Benchmark Europe Invests In UK Gambling Site. Prostitition, Drug and Gun Startups, Send in Your Business Plans.

UK-based betNOW is announcing a round of financing from Balderton Capital (formerly Benchmark Capital Europe) this morning (Balderton has also invested in Bebo, Codemasters and Setanta). Balderton’s Tim Bunting is taking a board seat at the company. The size of the round is not being disclosed.

I don’t know what surprises me more about this deal – the fact that a top tier venture capitalist is investing in a gambling site, or that the site delves deeper into gambler’s lives by allowing them to place bets via their mobile phone. A User places bets by text messaging the service, and bets are charged to the user’s phone bill. The press release for the deal boasts that “the service also brings ‘remote’ sports betting to a new market of sports fans who can bet whilst at an event, in the pub with friends, or watching on the TV at home.”

I’m surprised that Balderton is getting into bed with these guys. Generally speaking, anyone who’s placing bets on sporting events via their mobile phone probably has a gambling problem, which betNOW is exploiting. I don’t have a problem with the existence of such services in general. But when the first sob stories come out talking about how betNOW led to families being out on the street after the husband lost the savings after a few too many pints at the pub, Balderton may not be super excited about their connection. Gambling in general has a taint to it – historical ties to organized crime don’t help.

I’m sure Balderton did their due diligence and betNOW is a clean company with clean founders. But still, down the road they may regret this investment.

[TechCrunch UK has more on this from a local perspective]