Online Casino News Monthly Recap – December 2005

SOUTH AFRICAN ADVISORY COMMITTEE URGES LEGALISATION OF INTERNET GAMBLING
30 December 2005
“It’s a phenomenon that is almost unstoppable,” gambling chief says.

Good news from the Financial Mail in South Africa is that a special investigative committee set up by the national Gambling Board to review and make recommendations on Internet gambling has recommended that it be legalised.

The committee has travelled and canvassed professional views extensively, one of its advisers being eCOGRA CEO Andrew Beveridge.

Internet gambling in SA is currently illegal, and raids have been carried out, particularly in the Eastern Cape province where authorities have tended to be more active in enforcing the ban.

Online gambling will become legal if Trade & Industry minister Mandisi Mpahlwa accepts the recommendations of the national gambling board. In a report on the regulation of interactive gambling, the board has recommended that Internet gambling be legalised.

Online gambling in SA (population 42 million +) remains the preserve of a relative few – those who have regular access to the Internet. The Financial Mail reports that only one in 10 households has a fixed telephone line and, of 361 calls made to a hotline operated by the national responsible gambling programme in the three months to end-September, only two related to Internet gambling.

The country has a sophisticated communication and IT infrastructure and is home to many of the industry’s leading entrepeneurs. The use of cell phones is widespread and growing.

If Mpahlwa opts to legalise Internet gambling, SA companies stand to profit from an industry that is enjoying rapid growth. The industry was worth US$3 billion/year in 2001 and had grown to more than $8,2 billion/year in 2004, according to research firm Christiansen Capital Advisors. The market is expected to triple to almost $25 billion/year by 2010.

National gambling board CEO Thibedi Majake says there was little option other than to recommend that online gambling be legalised. “It’s a phenomenon that is almost unstoppable,” he says. He admits that SA punters are already placing bets online, and there’s little that can be done to stop them.

The board’s report says that legalising online gambling will address several issues: local gamblers will have legal protection; it will prevent “criminal influence and exploitation” in the industry; and it will promote the development of an interactive gambling industry in SA.

If Mpahlwa gives the go-ahead, legalisation could take place quite quickly. Majake says no new gambling legislation would be necessary . The only requirement would be new regulations to govern it.

Operators will probably pay an annual licence fee of R150 000 (approximately US$ 24 000). Proposed licensing conditions are not out of step with those imposed on land-based casinos. Other regulations will apply: online operators will have to comply with the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (Fica); they will have to submit to monitoring of their systems by the gambling board; and they will have to pay a sensible 2 percent tax on gambling revenue.

UK-based group Betfair is just one international group reportedly interested in the South African market. Betfair SA public affairs manager Richard Rumbelow says the board’s recommendations are “very fair and reasonable” and go some way to attracting the “right type” of international gambling company to invest in SA.

Majake and Rumbelow both say that, given South Africa’s rapidly growing call-centre infrastructure, the country is well placed to provide back-office support for Internet gambling operators wanting to set up operations here. This, coupled with the board’s recommendations, could help establish SA as one of the leading destinations for Internet gambling.

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UK’S HILTON HOTELS SOLD
30 December 2005
Brit company will revert to its famous Ladbrokes brand and gambling focused business

The big hotel deal has finally gone through – after weeks of negotiation and intense speculation on both sides of the Atlantic the Hilton group announced in London late yesterday (Thursday) that it is to sell its hotels to U.S. namesake Hilton Hotels Corp for GBP 3.3 billion (US$5.67 billion) The deal, which involves around 2300 hotels in the US owned by HHC and about 400 around the world owned by Hilton Group, including 68 in the UK is to be completed early next year.

The US group is paying 11.3 times projected 2006 earnings of the UK business before interest and taxes.

Its relevance to the gambling world is considerable, as the UK Hilton group, divested of its hotels and cash-rich is expected to revert to its famous Ladbrokes brand and focus its huge energies on both land and interactive gambling. With the progressive British gambling reforms in place and UK licensing available some time in 2007, there are clear synergies.

Nick Hodson, an analyst at Lloyds TSB Private Banking, said: “It does seem to make sense for both sides. This allows a more focused play for the UK in terms of Ladbrokes. “My hope is that, standing alone, Ladbrokes gets re-rated to a similar kind of rating as William Hill.”

Ladbrokes has been adding more shops and revamping existing ones to capitalise on the fast-expanding UK gambling industry. The value of the overall UK gambling market is expected to increase by 33 percent to GBP 11 billion by 2010 as more casinos are opened and gaming laws are relaxed. Expansion into the US was “an option”.

A newly-independent Ladbroke plc has a rosy future despite private equity bid interest, and has no big acquisition target on the horizon, Chief Executive designate Christopher Bell said. The executive said that he was under no pressure to go out and make an acquisition to bolster up a new Ladbrokes nor under pressure from at least three private equity groups which have expressed interest in bidding for Ladbrokes.

“We have the best brand in Britain and probably in the world and I feel under no pressure to do a deal. I will concentrate on doing a good job,” Bell said in an interview.

Hilton UK confirmed last week (see previous InfoPowa report) that there was interest in buying Ladbrokes and industry sources said at least three private equity groups – BC Partners, Blackstone and CVC Capital – were in the line-up.

In the new Ladbrokes, Hilton’s Ian Robinson will continue as chairman and Rosemary Thorne from the Bradford & Bingley Plc banking group will take over as finance director.

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CANADA’S DYNASTY RAISES CASH FOR MAHJONG VENTURE
30 December 2005
Can$ 5.25 million for development

The Montreal based gaming software company Dynasty Gaming Inc has raised Can$ 5.25 million this week through a private placement on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The funds raised will be used to further develop and expand the operations of the company’s Mahjong gaming software business and for general working capital.

Announced on 12 December, the placement resulted in the sale of 15 million units of the Company at a price of Can$0.35 per unit. Each unit sold consists of one common share and one-half of one share purchase warrant, each full warrant entitling a holder to acquire an additional common share at a price of Can$0.50 per share for a period of two years.

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CHEERFUL READING
30 December 2005
NY Times piece receives wide coverage

New York Times writer Matt Richtel’s piece on the online gaming industry received wide coverage in the mainstream media over the end of year holiday period, pointing out that although the U.S. authorities seem determined to classify Internet gambling as illegal, it remains an area for solid investment by top Wall Street firms.

The article reports that blue-chip investment houses like Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Fidelity hold hundreds of millions of dollars in shares of online casinos and betting parlours, which are publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange and headquartered in a diversity of offshore locations like Gibraltar, Alderney, the Caribbean and Costa Rica.

“The growing participation by American investors underscores a striking gap between the federal law-enforcement position on online gambling and the realities behind what has emerged as a booming business. It also highlights the difficulty of policing cross-border activity in the Internet age at the same time that electronic commerce and a global economy are creating fast economic partners across national boundaries,” writes Richtel.

Discussing the legality of online gaming in the States, and by implication the confusing situation in America, Richtel quotes Jaclyn Lesch, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, who said that the agency considered online gambling illegal but declined to “…comment on the liability or hypothetical liability of a company or an individual.”

But Internet gambling analysts and company executives whom the writer interviewed said that the investments highlight how widely the federal policy is, in essence, being ignored.

Millions of Americans use the Internet to play games like poker, blackjack and roulette, or to place wagers on sporting events. Online casinos advertise in magazines and on cable television while filling big billboards in Times Square and other places where crowds congregate. Celebrities like Jesse Ventura, the former governor of Minnesota, hawk for them.

Internet gambling’s arch opponent in the USA, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, said that the federal government had essentially given up enforcing laws against offshore casinos. He noted, for example, that casino operators now travel freely within the United States, gathering at trade conventions even though, he said, prosecutors would be within their rights to arrest and bring charges against them.

He said that the involvement of investment firms could be part of a pattern of laws being flouted.

“It’s very bad, and the Congress ought to investigate it,” Goodlatte said, adding that it may turn out that the investment houses are knowingly supporting and promoting illegal enterprises.

However, the article points out for their part, the investment houses have taken the position that they indeed know there are legal risks involved in investing in offshore casinos, but that the risks are outweighed by the benefits of owning shares in growing, highly profitable businesses. Those shares can give a lift to mutual funds and other types of investments sold by the investment houses, meaning bigger returns for clients.

“Our analysis shows the gain from these stocks outweighs the very small risk of owning them,” said a spokesman for one major investment house.

The ownership rolls of offshore casinos read like a Who’s Who of America’s top investment firms. For example, public filings show that tens of millions of shares of SportingBet, a company listed on the London Stock Exchange that allows people to place bets on sporting events, are owned by Fidelity, Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs.

Fidelity Management holds shares worth about $363 million, or 14.1 percent of the outstanding shares. Those shares are largely held in mutual funds. Merrill Lynch Asset Management has $164 million in holdings, and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has $137 million.

Similarly, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley Securities hold big positions in BetOnSports, another publicly traded firm in London that facilitates sports betting, according to public filings. Morgan Stanley has one of the biggest stakes worth around $25.6 million but the company said that the position is held on behalf of one large investor, whose identity it withheld.

The bottom line, according to casino industry executives and some financial analysts, is that the opportunity for profit may be too good for the investment houses to pass up. Overall, Internet gambling is projected to reach almost $12 billion in business this year, up from $8.3 billion in 2004, according to Sebastian Sinclair, a gambling industry analyst with Christiansen Capital Advisors.

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DDOS REMAINS A SERIOUS THREAT TO BUSINESS
30 December 2005
“Online gambling sites are perennial targets for denial-of-service extortion schemes,” says expert

The Distributed Denial of Service attacks by Internet ciminal extortionists have been out of the headlines in recent times, but online companies should not feel complacent, as successful attacks upon an Internet publishing company demonstrate.

ZDnet reports that White Wolf Publishing Inc., a company responsible for some of the most popular role-playing game brands, has shut down operations after international hackers exploited a software flaw and stole user data that included user names, e-mail addresses and encrypted passwords.

Following the breach, the company, based in Stone Mountain, Ga., said the hackers attempted to extort money by threatening to post the potentially sensitive user data on the Internet.

Although Web site breaches and data theft are commonplace, security researchers say the brazen extortion attempt against White Wolf confirms earlier fears that attacks against small businesses sites are being done by well-organised international crime groups.

“This started early in 2004 when the botnet owners used mostly denial-of-service attacks to extort money from banks and ISPs. We used to think of those as experimental attacks, but it’s become much more brazen and organised today,” said John Pescatore, research director for Internet Security at Gartner Inc.

“From the experimenting stage, it moved to vandalism, and we had all these defacement attacks. After that, it became politically motivated and we kind of expected the next phase to be cyber-crime. That’s the stage we’re in today with these kinds of extortion attacks,” Pescatore said in a ZDnet interview.

He said the White Wolf breach was a classic example of hackers targeting small businesses in extortion schemes.

“They are picking on the smaller businesses that are less likely to defend themselves. Once the banks started paying for distributed denial-of-service protection, the small businesses became a prime target,” he said.

Pescatore said pornography and online gambling sites are perennial targets for denial-of-service extortion schemes and pointed out that companies like Prolexic Technologies Inc. have found a lucrative niche in providing DDoS mitigation services.

Andrew Jaquith, senior analyst with Yankee Group Research Inc., said the White Wolf situation is “the equivalent of guys with ski masks running around breaking knees. We haven’t seen evidence that this is a widespread phenomenon, but there’s enough chatter in the security underground that the risk of this happening to any small business is very real,” Jaquith said.

He said smaller companies that cannot afford to budget for DDoS mitigation technology should consider perimeter defense from a managed services provider. “It’s hard to defend against something that’s already stolen. Once the data is gone, like in White Wolf’s case, you’re basically at the mercy of the attacker.”

“If there’s one thing the last 18 months have shown us with botnets and pervasive malware is that hackers will take advantage of whatever angle they think they’ll get. If this is what works, we’ll see more of it,” Jaquith added.

Gartner’s Pescatore said companies that collect sensitive data from customers have a responsibility to find and patch software flaws that are exploited by hackers.

Officials from White Wolf did not respond to requests for comment. On message boards dedicated to role playing games, fans of the site said the breach likely occurred via flaws in the PHPBB software used by White Wolf.

The PHPBB Web forum software has been the target of attacks by an Internet worm known as Net-Worm.Perl.Santy.A or Santy. The worm uses Google search to randomly find sites running PHPBB and overwrites several different files to deface the forums.

“Most of these data breaches occur because companies leave gaping holes unpatched,” Pescatore said. “These businesses need to start using vulnerability management and intrusion-detection software, preferably from a managed services provider. They should also be encrypting stored data to provide added protection [for users].”

ZDnet advises readers to check out eWEEK.com’s Security Center for the latest security news, reviews and analysis.

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SPORTSBOOK MOVES
30 December 2005
BetonSports on the acquisition trail

The executive team at BetonSports were clearly not relaxing over the holiday season this week as the announcements started coming in on the sportbook group’s acquisition of Costa Rica-based VO Group and subsidiaries MVP Sportsbook, Players Super Book and V-Wager at a price believed to be US $ 37 million dollars.

Reports from Costa Rica suggest that founder Dalton Wagner will be staying on in the management team.

The VO statement announcing the deal reports that VO, founded in 1998 has been a standalone, fast-growing operation. It refers to the process of consolidation sweeping the industry and a slower growth in business, commenting that: “It was our belief that choosing the correct alliance would help us continue our historical growth.

“Over the last two weeks, we have decided on the team we will join. We have signed an agreement to merge our company with the BetOnSports family. The merger is effective immediately, and we will be moving our operations into their facility over the next 30 to 60 days.”

Consolidation has become commonplace in the industry throughout 2005. The online operations of Stanley Leisure, English Harbour group and Nine.com group were recently taken over in deals worth many millions of dollars by Alistair Assheton’s apparently well-funded Leisure & Gambling group, which owns VIPsports.com and trades publicly on the London Stock Exchange.

British group Sportingbet acquired Paradise Poker earlier in the year, and Party Gaming bought up two of its major skins recently in its “go it alone” strategy. Another multi-millions deal announced earlier this month was that between Bet and Win , an Austrian listed betting group which inked an agreement to purchase the Swedish poker and turnkey casino provider Ongame. Other significant deals have included the multi million dollar World Gaming acquisition of Sportsbetting, and Taiwan-based GigaMedia’s acquisitions of turnkey provider Grand Virtual and the Fun Town online Mahjong company.

Beton Sports has made no secret of the fact that it is on the lookout for acquisitions, and the business is apparently strong enough to do so. In a recent trading statement the group said that all indications are that it will meet its targets and investment expectations and has signed up almost 40 percent more players in the third quarter.

Evolution Securities, presumably on the basis of these bullish factors increased its full-year pretax profit forecast for BetonSports by 5.5 percent to GBP 21.0 million, a significant improvement over the GBP 13.3 million of the previous reporting year to February 2005.

BetonSports later confirmed the acquisition deal on MVPSportsbook, Player Super Book and V-Wager at a price of $37 million (approx GBP 21 million). BetonSports will initially pay $20.2 million with $15.2 million in cash and 2.18 million shares together with cash of up to $16.8 million conditional on the profitability of the acquired businesses up to February 2007.

?This represents an exceptional opportunity to bring well respected brand names into our family,? said BetonSports chief executive David Carruthers.

Gross win margins in all other sports other than NFL betting are ahead of last year.

The company also announced that finance director Craig Lapsley has resigned from the board but will continue to be employed as company secretary. Richard Creed has been appointed interim finance director until a permanent replacement is found.

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AUSSIE GAMING AND MEDIA TYCOON DIES
30 December 2005
Kerry Packer succumbs to cancer

Associated Press reported the sad news this week that the legendary Australian business tycoon, cricket fan and gambling whale Kerry Packer (68) died over the holiday week at his Sydney home.

Packer was Australia’s wealthiest man, with a $5 billion dollar fortune made as he built up a media empire from the small company his father started after using a gambling win to transport the family from Tasmania to Australia.

“Mrs. Kerry Packer and her children, James and Gretel, sadly report the passing last evening of her husband and their father Kerry,” according to a statement from Tony Ritchie, a Nine Network executive. “He died peacefully at home with his family at his bedside.”

Packer had long been plagued by ill health, battling cancer and receiving a kidney transplant.

His media and gambling empire was centered on Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd., which owns Nine as well as Melbourne’s Crown Casino. PBL’s gaming earnings have climbed 43 percent over the last five years and now account for 40 per cent of PBL’s underlying profits. TV earnings have stagnated over the same period. The company is developing casinos in Macau with Asian businessman Stanley Ho, and has been a highly supportive partner in Betfair’s attempts to acquire entre to the Australian market through a Tasmanian license for its operations.

Outside of his business and generous charity interests, Kerry Packer was one of the world’s premier casino “whales” – high-end gamblers numbering only 150 who could get instant land casino credit of more than $1million. He was also keenly interested in sports and had a major impact on global cricket through his colourful 1 day series concept.

The mogul’s 38 year old son James is his likely successor and has been in the business, mainly on the new media and gaming side for some time, leading anaylysts to suggest that he may place more emphasis on this growing aspect of the group’s business over its more traditional media interests.

“James’s focus is not on media, so you wonder whether they will split PBL into two companies,” Shaw Stockbroking head of research Brent Mitchell said. “There aren’t really too many synergies between gaming and media.”

Market commentator Marcus Padley said James Packer had to “step up to the plate” and assert leadership after the trauma of two weeks of court examination over One.Tel’s failure. James Packer and fellow media scion Lachlan Murdoch lost their companies $1 billion in the 2001 collapse of this deal.

Despite lingering doubts from some quarters due to James’s role in the One.Tel debacle, former PBL chief Peter Yates and long-time Packer executive Ian Johnson said the company would continue strongly under the 38-year-old’s leadership. Advertising guru Harold Mitchell said James was tough, clever, strong and financially literate enough to be a success.

PBL last month beefed up its management, appointing Pat O’Sullivan, the former chief financial officer at its multimedia partner Optus, as PBL’s first ever chief operating officer, reporting to chief executive John Alexander.

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A VICTORY OVER SPAM
30 December 2005
This is one man who did something about it…

A British businessman has won what is believed to be the first victory of its kind by claiming damages from a company which sent him e-mail spam.

Nigel Roberts, who lives in Alderney in the Channel Islands, took action against Media Logistics UK over junk e-mails in his personal account. Under new European laws, companies can be sued for sending unwanted e-mails.

It was a small but significant victory – Media Logistics agreed to pay GBP 270 compensation to Mr Roberts, who runs an internet business.

Three years ago the EU passed an anti-spam law, the directive on privacy and telecommunications, which gave individuals the right to fight the growing tide of unwanted e-mail by allowing them to claim damages.

Mr Roberts received unwanted e-mail adverts for a contract car firm and a fax broadcasting business and decided to take action against the company. The company filed an acknowledgement of the claim at Colchester County Court but did not defend it and a judge ruled in favour of Mr Roberts.

In an out-of-court agreement Media Logistics agreed to pay Mr Roberts damages plus his GBP 30 filing fee. Roberts had limited his claim to a maximum of GBP 300 in order to qualify to file it as a small claim.

He said: “This may be a tiny victory but perhaps now spammers will begin to realise that people don’t have to put up with their e-mail in-boxes being filled with unwanted junk.”

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UK GAMBLING COMMISSION GEARING UP
30 December 2005
New appointments at future regulator of Brit land and internet gambling

The UK Gambling Commission has announced a number of senior appointments.

Hazel Canter will join in the New Year as Director of Licensing and Compliance. She will oversee teams carrying out the licensing of gambling operators and personnel and ensuring industry compliance with the provisions of the Gambling Act 2005. She previously helped set up Ofcom, where she has been the Partner in charge of Licensing since 2003.

Andrew Lyman will join at the same time as Head of Enforcement. He will establish a new enforcement team within the Commission to take action against illegal gambling; to prosecute Gambling Act offences, pursuing regulatory action where necessary against licensed operators and individuals; and to maintain close working relationships with the police and other enforcement agencies. A qualified solicitor, Andrew is currently with the Financial Services Authority’s Enforcement Division.

Bill Butler will be joining the Commission in February 2006 as Director of Corporate Services, heading up the Finance, HR and IT departments. Bill?s current role is as Head of Finance at the Healthcare Commission, where he is responsible for establishing and implementing all aspects of financial strategy and management, including negotiating funding with government and establishing charging regimes.

Lynne Duffill will also join in February, as Head of Human Resources. She will lead a major recruitment campaign as the Commission expands its staff from a pool of 40 staff currently based in London, to over 250 head office and field staff in Birmingham by the time it is fully up and running. She is currently Head of HR at Advantage West Midlands.

Announcing the new appointments, Chief Executive Jenny Williams said: ?This is an extremely exciting time for the Gambling Commission. Our challenge is to establish the new organisation in Birmingham virtually from scratch: recruit staff, implement new processes and IT systems and develop new policies and working practices in time for the Gambling Act 2005 to be brought fully into effect by the end of 2007.

?I?m delighted to have such a strong executive team to help lead this work. Joining the Commission right at the outset offers a rare opportunity to help design a major new public sector organisation, establish productive relations with all of its stakeholders, and play a major part in moulding its culture and ethos.?

The Gambling Commission has taken over the role previously played by the Gaming Board for in regulating casinos, bingo, gaming machines and lotteries. In addition, it will have responsibility for regulating betting and remote gambling. It will set new conditions under which licences are granted to gambling operators and staff and issue new codes of practice, and will have significant new legal powers to monitor the industry and to prosecute illegal gambling. It will also advise central and local government on issues related to gambling.

The Commission?s core objectives as a regulator are to keep crime out, to ensure that gambling is conducted fairly and openly, and to protect children and vulnerable people.

The announcements follow the appointment in October of Phillip Brear as Director of Operations. Further appointments will be made over the coming months.

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CASINO CAUTIONS
30 December2005
A duty of protection….

Many players were surprised this week to receive an email from online casino La Isla, warning them about a false promotion put out by someone who apparently has obtained access to what should be top secret mailing lists that were on a laptop stolen from the casino!

The promos emanated from laislacasino@cashette.com, which on search turns out to be some outfit called Cashette Inc., headed by one Leon Zuo at an address in Fremont, California. We’re not quite sure what this dummy is up to, but it doesn’t look good or even expert.

However, the main concern here is surely the existance on a laptop of what appears to be an inadequately protected critical document such as a casino’s player email list.

The idea that a laptop has one of a casino’s most valuable assets in the form of its complete mailing list on it in a presumably unprotected format just boggles the mind, because this not only constitutes a loss of privacy, but opens the players up to the possibility of yet more spam from the ungodly.

It has been said a thousand times before but still bears repeating: operators have a very serious duty of responsibility to their players to guard and protect this sort of private information.

Now you see it, now you don’t…..

Growing numbers of players have been complaining this week about the MGS-powered Grand Prive group of online casinos, which has apparently been indulging in some pretty questionable behaviour on a bonus offer emailed to specific user names and account numbers. Once these players accepted the offer by depositing and wagering, they were told that the offer had been withdrawn.

This “after the fact” renege is totally unacceptable but appears to have affected a large number of gamblers, judging by various fora posts from outraged players. It is the casino’s prerogative to deny bonuses to players going forward, but once it has made an offer and had it accepted, it has a professional obligation to honour it in full.

For a casino to refuse the bonus after the player has been offered the bonus and has deposited is “bad casino practice” and could even be perceived as tricking players into making deposits.

This group consists of the following online casinos:

Lake Palace

Jupiter Club

Bella Vegas

Casino Grand Bay

Roadhouse Reels

Jackpot Wheel

Players who have been treated in this way are urged to complain to eCOGRA at www.ecogra.org, as this group holds the “Play It Safe” seal and the services of the Fair Gaming Advocate can therefore be deployed.

Time seems to be of little consequence here

InfoPowa has previously reported on slow-pay complaints regarding the Playtech-powered African Palace and Indio online casinos.

This week one player highlighted the delays at these operations when he posted that he had finally been paid…..after 7 months, 55 emails, and 70 phone calls to the casino and Playtech!

Even then, the payment had to be made in two tranches, one of which was through a channel not requested by the player. So disgruntled is this player, that he has offered to help other players with similar hassles and is canvassing ideas on what to do with a shiny new domain he has acquired at www.africanpalace.co.uk. That could be an interesting conversation!

Another affiliate/player complains that she has to chase these casinos for her monthly payment and even get Playtech involved on occasion. She is still awaiting the balance of a four figure winnings withdrawal outstanding for the past 6 months.

This does not indicate a reliable venue for players, and caution is strongly advised.

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BALI LADIES ANTE UP
30 December 2005
Sisters are doing it for themselves in tropical paradise

Describing herself as the “most dominant Bali women poker player” an attractive young woman called Prima (now where have we heard that name before!) Rini has successfully built up a poker club for like-minded women on the tropical paradise of Bali.

http://www.putri-bali.com/ tells us that Putri (Ladies) Bali Womens Poker Club loves challenges and “quells them without much fuss.” There’s possibly an international competition potential here with the growing US women’s poker fraternity.

Prima Rini has already achieved the status of first woman Bali player to achieve a score of 100,000 at Yahoo Poker, and she is now seeking another first – the first Bali Lady to play in a WSOP (World Series of Poker) championship.

Having trained at Yahoo Poker Online and MSN poker, Rini is now trying to grow her band of poker fans to increase competition and expertise in the game, and there is a need for coaching, too. Further, Prima feels that help from sponsors is a real need if the club is to make the bigtime.

Judging by photographs on the site, this club has some very photogenic members should a sponsor become interested.

Putri-Bali.com poker game fans discuss poker related issues on the pages of the online poker site, which has a range of educational and interest content.

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MAC COMPATIBLE POKER FROM FULL TILT
30 December 2005
Special facilities and bonuses for the Apple fraternity

The growing importance of Mac poker players has been showcased once again by the announcement this week that Full Tilt Poker.com has made available a downloadable Mac-compatible poker facility. 888.com/Pacific recently introduced a similar extention to their offering.

Full Tilt boasts that at any given time pokerheads can log in and play with over 10,000 global poker players with real or play money, and a 100 percent of deposit bonus is available, maxed at $600.

Until now there were only two ways to play Internet poker on a Mac. Players would have to download expensive third party software to emulate a PC or use a poker room using a no-download java platform. Full Tilt Poker?s new Mac version of their software looks, acts, and runs exactly like the PC version.

The new software has been under extensive testing, and was released in Beta format this week.

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INTRIGUING NEW TECHNOLOGY DEAL
30 December 2005
Who is Bits Corp, and what is it supplying to Microgaming and the Palace Group?

AFX reported some tantalising incomplete business news over the holidays, revealing that the British company Bits Corp plc has signed “significant” agreements with The Palace Group and Microgaming, but not stating why.

The company said it will use its developed technology in the field of online gambling on a revenue sharing basis but did not provide further details.

In a separate statement, Bits said it will ask shareholders for authorisation to raise additional capital to fund its marketing campaign and to put in place the infrastructure needed for the provision for internet gambling. It has called an EGM for January 20.

Bits Studios is one of Britain’s leading games developers, with over 30 titles published over the United States, Europe and Asia on multiple platforms. As well as for the current generation of consoles these have included Nintendo’s Game Boy Color, Game Boy, Super Nintendo & NES, Sega’s Mega-Drive, Genesis, 32X, Game-Gear & Master System, PC & Online.

Bits knows what it takes to produce stunning titles of the highest quality, and is currently developing titles for current generation consoles, including Sony’s Playstation 2, Microsoft’s X-Box & Nintendo’s Gamecube and Gameboy Advance.

In 1994 Bits moved into 10,000 square-foot new, custom designed office space. This location contains both sound and video production studios, where the company currently employs around 40 people and additionally has outsourced programmers and artists. In-house, the company can be broadly divided into various specialist groups, although personnel on a particular project work together in their own Project Teams, irrespective of their specialty.

Bits Corp Plc was founded in 1990 by Foo Katan, and has to date been responsible for the development of games which have sold more than 4 million units and generated retail revenues in excess of $140 million.

STOP PRESS: As InfoPowa went to press this week news was coming in on a slide in revenues at Bits Corp. Shares in Bits Corp slipped after the video games software developer posted a slide in interim turnover.

Turnover for the six months to September slid to GBP 285,000 from GBP 1 million in the same period last year. Pre-tax losses came in at GBP 69,000 against a profit of GBP 35,000 in the corresponding period previously.

The group said its most important development was the deal announced this week with online gaming groups The Palace Group and Microgaming.

Bits added that it will need to invest considerable funds to fully implement its strategic entry into the internet gambling market.

“The group remains focused on the design and development of video games for all games consoles together with utilising our experience and knowledge of the consumer games market in other related fields,” a spokesman said.

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THE CAT AND THE FERRARI
30 December 2005
Feline fortune at the poker table

Poker News reports that one recent PartyPoker.net winner has taken his faith in luck to a whole new level in a poker tournament.

Winner Bruce Bartfield is convinced that his cat Sadie brought him good fortune and the winner’s prize of a super-expensive Ferrari F430 Coupe with a 4.3-litre, V8 engine.

“I was really short stacked. Then Sadie decided to jump up and sit on my lap and my luck changed for the better,” said the 52 year old Churchville, Maryland player, who owns a pet store when he’s not winning tournaments.

According to PartyPoker.net spokesperson Warren Lush, Bartfield’s victory was another big win for the small guy.

“Bruce’s story shows how ordinary guys can go all the way in poker and win fantastic prizes. We’ve invited him and Sadie to join us on the PartyPoker V Cruise around the Cayman Islands in March, where they’ll have a shot at a $5 million prize pool.”

After learning the game and playing Texas Hold’em with friends, Bartfield decided to give the Internet a go. “A friend of mine kept telling me to play online, but I was cynical.”

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AGREEMENT REACHED ON ONGAME ACQUISITION
23 December 2005
$570 million deal has some conditions but should go through by May 2006

The big story this week was undoubtedly what arguably the biggest Internet gambling deal yet, which was widely reported by mainstream media.

BETandWIN.com Interactive Entertainment and Ongame e-solutions AB have agreed on the acquisition of the latter for at least 474 million euros ($570 million).

BETandWIN will pay Ongame, a closely held company based in Stockholm that operates Web sites including PokerRoom.com, in cash and stock, BETandWIN spokesman Konrad Sveceny is quoted as saying.

The Internet poker market was worth $1 billion last year, up from $90 million in 2002, according to research company Christensen Capital Advisors. It is likely to double that for 2005.

The online gaming market is “really growing,” said Peter Till, who manages 13 million euros worth of Austrian stocks, including BETandWIN shares, at Fondsfabrik in Vienna.

“The transaction certainly wasn’t cheap,” he said. Bet and Win is a listed company in Vienna, Austria. The stock has more than quintupled this year, making it one of the world’s best performers among companies with market values of at least $1 billion.

The purchase is more than four times greater than any other Internet gambling takeover, according to Bloomberg data.

Ongame made an operating profit of 137 million kronor ($17 million) for 2004 on sales of 411 million kronor, according to its Web site. The company was founded in 1999 and estimates that 6 million online poker players worldwide use its technology.

“The acquisition enables us to establish BETandWIN as a one-stop, global gaming and sports-betting brand significantly earlier than either company could deliver independently,” said Norbert Teufelberger, co-chief executive of the Austrian company.

Poker Room.com CEO Patrik Selin said: ?We are happy to join a group that has demonstrated its capability to successfully grow and diversify its proven business model.

?Together we will have an increased capacity to further develop our leading positions in sports betting and poker, and expand our offerings, including our poker network, to third parties while launching global campaigns for our proprietary brands.?

BETandWIN will complete the purchase by May, according to its statement. The company will pay Ongame about 213 million euros in cash before the end of April and issue shares worth at least 190 million euros, equivalent to a stake of around 12 percent, according to Sveceny.

To receive the full purchase price, Ongame must report earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization for this year of at least $30 million on sales of at least $105 million, BETandWIN said.

BETandWIN was advised by Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, and HSBC Holdings Plc acted for Ongame.

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BIG PAYDAY FOR ONGAME FOUNDERS
23 December 2005
When this deal goes through, there will be Euros aplenty for these families

The Independent looked at the benefits that might accrue to the Ongame founders as a consequence of the Bet And Win takeover agreed this week.

Swedish entrepreneurs Oskar Hornell and Claes Lidell founded the company in 1999 and will be the main beneficiaries.

Hornell and his father and two brothers, who sit on the firm’s board, are set to make Euro 251 million in cash and shares from their 53 percent stake in Ongame if the deal goes ahead at the terms announced this week. Of that, 60 percent, or Euro 151million, will be paid out in cash.

Lidell stands to gain Euro 132 million from his 28 percent stake, including Euro 79 million in cash.

Bo Johnson, the former chairman, is set to pocket Euro 71 million in cash and shares from his 15 percent stake.

The remaining 4 percent is owned by staff and former staff.

Ongame’s management, led by the chief executive Patrik Selin, is expected to stay on for at least another year. The deal makes Ongame’s previous plans to float in London next year redundant.

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BUT WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE CORAL EUROBET?
23 December 2005
Will Brit group’s poker network membership be affected?

Just one of the possible consequences of Ongame’s acquisition by Bet And Win concerns the vast Ongame Poker Network…specifically the continued membership of Coral Eurobet.

Coral Eurobet only joined the Ongame network in November after Party Poker distanced itself from its “skins”, leaving Coral out in the cold. As one of BetandWin?s main competitors in the European sports betting market, Coral Eurobet could be averse to sharing its poker product with a major rival and the concomitant risk of losing customers to the BetandWin-Ongame sports and poker platform.

Industry observers are expecting Coral Eurobet to leave the Ongame network sooner rather than later. Speculation suggests BetandWin?s main priority will be its poker customers and the fact that it will own all the proprietary Ongame technology will be viewed as a threat to any network partner that also operates sportsbooks and is in direct competition with it.

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LADBROKES HAS POTENTIAL BUYERS
23 December 2005
Hilton group confirms earlier speculation that suitors were interested in buying gambling group

Late in the week the British financial media reported that Brit hotels and gaming company Hilton Group Plc had confirmed earlier speculation that it has received expressions of interest in buying its Ladbrokes gambling business, lifting its shares to new highs.

Hilton said the expressions of interest emerged after U.S. group Hilton Hotels Corp. revealed in October that it was in talks to buy the hotels of its British namesake.

“However, Hilton Group remains focused on concluding its negotiations with Hilton Hotels Corp. in relation to the sale of the Hilton International hotels division for the benefit of shareholders,” the company said.

Earlier this week the Financial Times reported that Hilton UK may get offers for its Ladbrokes betting-shop chain from companies including BC Partners Ltd., Blackstone Group LP and CVC Capital Partners Ltd. Hilton spokesman Alex Pagett confirmed the report, saying: “We are obliged to make a statement due to press speculation.”

U.K. gambling companies have attracted interest following the relaxation of the 37-year-old laws that govern the industry. Gala Group Holdings Plc, the U.K.’s biggest bingo-hall operator, in October agreed to buy Coral Eurobet from Charterhouse Capital Partners and company managers for GBP 2.18 billion ($3.8 billion). Ladbrokes, the world’s largest bookmaker, could fetch GBP 3 billion to GBP 4 billion.

Shares of Hilton Group rose 2.8 percent in London, giving the company a value of GBP 5.88 billion. The stock has risen 29 percent this year.

Ladbrokes, Hilton Group’s fastest-growing and biggest business, helped cushion the company’s profit when the lodging division lost bookings after the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. Following July’s bombings in London, revenue per room at Hilton’s hotels in the U.K. capital declined again.

The sale of the Hilton International hotels division would make the company primarily a gambling company with the focus on Ladbrokes, which accounts for about 60 percent of annual profit.

Ladbrokes is adding more shops and revamping existing ones to capitalise on the popularity of gambling.

The value of the British market, based on the amount won by gaming companies, will increase by 33 percent to GBP 11 billion by 2010 as more casinos are opened, according to Global Betting and Gaming Consultants in West Bromwich, England.

Hilton Group traces its origins to the village of Ladbroke in central England, where a local racehorse trainer set up a partnership in 1886 to take bets on races.

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$8.6 MILLION PAID OUT BY BELLE ROCK THIS YEAR
23 December 2005
Progressive slots payouts reach new levels at online casino group

2005 has been a bumper year for progressives players the Belle Rock online casinos, part of the Carmen Media group according to information released this week.

The online casino group has paid out $8,632,880.56 from its progressive slots and along the way collected awards for ‘Best Jackpots’ and ‘Best Progressive Slots Site’ for 2005 in Strictly Slots Magazine.

Tim Johnson, Chairman of Carmen Media Group, owners of Belle Rock Entertainment said: “It is our goal to create an entertaining and safe environment for customers to play the games they enjoy. The loyal customers of Belle Rock’s various casinos have come to expect bigger winnings, more often. We congratulate all our winners in 2005.”

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THIS MERGER DIDN’T FLY
23 December 2005
More M&A activity

It had the potential to create the biggest UK gambling group to date, but following a presentation by Will Hill’s CEO David Harding the board of directors of the bookie group walked away from it, according to the Sunday Times.

William Hill had earlier approached bingo and casino group Rank with a view to a merger that could have led to the creation of a GBP 4 billion gaming giant. The Hill position is understood to have been a possible all-share merger. The Times reported that the merger was rejected because of the companies’ different ratings on the stock exchange, with the share price of Rank inflated by recent bid speculation.

The Rank board was understood to be aware of the talks, but did not put the approach to the vote.

A spokesman for Rank declined to respond to the report, while William Hill was unavailable to comment.

Rank owns 36 Grosvenor casinos, some 120 Mecca bingo halls and more than 100 Hard Rock Cafes in 38 countries.

A deal would have harnessed these gaming assets to the 2,000 betting shops owned by William Hill, which also has a strong presence on the internet.

The two companies are broadly of a similar size with William Hill valued at GBP 1.92 billion by the market and Rank worth GBP1.97 billion. But the bookmaker makes more profits, totalling GBP 123.9 million after the first six months of its financial year compared with GBP 71 million for Rank.

Traditional gaming groups are looking at ways to consolidate or cut costs following the explosion of interest in online gambling this year – headlined by the stock market arrival of PartyGaming with a current value of GBP 5.52 billion.

Bid chatter has also revolved around Ladbrokes, with private equity firm CVC Capital Partners understood to have hired bankers to advise it on a potential bid for the bookmakers owned by hotels firm Hilton Group.

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TIGHTER CONTROLS IN GIBRALTAR
23 December 2005
Strict rules on access to servers, responsible gaming and ownership details upfront promulgated

The BBC reports that the Mediterranean licensing jurisdiction for online gaming, Gibraltar has passed a new law to create a statutory licensing and regulatory framework for internet gambling, having already attracted fifteen gaming companies to its shores.

A ministerial-controlled Licensing Authority is to be introduced, while the current Gibraltar Regulatory Authority is to act as the Gambling Commissioner.

Computer equipment used for gambling must be kept in premises which are “secure and free from access by unauthorised persons,” says the new law passed in the Gibraltar House of Assembly this week.

Under the heading ‘Responsible gambling’, any gambling website under licence in Gibraltar is required to contain a direct link to an organisation dedicated to assisting problem gamblers. “A licence holder must “designate a named person to be responsible for formulating responsible gambling policies, ” says the law, which adds that persons must be warned that they should not gamble beyond their means.

A gambling website must display the full name of the licence holder and the address from which he carries on business, and avoid advertising which is “false, deceptive or misleading.”

In an effort to curb any money laundering, the new law stipulates that if there is suspicion of money laundering, the licence holder is given 24 hours to inform the Gambling Commissioner.

Enforcement provisions, and the appointment of investigators, is also a feature of the new rules.

A Gibraltar Government spokesman said that the gambling ordinance provides a modern legislative framework for the licensing and regulation of Gibraltar’s gambling industry. “This will ensure that Gibraltar remains the world’s foremost reputable jurisdiction for virtual and online gambling,” said the spokesman.

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AMBITIOUS TURNOVER CLAIMS IN NEW BOOK
23 December 2005
$125 billion in industry revenues by 2015 may be stretching

A press release from the Irish company Research and Markets this week includes a a revenue prediction that industry revenues could reach $125 billion by 2015, a staggering number that may be on the ambitious side given that 2005 revenues are generally expected to be in the $10 to 12 billion range.

Research and Markets was announcing the addition of The Online Gambling Market Research Handbook to their offering, which they claim is “The most comprehensive resource for online gambling market data available from any source.”

Written by Terri C. Walker, an expert in the gambling industry for ten years, The Online Gambling Market Research Handbook claims to cover every aspect of the online gambling industry and is designed to be a “strategic business planning resource” for executives in all segments of the online casino and gaming business. The book provides information on market development strategies and competitor analysis, consumer trends and independent market data to support business planning.

The report provides a profile analysis of over 70 key players, and a future market outlook, advising that the increase in the number of online gamers continues to grow, keeping pace with the rapid escalation of people accessing the Internet. Quoting a March 2000 study of close to 30,000 Internet users by the Angus Reid Group the book reveals that the United States represents only 39 percent of the estimated 275 million Internet users worldwide. By the end of 2001, approximately 52 million people globally wagered over $3 billion on Internet gaming. Startlingly, it claims that on average, the (online) casinos keep about 75 percent of monies deposited.

According to Bear Stearns, online gaming was expected to exceed $8 billion in revenue by 2002. Datamonitor predicted online gaming worth $6.5 billion in 2002, reaching $8.25 billion in 2003 and (not far off current thinking) $11 billion in 2004. It is expected to reach $125 billion by 2015.

Datamonitor also predicted online gambling turnovers have the potential to dwarf those of other Internet services, with these turnovers tapping into an existing market valued at more than $700 billion in Europe and across the U.S. alone.

For more information visit http://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/c1915

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CAESAR’S POKER
23 December 2005
Another land casino joins the poker boom

Card Player reports that Caesars Palace will open a $12 million poker room this week, the casino’s first poker room in 16 years and another illustration of the power of the poker phenomenon.

The famous land casino, now operated by World Series of Poker owner Harrah’s Entertainment, will offer a permanent 30-table poker room next to the resort’s race and sports book. Eleven original LeRoy Neiman paintings showcasing nearly 40 years of Caesars Palace history decorate the entrance to the poker room.

Caesars Palace follows other Strip and downtown casinos, such as the Las Vegas Hilton, The Mirage and the Golden Nugget, that have reopened poker rooms recently to capitalise on the game’s growing popularity.

Poker is televised almost daily on various sports-oriented cable channels and the World Series of Poker this year drew a record 30,000 participants to 45 events.

“We are very excited to debut the Caesars Palace poker room especially considering poker’s incredible rise in popularity over the past few years,” Caesars Palace President Gary Selesner said in a statement.

The poker room consists of an 8,500-square-foot main playing area and an additional 6,000 square feet for tournaments that can accommodate 33 additional tables. The tournament area is expected to be used in March for Harrah’s recently-purchased Heads Up Poker Championship and in April for the World Series of Poker Circuit.

Selesner said the tournament space allows Caesars Palace to have a tournament without shutting down regular play.

“Adding the additional 6,000 square feet of space for tournament play means guests at Caesars Palace will always be welcome for a game of poker,” he said.

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PARTY GAMING ABOUT FACE
23 December2005
Pessimism in September – upbeat in December

Things change fast in online gambling, and the view from the top at Party Gaming seems in tune with that. In September CEO Richard Segal had a depressing effect on the share prices of industry public companies when he took a rather pessimistic view of the online poker scene; this week it was a different opinion, widely reported especially by the UK media.

In an interesting interview with Reuters, Segal gave a tantalising glimpse of things-to-be at Party Gaming, prompting the wire service to write that: “Thanks to the Internet and television, poker exploded outside its U.S. homeland in 2005, and PartyGaming Chief Executive Richard Segal sees technology boosting that boom further in 2006.”

The report continues with a review of 2005, in which Internet poker took a firm hold, sparking three big London stock market flotations, generating revenues of around $2 billion and launching games and books that are now topping Christmas lists around Europe.

PartyGaming takes about half of that $2 billion pot, and it has big plans for further growth, Reuters reveals. And Party Gaming is assessing acquisitions and everything from mobile phones to interactive television to access more players.

“The beauty of it all is that we’ve invented nothing new,” Segal told Reuters in a recent interview at PartyGaming’s London headquarters. “We’re just taking games that have been around for decades and putting them in people’s homes.”

After a high-profile 4.6 billion-pound ($8.1 billion) flotation in June, the owner of PartyPoker and Starluck Casino, saw its market value soar to more than 7 billion pounds ($12.3 million).

Cautious words in a September trading statement sent its shares into a dizzying fall from which it has finally recovered by taking a more aggressive stance against its competitors.

In 2006, PartyGaming plans to launch its new PartyCasino site to run alongside its existing Starluck Casino, as well as two new games.

“There will be two new products next year,” said Segal. “In the first half there will be a person-to-person skill game and in the second half there will be another more akin to casino (gaming).”

PartyGaming will also launch a “shared purse,” which will help players switch from game to game.

“If you want to go from playing on Starluck Casino to PartyPoker, it’s currently the equivalent of going from eBay to Amazon,” said Segal. “It’s not just one click away, but that will change.”

Apart from making life easier for players, the shared purse will make it easier for PartyGaming to cross-market its various games to them.

PartyGaming gets 80 percent of its revenue from the United States. But in the second half of 2006, PartyGaming plans to launch its games in six new currencies and languages.

“From an investor’s point of view, it will do us well to reduce our dependence on the United States market,” said Segal.

But he sees problems in Asian expansion with the regulatory environment, low penetration of broadband Internet and credit cards and with fraud. “I think Asia is more medium-term than short-term,” he said.

Although casino games and sports betting are transferring to mobile phones successfully, poker is proving problematic because the games can take longer, during which time mobile signals can fail.

“A sports bet is very easy to place–it’s just one text each way.,” said Segal. “But imagine you’re playing poker and have a royal flush in your hand, and then you lose connectivity … We don’t want disgruntled customers. It’s early days, and we’re still looking at test results, but the indications are not getting us overexcited about mobiles,” he added.

Digital television, by contrast, is proving a promising medium on which players might soon interact.

“The more distribution channels customers have to play on, the better,” said Segal. “And interactive television is something we’re looking at seriously.”

Asked whether PartyGaming was looking to buy a sports betting operation, he said they were not interested in acquiring companies that took sports bets from the United States, but they would consider opportunities elsewhere.

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POKER ROOM HAS A CASINO SISTER
23 December 2005
Casino Room.com launched

With the release of the all-new real money casino games Craps and Roulette, top online poker and casino operator PokerRoom.com has launched a brand new gaming site exclusively for casino players.

CasinoRoom.com features the entire line-up of existing popular PokerRoom.com casino games along with the two new games released in conjunction with the CasinoRoom.com site going live.

CasinoRoom.com caters to casino players of all ages and preferences offering card games such as Black Jack, Caribbean Pirate Poker, Pai Gow Poker and Baccarat as well as table games such as Roulette and Craps.

In the Slots and Video Poker area players can play classical games such as Deuces Wild and Fruits Slots alongside slot games like the progressive jackpot slot Sultan’s Treasure featuring an initial jackpot value of $300,000. Through CasinoRoom.com players will also receive free access to an increasing range of revolutionary mobile games such Mobile Fruit Slots, Mobile Black Jack and also, courtesy of PokerRoom.com, Mobile Poker – all three playable either just for fun or for real money. CasinoRoom.com is seamlessly integrated with PokerRoom.com and players can easily cross over to PokerRoom.com and use the same account to play intense ring games and participate in massive poker tournaments.

Players on CasinoRoom.com will benefit from a bonus and promotions program that goes hand-in-hand with already established offers on PokerRoom.com. The site has an easy-to-use interface and there is no download requirement. Players simply log on, look up their favourite game and launch the games through a secure Java application similar to the one used on PokerRoom.com.

This JAVA solution opens up the CasinoRoom.com experience to all PC, MAC and Linux users.

Built on the successful PokerRoom.com platform powered by Ongame, all player transactions will be handled through the same secure transaction system as PokerRoom.com and players have plenty of payment solutions to choose from.

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SLOTLAND GIVES REAL MEANING TO THE SEASON FOR GIVING
23 December 2005
Educating a new generation

Slotland.com was into the spirit of the season this week with its announcement that it is about to start building a school in an impoverished village in Malawi, cental Africa.

Ground has been broken at the school in the company’s ?New Chance for a New Generation? project, and provided the rains don?t delay construction, the school will begin providing a better outlook for the children of Juma, Malawi early next year.

?Our players know what a big role luck plays in their lives,? said Hannah Morante of Slotland.com. ?Those that live in areas where we can enjoy the luxury of online entertainment should remember just how lucky we are. We feel good about sharing our prosperity with those less fortunate.?

The school foundation was recently dug out by a local football team in exchange for one football and set of twelve football kits in the colors of Manchester United. As the rainy season is starting and prices will rise, the local organisers hurried to buy building materials and tools with the initial funding provided by Slotland.com.

Juma is near Blantyre City, the industrial capital of Malawi. The region is of little interest to both government and non-governmental organisations. Local people rely on growing maize and other vegetables, or occasional piecework when it can be found.

The ?New chance for a new generation? project obtained support from local traditional authorities ? both the village headman and the local chief, who gave the project land for building a preschool and for growing enough maize and vegetables for the school kitchen.

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CASINO CAUTIONS
23 December 2005
Not to mince words….this is a lie

Companies that lie or cheat can rarely be trusted, and this week a glaring example arose when an eagle eyed player spotted the unlikely presence of an eCOGRA “Play It Safe” seal on RTG-powered Magic Gold Casino. Unlikely, because RTG has not applied for or undergone the stringent eCOGRA inspection requirements necessary before any of its licensees can even think of obtaining the seal.

Busted out by the Casinomeister portal, the casino operator has yet to defend what is probably indefensible.

Certainly eCOGRA CEO Andrew Beveridge confirmed that neither RTG nor Magic Gold Casino had any right to use the “Play It Safe” seal, and they will no doubt be hearing from him shortly.

Check out this Magic Gold site copy, too:

“Magic Gold Casino is owned by the premier online gaming fund, Rising Star Gaming. Rising Star Gaming is a private equity fund specialising in the acquisition, finance and management of online gaming properties. In addition to Magic Gold Casino we own and operate several other casinos and multiplayer poker sites….

“Our company …..subscribes to the responsible code of conduct of the Interactive Gaming Council. Our games are tested for compliance by TST Global, the leader in electronic gaming compliance. Our E-Cogra certification is currently pending.”

Rising Star has featured in InfoPowa bulletins before now – it acquired the Hampton and Portofino groups and the word was that they bought these from World eGaming.

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TRADE ASSOCIATIONS OPPOSE ITALIAN ISP PLAN
23 December 2005
Latest moves to curb online gambling could infringe five EU rules

Media reports from Italy suggest that the government in that country is planning to crack down on “unauthorised” foreign gambling websites by requiring Internet Service Providers to initiate filters against them.

Such companies will risk fines of between Euro 30,000 and Euro 180,000 (US$36,000 and $215,000) for non-compliance.Currently, only six gambling Web portals are authorised and compliant with Italian laws, the reports claim.

The reports allege that the purpose of the initiative is to perpetuate the state gambling monopoly; with 1.8 million gamblers recorded last year and national revenues of more than $1.4 billion, the Italian government has a real interest in maintaining control.

The proposal has triggered opposition from two European trade associations, the European Betting Association and the Remote Gambling Association, both representing the interests of several large betting companies. In a joint resolution in November, the associations stated the latest moves would “…violate no less than five categories of European Community rules or legislation” as follows:

Freedom of establishment and freedom to provide cross-border services: Articles 43 and 49 of the EC Treaty.

Freedom to supply telecommunication services: Directive 2002/20/EC on the Authorization of Electronic Communications Networks and Services.

Personal data protection: Directive 2002/58/EC on Privacy and Electronic Communications.

State aids: Article 87.1 of the EC Treaty.

Notification of technical standards and regulations affecting services of the information society: Directive 98/34/EC laying down a procedure for the provision of information in the field of technical standards and regulations.

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MORE ACCESS FOR MORE PEOPLE TO 888.COM
23 December 2005
New Flash facilities launched

888.com has made its games accessible to more online gamblers with the launch of a suite of no-download flash casino games compatible with Mac, Linux and Windows.

Linux users can now play at 888 by using the Linux specific landing page at 888.com .

Whilst introducing the Flash technology, 888 also upgraded its poker room at Pacific Poker, which is now available to Mac players through the use of the Java platform.

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MAJOR MAHJONG SITE TAKEN OVER BY GIGA
23 December 2005
Taiwan group makes another move in online gambling

Taiwan-based broadband and entertainment provider GigaMedia has acquired online Mahjong gaming site FunTown for US$45 million.

GigaMedia chief executive Arthur Wang said: ?With FunTown we enter the fastest growing segment of online gambling. The acquisition is both highly strategic and highly accretive.?

Mahjong has been called the ?poker of Asia? and FunTown?s mahjong site is the largest in the world by revenue.

Giga Media bought the Canadian online gambling turnkey provider Grand Virtual earlier this year.

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IRISH FUN IN PADDY’S SURVEY
23 December 2005
Have you played in the buff?

The online poker division of Irish bookie group Paddy Power started the holiday season off with a little fun this week with a preview of the Paddy Power Poker survey, due for release early in the New Year.

The Emerald Isle-flavoured Paddy Power Poker study discovered that many poker players play nude, tell white lies, want to destroy their computers and would swap their partners for a $1 million win!

?Poker 2006: The State of Play? reveals that:

? Over 50 percent of all Internet poker players have played the game naked or in their underwear.

? More than 10 percent have injured themselves playing poker (the mind boggles!)

? Around 33 percent would forfeit their partner for $1 million.

? About 60 percent would rather play poker than have sex.

? Almost 40 percent have lied in order to play poker.

? Approximately 35 percent believe that the IRA’s Gerry Adams would make the best poker player amongst British and Irish politicians.

The report includes a survey of hundreds of poker players across Ireland and the UK, together with information taken from the Paddy Power Poker database, and finds that most poker players in Ireland plan to vote for Fianna Fail in the next general election. New leader David Cameron will be delighted to hear that most poker players in the UK intend to vote Conservative.

When asked who would win a game of poker between George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Fidel Castro, Kim Jong Il and Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro was voted the clear champ.

Given the choice of playing a game of poker with an historical figure, Elvis narrowly won out over gunslinger and poker legend Wild Bill Hickok and more than 70 percent of players confessed to wanting to throw their computer out the window after suffering a bad beat.

The report also reveals that:

? UK players are better than Irish players.

? The best players in Ireland are in Dublin, the worst in Cork.

? The Welsh are the best players in the UK, Londoners the worst.

The full report will be published in January 2006. Copies will be available from www.paddypowerpoker.com.

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TIME ON THEIR HANDS
23 December 2005
Strike trouble for NYC meant good online poker business

The Chicago Tribune reports that record numbers of people played online Texas Hold’em poker on the same day New York City’s transit system was shut down by a strike this week.

Marty Wallace, chief operating officer for DoylesRoom.com, told the Tribune reported that the site usually has 3,000 to 3,500 people playing during business hours, but Tuesday, the count jumped as high as 6,500 players. “At first we didn’t know what was going on with the flood of players we were getting from New York City,” he said.

BetOnSports.com’s poker room experienced a similar windfall: “30-35 percent increase in both free-play and real-money games, and it was a clear connection to the New York transit strike,” said spokesman Kevin Smith.

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POKER GRAND SLAM SET TO ROLL
23 December 2005
Playing for reward and national honour

Top European poker players will battle it out in the Poker Grand Slam tournament (see previous InfoPowa reports) scheduled to take place in January at the Casino Star City in Birmingham – and representative players from the nations involved give the tournament added excitement as they battle it out to assert national poker dominance.

42 players from France, Northern Ireland, Sweden, Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales will fight it out for two consecutive days, playing today’s hottest game, No Limit Texas Hold’em.

Sky Sports will broadcast the event in March 2006 and the event will be segmented into six hour-long episodes.

Only three players will make the final tournament and the cash. First place will take home Euro 50,000 euros (US$58,600 ), second will earn Euro 30,000 ($US 35,100), and third place picks up Euro 20,000 (US$23,400).

To sweeten the pot, the hosts have offered the country team with the most accumulated player points by the end of the tournament Euro 110 000 (US $128,900).

Players can qualify through Paddy Power Poker.

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US NAVY OFFICER WINS MILLION DOLLAR FREEROLL
23 December 2005

Savvy sailor was chip leader throughout

US Navy officer Santino Sgambelluria won the Paradise Poker million dollar freeroll poker tourney this week, held in the Bahamas.

The savvy sailor, who took his place at the final table with over a million chips more than his closest competitor, rode his advantage right through to the end with some exciting plays.

Sgambelluria, who hails originally from Guam, is stationed in Hawaii with his wife and two children. Asked what he plans to do with the huge winning windfall, he said he intends to take care of his debts and invest the money wisely. He also hinted that the win might be a good way to start a new career in poker!

Almost 4,000 players signed up for the freeroll. Play was suspended when 10 players were left standing in the tourney, and these were flown to Nassau to play out the final table.

In a strange twist, the players finished in the same position in which they came to the final table. For example, John Medlin, Kevin McCann, and Stephen Fiske came to the table in seventh, eighth, and ninth place in chip counts, and that?s how they finished, respectively. All final tablers received $10,000.

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ONE HELLUVA HOBBY
23 December 2005
Good news for WSOP champ

The Age of Melbourne, Australia reports that World Series of Poker 2005 champ Joe Hachem was the recipient of really good news this week – he won’t have to pay income tax on his $A 10 million WSOP winnings from Las Vegas due to a tax ruling that he was pursuing a hobby, not working.

The Melbourne father of four toppled American and European poker heavyweights by blitzing the World Series of Poker in July.

Hachem’s lawyers said the Australian Taxation Office had found their client was not in the business of playing poker at the time of his win.

“As a result of this finding, the poker winnings were classified as income derived from a hobby, and thus not subject to Australian tax,” his lawyer Peter Donovan said in a statement. “The distinction between the conduct of a business and the mere pursuit of a hobby is often a difficult distinction to draw. However, the fact that you excel at a particular hobby should not be fatal for tax purposes.”

Hachem will be a featured player in the Aussie Millions tournament to be held in January at Melbourne’s Crown Casino.

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FUTUREBET GAMES AND SOFTWARE BOUGHT BY CYOP
23 December 2005
$1.2 million the price for 40 online casino games and Sportsbook platform

CYOP Systems International Inc., a provider of online gaming software and operator of games portals executed an agreement with FutureBet Systems Inc., this week to purchase 40 online casino games and a sportsbook software and platform for $1,2 million on terms.

Some of the casino features are an icon driven menu system, an intuitive Quick Menu that allows the user to jump from games in a single click and high graphics resolution. The software is offered in an Instant Play/No download Flash version and a stand alone Windows application claimed to be the smallest download online.

The games, which cover casino and poker offerings have been translated into 9 languages: Japanese, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Italian, Korean, Russian, and English.

On the sports wagering side, the software accesses North American and international sports and events. The software purchase also includes a full suite of back end reporting tools designed especially for licensing to third parties.

With its cross platform of brands including flash casino games, downloadable casino games, sports betting software and skill games, CYOP says that it now has the opportunity to build a global presence.

The new gaming software and platform will be linked into CYOP’s licensed CrediPlay tournament system, allowing for multiplayer use as well as single-player. CYOP has agreements in place with payment processors to integrate multiple online ecommerce options.

The newly purchased software will be integrated into the CYOP platform and will be operational shortly.

CYOP CEO Mitch White says: “By purchasing tested software, we are able to focus on operations, get to the market sooner, and at the same time continue our development of games.”

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MOST BRITS NOW ONLINE
23 December 2005
New study shows widespread use of broadband is enhancing e-commerce

The British have taken to the Internet bigtime, with latest statistics indicating that 56.7 percent of the population are now online….and 73 percent of those are using broadband.

A new report from eMarketer says that rapid growth this year has significantly increased the number of households using the Internet (2004: 46 percent)

BT’s broadband-enabling lines are now open to competing ISPs at wholesale rates, and this has meant that the UK is fast becoming the top broadband country in Western Europe in only three years.

“As a percentage of online users, eMarketer projects that the UK will catch up with the US by 2008,” says James Belcher, eMarketer senior analyst and author of The UK Online report.

The prediction is that the market to provide broadband is now so competitive that ISPs will increasingly offer the triple play of Internet, TV and phone service from one provider.

This will position TV over Internet protocol (IPTV) and voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) as solid alternatives to existing television and phone options, suiting the 41 percent of customers who have said they want such services.

In addition, e-commerce is growing as a result of more broadband power.

“British users are getting more comfortable with completing transactions on their high-speed connections, and that’s making for robust growth in e-commerce,” says Belcher.

“As users gain even more experience, they buy higher-ticket items on the Web?even to the detriment of some physical High Street retail stores.”

The full study is available through eMarketer.com.

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NEW DIRECTOR FOR PARTY GAMING
23 December 2005
M&A expert joins online gamibling industry

Party Gaming is clearly serious about corporate mergers and acquisitions – Nigel Birrell has been appointed director of M&A at Party Gaming, reporting to CEO Richard Segal.

Birrell was previously a senior executive at Hit Entertainment and was instrumental in setting up Sprout, Hit’s preschool 24-hour digital channel joint venture with PBS, Sesame Workshop and Comcast. He also led Hit’s acquisitions of properties including Barney the Dinosaur, Thomas the Tank Engine, Guinness World Records, Art Attack, Sooty, Fireman Sam and Pingu.

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SEC INVESTIGATING DOYLE’S DEAL
23 December 2005
WPT Enterprises manoeuvres to come under the spotlight

Readers may recall the flurry of interest on World Poker Tour Enterprises back in July (see earlier InfoPowa reports) in which a possible takeover by poker legend Doyle Brunson, backed by unknown financial interests became a public talking point at the Vegas championships then taking place.

The stock hit a record high of $29.50 amidst all the excitement and media speculation but rapidly fell back (this week’s price is around $6.20) when the deal appeared to fall through. At the time the Securities and Exchange Commission expressed some reservations about the manner in which negotiations and statements had been done and hinted at a possible public investigation.

Such an investigation now appears imminent, reports Reuters. The SEC has filed an action for the enforcement of subpoenas issued earlier. Brunson’s legal representatives had previously declined to offer up key internal documents requested in the subpoenas on the grounds of attorney-client privilege.

The scene now appears to be set for a court hearing, although venue and date have not yet been announced. The subpoenas could compel individuals involved in the deal to testify and furnish previously undisclosed documents relating to the offer.

Las Vegas law firm David Chesnoff and Chaka Henry were apparently the go-betweens in the deal, making an offer which was then taken off the table after a short period and without explanation. The company has not commented on the recent SEC activity., whose Las Vegas law firm removed the offer almost as quickly as they had made it, has declined comment on the case at the moment. Brunson himself has so far invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and has declined to participate in the investigation.

According to the Reuters report, the SEC is investigating the legitimacy of Brunson’s offer and whether its issuing of the offer violated securities, and anti-fraud laws. The subpoenas are set to further the investigations, as apparently the Brunson team chose to withhold certain documents and not to testify on critical pieces of the short-lived offer.

A World Poker Tour spokesperson has issued a brief statment on behalf of WPTE, claiming that the “The World Poker Tour is cooperating completely with this ongoing investigation.”

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BLUFF MAGAZINE’S TOP TWENTY NAMES IN POKER
23 December 2005
Popular magazine releases results of a poll of poker industry heavyweights

One of the poker industry’s most read publications, Bluff Magazine is to publish a list of the most powerful and influential names in land and online poker during 2005 in it’s January 2006 edition. A panel of industry heavyweights and top poker pundits was polled to arrive at the “Poker Power 20” list, which ranks individuals and organisations based on demonstrated ability to be an evolutionary force in the business.

Editor Michael Caselli remarked that poker is a game of power: “The power to be courageous, the power to win with nothing in your hand but a fistful of determination and the power to turn rags into royal flushes.

“The Poker Power 20? is more than a list of top money earners in poker. To truly reflect the juggernaut that poker has become, ?The Poker Power 20? includes the companies, the brains trusts and the innovators that have aided poker?s phenomenal commercial success,? he said.

The near exponential growth of poker can be measured in more than just financial terms. Poker?s success and influence is now felt all across the entire social spectrum and can be measured by the number of celebrities, heroes and respected entrepreneurs it has created, along with the huge number of new players it is attracting.

All those honoured in ?The Poker Power 20? have been adjudged to be integral to this redefinition of poker in the public consciousness.

The list of finalists includes modern-day poker heroes such as Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, Chris Moneymaker, Daniel Negreanu, and Phil Hellmuth. It also includes behind-the-scenes poker movers and shakers such as tournament director Johnny Grooms, player agent Brian Balsburgh and WPT co-founders Steve Lipscomb and Lyle Berman. Additionally, ?The Poker Power 20? honours pioneering websites such as PartyPoker and PokerStars.

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HIGH ADDICTION RATE AMONG KOREANS
23 December 2005
Most gambling is done from work

The Korea Daily reported this week on worrying levels of “addiction” to online gambling, according to government statistics.

The Cultural Information Centre says that Koreans are increasingly engaging in online gambling, and that roughly 7 percent are addicted to online gambling. Average international problem gambling levels are between 1.5 and 2 percent.

The report noted that online gambling has resulted in job losses as well as deteriorating family relations in Korea. Among those interviewed, many admit they do most of their gambling while at work, sometimes using company credit cards to cover their losses.

An official from Korea?s Entertainment Commission told the newspaper that some illegal gambling sites make very substantial sums of money a year. Recent research has shown an increase in the number of online gambling sites, both in Korea and abroad.

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UK MARKETING AND MEDIA BUYING AGENCY LAUNCHES
23 December 2005
London-based firm will concentrate on Internet gambling services

Online gambling companies looking for marketing and media buying services in the UK have a new choice. Jack Media London has announced the launch of its new agency, specifically aimed at servicing clients from within the online gaming sector.

The company is off to a flying start, having landed clients such as William Hill, Mansion and Be The Dealer.

Jack Media London will offer marketing and consultancy services as well as online/offline media buying and planning to gaming operators wanting to promote their products to the UK, North American and European markets.

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A BIZARRE BET
23 December 2005
“Giving the finger” takes on a whole new meaning

In what must surely be one the most gruesome and bizarre bets seen in the industry, an alledgedly sane poker player has staked his own finger.

Carl Valentine came up with his strange idea after playing with some people he thought were friends. One of these is apparently a multi-millionaire who bet him a million dollars that he could not send 2 million unique visitors to a specific website by April 18 2006.

This is where it gets more than a little weird; because he did not have a million for the bet, Valentine offered his right index finger.

If by April 18 he has managed to drum up the 2 million visitors, Valentine will qualify to play online in a heads up poker match against his “friend.” If he wins, Valentine says he gets a million bucks….but if he loses, his finger will be amputated.

Rather surprisingly, the respectable poker network Poker Room.com has agreed to host the match, or so Valentine claims. Rather strange behaviour for a usually reputable entity like this.

Or….it could be a cheap and even fraudulent scam. Time will undoubtedly tell.

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DON’T GET CAUGHT BY KENO
23 December 2005

Webmaster launches new keno odds calculator to help players

Jan Pedersen and his colleagues at Online-Casinos.com have a flair for figures, and that led this week to the site’s launch of a useful player protective measure applicable to the popular game of keno.

“Online keno is – in terms of odds – one of the worst games in the casino,” says Pedersen. “Despite this, there are many players who like the game, and my colleagues and I therefore decided to introduce a facility to help them to avoid getting hammered too hard.

The purpose of our new calculator is to help the players locate the best – or more correct ‘least bad’ keno bets.”

Applying math and programming skills, the team developed a copyrighted unique tool that allows players to calculate the odds on up to 20 keno numbers picked, and this is available to players at no charge on the Online-Casinos.com site (www.online-casinos.com/keno/keno-calculator.asp.)

Pedersen said that the principle behind the concept is simple but elegant: “We took the keno outcome probabilities and put those numbers into our keno odds calculator. For every possible number of spots played in keno there is a probability of each outcome and the odds against that outcome happening. For example: you have roughly a 71-1 shot at hitting 3-numbers picked, while you are almost 85 percent likely to catch only 0 or 1 on the same keno ticket.”

Thus far the calculator has proved to be a popular addition to the site, motivating Pedersen to develop further player aids: “We hope to be able to offer more free educational gambling programs in the future, as this will bring us to where we want to be with Online-Casinos,” he says.

Using the calculator is simple; the player uses a pull-down menu to select the number of picks from 1 to 20, entering how much each hit pays. By clicking the “Calculate” button the total expected return for the game will appear, giving the player the choice of looking elsewhere or playing with a good knowledge of what the chances of winning are.

Pedersen quoted a typical example: Traditionally, if only one number is picked, hitting that number pays 3 to 1. So, by selecting “1” from the drop down menu and entering “0” for 0 hits and “3” for 1 hit, this will calculate a return of 0.75. That means that the house edge is 25 percent and the player can expect to lose $25 for every $100 wagered.

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HOT NEW POKER TOURNEY IN IRELAND
23 December 2005
500 players to take a shot at Euro 500 000 prize pool

UK poker fans will be able to watch the finals of a major Irish poker tournament on TV towards the end of January next year.

The Boyle Poker.com Irish Poker Championships will take place between January 6-8 at City West Hotel Dublin, and will be one of the largest such events held in the UK and Ireland with over 500 competitors and an estimated prize pool of 500,000 Euros.

The final will be televised on the January 27 on RTE, Ireland?s national broadcaster, a first for the channel and will then be repeated on pokerzone (SKY channel 226) in February.

Seasoned players such as Andy Black, The Hendon Mob, and Roy ?The Boy? Brindley are confirmed to play, together with a list of well known celebrities and poker pros. Other players have qualified from local weekly satellites and via Boyle Sport?s new online poker site at Boyle Poker.com

Boylesports, Ireland?s biggest Independent bookmaker, has had great success at home with the poker product and will launch Boyle Poker.com into the UK poker market next year. They are currently running a concentrated advertising campaign in Manchester over the Christmas and New Year period.

Buy-ins for the main Euro 500 000 event are Euro 1 000.

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PIONEER CELEBRATES 10TH ANNIVERSARY
23 December 2005
First online sportsbet was for $50

Looking at today’s $12 billion online global gaming industry it is easy to forget that it kicked into gear a mere 10 years ago. Celebrating its tenth anniversary this week, Intertops.com reminded us that Internet gambling has made huge strides forward in a decade, often in the face of formidable legislative and technical odds.

Intertops.com will proudly celebrate the occasion of the first ever online sports bet ? which was placed on the Intertops.com website ? on January 17, 1996.

Back then, the Internet was very much in its infancy and the notion of an ?online gaming industry? was a pipe dream. Intertops.com made the brave leap into the online world by accepting the first ever interactive bet on January 17 from Finnish gambling enthusiast Jukka Honkavaara.

Mr Honkavaara placed a US$50 bet on the outcome of a football match between UK teams Tottenham and Hereford United, which won him US$52 ? a profit of $2. The first ever bet was a winner ? small though it was!

The early success of Intertops.com saw the company create one of the world?s first Microgaming powered casinos to become a serious competitor in the burgeoning online gaming world.

In 2000, Intertops.com again showed itself to be an innovator with an in-house development team?s building of a WAP portal, giving the company the ability to accept the first mobile bet in the world. Three years later, the company had added online poker offerings to its capability as part of the PartyPoker Network.

Today, Intertops is a multi-million dollar business offering over a thousand online betting options each day to sports fans just like Jukka Honkavaara.

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ISRAELI COPS RAID MEDIA OFFICES
23 December 2005
Allegations of accepting advertising for illegal gambling sites

The Israeli business publication Globes Online reports that A raid took place this week on the physical offices of public company and Internet websites Walla! and Sport Line on suspicion that advertisements for illegal gambling sites had been accepted.

The computer crime department of the Israeli Police National Fraud Unit conducted the raid, in which a search was carried out in order to collect evidence and possible suspects and witnesses were interviewed.

The investigation was instigated by the Attorney General and the State Prosecutor?s Office, which instructed the Police Investigations and Security Department to act against advertising for gambling websites, particularly Internet advertising.

It was alleged that Walla! had advertised a number of gambling sites, such as BeTheDealer Casino, Stan James and King Solomon Casino, and that Sport Line had also advertised a gambling site.

Walla Communications advised the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange that it had no details on the investigation. The company also noted that its revenue from the advertisement of gambling sites was not significant.

The main shareholders in Walla Communications are Bezeq International (43 percent) and Haaretz Publishing (27.7 percent). Walla earned an NIS 8.1 million profit on NIS 54.2 million in revenue in January-September 2005.

It is not known whether any prosecutions are contemplated by the authorities.

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DUTCH GOVERNMENT UNDER PRESSURE
23 December 2005
EU and judiciary criticise monopoly moves on gambling

The Dutch authorities were under the spotlight this week by both the EU and its own judiciary in two issues.

In the first, European Commission Vice President Gunter Verheugen penned a warning that a plan to award Holland Casino with a three-year license to exclusively operate games of chance over the Internet as part of a state monopoly could cause trouble.

Verheugen’s communication cautioned the Dutch against proceeding with a proposed monopoly scheme for online games of chance, and advised that such a policy would be incompatible with European Union regulations regarding freedom to provide services in other member states. The Netherlands courts have been the scene of bitter EU “sovereignty” litigation involving international betting groups in the past.

The second case, a ruling from the Netherlands Administrative Court of Breda has the potential to impact significantly on future gambling-related court rulings and policy decisions by the Dutch government.

The case revolved around government’s claim that its state monopoly on casino gaming was coherent in achieving its intended goals. The court ruled that the Dutch Ministers of Justice and Economic Affairs had failed to prove their case, opening the way to further contest of the Dutch position that it has the right to exclude betting companies from other EU states from doing business with its nationals.

It is unknown whether the government intends to appeal the finding.

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TRIPLE SPLIT FOR CHERRY
23 December 2005
Serious restructuring taking place in Swedish gambling group

The Swedish public gambling company Cherryforetagen announced some serious restructuring moves this week that will split the company into three independently listed entities.

The board of directors determined that by restructuring into three operational branches, development could proceed more rapidly than as one single group. The Board opined that the restructuring gives added transparency to the different businesses, thereby giving shareholders the possibility to choose their desired risk level and area of operations.

Because the Internet-based operations will grow more quickly and with a higher profitability in their own companies, Cherry Casino will receive more investor attention, says CEO Pontus Lingwall.

The three new firms are likely to be:

* Betsson ? presently Cherry Online with online gaming via Betsson.com and online casinos.

* Net Entertainment ? development and sales/licensing of games and gaming systems software.

* Cherry Casino – traditional land casino games and gaming machines, mainly in Sweden, Denmark and on cruise ships.

Cherry, soon to be known as Betsson, is hoping to complete the split during 2006.

Cherry?s currently expected revenues for 2005 are SEK 435 million. The company is hopeful that Betsson (currently Cherry Online) will at least double its turnover during 2006.

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CONFERENCE CORNER
23 December 2005
Head for Macau next year

The Pacific Congress on Interactive Gaming (PCIG) has established itself as a leading conference when it comes to strategic and operational issues in the opportunity-rich Asia-Pacific region, so diarise the following dates for the 2006 event:

When: 20-21 February, 2006
Where: Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Macau

At PCIG delegates can:

* Interact with top-level executives speaking in their areas of expertise,

* Improve operational efficiency and grow revenues with products and services from industry suppliers,

* Network with an in-demand audience of regional executives and prospective business partners entering the Pacific market.

This year’s event has the added value of taking place for the first time in Macau for the first time.

Online registration is the quickest and easiest way to sign up to attend PCIG. Click here: http://www.rivercitygroup.com/pcig/2006/?page=register

Gathering for the legal eagles…

Seminar Title: 2nd Annual European Gambling Briefing

Venue: Conrad Hotel, Brussels

Date: 31st May & 1st June, 2006

Following on from the great success of last year?s launch conference, the second European Gambling Briefing, a gathering of leading gambling regulators, lawyers and key industry stakeholders from across Europe and beyond takes place in Brussels between 31 May and 1 June 2006.

This senior-level two day briefing will tackle both sides of the passionate debate about how gambling should be controlled across Europe and looks beyond, to developments in the US, Asia and other emerging gambling markets.

Hot on the heels of gambling?s exclusion from the scope of the services directive, the Spring 2006 publication of the Study of Gambling Services Draft Report and a raft of court challenges and rulings around the world, this conference is designed to offer you the best chance in 2006 to question, debate and get to the grips with who and what is driving change in the still rapidly expanding gambling sector.

More information at: www.ateonline.co.uk/conferences

 

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IS ONGAME ABOUT TO CHANGE OWNERSHIP?
16 December 2005
Negotiations with Austrian public company are in progress

Business media reports this week indicate that Austrian public company BetandWin, one of the largest betting groups in Europe has signed a memorandum of understanding with online poker developer Ongame in respect of takeover negotiations involving over GBP 350 million.

BetandWin has been conducting an intense marketing campaign for its several online gaming sites and has been looking for a vehicle like Ongame which is capable of giving it ready made entre into the US market, where the Poker Room.com subsidiary has a powerful hold.

Ongame was recently accepted as a member of the eCOGRA independent standards authority.

If successful, the takeover could catapult Bet And Win ahead of the UK betting group Sportingbet/Paradise into second spot after PartyGaming.

The deal has the potential to enable Betandwin to achieve greater heights in the competitive gaming market by offering customers broader options than sportbetting. Gamblers could wager on both sports and casino games through one account, creating a far more convenient financial option.

Ongame, a Swedish company whose main subsidiary, PokerRoom.com, is domiciled in Costa Rica to get around Sweden?s monopoly laws, said there was ?…no certainty that any final binding agreement on the transaction will be reached?. The company is being advised by HSBC.

Charles Hall, an analyst with brokers Panmure Gordon, said: ?It reinforces the theory that the major listed players are firmly in pole position to dominate the industry as others will choose to sell rather than float.?

Ongame subsidiary PokerRoom.com is the world?s third-ranked poker site in terms of size, and was founded by two Swedish professional poker players, Oskar H?rnell and Claes Lidell, who also own HoldemPoker.com.

By the end of October, PokerRoom.com had around 6 million customers, 85 percent of whom are in the US, Canada and the UK. Betandwin?s customers are concentrated in Europe and Russia.

If the deal does not go ahead, Ongame has said it will press ahead with plans to float in London next year, probably in the second quarter. The company has also been expanding its gambling activities into Eastern Europe.

Matthew Gerard, an Investec analyst at Investec, says that if carried through the takeover could present some interesting branding changes as BetandWin markets its sports, casino and poker products under a single brand.

Earlier reports were that Ongame had been planning a 2006 initial public offering (IPO) on the London Stock Exchange, and it is not known how this will be affected if a deal is closed.

BetandWin is a successful group, with third quarter results published in November showing profits of Euro 1.3 million compared to a loss of Euro 930,000 for the same period the year before, the result of marketing spend that tripled to over Euro 32 million for the period. BetandWin?s share price has risen more than 400 percent to date this year.

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ECOGRA AWARDS 10 MORE ‘PLAY IT SAFE’ SEALS
16 December 2005
66 top online casinos are now committed to player-protection standards

Ten more quality online casinos have passed probity, fairness and efficiency inspections and have been awarded the eCommerce and Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance (eCOGRA) “Play It Safe” seal by the board of directors of the standards authority.

The casinos underwent extensive independent testing and inspection by professional teams from a top international business services and auditing group to ensure compliance with the standards and requirements of the organisation concerning operational efficiency, fair and responsible gaming and player protection.

The latest casinos awarded the seal are:

www.colosseumcasino.com
www.vegasjoker.com
www.floriditaclubcasino.com
www.grandcasinovenice.com
www.grandhotelcasino.com
www.oldsamuraicasino.com
www.royalplazacasino.com
www.vegas7casino.com
www.vegascountrycasino.com
www.vegasslotcasino.com
All which are listed here.

Ismael Diagne, Business Strategy Manager for the Mini Vegas group that operates the casinos said that the inspections had been intensive and time consuming with on-site visits from the inspection teams, but worthwhile.

“There is significant value in the eCOGRA initiative in terms of increased business efficiency and as a highly professional vehicle to prove our commitment to superior service and fair gaming for the player,” he said.

The new awards bring the number of seal casinos and poker rooms operating to eCOGRA standards to 66. eCOGRA?s members currently account for 70 to 80 percent of the online casino industry action.

eCOGRA CEO Andrew Beveridge says that other top quality operations are currently under consideration, and that the eCOGRA initiative to present the online gambling community with a wide range of safe, honest and efficient online casino and poker room venues continues to gather momentum.

“We expect to make further announcements early in 2006,” he said. “Interest in the eCOGRA standards is growing from players, casinos, leading poker rooms and software providers alike, and membership continues to be open to any software provider that is prepared to commit to our goals and principles.”

eCOGRA requires that member casinos are financially stable and have adequate reserves to cover wagers. The probity of casino management is scrutinised, together with player protection measures, payout times and financial facilities, games fairness, responsive support and general operational efficiency. Policies have to be in place for communicating with clients and dealing with any player complaints, together with satisfactory technical capabilities and anti money-laundering systems.

The standards and requirements, inspection and monitoring and the award of “Play It Safe” seals are the responsibility of independent directors on the eCOGRA Board, all of whom are well known and highly respected gambling industry personalities.

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FUNTECH DROPS BETBULL
16 December 2005
Canadian high flyer focusing on core competency of skill gaming

After intimations earlier this year that it intended to focus on its core business of skill gaming, it should come as no surprise this week that FUN Technologies is shedding most of its interest in the betting exchange venture Betbull.

The company, which was created by Cryptologic founder Andrew Rifkin and Internet entrepeneur Lorne Abony has announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, Columbia Exchange Systems Limited, has completed the sale of the majority of the group’s equity interest in Betbull – aka European Betting Exchange plc.

Betbull remains a formidable competitor in the European betting exchange sector, with a high calibre management team that includes Simon Bold, Alexander Leip and Gunter Schmid, the financial clout of Austrian public company Bet And Win and an impressive array of state-of-the-art bookmaking and operating know-how. Betbull was started in 2004 as a joint venture between Bet and Win.com, Interactive Entertainment AG and FUN Technologies plc and has been quoted since October 2004 on the Viennese stock exchange

FUNtech sold an aggregate of 686,700 ordinary shares of Betbull at Euro 7 per ordinary share, for an aggregate purchase price of Euro 4,806,900. The group will continue to beneficially hold 413,300 ordinary shares, comprising 5.83 percent of the issued and outstanding shares of Betbull.

Liberty Media recently acquired a controlling interest in FUNTech, which has closed some impressive skill gaming deals with major industry players this year.

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GAMBLING FEDERATION BACK IN THE NEWS
16 December 2005
New game launched

With its embarrassing malware scandal gone but probably not forgotten by the majority of online players Gambling Federation has this week launched a new scratch and win game.

Flaviano Fogli, G-Fed Games CEO launched the new offering and said : “This new game type will appeal greatly to the Slot playing demographic as the strong themes, easy interaction and reward structure are very similar between the two game types.”

The object of the Scratch and Win Cards game is to uncover a winning number of symbols by removing the card’s scratch -able surface. A paytable and bonus area are included in each individual game. The game variants for the Scratch & Win card launch are based on G-Fed Games popular Dragon’s Lair, Super 7 and PayDay. This brings the total number of games in the G-Fed Games portfolio to 99. The new Scratch & Win game variants are available on all G-Fed Games powered casinos.

Clearly in brag mode, Fogli went on to say: “G-Fed Games continued success can be directly attributed to our ability to produce unique and successful games for our licensees and this is driven by our understanding of the marketplace. We are confident that this brand new game and the ones to follow in the coming months – will further strengthen our Licensee’s competitive edge in the online gaming market.”

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SKILL GAMES FOR ICE HOCKEY
16 December 2005
Another solid white label deal for SkillJam

FUN Technologies subsidiary SkillJam has pulled off another lucrative skill gaming deal with an agreement this week to create and supply the Canadian National Hockey League (NHL) with a skill gaming facility for its website.

The games are scheduled to launch on the NHL-labelled website early in 2006, and Skilljam will operate and support the pay-for-play skill gaming platform, offering over 70 tournament-style games.

The website, which attracts some 6 million unique visitors every month is operated by NHL Interactive CyberEnterprises (NHL ICE) and provides news, statistics, video footage and interactive features to hockey fans on the web.

Lorne Abony, chief executive of FUN Technologies, said: ?We are very pleased to have been selected by NHL to power its online skill gaming, and we believe that its loyal fan base will thrive on the competitive nature of our games. This agreement signifies broader expansion of our distribution of white-label casual gaming platforms to major global brands.?

Liberty Media recently announced that it is to acquire a 51 percent interest in FUN in a deal valued at US $ 195 million.

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A SITE FOR SLOT FANS
16 December 2005
SlotsVillage.com has over 50 slot games

Veteran online casino company Winward Gaming launched its new real-money gaming site, SlotsVillage.com this week, designed it says with the player in mind.

The new site offers a wide range of slots games including 1-reel, 3-reel, 5-reel and video slots with bonus rounds.

“We?re very excited about bringing SlotsVillage.com to the marketplace,” said Winward Gaming Group?s VP Marketing, Scott Logan. “It?s a site that many of our customers have indicated they would like to see.”

Boasting over 50 slot machines, with 36 currently linked to various progressive jackpots, the site also offers a number of video slots in a range of machines offering maximum payouts of up to $200,000. There are also 25 other popular games including video poker, keno, pulltabs, blackjack, roulette and craps.

“We?re adding new slot machines on a monthly basis, and these will be exclusive to our casino. SlotsVillage.com players will be able to play exciting video slot machines that won?t be available anywhere else on the Internet,” said Logan.

Parlay Entertainment software powers the new site.

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JUST FOR NEWBIES
16 December 2005
Bodog caters for the novice in tournament play

Bodog.com, a favourite site for online poker players, launched an innovative concept in the shape of its Beginner Tournaments this week. The site launched a special tourney program designed to get new players started on successful tournament play.

A company spokesman said that new players are often told ?…you have to pay for your poker education? by more experienced gamblers. Through gaining experience, players become seasoned in the strategies that can lead to success.

A typical poker tournament will profit around the top 8 percent to 15 percent of finishers, the spokesman opined, meaning that winners in these tournaments must outlast 92 percent to 85 percent of their opponents.

For a newbie looking to enjoy the excitement of tournament poker it can be a daunting task to make it into the money. The process can also mean a steady bleed on the poker bankroll.

?By playing in our Beginner Tournaments, players have up to twice the chance to make it into the money when comparing the number of payouts to a typical tournament,? said Calvin Ayre, Bodog.com Founder and CEO. ? The prize structure of these events, pays up to twice as many players ? they will make the money more frequently thus preserving their poker bankroll as they learn the game.?

Beginner Sit and Go Tournaments are listed under the ?Sit and Go? tournament button in the poker software. These tournaments are available 24/7 and will start when 10 players buy in and sit down at the table. Players simply open a table and click on an empty seat to play. The cost to enter these tournaments is $4 + $0.40.

When playing in these tournaments 50 percent of players are paid, as opposed to standard Sit and Go tournaments where typically only 30 percent of players are paid.

Beginner Scheduled Tournaments are to run at a specific time each day. Registration for these tournaments opens four hours prior to its start time. Two minutes prior to ?Seating?, players will be seated randomly.

The cost to enter these tournaments is $4 + $0.40 and the events will payout a varying number of top finishers based on the number of players that register for the tournament ? often the number of players paid out is twice as many as a standard scheduled tournament.

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CASINO CAUTIONS
16 December 2005
Bellerock blunder – but kudos for setting it right

The week saw another case of a clumsy online casino promotion to players that could have been avoided had it been checked by experienced eyes. In trying to promote a specific online payment company the group virtually presented players with a fait accompli, advising that accounts would be opened for them when a withdrawal was requested.

Experienced management would have immediately thought of two major faults with this: Players are extremely sensitive about online privacy and their personal details being given to anyone without their permission, and the international financial implications of opening accounts on behalf of players and without their consent. However, this group’s major advantage is a preparedness to listen to the players, and senior managers soon withdrew the communication in favour of a more player sensitive approach.

There were very serious privacy, financial and personal implications here, and all casino owners would do well to remember that privacy of personal information is of absolutely paramount importance to players on the Internet.

Stealth charges

In another incident, the Casino Action group had to make adjustments to their notification process of stiff charges unilaterally levied on check withdrawals – up to GBP 5.50 (around US$ 9) The first many players knew of this fee was what appeared to be a short payment on their checks, and claims that notification emails had been sent at the time of the withdrawal but blocked by spam filters appeared questionable. Several players pointed out that, the commercial wisdom of charging on withdrawals aside, fees like this should be clear and upfront – preferably in the T&Cs and banking pages where they can be seen before deposits are made. Again, the casino group had the good sense to listen and make the necessary adjustments, but they will have made few friends in the player community with this charge, and that may ultimately have a cost attached to it.

Goodbye to Gamrock….again !

The gambling site Gamrock closed abruptly (and not for the first time) last month, but did not apparently bother to email its players in advance to tell them what was happening and arrange prompt attention to pending payouts or accounts clearance. The site has a notice confirming the closure and providing interested parties with a Support address and nothing more.

If the response is anything like that experienced when InfoPowa contacted them (still no reply after 72 hours despite two chasers) then players might expect some frustration.

Software provider Net Entertainment’s Johan Ohman confirmed that Gamrock had terminated the agreement for their casino and that the operation was suspended on their request on November 28. “We have been re-assured that they will refund all players on request and information how to contact Gamrock is available at www.gamrock.com,” said Ohman.

Wild On didn’t do too well either…

Another online casino that seems to have closed in an unprofessional way was Wild On, some time ago. Players are still reporting that they were not notified and are still owed despite assurances by software provider RTG that in closures, Montana Overseas has a notification and account clearing process.

One player’s experience typified the complaints: “I had a bit of cash in my account but could not log in. No one answered their phone or responded to live chat. After checking their main site online, I saw a notice that they had server issues that were more extensive than originally thought. This went on for several months, then (without ANY notice) the casino closed. Never have received any communication from them or anyone else about anything.”

As we went to press, RTG’s response to the allegations was awaited.

Doing it the right way

Closures are not all carried out in a cavalier manner, as evidenced this week by the Alderney licensed and WagerWorks powered The Price Is Right Games.com. This operation emailed players with its announcement that it is to close on January 13 2006, urging them to clear their accounts.

Owned by the substantial UK-based FreemantleMedia group (part of RTL and Bertelsmann AG) this outfit clearly has a more ethical and professional approach.

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$18 500 WPT SEAT WON BY PROGRAMMER
16 December 2005
Freeroll tournament sends 36 year old to Vegas

Sponsored freerolls are a great way for aspiring poker professionals to advance to the biggest tournaments in the world. Just ask Ken Kafieh, a 36 year old programmer from Toronto, Canada, who won an $18,500 seat to the World Poker Tour (WPT) Bellagio Five Diamond main event.

Kafieh won the top spot through an online freeroll hosted by online poker guide, PokerListings.com and the major online poker room, PokerRoom.com last week, competing against 55 other players.

?I knew I had a good shot since there were only 56 entrants, Kafieh says. “I had been winning a lot of Sit N?Gos and more recently made a couple of final tables in some bigger, over 1 000 contestant tournaments.”

The determining moment of the tournament came when play was three-handed. Ken sat with pocket aces and knocked out his biggest rival, who held pocket tens. From then on, it was smooth sailing for the Torontonian.

Ken only began playing poker about ten months ago but already plays for at least three hours a day. He intends to make poker his living, a goal he hopes to further when he arrives in Las Vegas on December 12 to compete against the world?s best in the WPT Bellagio Five Diamond main event, which will run until December 16.

The $18,500 WPT Bellagio Five Diamond prize package awarded to Kafieh includes the $15,300 main event buy-in and $3,200 for travel and accommodation.

Having established himself as a winning online poker player, Kafieh mujst now make the transition to live gaming so successfully done by players like Chris Moneymaker. He is well aware that he will be facing some of the toughest and most skilled poker players on the planet.

?I expect the players there will outclass anyone else I have faced up until now, by far. They won’t just be throwing their chips at me. The truth is, I am intimidated, and I am aware that will hurt me. But I promise to stick to my game, and keep thinking about the other players. I think I have a chance to make it into the money.?

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$100 000K BUY IN FOR TV POKER GAME
16 December2005
GSN’s High Stakes Poker is just that….

U.S. poker fans who enjoy the excitment of high value games on television are in for a treat from the GSN network early in the new year.

Viewers will see the first true cash game of poker on television with a $100,000 minimum buy-in.

Unlike other poker shows where the most players can lose is their initial buy-in of up to $10,000, the stars on GSN?s newest series, High Stakes Poker, have millions of their own cash at stake and can win… or lose…. several hundred thousand dollars.

The show premieres Monday, January 16 at 9 PM ET/PT.

?High Stakes Poker is groundbreaking in that it is the first-ever look into the biggest private no limit Hold ?em cash games in town,? said Rich Cronin, President and CEO of GSN. ?This show is intense because players are winning and losing hundreds of thousands of their own dollars on single hands.?

The new hour long series features players from diverse backgrounds from all over the world. From the legends, to cash game players, to the young superstars that have been featured on ?The World Series of Poker,? the new GSN show claims it is going to be the first ever cash game where viewers see the ?true? game of poker.

Legends of the poker world are joined by elite poker playing businessmen in the 13-episode series recently taped at the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The all-star line up features Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Barry Greenstein, Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu, Dr. Jerry Buss (Los Angeles Lakers owner) Jennifer Harman, Ted Forrest, Bob Stupak, Antonio Esfandiari, Eli Elezra, Todd Brunson, Dr. Amir Nasiri, Freddy Deeb, Daniel Alaei, Mimi Tran, Fred Chamanara and Sam Farha.

Players are allowed to buy-in and continue playing with more money if they lose their initial buy-in of $100,000. The chips on the table represent actual dollars compared to chips in a tournament that don?t equal the actual value of what is bet.

Henry Orenstein, the executive producer of the series says: ?For the first time in the history of poker on television, viewers will see players playing with very large amounts of their own money. This is what makes it exciting, the players can win huge pots that are worth nearly a half million dollars on a single card.?

In addition to the play at the tables, High Stakes Poker will also feature behind the scenes footage on the players and their lifestyles.

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ATARI GETS STACKED
16 December 2005
Another good deal for Daniel Negreanu

Atari, Inc. and Myelin Media are teaming up to deliver “Stacked with Daniel Negreanu,” a DVD-based Texas Hold ’em poker game that captures the look, excitement and drama of the poker phenomenon that has captivated America, to gamers across the U.S., through a North America distribution agreement.

Stacked is the first video game to bring next-generation gameplay and broadcast quality production to Texas Hold ’em Poker. The production features a comprehensive poker school in which players can receive tips and strategies from Daniel Negreanu (2004 ESPN Player of the Year, World Poker Tour Player of the Year, Card Player Magazine Player of the Year and all-time World Poker Tour money winner).

Daniel will teach players everything from the fundamentals of Hold ’em to advanced tournament strategies through full motion video, voiceovers and dynamic in-game features.

Stacked coaches gamers on everything from the fundamentals to advanced strategies from poker’s premiere player and helps refine one’s game against the world’s most advanced artificial intelligence system before embarking on massive online tournaments.

As players progress through the game’s career mode, they can apply Daniel’s teachings to overcome some of poker’s most renowned stars, including Josh Arieh, Jennifer Harman, Erick Lindgren, Carlos Mortensen, Evelyn Ng and David Williams.

The game has its own sanctioned multi-table tournament system; players will be able to participate in official Stacked sanctioned online tournaments including special challenges with the pros as well as view tournament standings and game play stats.

“Atari is a leader in interactive entertainment and we are thrilled with their involvement in bringing Stacked to the marketplace,” says Grant Winton, Principal of Myelin Media, LLC. “Myelin has developed some key retail relationships but Atari puts Myelin “all in” across the whole channel — making Stacked available to gamers across North America.”

Stacked is scheduled for release February 2006 for the Xbox(R) video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and, PlayStation(R)2 computer entertainment system, PSP(TM) (PlayStation(R)Portable) system and PC and is rated T for Teen by the ESRB.

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LOSE THE SOCKS AND TIES – HERE’S YOUR XMAS PRESENT!
16 December 2005
Full Tilt Poker.com has a “different” festive gift…

Popular online poker site FullTiltPoker.com has come up with an innovative idea for the festive season that enables buyers to share the gift of poker with friends and family.

The idea is Gift Certificates that can be immediately redeemed for use on FullTiltPoker.com. Starting at $25, FullTiltPoker.com’s Gift Certificates are a different sort of entertainment gift for both casual and serious players alike. Delivered online in .pdf format, each FullTiltPoker.com Gift Certificate is available with one of three custom backgrounds, and can be personalized with a message.

Once redeemed, a player can join any of FullTiltPoker.com’s real money tournaments and ring games, where they can Learn, Chat and Play poker with members of Team Full Tilt, including Phil Ivey, Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, and Jennifer Harman.

Really lucky players will also be eligible to win a share of the $10,000 a day in free money that FullTiltPoker.com is giving away through its “$10K A Day” promotion between December 9th and December 31st. During the “$10K A Day” promotion players are awarded with entries into a daily drawing based on every real money pot they win. The more hands a player wins, the more entries they receive, and there’s no limit to the number of entries they can receive per day.

FullTiltPoker.com is awarding 156 individual cash prizes per day totaling $10,000. During December, this means that more than 3,500 players will have the chance to share in almost $250,000 in free money, just for playing at FullTiltPoker.com.

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$100 000K FOR A $25 LAYOUT
16 December 2005
Two very fortunate NFL sportsbook gamblers hit it big

Two NFL fans locked on to the festive season spirit this week when both hit 13 team parlays and rolled their initial $25 bets into $100,000 in winnings.

The winning started when the two players hit 13 game parlays for a combined $200,000. Parlays are very popular, especially for fans wagering on NFL games. However, for two people on the same weekend to hit 13 team parlays is a spectacular and rare event.

The winning continued on Monday night when the Philadelphia Eagles turned in a turkey of a performance against Seattle, losing 42-0 at home. The loser was Sportsbook.com, who’s NFL Shut Out Rule stipulates that all money bet on any team that is shut out will be refunded. Sportsbook.com claims it is the only online sportsbook to offer such an incentive to its customers, and thousands of bets, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars were refunded.

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NEW POKER CHAMPIONSHIP
16 December 2005
Here’s one for the Canucks…

The Canadian poker scene is about to get a serious shot in the arm. Starting March next year, the newly created Canadian Open Poker Championship opens in Calgary, bringing with it some serious cash.

Former poker player Kelly Kellner is heading up the event, along with the Calgary Stampede Casino. It’ll be a heads-up, No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em format with $250,000 going to the winner and $125,000 for the runner-up – the largest guaranteed payouts ever offered for a Canadian poker tourney.

Kellner said he wanted to do something different from the current poker tournaments being played and shown on TV in North America.

“It’s two players at the table. One guy goes on, one comes out,” said Kellner, the CEO of HeadsUp Entertainment. “I love playing heads-up – most poker players do. It is the ultimate challenge of your ability. When you’re there and it’s just you and I, if I can read you and I can bluff you, that makes me a great poker player. It gives players an opportunity to shine and it’s something that hasn’t been done in Canada.”

A total of 128 players will compete in the event, which runs from March 8-12, 2006 at the Stampede Casino.

The entry fee is $5,000 or players can get in through qualifying events or satellite tournaments, where entry fees start at $60.

Kellner said 40 percent of the spots are taken, so there’s a keen interest already from Canadians and international players. “We have interest from around the world and some celebrities that are looking to come and play as well,” he said.

Kellner is looking for broadcast media support on the tournament.

Readers can go to www.canadianchampionshippoker.com for more information.

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$20 MILLION OFFICE SALE BY WILL HILL
16 December 2005
Brit gambling giant sells off another 48 shops

UK bookie firm William Hill agreed this week to sell 48 of its offices to the Wigan-based Tote group for GBP 20 million.

The deal is expected to be completed within the next two weeks and comes after William Hill was told by the Office of Fair Trading to offload around 50 of the betting offices it acquired earlier this year from the retail arm of Stanley Leisure.

The deal follows the sale of 28 other sites to the Tote in September as part of William Hill’s own attempts to address regulatory concerns.

Tote’s betting office estate now exceeds 500 offices. The firm also has a presence on each of the 59 racecourses in Britain, as well as internet and telephone betting operations.

In May, William Hill paid GBP 504 million for 624 Stanley shops in a deal that left it equal with Ladbrokes as the industry’s biggest player.

In July, following the first sale of 28 sites to the Tote, William Hill said the disposal to its state-owned rival reduced the impact of the Stanley acquisition on local competition. But it expressed disappointment at the Office of Fair Trading’s ruling a month later to sell around 50 more.

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BACK OFF BY BET BY INTERNET
16 December 2005
eBay lowers the boom on gambling auction

Online sportsbook and casino, BetbyInternet was this week backpeddling following action by eBay to halt its heavily publicised $100,000 auction for a pre-paid membership to be used for online gambling. eBay stated that the auction constituted, ?….encouraging illegal actions?.

The lot had a reserve price of $49,000, less than 50 percent of the face value of $100,000.

Undeterred, Bet By Internet is now looking for a way around the legal obstacle, with its VP of Operations, Randal Zuniga saying that the company plans to list a similar auction, however this time the promotion will be a pre-paid gambling trip to Las Vegas.

?Gambling is legal only in Vegas,” Zuniga opined. “So my guess is that eBay should not have a problem with this type of auction.”

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FESTIVE SEASON BUZZ CONTINUES AT TRIDENT CASINOS
16 December 2005
Four exciting new games for the holidays

The holiday season momentum is building at Trident group online casinos King Neptune’s Casino (www.kingneptunescasino.com) and Trident Lounge Casino (www.tridentloungecasino.com) with a brand new set of 4 top quality games released this month.

December’s flagship game is an exciting, feature-filled video slot with a distinctly Jurassic feel and a jackpot to match at $40 000. DINO MIGHT is big, bold and full of brightly coloured ancient monsters framing a slew of features that include 2 great bonusing opportunities and Wild, Multiplier and Scatter symbols – this game really does have it all.

The top quality graphics carry a prehistoric theme loaded with fossils, amber-entombed insects, some very large and fearsome looking dinosaurs and flying, toothy leather nightmares, with an innovative Hi/Lo lighting contrast across the reels.

The latest gaming technology powers a whole range of enthralling features – the triggersaurus icons on a line open up line bonuses to boost player wins, and a separate bonus feature gives the player a selection of 21 panels from which to match symbols for more rewards…and a double-your-money hidden multiplier, too.

Fans of fast-action multihand blackjack will find that the latest in Microgaming’s 8 game style series on this genre fits the bill. Multihand Atlantic City Blackjack is the second in this popular series and one that promises all the excitement of an American hole card game enhanced by a player-capability to generate action on five hands at once on a traditionally single hand game. The new game is played with 8 standard decks of 52 playing cards that are shuffled before each game.

Like its predecessor the feel is slick, fast and smooth, with the latest gaming software technology underlying crisp, realistic graphics that take the player into a virtual gambling ambience with all the added convenience of online gambling like the outstanding Viper platform with its many player assists.

Two new video slots complete this month’s releases, Gift Rap and Bulls Eye.

Gift Rap is a 25 line, 5 reel video slot that packs a real punch in terms of entertainment, action and rewards, all wrapped in a fun Hip Hop style with a stunning $30 000 jackpot boosted by another $16 125 in bonuses. And there are plenty of major Scatter, Wild and other bonus opportunities here, especially in the exciting Gift Grab where fast-acting players can collect over 32 000 coins.

Bulls Eye is a straightforward 3 reel, 1 payline, 3 coin game that gets right down to business with an English pub feel and a theme that plays on the popularity of darts to help players reach the many rewards available.

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BODOG SUPPORTS THE TROOPS
16 December 2005
New TV special will raise funds for military personnel and their families

Costa Rica-based but US facing Bodog.com has inked a deal this week with Spike TV for a made-for-TV special produced by Bodog.com Productions and starring founder and CEO Calvin Ayre. The program will raise funds for US servicemen and their families.

Bodog claims it is the first company with roots in the online gaming industry to produce a TV show and host an hour-long TV special with U.S. soldiers and their families as the benefactors.

Bodog?s celebrity ?Thank you to the troops? charity event was held earlier this year for the 110,000 men and women of the U.S. military in Hawaii, many of whom were awaiting or returning from deployment in the Middle East. The two-day event has been distilled in a one-hour program, ?Bodog Salutes the Troops: A Tribute to American Heroes,? and is set to telecast on Spike TV on Sunday, December 18 (12:30 -1:30 a.m ET/PT; 11:30 p.m.?12:30 a.m. CT)

The event benefited the Fisher House Foundation, which supports military families, and included celebrities, musicians, comedians and troops interacting in various activities, including a poker tournament and concert and comedy show in Oahu, Hawaii. The celebrity events brought together the servicemen and women of the NAVY, AIR FORCE, MARINES and ARMY based at Hickam Airforce Base, Schofield Barracks, Pearl Harbor and Kaneohe Marine Corps Base.

The weekend kicked off with an inter-service poker tournament overseen by world famous poker tournament director Matt Savage with military finalists playing alongside celebrities, professional poker players and Bodog players at Camp Bodog at the exclusive Kahala Mandarin Oriental resort.

The No Limit Texas Hold?em tournament was won by actress and first-time tournament player Estella Warren (?The Cooler,? ?Planet of the Apes?), who blazed a trail through the 90-player field, knocking out professional poker player David Williams along the way. Warren took home the grand prize trophy and a monetary donation was made in her name to the Army?s morale welfare department.

The show?s final table also featured Shannon Elizabeth (?American Pie?), Emmy Award winner Jorge Garcia (?Lost?), World Series of Poker winner Josh Arieh, four servicemen and Bodog winner Tim Johnson, who earned his trip to Hawaii through an online Bodog tournament. Sgt. 1 st Class Shane Woods of the Army was the lucky loser, taking home the second-place prize.

?We are incredibly grateful to Bodog for their compassion and generosity,? said James Weiskopf, Vice President of Fisher House Foundation. ?We hope that the weekend will bring added attention to the Fisher House Foundation and the military families that we support.?

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FREE EDUCATIONAL POKER DVD
16 December 2005
Improve play through this private tournament and coaching

Platinum Poker.com has developed an interesting new marketing “pull” for the site – new players will receive a privately commissioned DVD for free when signing up and depositing.

The DVD is a tournament based educational poker production titled “From the Kitchen Table to the Final Table” featuring Robert Williamson lll, Scott Fischman, Cyndy Violette, David Williams, Clonie Gowen and Thomas Keller in a one-of-a-kind tournament. These six bright rising stars in the poker community play a private, invitation-only tournament on the DVD, and players can watch this and then go through it blow by blow with the players to review the strategies used by each of these professional winners.

The DVD was produced by the popular online poker portal PokerExchange.com where it has been the most popular and best selling DVD to date.

“I was at the taping of “From the Kitchen Table to the Final Table and was completely mesmerized by the thought processes of these young professionals as they re-played each hand of the tournament during the chat session” said Michael Kogan marketing consultant for PlatinumPoker.com.

The promotion starts this week and will run until the supply is exhausted.

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AOL MERGER WAS A MISTAKE
16 December 2005

Top AOL exec says he wants to “undo” the deal of the century

Many readers use the America Online (AOL) service, and we therefore thought that recent comments made in an essay in The Washington Post by AOL co-founder Steve Case should be reported in InfoPowa.

Case, who played an instrumental role in merging the online company into Time Warner, now says he wants to “undo” the merger, which cost Time Warner shareholders billions of dollars.

“Although I played a key role in bringing AOL and Time Warner together six years ago,” Case wrote this week, “it’s now my view that it would be best to ‘undo’ the merger by splitting Time Warner into several independent companies and allowing AOL to set off on its own path.”

Case’s comments, which also included criticisms of Time Warner management, came as the firm continued negotiations with Microsoft and Google over possible partnerships with the AOL unit. The negotiations, which are said to involve Microsoft using its search engine, are being carried out as Wall Street financier Carl Icahn continues to blast Time Warner management, too. Both men are substantial stockholders in Time Warner.

In his essay, Case noted that the AOL-Time Warner “merger of the century” quickly became “the worst merger in history.” Case said most criticism of the merger has focused on its failure to yield expected benefits to Time Warner. “It is worth noting that the combination has not helped AOL much either,” he wrote.

As for Time Warner’s current management team, its members have said they are focused on their own plan for improving shareholder value. Google currently provides search capability to AOL. An AOL-Microsoft deal, however, could result in AOL dropping Google. For its part, Google said it intends to continue to work closely and successfully with AOL.

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WORLD’S RICHEST POKER GAME
16 December 2005
It’s official – the winner will take away $60 million, and the buy-in is $10 million

The Australian media are now reporting that Melbourne’s Crown Casino has confirmed it will host the world’s richest poker tournament next year – a winner-take-all battle for US$60 million.

Six of the world’s best card players will compete in a series of elimination matches on July 12, said the Crown Casino, controlled by the family of Australia’s richest man and big-time gambler Kerry Packer.

The players will have to ante-up $10 million to buy into the match, due to be televised around the world through the Fox Sports Network in the United States and other networks in Europe and Asia, Crown chief operating officer Richard Longhurst said.

Earlier and unconfirmed reports claim that top player Phil Ivey and this year’s WSOP winner Joe Hachem will be among the players.

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POKER DOME SERIES WINNER WILL TAKE HOME A MILLION
16 December 2005
Series to run for 43 weeks

Fox Sports News and MansionPoker.com have confirmed their partnership in the Poker Dome series of tournaments that will take place in a specially constructed and very large dome on the Las Vegas Strip and will air on May 15, continuing for 43 weeks until a million dollar winner emerges.

Viewer numbers are likely to be high, given the game’s international following and the money to be won.

Within the Dome, players will be encased in a high-tech cone of silence overlooking the Las Vegas Strip. The one-way mirrored glass will allow fans to see in, without the players seeing out, and microphones let viewers hear the exchanges during each flop. Special cameras and computer chip card technology will capture hole cards as well as burn or discarded cards, allowing viewers to see the odds of each hand hitting before the players determine their decisions. And a rabbit-hunting camera will share what would have happened if each hand had continued to the river. The players’ images and reactions will be screened up close and personal on a giant video wall.

MansionPoker.net has added one more high-impact twist to the mix, “Speed Poker,” which will intensify the pressure and the excitement of a live tournament for seriously big money. Instead of the usual 12 to 15 hands an hour, the Speed format will turbo-boost that to as much as 80 to 100 hands per hour, with eacj player under the pressure of a “shot clock,” by having to make all decisions within fifteen seconds. If they fail to act before the allotted time their hand will be declared dead or if there is no prior action, their hand is automatically checked.

The PokerDome tourney will consist of circuit events culminating in a $1,000,000 winner-take-all series finale.

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NAILING THE POKER CHEATERS
16 December 2005
New instructional DVD tells you how

Understanding how cheats work is an important step to identifying and blocking cheaters if you have the misfortune to encounter them at the poker table, and a new 90 minute DVD seeks to clue players up on the scams used in the game of Texas Hold?em.

Cheating at Hold?em (The Essentials) from the Double George company in the States teaches viewers how to properly shuffle, cut, and deal the cards, learn about Peeking (learning the identity of cards that should remain unknown), and Flashing (giving up information before players are supposed to know about it)

This professional presentation also takes a detailed look at Second Dealing (dealing the second card from the top, rather than fairly from the top), Marked Cards (Block Out Work, Scroll Work, Crimping, and even Nail Nicking). Check Copping (a way to steal chips out of the pot), Splash Moves, and the Psychology of a Card Cheat, as well as Protection Tips to combat the most widely perpetrated scams are all covered.

The DVD illustrates and explains how recreational, semi-professional and professional poker players can take simple counter measures to protect themselves from being scammed by card cheats. Cheating at Hold?em (The Essentials) is designed to educate the general public about how poker scams work, how to detect them, and what steps to take in order to protect against becoming a victim.

How does the program work? This production shows what various scams look like when executed. Each facet of the scam is then exposed, discussed and illustrated in detail. This enables players to spot and prevent cheating or any type of advantage play. Protection and Detection Tips are also discussed for each section, showing procedural changes that can be made to dissuade people from cheating.

David Malek, Chairman of Double George, LLC says that for anyone who plays Texas Hold?em for money, or for fun, it is just a matter of time before someone will try and cheat.

“More money is stolen in private poker games by so called ?friends? than is ever stolen in a casino,” he says. “However, if you know what to look for and how to protect against it, you become a far more sophisticated player. Some scams are so deceptive, subtle, and quick, that knowledge becomes your only protection. When money is involved, game protection must be your top priority.?

Malek knows what he is talking about. He is considered an expert on game protection and he puts on presentations for law enforcement, casino personnel and celebrity clients. He works as a gambling consultant for film and television productions, as well as giving demonstrations at trade shows and hospitality suites for a variety of Fortune 500 companies.

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CHANDLER TO USE GAME ACCOUNT SKILL GAMING
16 December 2005
Multi-lingual services cover 130 countries

Skill games provider and network, GameAccount.com has landed the lucrative contract to supply games and network facilities to independent bookmaker and gaming group, Victor Chandler International headquartered in Gibraltar.

Under the terms of the multi-year agreement customers of Victor Chandler will be granted access to the GameAccount network joining players wagering real money from over 130 countries worldwide.

The Victor Chandler service will be powered by a fully integrated skill games solution with many languages alongside over 20 currencies.

Browser-based games now playing within the GameAccount network include Sit ?n? Go games Backgammon, Gin Rummy and 8-Ball Pool together with a selection of exciting tournament games featuring sophisticated knockout tournaments offering up to GBP 150,000 in prize money.

Dermot Smurfit, Marketing Director at GameAccount says, ?Our integrated network brings together players from dozens of sportsbook, casino & poker sites worldwide. Each week, millions of dollars are won by high-staking players wagering within the network 24/7. Integrating our suite of Sit ?n? Go & knockout tournament games make sense for operators searching for proven incremental rake-based revenues. Our single-wallet integrated p2p games service is proven to generate per-player value comparable with and incremental to existing Poker services. We are delighted that Victor Chandler has chosen us to extend their portfolio in this area?

“GameAccount has the right portfolio of backgammon and skill games and wagering opportunities to best serve our international customer base by providing an exciting recreational gaming experience localized in several languages and currencies. The integrated service provides our customers with a single online account for wagering on sports, casino, and skill games like Backgammon or Gin Rummy.? Andy Harris, Head of Product Development, Victor Chandler International.

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NEW FINANCE CHIEF FOR WILL HILL
16 December 2005
Tom Singer to concentrate on his COO responsibilities from next year

British betting and gambling company William Hill has just announced that Simon Lane has been appointed finance director of the company and will be taking up the role in the first quarter of 2006. The company said that Tom Singer will relinquish responsibility for finance operations to focus on his role as chief operating officer.

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FULLTILT TO RUN $500 000 POKER TOURNEY
16 December 2005
100 players to battle for the top money

Get ready to rumble with the first FullTilt Poker Global Poker Challenge. On December 15th at the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas, the best poker players in America are scheduled to team up to take on the best poker players around the globe.

Partnering with UK producer Barry Hearn and Matchroom Sports, FullTiltPoker.net will pull out all of the stops for this international tour de force of poker. With a $5 000 buy-in double shoot out, 100 players, including 10 online entrants will battle for the title of Global Poker Champion in the $500,000 purse event.

FullTilt has an impressive record of televised poker spectaculars, most recently in Monte Carlo where Phil Ivey took the winner’s crown.

“The Global Poker Challenge continues our commitment to developing and supporting exciting televised poker events,” said Ray Bitar, CEO of Tiltware, LLC. “We are very pleased to sponsor this unique tournament where professionals and amateurs will compete against one another – and an opposing team – to see where the best poker players in the world really are.”

The Global Poker Challenge will be seen on FSN starting in January 2006 in the U.S., and an additional 100 million households throughout the world on various broadcasters.

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BOWMANS PICKS TRIBECA FOR POKER
16 December 2005
Major sportsbook adds poker to its offerings

Tribeca Tables Europe has signed up a major North American facing sportsbook, Bowmans International Sports Ltd for its online poker network.

Tribeca Tables md Steve Cook said, ?Bowmans represents a significant signing for us. As poker markets are constantly changing, many brands are on the move. We are ecstatic that Bowmans are joining our network; they bring a wider base of sports and poker players and will substantially boost our liquidity. In the past two years we have signed six major companies and Bowmans will be able to enjoy all the benefits of our other poker partners.?

Bowmans, who are one of the largest sportsbooks in the North America and Canada region, joins brands such as Paddy Power, Blue Square, Victor Chandler, Golden Palace, Doyles Room, BETonSPORTS and G-Fed Games to boost the Tribeca poker network to over 100 poker rooms.

The sportsbook was founded by Gary Bowman in 1985 and has maintained its place in the world of global gaming with a reputation for integrity, reliability and legality. Over the past decade the company has invested heavily in its ultra-modern computer and telecommunication networks and operates a major call centre on the island of Mauritius situated in the Indian Ocean, east of Africa. The Bowmans Treasury Department is situated in the Isle of Man, UK.

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CELL PHONE FIRM TO SPONSOR ALL STAR POKER SHOWDOWN
16 December 2005
Learn from Johnny Chan and Chris Moneymaker

The cell phone division of global electronics giant LG has agreed to sponsor the first annual LG All-Star Poker Showdown, hosted by Jenny McCarthy.

The event will feature professional poker stars Johnny Chan and Chris Moneymaker providing poker lessons for and playing against the finest poker enthusiasts Hollywood has to offer, and will give them an intimate look at a new and function-rich LG phone, The ‘V’.

The No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em event is schduled for Sunday December 18, and the star-studded guest list will arrive at the exclusive Palms Casino Hardwood Suite to begin the tournament. There will be a diverse field of poker pros and celebrities competing in the tournament, with the winner receiving a complete home technology makeover from LG Electronics.

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SPORTSBETTING.COM NOW PART OF WG GROUP
16 December 2005
Multi-million dollar acquisition completed

World Gaming executives were celebrating the final acquisition of the Sportsbetting.com group this week (see previous InfoPowa reports) with all pre-conditions on the deal having been met.

Funding for the acquisition includes a $40 million term loan from Barclays plc plus the previously announced placing of shares to raise GBP 6 million for the group before expenses. In addition, Barclays has provided a revolving facility of up to $ 5 million.

Commenting on the acquisition, CEO, Daniel Moran said: “The acquisition of the Sportsbetting.com group is a significant extension of the our business. The limited integration plus the strong proven growth makes this acquisition an ideal fit for continued organic and acquisitive growth of World Gaming.”

Jamie Grant, Director Barclays Leveraged Finance commented: “We at Barclays are very pleased to support World Gaming in this strategic acquisition. The compelling business proposition and the enthusiasm of the management team ensures that World Gaming is now well placed to further leverage its business assets, and benefit from future market growth.”

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TARGETING THE TROOPS
16 December 2005

Party Poker needs you!

The world’s largest online poker site (up to 70 000 poker fans play on it simultaneously and the registered gamblers list runs to millions) has launched a new promotional initiative aimed at serving members and veterans of the US Forces.

The company is offering a special bonus code to veterans and active duty personnel that will earn them a free $25 on any deposit of $50 or more.

Internet poker has gained massive popularity in the past few years as hundreds of thousands have discovered the fun, convenience, and safety of playing cards online. A player can sit at a virtual poker table at any time of the day or night and play cards with other individuals from all parts of the world.

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MILLIONAIRE FOR CHRISTMAS
16 December 2005
UK gambler can now buy himself a seriously good present!

JonR, an English player from Essex was among the many online gamblers who fantasised about winning the Millionaires Club Progressive slot as it climbed to unprecedented heights over the past month, but this week his dreams became reality with a stunning win of the $1.77 million jackpot at Intercasino.com.

After falling on hard times this year, the windfall was more than welcome as the festive season approaches.

“I know it sounds unbelievable but I really felt I was going to win the jackpot, winning it is definitely going to change my life” said Jon. “On the recommendation of my wife, I may buy myself an Aston Martin for Christmas, and then take the entire family out shopping.”

The enormous and probably record online jackpot comes just five months after another huge payout from the veteran online casino site. InterCasino.com customer Richard R. became the first member of the Millionaire’s Club winners list in July of 2005, when he claimed $1.06 million playing the game – again at InterCasino.

Following JonR’s win the jackpot is once again climbing, reaching just under $900,000 and waiting for the next lucky winner.

InterCasino spokesmen said that the casino prides itself on paying out the jackpot immediately and in full. Jon’s record-setting jackpot will be no exception, and he will receive a check for his entire winnings later this week in a presentation ceremony in London.

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ONLINE GAMES PROVIDER BOUGHT BY MARKETERS
16 December 2005
UK firm goes for GBP 150 000 and shares

DM plc, an AIM-listed direct marketing group in London, bought online games provider, Cyberdyne Entertainment Ltd for an initial GBP 150,000 in cash and shares this week.

Subject to the collection of a *doubtful* debt owed to Cyberdyne, a maximum further sum of GBP 24,384 may become payable in cash, said DM chairman Adrian Williams.

“This acquisition takes DM into the internet betting market,” said Williams. “We expect to enjoy considerable leverage using DM’s closely related database to drive more clients to Cyberdyne’s websites. We also intend to use our own specialist knowledge and buying power to improve Cyberdyne’s cost of new customer acquisition,” he added.

Cyberdyne has a UK bookmakers license and since trading began in January 2004 has built a client base of about 33,000 customers. The companys gaming portfolio includes football pools, betting, lottery slots, lottery bets and entertainment games.

In the year to end December 2004, Cyberdyne reported pretax profits of GBP 55,382.

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67 PERCENT OF AMERICANS WANT I-GAMING LEGALISED
16 December 2005
But more details on this study would give it better credibility

The majority of Americans would like to see legalised i-gaming in the States, according to a recent poll conducted by Scooop.net, a media site with marketing and PR ownership interests that puts forward contentious subjects on which Internet visitors can vote.

Scooop has just released the results of its weekly hot topic poll regarding the nation’s view on whether U.S. based casinos should be granted the right to run online casino gaming web sites.

When asked if the federal government should legalise online gaming so that U.S. companies can participate, 67 percent of Americans said yes.

The problem with this survey is that it is run by a company related to a PR group, and it doesn’t give any indication/authentication of the sample – the numbers of people who actually voted or were interviewed.

Nevertheless, it confirms what most players have known for awhile – i-gaming should be legalised in the States.

When asked how people personally feel about online casino gaming, the responses were mixed. Of those surveyed, 33.7 percent said that they wouldn’t play an online game themselves but it should be legal for U.S. companies to compete with foreign casinos. An additional 33.9 percent said that they like online casino games and would like to play them if they wanted to.

It is clear that most people agree that they would feel more secure gambling online using a U.S. based casino. Nearly two thirds of those surveyed would feel safer playing in a U.S. based, online casino because they would be regulated by U.S. law. Only 3.4 percent of those surveyed stated that they would rather play in an International, online casino.

Interestingly enough, a majority of those surveyed feel that the federal government should allow online casino gaming but stay out of the oversight of the industry. Of those polled, 53.7 percent say that the U.S. government should stay out of regulating Internet activity by U.S. citizens, including online gaming, since the Internet is really a borderless community that crosses international lines.

Scooop.net was created and launched by In Touch Media Group, Inc. which is an online marketing and public relations firm specialising in generating website visitors, and customers for its business clients.

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THERE’S NO SILVER BULLET FOR PROBLEM GAMBLING
16 December 2005
But they’re trying for a pill that might help

The Las Vegas Sun carried an interesting article this week which reported on scientific research into drugs that may help in the fight against gambling addiction.

A leading researcher in the field of drug and addiction research, Dr. Jon Grant talked about the work at the Sixth Annual National Council for Responsible Gaming conference held recently at the Mandalay in Las Vegas, revealing that drugs used to treat other addictions could possibly be used to treat compulsive gambling, with some early successful and consistent experimental results.

In a field that is still young, prescribing experimental drugs for gamblers “is one of the best studied areas of gambling addiction,” said Grant, assistant professor of psychiatry at Brown University and chief of impulse control disorders at Butler Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island.

“I’m far from believing in a perfect pill,” Grant said, adding that compulsive gamblers often suffer from multiple disorders that can complicate treatment. Gamblers also appear to benefit the most from a closely monitored combination of drugs and therapy, he added.

Grant, who has received research money from the National Council, conducted the largest gambling drug study of its kind in 2003.

It found that the drug nalmefene effectively curbed gambling cravings after about 16 weeks of use and that people were “significantly improved” after about 10 weeks of use compared with gamblers who took a placebo, Grant said. The results are to be published in the February issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

More than 200 patients in treatment centers across the United States participated in Grant’s 2003 study. The researcher said he will be following up with a second study that will involve input from up to 25 different research groups nationwide. Las Vegas gamblers are among those who will participate in the study.

About 11 double-blind studies involving more than 350 patients have so far been conducted using drugs to treat problem gamblers, Grant said. Double-blind studies involve patients and researchers who don’t know whether they are receiving or prescribing the drug in question or a placebo.

Around 73 percent of gamblers in these studies got better, meaning they reported minimal to no compulsive gambling symptoms, Grant said. The results of about seven additional studies in which patients and clinicians knew who was taking what also had similar success, he said.

Bo Bernhard, a UNLV sociology professor and director of gambling research at its International Gaming Institute, calls drug research “an important chapter in the history of the field.”

Bernhard was involved in overseeing one of the first drug experiments with gamblers. The drug used in the study, Zyprexa, is made by Eli Lilly to treat people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The experiment, which used Las Vegas gamblers, found that people who took the drug reduced their gambling significantly while those who took a placebo also reduced their gambling but to a lesser extent.

The results weren’t conclusive because the drug made participants drowsy and was causing them to sleep excessively, which likely accounted for some of the time they weren’t gambling, Bernhard said. However, the research paved the way for future studies, he said.

Compulsive gambling is a complex disorder and isn’t easily solved with drugs or other means, Grant said.

“Gambling is one manifestation of perhaps several underlying problems,” he said. “We need to figure out how all these symptoms interact. If someone is suffering from depression and is gambling, do we fix one and then the other or do we fix both at the same time?”

Smoking addiction is another complicating factor, he said. In one study, people who were addicted to nicotine had more intense gambling cravings than people who didn’t smoke, he said.

Research is a slow, imperfect process, Bernhard said. “There’s no magic pill out there. We’ve been looking at alcoholism for generations and haven’t found it.”

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ALL THE AWARDS IN GAMBLING ONLINE MAGAZINE’S POLL
16 December 2005
27 000 votes on the top sites this year

The votes have been counted, and Gambling Online Magazine has now announced the full list of its Reader’s Choice poll for online casino, portal and poker sites. This is what the roll of honour looks like:

Best Casino
Intercasino

Honourable Mentions
King Neptunes
Omni Casino
32 Red
Golden Palace
888.com

Top New Casino
Caribbean Gold

Honourable Mentions
Vegas Splendido
Ruby Fortune
All Jackpots
50 Stars
Pair of Dice

Top Casino Software
Cryptologic

Honourable Mentions
Microgaming
Playtech
RTG
Boss Media

Best Payouts
Omni Casino

Honourable Mentions
Winward Casino
iVegas.com
Spin Palace
King Neptunes

Best New Site Concept
Trident Lounge

Honourable Mentions
iVegas.com
32 Red
Cherry Casino
Galaxiworld.com

Top Casino Reputation
King Neptunes

Honourable Mentions
Brandy Casino
Trident Lounge
Intercasino
All Slots

Top Casino Watchdog Site
Ecogra

Honourable Mentions
Casinomeister

Top Sign Up Bonus
Sands of the Caribbean

Honourable Mentions
Intertops
Sunny Casinos
River Belle
VIPCasino

Quickest Payouts
Omni Casino

Honourable Mentions
King Neptunes
Casino Fortune
32 Red
River Belle

Top Rewards Program
Brandy Casino

Honourable Mentions
Peak Entertainment
Sunny Casinos
Galaxiworld.com

Top Web TV
Slotland

Honourable Mentions
Galaxiworld.com

Top Casino Customer Service
King Neptunes

Honourable Mentions
Vegas USA
English Harbour
Casino Tropez

Best Slots Site
Roxy Palace

Honourable Mentions
All Jackpots
All Slots
Slotland
Sands of Carribean

Best Affiliate Program
CasinoPays

Honourable Mentions
Partnerlogic
Slotland
Referback
Casino Blasters

Top Progressive Slot Site
Jackpot Madness

Honourable Mentions
JackpotMania
Winajackpot

Top Message Board
GoneGambling.com

Honourable Mentions
CasinoMeister.com
WinnerOnline

Top Casino Group
Fortune Lounge

Honourable Mentions
Belle Rock
Jackpot Factory
IOG
Sunny

Top Poker Site
Party Poker

Honourable Mentions
Paradise Poker
Absolute Poker
Pacific Poker
PokerRoom.com

Top New Poker Site
PokerShare (now closed)

Honourable Mentions
BetonUSAPoker
7Sultans Poker

Top Poker Software
PokerRoom.com

Honourable Mentions
Sun Poker
Intercasino Poker
Paradise Poker
Absolute Poker

Top Portal
PrimaPoker.com

Honourable Mentions
Gambling.com
Gonegambling.com

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TOP WATCHDOG AWARD FOR ECOGRA
9 December 2005
Players vote eCOGRA tops in Gambling Online Magazine annual poll

The online casino and poker room standards authority eCOGRA was voted the gold medal for Top Watchdog by over 27,000 players voting in the 2005 Gambling Online Magazine annual awards this week.

Announcing the award, magazine manager Lisa Gregory said: “The readers of Gambling Online Magazine have voted the award of a gold medal to eCOGRA in the Best Watchdog category for 2005.

?Throughout the year eCOGRA has set admirable benchmark standards for player protection and operational efficiency at its “Play It Safe” seal casinos and poker rooms, benefiting players and the industry alike. The work of the Fair Gaming Advocate in particular has been an inspiration in terms of transparent, fast and fair resolutions and highly professional communications.”

Resolving player disputes with the casinos and poker rooms under its authority is a key aspect of eCOGRA as an international non-profit body which offers the free Fair Gaming Advocate mediation service to players who have been unable to resolve disputes at casino or poker room level.

Andrew Beveridge, CEO of eCOGRA said that the board of directors was delighted with the accolade. “Player protection is the primary goal of eCOGRA around which our requirements and standards are framed, so it is very rewarding that players have recognised our efforts in this way,” he said.

Disputes involving eCOGRA’s 56 “Play It Safe” seal operations are a miniscule percentage of the large number of wagers placed every day, Beveridge noted. “Every case is assessed independently on its merits. On average, our Fair Gaming Advocate has been able to resolve the majority of issues within 48 hours. That’s a standard we are proud of and will strive to maintain.”

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PARTY GAMING ANTICIPATES GOOD FULL YEAR RESULTS
9 December 2005
World’s largest online poker operator set to beat analyst predictions

Shareholders at PartyGaming plc may be chilling the champagne this week in anticipation of some good company news. The world’s largest Internet poker operator expects full-year earnings to beat analysts’ estimates after revenue growth accelerated at its PartyPoker site and more players used the company’s online casino.

Daily poker revenue rose 14 percent to $2.67 million in the two months ended Nov. 30 compared with the average for the previous quarter, Gibraltar-based PartyGaming revealed in a trading statement. Daily casino revenue is as much as 7 times higher than the average for the third quarter after blackjack was added on Oct. 8.

PartyGaming is thought to be benefiting from a switch that saw its 9 million players migrate to an upgraded platform that excludes marketing partners such as Empire Online Ltd. Empire this week sued the company for alleged breach of contract, but PartyGaming spokesmen said it is “highly confident” of a successful outcome to any litigation.

Sounding far more optimistic than earlier this year, CEO Richard Segal said: “Our business has continued to perform well across the board during the fourth quarter with both our poker and casino businesses showing strong growth. Cross-selling of products means 40 percent of PartyPoker players now play both poker and blackjack,” he said.

Revenue and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization for the year ending Dec. 31 are “…likely to be ahead of consensus market expectations,” the company said.

PartyGaming controls 51 percent of the online poker market. The number of days regular users played poker and casino games increased 38 percent to 8.4 million, the company said. The average number of new players signing up to PartyPoker was in line with the company’s estimates at 2,455 per day, according to company, which is targeting 800,000 new poker players for the year.

According to research company Christensen Capital Advisors, online poker grew to a $1 billion business in 2004 from $90 million in 2002. The industry’s growth will slow to 60 percent in 2006 and to 30 percent a year later from 130 percent in 2005.

PartyGaming earns 87 percent of its revenue in the U.S.

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TRIDENT GROUP TOPS IN SERVICE AND REPUTATION
9 December 2005
Gold and Silver for online casinos in Gambling Online Magazine players’ poll

Gambling Online Magazine’s annual awards again feature top prizes for the Trident Group online casinos King Neptune’s Casino (www.kingneptunescasino.com) and Trident Lounge Casino (www.tridentloungecasino.com) this year.

King Neptune’s took gold medals for Top Casino Customer Service and Casino Reputation, together with silver awards for Top Casino, Best Payouts and Quickest Payouts. Sister casino Trident Lounge won a gold medal for Best New Site Concept.

This year over 27 000 online gamblers voted in the popular poll, which has become an online gambling institution since its introduction by Gambling Online Magazine several years go. The number of voters has increased every year, and competition among leading online gambling operations is fierce for the top Gold and Silver accolades.

Trident spokesman Scott Gaines said the management and staff were delighted with the news.

“Our people at every level put a lot of effort into running our casino and poker operations in a consistently customer friendly and efficient manner throughout the year, and these player generated awards really mean something and make it all worthwhile,” he said.

Both King Neptune’s and Trident Lounge have featured in the top awards for several years.

To celebrate the awards and thank players for their votes, Trident group is offering rewarding seasonal promotions at both casinos.

The first offers major prizes with the Holiday Countdown Calendar, which features a new promotion every day of the month from December 1 to December 25. These promotions will be giving away over $50 000 in hard cash prizes to their players…and some of these prizes go way better than a partridge in a pear tree!

Players can benefit from Trident’s ‘The Great Giveaway’ promo, too. In this exciting draw players earn entries to the Great Giveaway every time they deposit and play during the period of the promotion. Over $15 000 worth of prizes can be won by 34 players, and here’s a tempting look at how good those giveaways are: Sony 32? LCD HDTV, the latest super cool iPOD Nanos, XBOX 360?s + 2 games, SONY 7? Screen Portable DVD Player (DVP-FX705), SONY Portable Play Stations (PSP) PSP98500, SONY DSC77 Digital Cameras and Amazon Gift Certificates.

Players can’t win it unless they’re in it, and the way to get in it is to deposit and play the superior games on Trident’s highly reputable online casinos.

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ANTI-SPAM SECTION OPENED ON TOP PORTAL
9 December 2005
Casinomeister offers practical advice on the scourge of spam

If you are one of the tens of thousands of players currently being abused daily by uninvited and unwanted email marketing from online gambling companies, here’s a url that may be useful to you:

/onlinecasinospam.html is an independent effort by a leading portalmaster to advise victims of this Internet irritant what they can do about it, to whom they can report it and the spam policies of companies. It is worth a read and worthy of support as one way to hit back at spammers and the companies that use them with scant regard for the welfare of their players.

It should also serve as a warning shot to online gambling marketers who seem to care little for the wishes of their players and willy nilly allow affiliates to use bad mailing lists, ignore the ethics of privacy, genuine opt-in and opt-outs from players and insert false return path addresses in their unwanted junkmail.

Webmaster Bryan Bailey has plans to expand the content of this section of his site, so watch this space. We would suggest a spamming Rogues Gallery and an obviously much needed email marketing 101 course for ignorant marketing teams who persist in alienating business by incorrectly using this otherwise legitimate marketing technique.

Hopefully other webmasters will consider introducing similar concepts to help players do away with uninvited and unwanted spam.

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EMPIRE FIGHTS BACK
9 December 2005
Dispute with Party Gaming now destined for the courts

After some pretty dismissive comments on the prospect of litigation by Empire Online from Party Gaming spokesmen last week, Empire Online came back strongly Tuesday with an emphatic announcement that it is launching litigation against Party Gaming with a claim of “several hundred million dollars” that will probably be decided in the law courts of Gibraltar.

Empire spokesmen said that the company has been assured by a top British Queens Counsel in London that it has a strong case.

However, the fight is likely to be prolonged; a Partygaming spokesman responded by saying that the legal action by Empire could be considered as the first “pantomime” of the (festive) season. The spokesman concluded that Partygaming remained “highly confident” of any legal outcome.

The legal action follows Partygaming’s move to separate or “ringfence” its online poker system from that of its “skins”.

After the Partygaming decision on skins, online players using Empire Poker were left on the smaller poker site with fewer players. Many industry observers and analysts interpreted PartyGaming’s move as an attempt to pressure the skins, which were both allies and competitors, and investors feared that Empire would lose its players to the larger PartyPoker site

Empire has lost more than half its market value since it floated in June. “The company seeks substantial damages and injunctive relief from Partygaming,” Empire said Tuesday, also revealing that it was holding “confidential arbitration proceedings” with an unnamed Partygaming subsidiary.

Earlier this year, a GBP 790 million bid by the British gambling group, Sportingbet for Empire fell through. Two takeover attempts by Partygaming for Empire were also abandoned recently.

Empire Online has now initiated legal proceedings in the Gibraltar High Court.

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BIG BILL SHOULD EMPIRE SUE
9 December 2005
Analysts consider the consequences for Party Gaming

The Party Gaming – Empire Online legal confrontation over allegations that the former tried to poach players from the latter in the recent abandonment of former “skins” by Party Poker was the subject of analyst assessments this week.

Experts at Morgan Stanley estimate that Party Gaming might have to cough up a stunning $300 million if the threatened litigation by Empire’s Noam Lanir were successful.

The analysts said that their assessment was based on a conventional formula, and opined that: “On a simplistic basis, we assume that the maximum potential liability is the market capitalisation of Empire that was directly eroded as a result of the platform split, plus reputational damage.”

The Morgan Stanley document goes on to reveal that following the announcement of the separation of the ?skins? Empire?s share price moved from 183p to 121p, and then to 86p following the profit warning on October 18. “The total market capitalisation eroded over the 10 days was about GBP 290 million.”

Morgan Stanley notes: “It is clear from (Party Gaming) statements that it is a risk that Party takes seriously, and we cannot rule out a material adverse effect from the impending litigation.”

Legal sources seemed to take a contradictory view, saying that GBP 300 million might be “…as good a place to start as any”, but was not necessarily a definitive number, which might be difficult to legally establish, especially in the areas of reputational damage and the judge’s finding on what was “directly eroded”. Party Gaming would likely contest any litigation fiercely, the sources added.

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WHO’S THE TOP DOG?
9 December 2005
New leader board feature at Bodog Poker carries plenty of prizes

High profile online gambling group Bodog.com, has introduced a new facility on its poker site that is sure to attract the attention of its many players – a Tournament Leader Board that allows players in all Bodog tournaments to win weekly and monthly prizes when they come out on top.

Bodog.com poker players will compete against each other to be the king of the board.

The player who has the most points for the week will win a weekly prize of a $1,000 heads up, Sit-N-Go against either Josh Arieh or David Williams, the Team Bodog poker pros. The others who finish in the Top 10 receive varying amounts of tournament credits for use in the World Series of Poker/World Poker Tour semifinals or the $100 000 Sunday guaranteed tournament at Bodog.com.

The player who finishes on top of the board at the end of the month will also win a weekend at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, and entry into the legendary Bellagio $1,000 Saturday night tournament. More tournament credits are available for the other players who finish in the monthly Top 20.

?Our point system is very popular for its flexibility in our tournaments, now our players can win even more when they come out on top,? says Calvin Ayre, Bodog.com Founder and CEO. ?What poker player wouldn?t love to play in the Saturday night tourney at the Bellagio??

Bodog Poker’s aggressive tournament schedule is currently offering $1.8 million in guarantees a month, including a weekly $100,000 guaranteed tourney ? and WPT and WSOP qualifiers. A spokesman for the group said that a number of other exciting poker announcements can be expected soon as the company expands its marketing effort.

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BAD WEEK FOR SPORTSBOOKS
9 December 2005
Too many winners spoil the books

Betting media in the States were this week reporting empty pockets for some bookies following an unprecedented run of favourites winning last weekend in the NFL.

The run of losses for Week 13 left the bookmaking industry paying out millions to its football bettors, reports revealed.

Twelve favourites won and covered the spread in the sixteen games played over the weekend, which was profitable for many gamblers but bad news for the sportsbooks that took their action.

One sportsbook spokesman, Tony Munnelly at Sports Interaction said: “We’re calling it ‘Black Sunday.’ In my time in the industry I have never seen a Sunday like it.”

“It’s very unusual to see that many favourites cover at any one weekend, especially in this era of parity,” added Munnelly. “I’m happy for our customers, they won their money fair and square and good luck to them. But when I’m writing my letter to Santa later this week I’m going to ask for some underdogs to starting biting, before I end up on standing on the street corner wearing a red hat and ringing a bell!”

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CONSOLIDATOR AND INVESTMENT COMPANY APPOINTS NEW DIRECTOR
9 December 2005
Former m.d of Betinternet plc joins Fairground Gaming

The Board of Fairground Gaming, the newly established investment company in the online gaming sector believed to have close links with turnkey provider Microgaming, has appointed former Betinternet plc md Paul Ernest Doona (53) as Finance Director with effect from 1 January 2006.

Prior to his service with Betinternet, and following an invitation from the group?s shareholders he spearheaded the successful 2002 fund-raising for bet365 Group, one of the UK’s leading betting and gaming groups, to assist in the future corporate development of its internet and telephone betting division.

A qualified accountant with Deloitte Haskins & Sells (1977), in 1982 he was appointed Finance Controller for the housing division of Miller Homes Ltd, the house building, construction and property group. In 1985, he moved to St Mowden Properties plc as Finance Director and Company Secretary, where he initiated a number of UK and international ventures, which grew the company?s net worth from GBP20 million to GBP140 million and delivered a sixteen-fold increase in PBT. In 1999 he was appointed Finance Director at Claims Direct plc. His appointment at bet365 Group Limited was his first involvement in the internet gaming sector.

Between 1989 and 1999, Paul was a Director of Northern Racing Limited, one of the largest owners of racecourses in the UK and he was a Director of Stoke City FC from 1997-1999.

Evan Hoff, Director of Fairground Gaming said: ?Paul has considerable industry experience and will enhance our position as a consolidator of the fragmented online gaming sector. We are delighted to welcome him to the Board.?

Fairground Gaming listed on AIM on 4 October 2005 with the goal of building a broad-based, diversified gaming portfolio by acquisition and thereafter by organic growth.

The company acts as a consolidator of the fragmented online gaming sector; using the extensive sector and technology contacts of its directors to acquire majority interests in a portfolio of synergistic, cash-generative online gaming businesses; targeting smaller companies in areas such as online casinos, poker, bingo and skill-based gaming; and working with Microgaming, the leading provider of software to online casinos, to identify opportunities and to develop acquired businesses.

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MORE RESEARCH NEEDED ON PROBLEM GAMBLING
9 December 2005
“In the past we haven’t had good research,” says responsible gambling official

Christine Reilly, executive director of the National Center for Responsible Gaming appealed to delegates at a responsible gambling conference this week to be guided by science in future research into problem gambling.

Speaking at a conference at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Reilly said that as research into problem gambling increases, more scientific data is becoming readily available to health professionals, offering a better understanding of what drives a person to wager beyond their means and how best to treat the addiction.

“In the past, we haven’t had good research, but that has changed,” Reilly said. “We hope this idea shapes the whole conference going forward and that what we find from our research become practices guided by science.”

The two-day program, the sixth conference for the centre, featured discussions on the role of personal choice in addiction, advances in drug treatments for pathological gambling, the challenges of executing self-exclusion programs and the concept of creating “safe” gambling machines.

“We don’t know if self-exclusion programs really work,” Reilly said. “The research is becoming available to help us understand this aspect.”

The National Center for Responsible Gaming was established in 1996 and is funded primarily by the gaming industry and related businesses, which have contributed more than $15 million. The center has funded more than $12 million in support of research on gambling disorders.

The conference addressed the “Reno Model,” a position paper authored by three researchers that describes public health issues associated with problem gambling. The authors believe responsible gaming initiatives must reduce or eliminate the potential harms associated with gambling while also maximising the activity’s potential benefits.

“We believe all parties, even the anti-gambling organisations must participate in the discussion,” Reilly said.

U.S. Sen. George McGovern gave the keynore address at the conference, saying: “The ongoing challenge of promoting responsible gaming is developing a strategy that prevents and reduces gambling-related harm while respecting the rights of individuals who safely engage in recreational gambling,”

This year, Nevada established an advisory committee on problem gambling that will decide how to distribute $2.5 million raised through a special slot-machine tax. The money will go to organisations specialising in compulsive gaming treatment, education, prevention or research.

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YOUNG POKER PLAYERS DOMINATE
9 December 2005
Latest study shows remarkable growth in younger players demographic

Michael Stone, the executive director of the Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling reported this week that nearly 4 percent of US teenaged gamblers are compulsive gamblers.

Quoting national studies he said that the number of young people gambling on poker and other card games has skyrocketed in recent years.

In any given week in the USA, about 2.9 million people aged between 14 and 22 are gambling on cards, and more than 80 percent are male, according to a report released this fall by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, which has tracked teen gambling rates for several years.

While poker is a harmless diversion for most teens, some experts caution that the risks of gambling addiction are being overlooked.

Experts have previously reported that the risk of addictive habits developing are greater in players who win rewards whilst young, especially teenagers.

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BIG MONEY FOR UK POKER WIZARD
8 December 2005
Smart poker from London builder

London builder and father of three Ian Frazer (46) is the latest online winner of the 888.com UK Poker Open Championship, taking home half a million dollars this week.

Frazer, who has only been playing poker for two years played against some of the best poker pros around in the high pressure tourney, which carried a prize pool of $1 080 000. He beat last year’s champion and snooker ace Matthew Stevens, former UK snooker champion Paul Hunter, Big Brother’s Makosi and football legend Teddy Sheringham among others.

Speaking after the win, Ian said: “I did not fear the pros at all – even when I was down to the last guy who was an American who had flown over from Las Vegas after winning a world series.”

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UK VERSION OF WPT MAGAZINE
9 December 2005
Future Publishers clinches a good deal

UK poker fans will shortly have their own regional version of World Poker Tour : The Official Magazine following a deal between the world famous poker tournament brand and Future Publishing.

The monthly title is set to carry columns from top players, independent coverage of the international poker circuit and lessons for readers.

WPT’s high profile CEO Steve Lipscomb said: “World Poker Tour is the global leader in poker and we have big plans for 2006 in the UK. Future?s official title will bring all the thrills of our tour to the UK’s ever growing community of poker players.”

Future is having a good business run at present – it won the contract to publish the Nintendo Official Magazine last week.

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MONEY BACK PROMO FROM FORTUNE ROOM
9 December 2005
If you’ve deposited $50 and lost it, this could interest you

Veteran online casino Fortune Room offered a ground-breaking and tempting limited offer this week that promises to reward players with a 100 percent cash back if they lose their first $50 deposit.

In what is claimed to be a unique limited time offer the casino is offering a 100 percent money back guarantee to players on their first purchase. The promo is designed to provide players with the opportunity to try out Fortune Room’s casino games and have fun, secure in the knowledge that their first $50 of action is covered by a money back guarantee.

Players will have to make a purchase of $50 and play to win at the Fortune Room Online Casino, the deposit being made through Neteller. If the initial deposit is lost within 24 hours the refund will be made through two optional channels:

1. A player may get their money back as cash, which is deposited into their NETELLER account.

2. Players can can gamble on getting double their money back. The $50 will be refunded into a Fortune Room Player account and the casino will throw in an additional $50 worth of casino credits for them to continue their game of fortune in the casino. That gives players a total of $100 to play with.

On the downside, the Fortune Lounge group that owns Fortune Room has recently been at the centre of some intense player resentment and spamming complaints, so players may want to set up the Neteller and casino account with a specially created email that will help to short-circuit any subsequent spam from FL or one of its apparently ill-disciplined affiliates.

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$100 MILLION FREEROLL POKER TOURNEY
9 December 2005
That’s right – a hundred million dollar jackpot up for grabs….

Two well frequented online poker sites, Titan Poker.com and Noble Poker.com have teamed up to present players with an ambitious new million dollar freeroll poker tournament scheduled for April 2006.

$500,000 in guaranteed prizes will be distributed to the top players at this exciting tournament, in addition to the $100 Million Jackpot Prize offered jointly by the two sites, which operate on Playtech’s iPoker network.

Titan Poker and Noble Poker will host their Online Main Event Tournament on April 30, 2006. When the Online Main Event tournament narrows down to ten final table players, the action will be suspended. The Final Table will be held in an as yet secret location in May, 2006, and it will be at this Final Table that one player will have the chance to win a $100 Million Jackpot Prize.

This will likely be the largest prize ever allocated to a sporting event, and it will be awarded if one of the players hits a Royal Flush of Spades at the Final Table. The promotion is backed by a re-insurance policy through National Indemnity Company, which is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., one of the world’s biggest insurance companies.

Seven other jackpot prizes, totaling more than $3 million promise to make this final table one of the most lucrative and exciting yet seen.

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BETTING EXCHANGE LAUNCHES IN THE USA
9 December 2005
Ambitious move into a difficult and competitive market by Matchbook

Irish betting exchange Matchbook.com announced this week that it has officially launched its online exchange betting gaming site, following its successful spring 2005 beta launch. The company is now positioned to compete aggressively for the $100 billion North American sports betting market.

A spokesman for Matchbook said the company charges a two percent commission on P2P betting between clients. In essence, Matchbook’s role is that of a clearing house, no different from other electronic exchanges such as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange or NASDAQ, the spokesman said.

Antiguan-licensed Matchbook was created by an offshore team of financial traders and former bookmakers, and has already made inroads into the North American market by matching $10 million in bets a week.

“Matchbook is the bookmakers’ nightmare,” said Tom Ramsey, vice president of development. “Exchange betting has already shaken up the $30-billion European sports-betting marketplace, and now the North American market is experiencing a similar transformation.”

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HORSES FOR COURSES AND DOGS FOR TRACKS AT BLUESQUARE
9 December 2005
New virtual games suite introduced on Internet gambling site

Virtual games provider Xgames Ltd. has produced three interesting new gaming genres to the Blue Square gaming site and its affiliates.

CTXM Virtual Sports Suite includes ‘Penalty Shootout’ ? a virtual soccer game, ‘Blue-Bury Park’ (Multi bet virtual Horse racebook) and ‘Kennel-Woof Park’ (Multi bet virtual Greyhounds racebook).

These games enable bettors to place bets 24/7 regardless of real-life events. Bettors can place all bet types including complex bets and multi meeting bets.

The games have already proved popular with many of the top European bookmakers, and the suite adds another attraction to Blue Square’s comprehensive offering of soft games.

Blue Square is a subsidiary of Rank, one of the UK’s leading leisure and entertainment companies and launched in 1999, providing interactive betting services in the UK. The product suite offered by Blue Square has grown from its traditional bookmaking business to now offer all aspects of the gaming market including casino, slots, poker and games with a goal to increase the product range in the near future. The fixed odds betting services covers many channels including the Internet, Interactive TV, WAP and telephone.

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POKER STARS’ DEEPSTACK TOURNEYS PULL ‘EM IN
9 December 2005
Skill a greater factor, says manager

Poker Stars, already a serious contender in the online poker sector has been boosting player involvement with a series of shootouts, headsup competitions, short handed tables and other innovations to keep the action fresh and thrilling.

One of the most popular of these activities is the daily and sometimes more frequent DeepStack games, where players start with over three times the amount of chips received in sit-and-gos or regular multi-table tourneys. The blind structure is more generous, too – starting at $5-$10, and escalating every half hour, it gives players more time to manoeuvre and play up to $5,000 in chips to their own strategies.

Poker room manager Lee Jones says ?I think the very serious player, the student of the game, prefers this kind of event. It does make skill a greater factor, and of course, you pay for that in a longer time commitment.?

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BUG ALERT
9 December 2005
IE users beware of this spyware menace

Websense reports that a still-unpatched Internet Explorer vulnerability is being used by malicious attackers intent on infecting unsuspecting Internet users with spyware and adware.

“Large numbers” of malicious Web sites are being used to contaminate PCs using the Windows operating system by planting spyware and adware, the security company claims.

San Diego-based Websense said in an alert that technical investgators have detected thousands of sites connecting to a main malicious URL that is “….actively exploiting this vulnerability to execute malicious code.”

All it takes is a visit to one of the sites with Internet Explorer running on Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows 2000, or Windows XP, to compromise a computer, the warning noted. A bogus warning that the machine is infected with spyware appears and a so-called “spyware cleaning” application launches. That application then prompts the user to enter a credit card number.

What’s actually installed, however, is real spyware, which then connects to a URL in the .biz domain to download and run more than 10 other programs that install without the user’s knowledge or consent.

According to Websense, the .biz domain Web site is real, but has been compromised by hackers. Hosted in the U.S., it is currently still online.

There is no patch for the bug, which was originally reported to Microsoft in May. The bug was found to be more dangerous than first thought in November by U.K.-based security vendor Computer Terrorism Ltd. Microsoft has said it is working on a fix, but has not committed to a release date for the patch. The next regularly-scheduled patch day is Tuesday, Dec. 13.

Microsoft, however, has issued a security advisory which outlines several steps users can take to protect themselves, including disabling IE’s Active Scripting option.

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BRITISH MAGAZINE SALUTES MALTA LICENSING JURISDICTION
9 December 2005

Award for services to online gaming

The Lotteries and Gaming Authority (LGA) of Malta has been recognised for “Excellent Services to Online Gaming” by British magazine Business Britain, after an investigation into the regulation of remote gaming.

The award was presented to LGA?s Legal and Enforcement Director, Dr Anthony Axisa at the Malta High Commission in London.

Dr Axisa said ?We are delighted to be recognised for our ?Excellent Services to the Online Gaming Industry? by Business Britain Magazine. This award attests to the validity of LGA?s strategy and acknowledges the success the Authority?.

Commenting on winning the award, LGA?s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Mario Galea said that it was an extremely important achievement for the Lotteries and Gaming Authority considering the market in which it operates. Mr Galea also expressed his satisfaction that the award came from a country where gambling regulations are highly upheld.

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A FAMILY CONNECTION?
9 December 2005
Telecoms investment company could provide family synergy

The name Justin Drummond will be familiar to industry people as the head of the rapidly expanding UK gambling group Gaming Corporation, which earlier this year acquired leading sites like Gambling.com and Got2Bet.

This week Jason Drummond, who co-founded Gaming Corporation with his brother was in the news in a telecoms deal that could develop some useful synergy with Gaming Corporation’s mobile initiatives.

Jason has teamed with Jonathan Rowland, son of the famed City financier David “Spotty” Rowland, to float their telecoms investment vehicle Nettworx on the London AIM.

The duo hope to raise GBP 5 million which will be used to buy telecom and network companies and tap into the growing market for mobile gadgets with hi-tech functions.

Mr Rowland, who is carrying on a family tradition of entrepreneurship, first came to prominence at the height of the dotcom boom as one of the backers of JellyWorks, an investor in internet start-ups. More recently he founded mining groups Resourceworks and Latitude Resources. His business partner Jason Drummond founded online intellectual property website Virtual Internet and co-founded gambling group Gaming Corp.

Nettworx will focus on technology that lets users access emails, spreadsheets and entertainment via mobile devices.

“The company has identified a number of network companies with existing customers and revenues, that lack the scale or skill sets to capitalise on the convergence of technology and telecommunications,” Nettworx said in a statement.

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DONNA’S BIG WIN
9 December 2005
$271 108 progressives win at Jackpot Factory

The Jackpot Factory group of online casinos this week passed the $4 billion in payouts mark when it rewarded player DonnaB for hitting the $271 108 progressive jackpot Major Millions at subsidiary All Jackpots Casino.

When interviewed about her win, Donna B. explained that she had been playing for about two hours at the $3, 5-reel progressive jackpot game. ?I played at several different casino sites but All Jackpots is by far the best. [Their] customer support team is awesome!? she told reporters.

Company spokesperson David Brickman said that the player was immediately contacted by All Jackpots management: ?Our support team contacted Donna right away to congratulate her and confirm her Major Millions win. As a progressive jackpot, she will receive her payout in one lump sum.?

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RAGS TO RICHES STRIKES AGAIN AT INTERCASINO
9 December 2005
$149 758 Christmas prize won on progressive slot

Another good fortune story hit the news this week when the popular Rags to Riches progressive jackpot was won by Jane W., an InterCasino.com customer since August 2005, who pulled down a massive $149,758 jackpot.

?This is one of the best things to ever happen to our family,? said Jane. ?I can?t wait to surprise my grandkids with the amazing presents they?re going to receive this year. It?s going to be a very merry Christmas for us, and I wish everyone at InterCasino the happiest of holidays!?

The game, Rags to Riches Progressive Slot Jackpot, is apparently a customer favourite in InterCasino?s award-winning lineup of more than 180 games.

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GAMBLE SOFTWARE TESTED SUCCESSFULLY
9 December 2005
GLI approves Playline product

Software developer PlayLine Inc., announced this week that two of its new online games have been tested and approved by Gaming Laboratories International.

GLI has certified the PlayLine Monitor Gaming System games “Thundering Hooves” and “Canine Cup” as meeting the current GLI-15 national standard for Electronic Bingo and Keno systems.

The PlayLine Monitor Gaming System combines 3D graphics with the probability and payout characteristics of fixed and/or weighted odds.

Players place wagers on virtual races that are displayed on monitors through out a social venue, much like Keno. The difference being, instead of watching static numbers being randomly displayed on a screen, these monitor games offer an exciting simulated horse or greyhound race.

Michael Meeks President of PlayLine Inc. commented, “GLI’s approval of our Monitor Gaming System represents a significant milestone in our efforts to bring exciting new gaming options to the Casino and Lottery markets. These games are not meant to replace, but rather to supplement the current Keno offering. Not only do they appeal to the traditional Keno player looking for an alternative to the standard numbers game, they also attract younger affluent adults, more women and generations which have been exposed to video and PC gaming.”

Two essential features of the PlayLine system are its open architecture, and its scalability. The system easily integrates with other hardware / software and other third party games, providing customers with a variety of installation options.

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CONFERENCE CORNER
9 December 2005
ICE heats up – 41 i-gaming companies on show

It’s one of the “must attend” exhibitions for the wider gambling industry, and this year the interactive gambling element is stronger than ever. We’re talking the International Casino Exhibition (ICE) which takes place at Earl’s Court in London, England between 24 and 26 January next year.

Visitors to the 2006 event will experience a varied showcase from suppliers drawn from the greatest number of countries ever seen under one roof. The news follows the revelation made at the beginning of December by show organisers ATE that 185 companies from 34 countries are lined up to appear at ICE and its interactive gaming section, ICEi.

The number (124) and proportion (67 percent) of exhibiting companies based outside the United Kingdom will also mark all-time highs for ICE, adding further to its credentials as the most international gaming event in the industry calendar.

This is the stage where the top companies in the business showcase their wares, presenting an Aladdin’s Cave of new gaming-related technology and exciting and innovative games. Covering every conceivable product sector from slots to security, table games to testing labs, player tracking to progressive jackpots, i-gaming to interior design and cashless systems to components, ICE 2006 will play host to the biggest names in the business.

Joining 61 British exhibitors, US-based companies will constitute the largest non-domestic presence with 18 companies on the show floor. The Netherlands and Spain will both be represented by 10 exhibitors, followed by Russia with nine, Slovenia and Sweden both with eight, Canada with seven and five from each of Australia, Austria and France. Belgium and Italy will both supply four exhibitors, with three each from Bulgaria, Germany and Malta, whilst Argentina, Czech Republic, Israel and Japan will all have a double presence. The remaining countries having their flags flown at ICE 2006 will be Belarus, Brazil, China, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Korea, Latvia, Portugal, Serbia & Montenegro, Slovakia, South Africa, Taiwan and Ukraine.

Of the 185 confirmed exhibitors, occupying total net floor space of more than 10,000 sqm., 41 will be located within ICEi, the dedicated i-gaming area located at the far end of Earls Court 2.

These companies will be located within the dedicated ICEi area, with four more ? Australia’s Gaming & Entertainment Group, Octavian International (UK), Tain (Sweden) and Vuetec (UK) ? located nearby on the Earls Court 2 show floor.

Constituting 37.7 percent of the ICEi showcase, 17 exhibitors are based domestically, whilst Sweden holds the honour of providing the highest number (eight) from any guest nation. Six hail from Canada, three each from Malta and the USA and two from Israel, the remaining represented countries being Australia, Austria, Finland, France, Korea and Spain.

Some of the biggest names in the business will populate ICEi 2006, Sweden?s Boss Media topping the list with a substantial stand. Spain?s Cirsa Interactive and Israel?s Playtech share second spot, each with a 70sqm. (753sq.ft.) display. Betfair and Orbis Technology both set out stalls in excess of 50sqm. (538sq.ft.), with three companies ? Chartwell Technology, NetEnt and RealTime Gaming each weighing in with a 40sqm (431sq.ft.) booth.

12 companies will make their very first appearance at ICEi in January, accounting for around 12 per cent of the floor area. The debutants comprise two companies each from Canada (1 Gaming Inc. and G-Fed Games), Sweden (24h Network and EssNet Interactive) and the UK (Gex Technologies and Microgen). Other first-timers include Avanzia (Malta), Goldrace.com (Korea), Greentube I.E.S. (Austria), iovation Inc. (USA), Quedesjeux (France) and SafeCharge (Israel).

Show organisers ATE are introducing a number of visitor facilities for all show attendees, including additional restaurants and bars, executive seating areas and a business lounge complete with I.T. services and free access to the Internet. These new features will be located on Level 2 of Earls Court 1, accessed via the co-located soft gaming and amusements show, ATEI. As in the last two shows, ICE/ICEi will have its own dedicated registration area, located at the front of Earls Court, directly opposite West Brompton Underground and Railway Station.

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DEMAND GROWS FOR THE ECOGRA ONLINE CASINO AND POKER ROOM ?PLAY IT SAFE? SEAL OF APPROVAL
2 December 2005
Growing numbers of online casinos and poker rooms will soon have top player protection seal

The online gaming independent standards authority eCommerce and Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance (eCOGRA) announced today that a significant number of online casinos and poker rooms are currently nearing the end of the organisation?s inspection process and will soon be authorised to display the eCOGRA ?Play It Safe? seal.

CEO Andrew Beveridge said it was likely that the eCOGRA Board would award the new seals before the end of the year following the extensive probity, game fairness and systems reviews carried out by third party professional audit and inspection groups.

?Over the past few months we have experienced unprecedented interest in eCOGRA from several important online casinos and poker rooms,? Beveridge said. ?Judging by the level of firm applications now under review I anticipate very significant increases in the number of seal holders within the next six months.?

eCOGRA sets player-sensitive, best practice standards covering every aspect of online casino and poker room operations which are enforced through continuous monitoring and inspections. The non-profit authority offers a fast dispute resolution service to players through its Fair Gaming Advocate and commissions professional surveys and business studies to empower seal venues to improve their efficiency and business practice. Active responsible gaming programs are a feature of eCOGRA sites.

Online gaming venues that commit to and comply with the eCOGRA standards are awarded the now widely recognised ?Play It Safe? revocable seal, which assures players of safe, honest and efficient online gaming where it is displayed.

The eCOGRA fair gaming system was recently accepted as effective and credible by the Kahnawake regulatory jurisdiction, and extensive discussions are currently taking place with several other leading national regulators and trade associations.

?I believe the gratifying rise in ?Play It Safe? seal applications, and the general interest in eCOGRA three years on from our launch is indicative of a more responsible and professional approach to this business, especially by the leading companies in the industry,? Beveridge said.

?That interest is also reflected in the large number of industry portals now approaching us and asking to be associated with the player protective principles that the seal represents.

?eCOGRA is open to any software provider or associated operator that shares our principles of fair gaming and efficient service to the player and is prepared to be tested and monitored.?

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US $ 1.6 MILLION IN TWO DAYS
2 December 2005
Phil Ivey truimphs again

Hardly has the previous day’s excitement over his million dollar win in the Prima Monte Carlo Millions died down at the weekend, when consummate poker champ Phil Ivey was in the news with another big win – this one in the Full Tilt Poker Invitational in Monte Carlo.

Televised live by Fox News, the seven champion players sat down to business at midnight local time to make the US evening live TV shows, with comperes Howard “The Professor” Lederer and Barry Tompkins.

Advanced technology was deployed in the tournament, with microchips implanted on the cards so that a computer could read each hand. In another innovation, percentages were displayed along with the cards in play. Allied to the highly professional camera work that viewers have now come to expect from these big money tournaments, it gave the show real edge and plenty of class.

The champs around the table were David “Devilfish” Ulliot, Mike “The Mouth” Matusow, Phil Helmuth, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, Gus “The Great Dane” Hansen, John Juanda and Phil Ivey.

The first casualty came after two hours of intense play when Matusow went out after a run of bad cards. Phil Helmuth was next followed by Gus Hansen at fifth.

The final four continued, battling it out to get in the money of the first three placings. Ferguson was pipped at the bubble and went out empty handed in the number four spot. Ulliot was next with a consolation third place prize of $120 000 and Juanda and Ivey’s tussle for the top prize was not much longer, Ivey truimphing and taking the top $600 000 money, with Juanda second on $ 280 000.

Ivey, in two tense days had added $1.6 million to his bank balance. What a Thanksgiving Weekend!

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NEWSLETTER POLL
2 December 2005
Getting the player view on casino newsletters

For the past week or more the popular online casino and poker portal Casinomeister has been running an informal player poll to find out what players really like…or don’t like, in an online newsletter.

Top item of interest for the players who have voted so far in the poll is online gambling news at 70.27 percent, followed by opinions and observations on current online casino industry events.

The preference is for weekly publication dates, and bonus news is sought by 51.35 percent of respondents. General gambling-related topics such as poker trivia and Vegas anecdotes found favour with only 21.62 percent.

It’s a useful “dipstick” sampling on what players want, and we would encourage players to let their views be known by clicking across and voting at /forums/online-casinos/10124-what-makes-good-casino-newsletter.html

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NEW PROMOTIONS AND GAMES CREATE A FESTIVE BUZZ AT TRIDENT
2 December 2005
Action and rewards for King Neptune’s and Trident Lounge players

The award winning online casinos in the Trident group are making the run-up to this year’s festive season more exciting than ever before with a range of attention-grabbing promotions and four brand new, top quality games.

King Neptune’s Casino (www.kingneptunescasino.com) and Trident Lounge Casino (www.tridentloungecasino.com) are offering some major prizes in the promotions commencing with Holiday Countdown Calendar, which will feature a new promotion every day of the month from December 1 to December 25. These promotions will be giving away over $50 000 in hard cash prizes to players…and some of these prizes go way better than a partridge in a pear tree!

Players can automatically benefit from Trident’s ‘The Great Giveaway’ promo, too. In this exciting draw players earn entries to the Great Giveaway every time they deposit and play during the period of the promotion. Over $15 000 worth of prizes can be won by 34 players, and include a Grand Prize of a 32″ Bravia LCD flat panel high definition TV worth over $2 000, together with super cool iPod Nanos, X-Boxes, mobile DVD players, the latest Sony Playstations and digital cameras and Amazon gift vouchers.

Players can’t win it unless they’re in it, and the way to get in it is to deposit and play the superior games on Trident’s highly reputable online casinos.

Talking of games, Trident has an thrilling mix of brand new multi-featured video slots and innovative, high speed / high reward multi-hand games to respond to keen demand from players.

Blackjack players who like plenty of fast action should enjoy Vegas Strip Multi-hand Blackjack as the first in an exciting and novel series of game styles based on the multi-hand blackjack concept. The game is a variation on the usually single-hand game Vegas Strip, and it will appeal to the many gamblers who like to play multiple hands of blackjack simultaneously – in this version a player can bet up to 5 hands at a time.

Vegas Strip Blackjack is an American hole card game played with four standard decks of 52 playing cards that are shuffled before each game. The aim is to beat the dealer’s hand by either getting a higher value hand without exceeding 21, or by the dealer’s hand going bust. A blackjack is the strongest hand in Vegas Strip Blackjack and can only be matched – not beaten. Splitting and doubling down are allowed under specific circumstances and insurance is offered.

Trident’s game is powered by Microgaming’s well proved blackjack gaming engine to ensure smooth and fast action on the new games, which are presented with razor sharp and appropriately shaded graphics to create the right “feel” for the game.

Continuing the big thill theme is the latest game in the hugely popular 100 Play Power Poker series. This month we present the second game in this series – Jacks or Better 100 Play Power Poker.

The game carries a jackpot of 4 000 coins or $100 000, with a second highest pot of 1 000 coins with generous pay tables. In Jacks or Better every hand is dealt from a separate and independent deck of 52 cards. The useful range of facilities on the Viper software platform are available to players using this game.

Muchos Grande! is a shiny new 5 reel, 15 payline multi-feature video slot that is well named with its larger than life Australian-American big gaming style and a wealth of features: big jackpots, lots of fun, great graphics and super entertainment!

There’s a hot Latin theme, with sacks of gold, chili peppers, ancient treasure maps and happy hombres. The game has appropriate Mexican graphics for wild, scatter and bonus opportunities, all of which can enhance the player’s luck and profits.

There’s a special reward in the bonus game-within-the-game. A folded old treasure map in the right sequence means fortune will literally unfold providing the opportunity to pick out 5 places to search among the canyons, missions and caves of the Mexican scrublands…and reap some significant bonuses.

Final game this month is a slot that is full of features carried by an amusing contemporary theme in tune with the hip hop phenomenon and the lively, fun culture that goes with it.

“Loaded” video slot is a hugely entertaining 5 reel, 25 Line, multiple coin game with some brand new twists. For example, the Free Spin feature has a choice element through which players can select the number of free spins from options of 12, 16 or 24, each with its own multiplier.

Loaded has wild, scatter, free spin and gamble opportunities that can increase a jackpot of $35 000 to as high as $140 000, with plenty of fun and excitement on the way there.

The hip hop theme is captured in bright, amusing graphics with flashy boats, bling bling galore, limos, foxy ladies and cool dudes – look out especially for the top rapper Triple 7 who triggers the Wild symbol that can triple wins.

The Gamble feature on this slot can make a major difference to winnings, which can double or even quadruple.

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700 000 NEW GAMBLERS JOIN SPORTINGBET
2 December 2005
“The company has recruited more new customers, taken more bets, played more games of poker and made more profit then in any other previous first quarter?.

UK-based internet betting firm Sportingbet announced a sharp jump in quarterly profits this week after attracting a record number of customers.

The group, which offers online poker and the chance to bet on sporting events around the world, saw operating profits leap 396 percent to GBP 22.3 million (?32.6m) ? up from GBP 4.5 million (?6.6m) and at the top end of market expectations.

Profits before tax for the period ? covering the three months to October 31 – also rose 450 percent to GBP14.3 million (?20.9m) from GBP2.6 million (?3.8m).

Chairman Peter Dicks said the company had ?…recruited more new customers, taken more bets, played more games of poker and made more profit then in any other previous first quarter?.

“During the first four weeks of the second quarter, organic growth and trading volumes have continued at a strong pace across the group and this has yielded further growth in sports betting volumes and, in particular, the group’s poker business,” he added.

Sportingbet also played down the possibility of the company renewing bid talks with Empire Online. It held discussions with Empire over a 269p per share bid earlier in the year but they came to nothing and since then Empire’s share price has plunged.

The company said it signed up 700,000 new gamers worldwide at a growth rate 245 percent faster than a year ago. The United States was its biggest market, where it had a ?record quarter across all measures?. It has attracted 173,748 sports betters in the country – up 60 percent and drawing an average of $54 (?46).

The number of gamblers interested in Sportingbet facilities such as online poker rose 29 percent to 63,028. Sportingbet’s poker arm, Paradise Poker, reported an 88 percent jump in the rake ? the commission it charges players ? to $430,858 (GBP 251,000), allaying recent fears that the online poker boom was in danger of running out of steam. The company said that 13 per cent of its active US sportsbook customers had played poker while almost 9 per cent of poker players had tried their hand on its sports and casino websites.

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888.COM THIRD QUARTER RESULTS UP
2 December 2005
NGR reaches US $70 million

Hard on the heels of the buoyant Sportingbet results this week was good news from 888 Holdings PLC, which posted a 56 percent rise in third quarter revenues and said its business performance was on target.

In a statement, the company said net gaming revenue rose to $70 million, driven by a 178 percent increase in poker revenues.

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BEWARE THE IRS PHISHERS
2 December 2005
New scam aimed at Internet users

The latest phishing scam is playing with fire for sure – it’s using the Internal Revenue Service as its front!

The Internal Revenue Service issued a consumer alert this week about an internet scam concerning tax refunds.

Apparently an email is circulating which claims to be from the IRS and directs consumers to a link that asks for personal information such as a social security number and credit card information. It also offers a form for tax refunds.

The IRS reminds the public that it does not ask for any personal information through e-mails. Taxpayers do not need to use a special form to get a refund.

If you receive this type of email, do not open it but call the IRS at 800- 829-1040.

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HALF A MILLION IN FESTIVE PROMOS
2 December 2005
Jackpot Factory group gets into gear for Christmas

The Jackpot Factory online casino group is celebrating the December festive season holidays with daily promotions, bonuses, and cash prizes that will total over $500,000.

Comprising All Slots Casino, All Jackpots Casino, First Web Casino, Wild Jack Casino, and Wild Jack Poker, the group will mark the season this December with a month full of promotions.

Kicking-off the holiday spirit is ?Stocking Surprise? where players automatically qualify for random cash bonuses 24 hours a day while playing their favorite slot games. In addition, the ?Jingle Bell Slots? promotion runs daily on all slot games and rewards the top players in several categories. Full details are available on the sites.

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TEAM PLAY POKER
2 December 2005
Poker Room introduces a new idea to online poker play

Online poker website PokerRoom.com scored an industry first this week with the announcement that parent and software provider Ongame has developed a team play format for poker rooms, making it possible for friends, co-workers, frats, and others to team up and play other teams.

This team play allows members to join an existing team or set up a team of their own. The player who registers a team is considered the team manager and handles setting up the events to play in and also monitor the team wallet.

Team size can range from a minimum of 5 to a max of 10. Teams can play in Leagues or Eliminators. Leagues last much longer, while the Eliminators are heads up matches between teams. Eliminators continue until only 2 men stand to dual out for the victory or defeat of the team.

The team wallet is done in a fair method by using a percentage method to calculate how much a member can withdraw from the team wallet to ensure the players do not take a larger percentage of what they put in.

Pokerroom.com is the first to introduce this team play format to online poker, and the concept appears to be popular with hundreds of players joining and creating new teams “…every minute.”

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VIRGIN’S BOSS MEDIA-POWERED POKER NOW OPERATIONAL
2 December2005
Plenty of content on new site

With characteristic marketing flair and wide publicity, Virgin owner Sir Richard Branson launched subsidiary Virgin Gaming’s revamped online poker offering this week.

Powered by Boss Media (see earlier InfoPowa report) and a member of that provider’s network there has been extensive site redesign from the original offering introduced last year.

Company spokesmen said that Virgin will be aggressively marketing the site early in the new year with some innovative tournament work including a branded “The Big Three” in which the winner gets sponsored entry into the three largest land poker tourneys available globally.

Company officials said the full cross-marketing opportunities afforded by the diverse Virgin group would be deployed to build interest and success.

“Virgin Poker will use the resources of sister companies throughout the Virgin group to add new value to our players’ experience,” Simon Burridge, the chief executive of Virgin Games, told reporters and poker enthusiasts in Sir Richard’s garden.

Champagne flowed and superior canapes were served prior to a game of Texas Hold em – poker’s most popular game – in which the last player standing won a weekend in Marrakech.

Virgin has some catching up to do, but noone should underestimate the resources and marketing talent of this British business group.

Virgin Poker believes it will shake things up thanks to benefits available from the company’s other business. Players will be able to accumulate Virgin air miles and loyalty points that can be cashed in for Virgin products. There will be also prizes such as Virgin flights and weekend trips.

The site will include a generous loyalty program, blogs by players, poker writers and enthusiasts, and a poker school that includes live online tutorials to take newcomers through the basics of the game.

Virgin Poker is particularly keen to attract people who have never played before – “poker virgins” – by emphasising the light-hearted side of the game. CEO Burridge says: ?Our message is clear; it?s not just about winning money, it?s about creating a fun, social environment where poker can be enjoyed.”

Unfortunately for US players they will not be welcome on the site due to the American legislative tangle on online gaming. Advanced software will be used to block US players, enabling the marketing effort to be concentrated in other key poker market segments.

Virgin also has plans to make Virgin Poker available on its trains and planes, although there will be betting limits. “We don’t want anyone landing in Las Vegas down GBP 25,000. It’s not a great way to start a holiday,” joked one Virgin executive.

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SVENSKA SPEL UPDATE
2 December 2005
Swedish online poker market worth $124 million

Further to our recent InfoPowa report on the approval of the Swedish government for state-owned Svenska Spel to enter the online poker sector powered by Boss Media, further details are now to hand.

The Scandinavian press report that the decision to approve Svenska Spel instead of a private company to introduce online poker operations was based on an opinion that Svenska would be less likely to be driven by excessive profit motives and more amenable to government pressures and influence.

It has been reported that Svenska Spel estimates indicate that the organisation is confident that it will be able to corner at least a third of the 1 billion kronor (US$124 million) Swedish market within a year.

The approval has a two-year trial caveat that comes with specific conditions: The minimum age for accepting any gambling action is 18; marketing will only be allowed in newspapers and on the Internet and Swedish players will only be allowed to gamble after having defined a specific limit on how much they want to stake in each session. Current proposals have set the maximum limit in this regard at 79,400 kronor (approx US$10,000).

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NEW POKER SITE FROM FORTUNE LOUNGE GROUP
2 December 2005
A new online poker venue for the everyday poker player

The well established Fortune Lounge online casino and poker room group launched an interesting new site this week. PokerTime.com’s goal is to give poker players of all levels an online card room where they can learn from the best, play cards with their friends and hone their skills for life.

Featuring a welcoming and sociable environment, PokerTime offers a full schedule of regular tournaments, including a $75,000 guarantee every Sunday at 3:30 p.m. EST, poker lessons from the renowned “poker professor” Lou Krieger, and a facility for players to set up their own private tables and tournaments. PokerTime also has aggressive new player incentives including the chance to earn up to $1000 from a $20 deposit and $10 free for opening an account.

The launch will be supported with national cable television and local radio and television advertising in key U.S. markets. The ads feature a narration of tongue-in-cheek lyrics set to the tune of Kenny Roger?s “The Gambler” while the on-screen actors demonstrate their poker skills in everyday situations.

Now players who may be more accustomed to weekly poker games at the kitchen table with friends, have an inviting online card room with the support, integrity and security of one of the oldest and largest online poker groups.

“As poker becomes increasingly more popular, we recognize that new players are introduced to the game each day,” said Lou Krieger, host and resident poker professor. “PokerTime is a place where all poker players should feel at ease to play and further develop their poker strategies.”

In addition to the friendly atmosphere, PokerTime players will also have the option of participating in several weekly tournaments with guaranteed prize money.

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MAC USERS NOW WELCOME AT PACIFIC POKER
2 December 2005
New software facilities should attract plenty of activity

Cassava Enterprises online poker division, Pacific Poker is now Mac-compatible following software improvements to the site to cater for significant demand.

Industry observers say that Pacific Poker is trying for a larger market share with its new Mac-compatible software upgrade by going after the largely untapped reservoir of Apple Mac users.

Mac users are said to comprise 4.4 percent ( statistic is not sourced) of the lucrative online poker market, which according to a recent Nielsen NetRatings survey generated 22 percent of all online gaming revenues in 2005 – only one percent lower than the longer established online casino sector.

Mac users will now be able to take part in Pacific Poker?s multi-table tournament called the ?$50k Guaranteed Tournament? held each Sunday.

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LUCRATIVE DEAL FOR BETONSPORTS
2 December 2005
PAGCOR gives its blessing to Phillipines sports betting deal…but no football.

Gambling group BetonSports scored a coup this week with the announcement that the Phillipine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) had given its blessing to its collaborative contract to provide online sports betting with local Internet firm Philweb.

Soccer is specifically excluded from the arrangement, Philweb said in the announcement. Philweb is licensed by Pagcor as its official service provider for online gambling.

BetonSports recently acquired the Chinese operations of Easybet, and the Phillipines deal is another illustration of the companys growing penetration of the Asia-Pacific sportsbetting market.

The company’s Costa Rica unit which offers wagering on nearly all US sports has recently encountered difficulties with a US government crack down on gambling advertising that resulted in the cancellation of about $10-million worth of its advertising campaigns during the crucial American football season.

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ANTIGUA TO BOOST LICENSING EFFORT
2 December 2005
More licensees to join Caribbean jurisdiction

Antigua will continue developing its Internet gambling industry despite pressure from the United States to prohibit the practice, the finance minister said this week.

Finance Minister Errol Cort said at least 10 new online gambling companies will open on the Caribbean island next year, joining 14 that already have been granted operating licenses.

Cort said the new companies will generate some 500 new jobs and more than $2 million in gambling licenses fees.

The United States contends that Internet gambling should be prohibited because it violates some state laws. Antigua says the U.S. position is contrary to global trade rules and the two have clashed in the World Trade Association which has yet to finally rule on the issue following a US appeal.

Addressing Parliament during his annual budget presentation, Cort said the government will tightly regulate Internet gambling to meet “the most stringent international … practices.”

It is to be hoped their enforcement and dispute handling will improve as a consequence – at present it is almost impossible to get a response from the island authorities.

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ASIAN HORIZONS
2 December 2005
High percentage growth predicted for m-gaming in the East

Research firm IDC is taking a bullish view on Asian potential for m-gaming following a recent study predicting that there will be steady growth in the sector in the Asia-Pacific region – and that’s excluding the massive potential of Japan.

The company predicts that the market for mobile online gaming will continue to see steady growth through to 2009.

“As mobile penetration in the region continues to rise, and as users continue to demand more feature-rich media, mobile online gaming will continue to experience growth,’ IDC analyst Jun-Fwu Chin said. “Malaysia will see the number of mobile online game users grow at a compounded annual rate of over 70 percent from 2004 to 2009. Singapore and China will see users grow at a rate of around 60 pct in the same period, IDC said.

IDC said that the populous South Korea, which had the highest penetration of mobile online game users in 2004 at 6.9 percent of all mobile users, will see this rate reach 9.6 percent in 2009.

The study showed that the m-gaming industry’s development is being driven by the proliferation of high-resolution, affordable, Internet-ready handsets as well as more compelling game content, according to IDC. Regional consumption of mobile media such as ringtones will pave the way for mobile online gaming to become a mainstream activity, especially in countries with high technology adoption rates and high user bases.

On the downside, the researchers opined that some conditions were likely to slow growth, among them an imbalance in the revenue split between software and games developers and actual operators. A mindset among many users that mobile phones are merely a means of communicating would also need to be addressed if the sector was to fully benefit from the new technology.

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WILL HILL POKER IN GREEK
2 December 2005
British company launches new Greek language site

The trend toward language specific sites continued this week with the launch of a Greek site by William Hill Poker.

Gambling software provider CryptoLogic was involved in the project to build the new site, which a spokesman said was inspired by the booming popularity of web-based poker. Financial details were not disclosed. The new site gives Greek-speaking players the ability to play in their local language and use multi-currency deposits and withdrawals.

“William Hill’s Greek-language launch points to the global potential of Internet poker, and that CryptoLogic software enables leading gaming brands to localise their online offerings for worldwide appeal,” said Lewis Rose, CryptoLogic’s chief executive.

The Toronto-based company does 60 percent of its business in Britain and Europe. Earlier this month, it credited the growing Internet poker craze for boosting its third-quarter earnings from $5.1 million from $2.9 million last year.

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LEACH IS BACK AGAIN
2 December 2005
Persistent Republican representative for Iowa introduces new anti-online gambling Bill

Last month he was writing to other politicians and trying to drum up support for his vehemently anti-online gambling postion – this week Representative James Leach took another tilt at the industry when he introduced Bill HR 4411 (The Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) in the US House Committee on Financial Services.

This most recent attempt follows previous initiatives by the representative to hamstring internet gamling by prohibiting or restricting payment processing. Commentators opined that the bill is very similar to one that Senator Jon Kyl tried to attach to an appropriation bill earlier this year, which failed.

Industry observers believe there is little liklihood of any activity on the Bill until the new year.

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NEW MOBILE GAMES
2 December 2005
Mansion launches 12 new offerings

Gibraltar based Mansion group, which owns several online gambling ventures, has launched a new suite of 12 casino games for mobile phones. The games are compatible with over 50 phone models and are available free for download on the Mansion portal.

Thousands of players who currently enjoy casino games online now have the opportunity to play anywhere as the m-gaming sector expands rapidly. Mansion Mobile Casino games include Blackjack, Baccarat, Video Poker, Casino War and Slots. Exclusive features such as Random Jackpots on the popular Treasure Trail slot game, and built-in send-to-a-friend functionality, allow members to share that winning feeling.

Mansion’s Head of Casino and Games, David Knipe, remarked that in order to meet a global demand for mobile gaming, Mansion’s games offer real cash play in any one of 14 currencies and are compatible on the largest international networks.

“Members simply input their number on the mobile download section of the site and Mansion sends a link to their phone which, when clicked, delivers the appropriate version of the game for their handset,” he explained.

Mansion Members can fund their account through the Mansion.com website cashier. Upon funding their account Mansion is offering up to $450 US / GBP 250 in bonus casino chips and an additional 10 percent cash-back offer for mobile players.

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CHARITY KUDOS FOR EXCAPSA
2 December 2005

Poker provider supports worthy causes

Kudos to online poker provider Excapsa, which has made facilities and software available to a new initiative designed to use the popularity of online poker to generate charitable funds.

Benefit Poker.org, recently became the first non-profit organisation formed to use online gambling to raise funds for the needy or ill.

Charities that register with the site face no financial risk by having a tournament on the site, and Benefit Poker reports that groups are lining up to get economic support that they might not otherwise have received. Over 80 percent of all funds generated during online poker tournaments at the sikte are donated directly to charities.

Benefit Poker’s executive director, Michael Perrier believes that the site will have an impact on the charities involved and on the lives of people in need.

“Many charities are faced with significant coasts and risks when putting together fundraising efforts. Whether the client is a charity that wants to run a tournament using their donor lists or a corporation that would like to offer its employees the opportunity to raise funds in a unique and interesting way, BenefitPoker.org provides an online venue for fundraising with little cost associated,” he says.

Excapsa Software Inc. is providing assistance with the project. The Toronto-based company has generously donated the online poker software used by BenefitPoker.org, which joins the growing network that currently boasts around 1.5 million active players.

According to Excapsa’s CEO Jim Ryan, the move is the company’s way of giving needy charities relief. “We are proud to be able to include this site among our poker network and educate the online poker community about their many fundraising efforts. Excapsa has always been committed to giving back to our communities and have run many charity events for many causes.”

Readers interesed in running an online poker tournament for charity, can make arrangements at info@benefitpoker.org.

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MILLIONAIRES CLUB TOPS $1.6 MILLION
2 December 2005
Something’s got to give….

Slot players, listen up : according to Wagerlogic, somebody, somewhere is about to become at least $1.6 million richer thanks to the fast growing progressive jackpot on Millionaires Club, the popular Internet progressive slot game developed by CryptoLogic.

Millionaires Club is a 9-line slot game available through such tier one online casinos as Intercasino.com, William Hill Casino.com, Littlewoods Casino.com and The Ritz Club London Online.com and the odds are that it must pop soon.

No one knows how much higher it will go – the last big jackpot winner collected a cool $1,067,836 at Intercasino.com. This time the guaranteed, single cash payout currently stands at a record-breaking $1.6 million – and can pay out in sterling for players playing in British Sterling, Euros for those in Europe or dollars for those in America.

Justin Thouin, Director of Casino and High Margin Gaming at CryptoLogic said: ?This is, without a doubt, one of the most popular products we have developed.?

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NORTH DAKOTA POKER COULD STILL BE ON
2 December 2005
Internet poker companies asked to stump up for new campaign

Many industry people have been under the impression that the attempt to legalise and regulate Internet poker in the state of North Dakota was a dead duck, but this week moves were afoot to revitalise the campaign, according to a report from Associated Press.

Chief political proponent Jim Kasper is asking gambling companies to help finance a ballot measure that would make North Dakota the first state to license and regulate Internet poker businesses.

The proposal failed by 44 votes to 3 early this year when it was defeated in the North Dakota Senate, but Kasper continues to believe that the benefits to Dakotans in terms of reduced property taxes financed by gambling taxation make his ideas appealing to the majority of citizens.

Kasper has asked companies for financial support for an Internet poker initiative, but has not received any contributions thus far. He has not registered a fund-raising committee with the North Dakota secretary of state’s office.

“The key is convincing the key people in the industry that it’s worthwhile,” said Keith Furlong, deputy director of the Interactive Gaming Council, a trade group based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Nigel Payne, group chief executive for Sportingbet PLC, a London company that offers Internet poker and sports wagering, said he would be interested in reviewing any Kasper proposal.

“When the initiative is fully developed, we, as I am sure like others in the industry, will assess it on its merits and make a considered decision at that time,” Payne said in an e-mail response to an Associated Press reporter’s questions about the idea.

In e-mails to industry officials, Kasper has been more definite. “I am continuing to move forward here in (North Dakota) to put an initiated measure on the North Dakota ballot next November,” he said in one message, sent last week.

The state constitution gives North Dakotans the right to circulate petitions to put proposed laws and constitutional amendments directly on the ballot. An amendment petition would need signatures from at least 25,688 eligible North Dakota voters, while a proposed law would require 12,844 names.

Kasper could circulate petitions for both a state constitutional amendment and an Internet poker licensing law if he chose. An amendment is needed in any case, to ensure North Dakota’s licensing of Internet poker sites would not violate the constitution’s anti-gambling provisions.

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MAIN WPT SHAREHOLDER CONSIDERING A SELL-OFF?
2 December 2005
Lakes Entertainment needs substantial amounts of hard cash, and this might be its best option

The main shareholder in World Poker Tour, US-based Lakes Entertainment, has issued an intriguing “forward looking statement” that suggests it may be considering the sale of its two thirds interest in order to raise capital.

Lakes Entertainment recently settled a clash with the Securities and Exchange Commission over late financial reportage, and in earlier statements the group indicated that it was seeking substantial capital – $10 million by the end of 2005 and an additional $10 million by March 1st, 2006. One of the options to achieve this was a sell off of all or at least part of their controlling interest in WPT.

WPT has established both a highly successful business and a solid reputation in the world of poker, and this enhances its value as an attractive buy and as a valuable asset for Lakes, so the decision will not be made lightly.

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STEALTH POKER TOOL
2 December 2005
Another artificial advantage

Whatever happened to the idea of playing poker as a personal skill? With increasing talk of the threat of online ‘bots and automated collusion one could be forgiven for thinking that some of the character is being bled from a great game by advancing technology.

Take the latest product to be launched on the poker playing public – The Poker Advantage. The seller of this new tool, CMM Enterprises openly punts it as gaining an “unfair advantage when playing poker,” describing it as a stealth software that makes winning at online poker “a lot more fun amd profitable.”

The company claims that its product is a highly sophisticated odds calculator, hand strength indicator and learning tool. It automatically reads all visible cards on the table in real time. This enables the user to instantly know their hand strength so that they know when to fold, check, call, raise or re-raise.

Using a highly advanced algorithm, the Poker Advantage let’s the user know how their opponents are playing; passive, aggressive, profits and losses and errors they have made. This apparently “… helps players ‘read’ their opponents.”

The Poker Advantage additionally keeps track of hand history up to twenty hands for both the player and his or her opponents. It graphs each player, play so that the user can visually see what each player has done for the past 20 hands at a quick glance. One happy customer is quoted as saying, “What I like best is the hand history. It gives me a pretty good idea of what kind of players my opponents are. In my opinion this is a big advantage, especially in online poker play, where you cannot see your adversaries.”

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CONFERENCE CORNER
2 December 2005
GIGSE 2006 dates set

Get this into your diaries now, because 2006 is just around the corner and the top interactive conference of them all is going to take place a little earlier than usual this year.

River City’s Global Interactive Gaming Summit and Expo 2006 will take place in the Palais de Congress in Montreal, Canada between May 16 and 18.

The organisers are bracing themselves for a record attendance this year, based on past experience with this industry-leading event. Upwards of 1400 delegates from 42 countries are likely to attend, making it a networking fest in addition to the many hot button issues, products and new technologies and business methods that will be on the program.

This year’s sponsors are Orbis, RTG, Mohawk Technologies and Gateway Financial Services.

The really early birds can register online at www.gigse.com, but there will be reminders on the run up to the big opening.

You don’t want to miss this one!

About the Author... Total Posts Written: 1,900
Brian Cullingworth

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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