milan to win Serie A,' says Blandford. 'We had never even considered a Japanese person betting on Italian soccer as a segment of international sports betting.'.