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An internet tycoon who made billions of dollars building an online gambling empire has agreed to forfeit $300m after pleading guilty to violating the US Wire Act.

Anurag Dikshit, co-founder of Gibraltar-based PartyGaming, entered the plea Tuesday in US District Court in Manhattan. A lawyer for Dikshit told US District Judge Jed Rakoff that over time his client developed "a growing awareness of the illegality" of offering online poker and other games of chance to residents of the US, according to news reports.

The company stopped accepting wagers from people based in the US after lawmakers barred US credit card companies from accepting payments for bets

But by then, the damage was already done. According to federal prosecutors, Dikshit "unlawfully, willfully and knowingly used a wire communication facility for the transmission" to take bets. A "substantial majority" of PartyGaming's customers are based in the US, according to court documents. About 85 percent of the company's 2005 revenue came from Americans.

Dikshit, 37, has already surrendered $100m to the feds. He is scheduled to make his next $100m payment in three months and his final installment is due in September.

He faces a maximum sentence of two years in prison and a fine of $250,000 at sentencing, which is scheduled for December 2010. ®

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