Monthly Recap June 2005
By Brian Cullingworth Jun 30, 2005
EU DISPUTE OVER CROSS BORDER GAMBLING COULD END SOON
24 June 2005
Belgian lawyer tells law conference it could be over in three years
Reuters has reported encouraging news from the Gambling Law Conference this week, saying that European restrictions to cross-border gambling over the Internet will face a growing number of legal challenges and could fall away within the next three years.
Although European Union law allows cross-border trade by gambling companies, many individual states prevent it, and critics accuse them of doing so to protect their own often monpolistic state lotteries.
“It?s no longer a case of will the barriers come down but more a question of timing,” Ewout Keuleers, an attorney at the Bar of Brussels, told the Gambling Law Conference.
“In two or three years, part of the market will be opened up for more socially acceptable forms of gambling such as sports betting,” he told Reuters afterwards.
“It?s also possible there will be an opening for poker, if courts view it as a game of skill,” he added.
Poker has become a big money-spinner for Internet gambling companies, which estimate the size of the world Internet gambling market at between $7 billion and $12 billion per year and say it is growing at around 20 percent per year.
Keuleers said legal challenges to cross-border gambling restrictions have come up in European courts four times since July 2004, compared with five times between 1992 and July 2004.
Last month, Finland?s Supreme Administrative Court overturned a government decision preventing Hilton Group?s Ladbrokes from operating there.
“In theory there are restrictions, but in reality the restrictions are becoming increasingly difficult to enforce,” Keuleers said.
“It?s unlikely that within 2006 we?ll see an open gambling market in the EU, but slowly we?ll get there,” he added.
AMERICAN HITS THE KIWI JACKPOT
24 June 2005
US$ 250 000 win on Internet progressive slot
Online slots player Marie from Illinois in the U.S. had only been a Kiwi online casino member for two days when she hit the bigtime this week on the Gold Rally progressive slot. After just nine spins of the reels she turned a $16 bet into a $295,000 win.
“I was so shocked I could not believe my eyes, she said. “I was just hoping to get the dynamites in the corner so that I could play a bonus round and keep on playing. I had to call my son and my best friend to come and confirm that I won!”
The American has big plans for her winnings “I’m going to clear off some of my mortgage, do some repairs to my house, put some away for my son’s college education and then pay off my bills, every last one of them. Miracles do happen but I never thought it would happen to me.”
Gold Rally is an eight-line, progressive jackpot, video slot game. Its jackpot amount regularly reaches over $500,000 and has recently been as high as $1.8 million. The game play, interactivity and exciting bonus levels all combine to form a really enjoyable experience.
The big win will be paid in one cash amount.
POKER STARS TO LICENSE ON ISLE OF MAN
24 June 2005
A wise move from the shores of Costa Rica
Media reports as InfoPowa went to press indicated that the successful online poker operation Poker Stars will be officially announcing its move to the Isle of Man this week.
Accounting for more than 10 percent of market share in the poker sector, Poker Stars will undoubtedly bring millions in revenue with it, and the island is likely to cash in on this agreement through a licensing fee and by collecting tax revenue. Recent changes to corporate taxation in the island have made for attractive levels of tax for groups like Poker Stars.
The reports argue that at this point, online gambling law gets tricky. Thanks to the island’s change in law, Poker Stars believes it has the right to accept US bets. Poker Stars is banking on the fact that because the Isle of Man’s defence and foreign policy is protected by England, it falls under the authority and laws of the World Trade Organisation.
The Poker Stars move has once again generated rumours that it might try to pursue a listing on the London Stock Exchange, a tactic that could further cement Poker Stars’ legitimacy in the international business community.
PokerStars’ move from Costa Rica will also help to increase its image throughout Europe, allowing them to target a new audience that will support its core of US users. Poker Stars is hedging its bet on its European success in another way as well. It is the main sponsor for the European Poker Tour and has launched a major advertising campaign in the U.K.
END OF THE ROAD FOR POKER BOOK
24 June 2005
Senticore shelves the brand
Public company Senticore, Inc. has formally terminated its use of the PokerBook brand following the introduction of Lobo Poker.com through new subsidiary LoboGaming, a gaming software development and licensing company.
In addition, Senticore and Silver Star Capital Investors have mutually agreed to rescind Senticore’s former purchase of the controlling interest in PokerBook Gaming Corp. Silver Star Capital Investors will return to Senticore the full purchase price paid, including a reimbursement of expenses borne by the company during the past six months for software development.
“After experiencing numerous issues during the beta testing phase of PokerBook’s proprietary software package, and spending over six months of development time, we decided it would be best to bring in a proven and tested software solution. The LoboPoker.com software is already operable and will officially be rolled out next week through an aggressive marketing campaign,” explained Jay Patel, CEO of Senticore.
Patel also spoke of offering a stock swap for each shareholder of PokerBook who purchased their shares between December 6, 2004 and June 16, 2005. “We believe shareholders who backed our original dream are entitled to continue to be a part of it. Once legal arrangements are completed we intend to offer shares in the new company on a share-for-share basis as soon as possible,” he said.
TEN SEAT POKER FULLY OPERATIONAL
24 June 2005
New site operates through Red Felt
Test programs completed (see previous InfoPowa reports) Ten Seat Poker.com is now fully operational CYOP Systems International Inc. announced this week.
Operated through the company’s UK subsidiary Red Felt Software Inc. the no-download Texas Hold’em poker game at TenSeatPoker.com is ready for cash play, saving players the hassle of installing large files on their computers. A secure transaction system has been developed with multiple layers of security and redundancy, allowing players to use multiple forms of payment.
The site joins more than 200 online poker sites that are collectively generating about $3 billion a year in revenues, equal to 60 percent of last year’s $5 billion in gambling revenues from all of the Las Vegas “Strip” according to some analysts.
Making the announcement, Mitch White, CEO of CYOP, commented, “We are happy to have taken CYOP’s poker out of development and into revenue. The amount gambled on poker websites around the world in 2005 is estimated to be more than USD $60 billion, and the commission revenues around USD $3 billion. CYOP intends to begin marketing its software immediately to the end user and through business partnerships with existing gaming sites and portals.”
POKER ADDICT IN THE MONEY IN WSOP TOURNEY
24 June 2005
An exciting first time out …
The respected online poker portal owner “Poker Addict” has had an exciting and educational first attempt at a 7 card stud hi/lo WSOP tournament, finishing in the money to the tune of $4875 after making it to a creditable 14th place out of a field of 595 poker players. The buy-in was $1 000.
“After being the chip leader for a while it was a bit disappointing to go out 14th but never having played a live tournament I certainly cannot complain,” he said after the event, where he came up against some of the top professional players in the game at the final tables.
“The 14th prize was $4875 and 1st paid $157,000, eventually won by Steve Hohn for his first WSOP bracelet. I must say that being at the same table as Men the Master and Paul Darden (he sat next to me for at least 2 hours) was a pleasure. Beating Darden on a big pot was the highlight.”
There were many notable names in the field. Among them were last year?s seven card stud high/low winner Cyndy Violette, Andy Bloch, 2004 Main Event winner Greg Raymer, John Juanda, Mike Matusow, Mark Seif, Doyle Brunson, Barry Greenstein, Daniel Negreanu, and Dutch Boyd. “Of these only Paul Darden, Men ?The Master? and Barry Greenstein made it in to the money,” Poker Addict reports. “I had the pleasure of knocking out Mike Matusow early on. I did not even know it was him until he was gone and several players at the table congratulated me.”
PA has written the full story at www.rakerebatereview.com. It’s very readable and certainly exciting and we recommend it to anyone interested in the game.
MAJOR SECURITY BREACH, WARNS MASTERCARD
24 June 2005
Check those credit card accounts carefully
Security Focus and many other media outlets reported the shocking news this week that data thieves had breached the systems of credit-card processor CardSystems Solutions and made off with extensive data on as many as 40 million accounts affecting various credit-card brands such as Discover and Visa.
The reports were confirmed by announcements from MasterCard International.
The credit-card giant’s anti-fraud systems detected the breach and, after analysing the data, MasterCard pinpointed the Atlanta, Georgia-based third-party processor as responsible, the company said in a statement.
“Working with all parties, including issuing banks, acquiring banks, the processor and law enforcement, MasterCard immediately launched an investigation into the breach, and worked with CardSystems to remedy the security vulnerabilities in the processor’s systems,” the statement said. “These vulnerabilities allowed an unauthorised individual to infiltrate their network and access the cardholder data.”
The breach is thought to be the largest data leak to date, potentially affecting one out of every seven credit cards issued in the U.S., according to MasterCard estimates.
The credit-card giant verified that information on at least 68,000 MasterCard accounts was taken from CardSystems’ database by “running a script,” said spokeswoman Jessica Antle.
MasterCard declined to release more information on the vulnerabilities for fear it would impact the ongoing investigation, she said.
According to CardSystems, the company first identified the “potential security incident” on May 22 and notified the FBI as well as Visa and MasterCard. The company hired a security company to check and took additional measures to harden the systems, the company said in a statement.
CardSystems processes more than $15 billion annually in credit-card transactions on behalf of more than 105,000 small to medium businesses, according to the company’s site.
The breach potentially exposed 40 million cards of various brands. As many as 13.9 million MasterCard-branded credit cards may have been affected, the company stated. MasterCard notified its member banks of the specific card accounts affected.
Highly sensitive data, such as social security numbers or birth dates are not kept on the cards and are not at risk, the company said. MasterCard stressed that consumers have zero liability for unauthorised transactions and asked that consumers report suspicious transactions to the card’s issuing bank.
MasterCard has given CardSystems a limited amount of time to meet the credit-card giant’s standards for security, the company said in the statement. The vulnerabilities that led to the current breach have been fixed, MasterCard said.
SKYLINE CASINO TO CLOSE
24 June 2005
Sportingbet operation on the way out
Online players who are members of the Skyline Casino owned by Sportingbet have received emails this week giving them short and abrupt notice that the operation will close its virtual doors permanently on Thursday, June 23rd, 2005.
All players with legitimate deposits and winnings will be paid in full within fifteen business days, the email advises. Any accounts suspected of fraudulent activity will be reviewed by Sportingbet’s Fraud Department prior to finalising the status of the account.
Players with any questions are invited to contact [email protected] As at going to press InfoPowa had received no response to a request for further detail.
24 June 2005
New from Chartwell Tech
Club World Casino.com is the latest Flash and download online casino from Chartwell Technology, and sports 27 games supported by 24/7 Support and a choice of financial arrangements via eCommerce Services United Kingdom. The casino deals in Euro, US dollar and GBP sterling.
Both download and Flash versions offer a variety of games including 3 Reel and 5 Reel Slots, Progressive Jackpots, Video Poker, Roulette, Craps, Blackjack and a variety of other card games, Instant Games (including scratchcards) and a selection of Soft Games (Fixed-odds games).
The software is tested and certified on an ongoing basis for fairness and randomness by an independent authority, Technical Systems Testing.
A $, ? or ? 500 Welcome Bonus is currently on offer to launch the casino.
24 June 2005
Several successful and prominent affiliate marketers were clearly less than pleased, and were letting everyone know it at the recent GIGSE conference in Montreal.
The cause of all the bitterness is apparently some unilateral decisions being taken by big online casino groups like Vegas Partners and Fortune Lounge that adversely effect the rewards that affiliates receive in terms of their agreements with the casinos.
“They (the casinos) assure us that we are in a partnership, yet they make these one-sided decisions without even consulting us. That is not a partnership as far as I am concerned and I will be reacting appropriately to this latest attempt to reduce rewards for sending players to their sites,” one angry marketer told us.
Exacerbating an already ugly situation is the fact that the casinos concerned in the changes are making them retroactive, widely regarded as unfair and unprofessional especially in light of the excuse apparently being offered that it would be too difficult in an accounting sense to do otherwise where some arrangements are based on the “lifetime” value of players sent by affiliates.
Another prominent affiliate marketer and portalmaster said that he would be pulling the offending programs from his sites, concluding: “At the end of the day, it’s all about mutual trust. If a casino changes its program from a given date, clearly broadcast, that’s fine. But if it applies this to players sent under a previous contract, it may be contractually legal or it may not, but it tells me I cannot trust them to treat me right in the future.”
Big money is said to be involved – up to $600 000.
It is understood that several affiliate collectives such as the GPWA and CAP are becoming involved in the dispute, and it is likely to be an item high on the agenda at upcoming affiliate conferences.
EXHIBITION AND CONFERENCE ORGANISER TAKEN OVER
24 June 2005
ATE now controlled by the UK’s Clarion Events
BACTA, the UK trade association for the pay to play amusement industry, has confirmed that Clarion Events, a UK based organiser of trade and consumer exhibitions has acquired a controlling interest in ATE, BACTA?s commercial exhibition, conference, publishing and services subsidiary.
In a statement Colin Daniels, President said, ?We are pleased to conclude this transaction which we believe will be good for BACTA, securing the future of the association and good for ATE, giving it the opportunity to do bigger and better things for the industry. We are especially pleased to have found in Clarion a young and dynamic company which shares ATE?s values and will continue the strong working partnership that BACTA and ATE have always shared.
Simon Kimble, Managing Director of Clarion Events said he was delighted with the acquisition of ATE. ?Under BACTA?s ownership ATE has become a world leader in the amusement, gaming and betting industries and we believe that together we can benefit from each others range of skills and experiences.
?ATE has a great team of people who have won success by knowing their industries and working with them. That is exactly what Clarion looks for and we want to help and support it in any way we can. I am really looking forward to meeting more people myself and offering any help and support that I can.?
SERVER BASED GAMES FOR WMS
24 June 2005
$15 million software deal
U.S. based WMS Gaming Inc., a subsidiary of public company WMS Industries Inc. has entered into wide ranging technology transfer agreements with software developer Cyberscan / Cyberview Technology Inc. in a five year deal worth $15 million.
WMS will get the latest versions of Cyberview’s server-based and downloadable gaming systems and related technologies. The non-exclusive agreement also give WMS the right to create derivative versions of these systems and to use, sell, lease, export or distribute the Cyberview technologies in all gaming markets.
In addition, Cyberview has granted WMS a non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide license to its technology patent portfolio related to server-based gaming. Cyberview will provide WMS’ system technology team with initial technical and functional support to enable WMS to operate and further develop these technologies.
The deal includes a five-year agreement for WMS to license certain of its game content to Cyberview on a royalty-based, recurring revenue basis for use in lottery and other non-casino markets outside of North America.
Cyberview will be paid total cash consideration of $15 million over 2 years for these agreements and WMS has been granted rights of first refusal relating to common shares of Cyberscan Technology held by Jean-Marie Gatto and Sylvie Linard.
Cyberview designs and develops server-based game downloads that have been certified by Gaming Laboratories International, Inc. for use in domestic Class III casinos. In addition, Cyberview won a first-place award for Best Productivity-Enhancement Technology at the Global Gaming Business Gaming and Technology awards in November 2004 and recently received the Gold Award for product innovation for both its Downloadable Games Platform and Games Activation Scheduler as displayed at the gaming industry’s most prestigious trade show, G2E, in October 2004.
GTECH CLINCHES FINNISH LOTTERY AND SPORTS BETTING DEAL
24 June 2005
National lottery Veikkaus partnering
The company that is arguably the world’s biggest computerised lottery systems developer, Gtech Holdings Corp., has teamed with Veikkaus Oy, operator of Finland’s national lottery, to develop and sell games and technology, with an emphasis on sports betting.
Gtech will hold an 81 percent stake in the venture, with Veikkaus holding the remainder, the West Greenwich, Rhode Island- based company said in a statement. The venture will be based in Finland and will be staffed initially by Veikkaus workers, Gtech said.
The company expects to benefit from Veikkaus’s success at developing new games and distributing them through other means than traditional retailers. For the fiscal year ended in February, Gtech’s revenue outside of the U.S. and Brazil rose 9.9 percent to $599 million.
The venture is expected to be in operation beginning in the fiscal third quarter, Gtech said.
BOOM IN U.S. GAMBLING SET TO CONTINUE
24 June 2005
And the PricewaterhousCoopers figures don’t even include Internet operations…
A new study on gambling released this week by internationally respected business services group PricewaterhouseCoopers contains new long-range projections that have gambling revenues growing at a compound annual rate of more than 8 percent over the next 4 years to an expected $100 billion global pie.
According to the Global Entertainment and Media Outlook Study, casino gambling revenue nationwide in the USA will jump from last years’ $47.3 billion to $64.1 billion in 2009.
And that includes only the legal, tracked revenues brought in by the nation’s casinos and “racinos,” be they on Indian reservations, the Jersey Shore or the Las Vegas Strip.
Parimutuel betting, lotteries and Internet gambling are not figured in.
Nevada will see fastest growth in the States, the study said, due to an improved economy and new casino openings. It cited the recent launch of Wynn Las Vegas; the recent combinations of MGM Mirage with Mandalay and Harrah’s takeover of Caesars; and other big-money plans including Las Vegas Sands’ 3,000-room Palazzo that is set to open next to the Venetian in 2007.
Meanwhile, Atlantic City’s take could grow from $4.8 billion last year to $6.3 billion by 2009 and the regional casino category, which includes the “riverboats” of the Midwest and South, will go from $13.4 billion to an even $16 billion over the same period..
Tribal casinos will still rake in the most, though, with an estimated $26 billion in 2009, vs. $18.5 billion in 2004.
Overseas markets will grow rapidly, too with the Asian Pacific region the most vibrant of all as multinationals move in and countries including China (in Macao) Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, Australia and the Philippines open up to or expand casino gambling opportunities.
The region can expect a 15.9 percent compound growth rate out to 2009, the year when gambling revenues will reach $18.5 billion.
Two other regions, Europe-Middle East-Africa and Latin America, will grow at rates of 7.9 percent and 12.6 percent. Factors moving them along include an expected loosening of regulations in the U.K. and legalisation in Mexico and Chile.
The U.S will remain the largest gambling market. At top properties in Las Vegas, food, hotel rooms, entertainment, stores, spa treatments and the like often bring in more money than gambling.
MGM Mirage has big Vegas ambitions and is preparing to hit Las Vegas with its Project CityCenter, a $4.5 billion undertaking to feature thousands of new hotel rooms, a cluster of condo towers and a host of restaurants, stores and entertainment venues. It is expected to open in 2010.
BODOG GOES BIG ON WSOP
24 June 2005
Check here to see who the favourites to win are…
There were some interesting poker odds in Bodog’s latest World Series of Poker assessment.
The company has qualified over 70 of its players for the World Series of Poker in addition to providing betting odds on the event.
Bodog.com’s oddsmakers favor poker superstars Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu at 200/1. They are followed by top players Phil Hellmuth, Howard Lederer, Gus Hansen, Chris Ferguson and Erick Lindgren at 225/1.
“With the incredible growth of poker, our players have been clamoring for wagers on the WSOP, ” said Calvin Ayre, Founder and CEO of Bodog.com. “It really brings together two of our great strengths ? event wagering and poker.”
Bodog.com is poised to make a big splash at the 2005 World Series of Poker. In addition to fielding the 70-member Team Bodog and offering odds, the site will host the Bodog.com Poker & Sports Marketing Conference in Las Vegas on July 6 th and 7 th. Sports and poker luminaries expected to attend the conference include Reggie Jackson, Mike Ditka, Daniel Negreanu and WSOP tournament director Matt Savage.
INNOVATIVE FIXED ODDS GAMES FOR STANLEYBET
24 June 2005
There are some real Dynamite Ideas here…
Fixed odds e-gaming developer Dynamite Idea, and gambling system partner Orbis Technology have launched a suite of brand new fixed odds betting games for Stanleybet, one of the top bookmaker chains in the UK and Ireland.
There are 3 initial games. ‘Triple Spin’, the unique and patented Hi Lo game remains one of the most popular fixed odds betting games in the market where the player predicts if the next number will be higher or lower, uniquely selecting from a choice of 3-reels.
In ‘Squares’ a play-on-demand version of the popular scheduled draw numbers game of the same name, players are offered a choice of numerous bet options, based on the combinations of the 6 numbers drawn between 1-36.
‘Hi Lo Dice’ invites the player to predict whether the total of both dice will be higher or lower than the current total: payouts and gameplay are increased over a standard Hi-Lo by linking the probability of rolling a particular number to the payout. The game can pay out up to 35 times the stake on a single Hi-Lo choice!
Chris Brown, Director of E-commerce from Stanleybet said “Dynamite Idea was the obvious choice to provide games that could be integrated into our OpenBet system from Orbis. There has been a great initial response from our customers and as expected Triple Spin has proven to be hugely popular.”
NEW POKER SITE FROM CYBERSPORTSBOOK
24 June 2005
Online gambling site CyberSportsBook has launched its own online poker room, branded BetHold?em Poker.
The new online poker site gives players the option to play either for free (useful in a practice and educational sense) or for cash. Players can also choose from a number of poker variations, including Texas hold’em, 7 card stud and Omaha with table limits starting at 5 cents through to $100 no-limit games.
BetHold?em Poker is also offering tournament options, including freerolls and WSOP qualifying events.
NEW WPT 4 TOURNAMENT FROM TIGER
24 June 2005
$14 000 sponsorship for winner
Starting June 20th, 2005 Tigergaming’s new cardroom promotion will kick in for sponsored packages worth $14,000 to the World Poker Tour.
In terms of the offer, players can win a prize package valued at $14,000 including travel expenses, hotel accommodation and entry to the WPT Season 4 event at Borgata ($10000+$300).
For only 6 cents players can buy into stage 1 of the satellite tournaments. From there, the top player who can beat 44 players wins the $14,000 package.
Registration starts Monday June 20th and goes all through the summer until September 3rd, 2005.
EMPIRE MARKET LAUNCH PRICE FALTERS
24 June 2005
A promising start, but then significant drop
Empire raised ?123m in London on Wednesday at 175p a share, with its Israeli chief executive Noam Lanir pocketing ?50 million from a transaction associated with the AIM float, reported the Telegraph this week.
But Empire Online, an the gambling marketer, looked to have burned at least some investors when its shares dived 20? to 153p on its second day of trading.
Later, Empire’s advisers said it had been caught up in the poor sentiment over the mooted ?4.76 billion float of PartyGaming, which has already had to cut its planned listing valuation by about ?1 billion.
Jag Mundi, head of corporate finance at Numis Securities, Empire’s adviser, said: “We have been caught up in the cross-fire over the PartyGaming float. There’s a lot of talk over whether their float will succeed or fail or whether they will have to cut their price again.”
He said the Empire business, chaired by Stanley Leisure founder Lord Steinberg, was “…the same as it was when it floated” but had been hit by PartyGaming cutting its planned listing price.
Of the cash raised by Empire at the float, only ?18m was for the company, with the rest pocketed by the owners, who still have more than 75pc of the group, now valued at ?448m.
There were further market jitters over PartyGaming, whose conditional dealings are scheduled to start on June 27. City bookie IG Index said its spread for the shares had slipped to 110p-118p, while Cantor Index has a range of 112p-115p. PartyGaming’s indicative range is 111p-127p.
One City banker said: “I think it’s really going to struggle. I’m trying to find some support.” Another banker said: “The institutions know Party’s owners really want to get it away, so they’re going to force the price down. You could get a share price of ?1.” The owners could pocket more than ?1 billion from the float.
PARTY GAMING’S CHAIRMAN IN BREACH OF CORPORATE GOVERNANCE?
24 June 2005
?3 million bonanza from coming IPO
Party Gaming chairman Michael Jackson, who could make ?3 million from the companies market listing on June 27 demanded a three-year contract before signing up as chairman.
Jackson is reported to have told PartyGaming’s bankers Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein it was the minimum tenure he would accept for taking on the role.
His contract breaches corporate governance guidelines stating that a non-executive chairman of a FTSE 100 company must not have a contract that is longer than 12 months.
News of Jackson’s determination to extend his contract comes just a week after shareholders at Sage, the IT firm where he is also chairman, expressed concern over his new role.
Documents recently released confirm Jackson’s ?500,000 a year salary for his PartyGaming role in addition to a ?1.5m bonus on flotation, scheduled for June 27. The firm is hoping to place its shares at between 111p-127p.
But in unofficial market trading this week the shares slipped to a 110p-118p range after news from the USA that “…there is a significant risk that criminal or civil judgments may be sought against the group of (Party Gaming) directors” in the US.
EXPERTS COMMENT ON U.S. PARTY GAMING THREATS
24 June 2005
“…the chances approach those of being hit by lighting,” says law expert
Reuters started the news week rolling over the weekend with a story on last week’s perceived threats by US authorities that the Party Gaming directors in the States could face legal sanctions. The comments were widely seen as an attempt to diminish the IPO due at the end of this (June) month.
The report quotes observers as saying that such an action is “….about as likely as drawing four aces in a game of five-card stud.”
U.S. law enforcers are unlikely to directly pursue PartyGaming or any other online-gambling company due to unresolved legal questions, several industry experts said.
“‘It’s so remote that the chances approach those of being hit by lighting,’ said Joseph Kelly, a professor of business law at the University of Buffalo who has helped other countries draft online-gambling rules.
Efforts to pass an anti-gambling law that applies specifically to the Internet have repeatedly failed in Congress over the past several years amid a thicket of competing interests: horse racing, dog racing, state lotteries and Indian casinos that seek to be excluded from the provisions of any new lay seeking to ban Internet gambling.
PARTY GAMING IPO ON TRACK
24 June 2005
Despite threats of US prosecution, the investors like this one
Fund managers planning an investment in Party Gaming have shrugged off the US regulatory risks allegedly attached to the Gibraltar-based online poker operator by placing sufficient orders for shares to ensure that the company will float next week.
By Tuesday evening this week, well ahead of the listing date of June 27 the group’s book was fully covered, valuing Party Gaming within its indicated price range of $8 billion – $9.2 billion (?4.4 billion – ?5.04 billion).
MAYFAIR CASINO TIES UP WITH CELEBPOKER
24 June 2005
Gala celebrity finals scheduled for end July
The Palm Beach Casino in London’s swanky Mayfair will be the scene of a gala celebrity Texas Hold ‘Em match in late July, organised with CelebPoker.com.
The star studded tournament is to be held over the weekend of July 30/31st 2005 with a prize pool of $120,000 and will include Michael Greco the former Eastender and recent star of Celebrity Love Island. Also appearing will be Jesse Birdsall from Footballer’s Wives. Further celebrities players will be announced over the coming weeks.
Players who want to rub shoulders with the glitterati can qualify or register online at Celebpoker.com.
Using the same site, players can qualify for all of the prestigious World Poker Tour Events including the forthcoming Paris tournament where $15,000 prize packages are up for grabs.
BETFAIR CAUTIONS ON U.K. TAXATION
24 June 2005
Move offshore a possibility says chairman
The question of British government taxation on internet betting sites was front and centre again this week as the chairman of Betfair issued a veiled threat that it will move its operations offshore if it gets lumbered with a heavier tax rate than traditional bookmakers.
Writing in the companys annual report, Betfair’s chairman Sir Robert Horton said that he had “pointed out” to the Treasury, which is reviewing how betting exchanges are taxed, the “…considerable drawbacks of introducing an inequitable tax structure among UK-based operators”.
Betfair wants the Government to maintain the status quo of the same rate of tax for traditional bookmakers and betting exchanges, which match bets between individuals. Betfair’s high street rivals argue that many of Betfair’s customers are acting as professional bookmakers and should pay the gross profits tax which they pay.
Betfair has recently been granted a licence to operate in Malta, and is prepared to make a full-scale move there if the Government bows to the high street betting shops’ demands.
It says all its customers should be treated the same, whether they back a horse to win or “lay” it to lose, as Betfair, which is a licensed bookmaker, pays its fair share gross profits tax on its customers’ winnings. “Our gross profits tax payment rose to ?14.3m from ?9.3m last year,” Stephen Hill, the chief executive of Betfair, said yesterday when announcing its full-year results.
Pre-tax profits for the year rose 74 per cent despite taking a ?4m hit to bail out customers of its rival, Sporting Options, which went bust last year.
Mr Hill declined to comment on whether Betfair is soon to float, but it is understood to have been lining up bankers to take on the task and a decision on whether to pursue a listing is expected within the next month.
TOP BETFAIR MAN COULD BE IN THE MONEY
24 June 2005
A public flotation could deliver share-based bonanza
And in a sequel to the Betfair annual report, The Times Online reports that the chief executive of the giant betting exchange company has been given shares that will be worth more than ?10 million when the company pursues its much predicted and anticipated stock market flotation. Stephen Hill, a former chief executive of the Financial Times Group, who joined Betfair in July 2003, stands to get 3.13 million shares, which have been put into an employee benefit trust in his name.
When the shares were put into the trust this year they were valued at 271p each, equivalent to a total of ?8.47 million. The mooted ?500 million valuation on the possible float would push the worth of the shares to well over ?10 million.
A spokeswoman said that the share award was based on the rise in the value of Betfair under Mr Hill?s tenure and was part of his terms of employment. ?He doesn?t get a bonus, he doesn?t have a pension or even a company car. This is directly related to the value of the company,? she said.
Mr Hill?s pay last year rose from ?269,000 to ?325,000.
The firm, which would not comment on its flotation plans, is about to appoint advisers with a view to a possible listing early next year. It has shortlisted Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and UBS.
The biggest shareholders are Andrew Black and Edward Wray, Betfair?s founders, who between them have almost 30 percent. Europeatweb, an internet-based fund controlled by Bernard Arnault, the LVMH boss, has about 10 percent.
Responding to lobbying by the big bookmakers that it should pay more tax, Betfair revealed that its overall contribution to the Exchequer during the year was ?26.9 million, made up mainly of gross profits tax and corporation tax.
UKBETTING ROLLS OUT NEW GAMES
24 June 2005
10 new offerings from Electracade
British sports bet and casino site Ukbetting plc is increasing its online games portfolio by 10 new games, including 4 new products launched this week using Orbis Technology gambling systems and Electracade Ltd.
The games will appear on UK Betting.com and Total Bet.com.
The new games supplied by Electracade initially include four ?British Style? single line slot machines with more to follow shortly. The new slot machines Old MacDonald, Lucky Spell, Pirates Gold and The Fruity Loopy are based on Electracade?s unique SlotEngine, that enables Electracade to build any format of slot machine from any one ?skin?.
The client can customise the slot machine including how many reels, pay-tables, multiplier reels, fonts, sound banks, which features to activate (nudges, holds, reel picker, super holds etc.) and frequency of feature occurrence.
?The addition of this exciting new content further enhances our games offering whilst the partnership with Orbis and Electracade on these and other products ensures we achieve speed to market?, Ukbetting Project Manager Paul Marchong commented.
WOMEN’S POKER BOOST
24 June 2005
Prima and Gaming Club come to the party
Last week InfoPowa reported on the 2005 Ladies International Poker series (LIPS) and this prestigious event for the fairer sex is in the headlines again with some generous sponsorship from two leading online gaming companies.
The Gaming Club Online Poker Room and the Prima Poker Network, a global card room network, will turn up the heat with awards of $5,000 to the winners of the LIPS Warm-up Free Roll Tournament, and sponsor three $1000 seats at the World Series of Poker Ladies Event on Sunday June 26th.
Other prizes include three all expenses paid tickets to the LIPS Grand Championship in May 2006 and a laptop computer.
The LIPS Free Roll Tournament will be hosted by two-time WSOP Ladies event winner, Susie Isaacs, and will be held on Saturday June 25th at 10am Pacific at the Binion’s Gambling Hall and Hotel in downtown Las Vegas.
The 250 seats available for the LIPS Free Roll Tournament can be reserved with a $20 entry fee. Of the entry fee, $5 is considered a “bounty chip”. Each player will receive $1,000 in chips to play with for the tournament. When a player is eliminated from the Free Roll, they will be required to give their bounty chip to their opponent.
Interested female poker players can register for the tournament at http://www.lipstour.com.
“Our Free Roll event gives LIPS players the ultimate opportunity — a chance to win this year’s prize pot with no buy-in at one of the largest poker tournaments in the world,” said Tim Johnson, CEO of Carmen Media Group, the parent company of The Gaming Club Online Poker Room.
“One of our goals is to provide players with an environment to hone their skills and become better poker players. This event allows us to provide that in a real-life environment, while supporting the continued presence of women in poker.”
The Gaming Club Online Poker Room is putting a $500 bounty on host, Suzie Isaacs. There is also a $250 bounty on Angela Baca, who won The Gaming Club/LIPS Free Roll and an all expense paid ticket to the LIPS Grand Championship earlier this year, as well as Kim Fontes, winner of the 2005 Grand Championship and Kathy Hartman, who won her ticket to the WSOP Ladies event after winning the WSOP Free Roll open to LIPS Grand Championship players.
“The LIPS Tour ladies love The Gaming Club Online Poker Room. Their generosity and creative ways for women to play and win at poker has provided avenues for several women to reach their poker playing goals, like playing in higher stakes tournaments like the LIPS Tour Championship and ultimately, the World Series of Poker,” said Lupe Soto, Founder and Director of the LIPS Tour.
2005 WSOP THE RICHEST ON THE PLANET
24 June 2005
Last year’s record prize purse has doubled
2005 is set to be a record year for the World Series of Poker tournament, owned by Harrahs Entertainment. This week organisers said the event was the richest sporting event on the planet, and predicted that the total prize pool at this year will reach a staggering $100 million, more than doubling the record the event set just a year ago.
With a total of 45 events, the 36th annual World Series of Poker is the longest, largest and most prestigious event of its kind. Its unprecedented growth necessitated its move this year from its longtime home in downtown Las Vegas to the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino just off the Strip, where the tournament is hosted in a 60,000-square-foot gaming area equipped with 200 poker tables.
“With each new event we host, we’re breaking another record,” said Gary Thompson, director of operations and communications for the World Series of Poker.
“We have brought in 450 of the world’s best poker dealers to accommodate the enormous crowds flooding in from around the globe looking for both tournament and live-game action. Those players are contributing to a prize pool that will dwarf such events as the Indy 500, the Kentucky Derby and the Masters.”
The record prize pool is being driven by the unprecedented number of players paying entry fees to World Series of Poker events.
In 2003, the World Series of Poker generated a total of 7,572 player registrations and a total prize pool of nearly $22 million. In 2004, the total number of player registrations nearly doubled, reaching 14,054 — and the total prize pool soared to nearly $45 million.
Through only the first 19 events, total registrations at the 36th annual World Series of Poker have exceeded 13,500 and the total prize money has risen beyond the $23.5 million mark. With many of the most popular events still to come, organizers believe total prize money will reach $100 million by the time the tournament’s main event begins July 7.
“I’ve been playing tournament poker for a long time, but I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Robert Williamson III, who has made multiple World Series of Poker final tables in the last five years and has won a gold bracelet in Pot-Limit Omaha.
“I’ve always been bullish on poker — it’s the greatest game I’ve ever played — but there’s no way I would have guessed we’d hit $100 million this year. No way.”
The World Series of Poker is owned and operated by Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc., which purchased the tournament early last year. All but the final two days of the 36th annual World Series of Poker will be played at Harrah’s Rio casino. The tournament’s final days will be played at Binion’s in downtown Las Vegas, which hosted the World Series of Poker for its first 35 years.
ANTIGUA vs U.S.A. ROUND THREE
24 June 2005
Islanders seeking strategic alliances
The Financial Times reported from London this week that the Caribbean island state of Antigua and Barbuda is looking at ?strategic alliances? with UK companies to boost its online gambling industry, as it fights a clampdown from US authorities who apparently consider internet betting to be illegal.
Antigua is keen to benefit from the recently passed UK Gambling Act as a possible path that could bring more clarity to murky legal and trade controversies that threaten the industry.
The island is one of several offshore tax havens used by internet gaming operators to avoid the regulatory perils of markets such as the US and to enjoy more lenient rates of tax.
?The UK wants to be a leader in internet gaming,? said Kaye McDonald, a director of Antigua’s Financial Services Regulatory Commission. ?We’re looking at all future implications of the UK law in consultation with online gaming operators.?
Antigua has tried to attract online gaming operators keen to target the US market. In the next 12 months the Caribbean island state says it is to form a marketing corporation to represent the internet gaming industry as well as tourism and financial services.
?My guess is that if you’re a listed company [in the UK] and you want to take bets from outside the UK then this is why Antigua is offering its services,? said Peter Dubens, the chairman of UKbetting, a British-domiciled internet gaming operator that is listed on the UK market. The company has not established an offshore operation and would not target the US market until the legality of the industry had been clarified, he added.
In a double-edged ruling, the World Trade Organisation found that some of the US measures (on moral protection grounds) were justified but ruled that they had not been applied fairly. However, Antigua contends that such prohibitions would have to be applied to all forms of ?remote betting?, including horse racing and buying lottery tickets online, which are legal in some US states.
Antigua filed a complaint with the WTO in 2003 after seeing its online gaming industry decline by as much as 60 per cent.
Although US federal authorities consider internet gambling illegal, US gamblers account for 50-60 per cent of the $12bn global industry. Over the past decade US legislators have failed despite several attempts to pass a law that explicitly bans internet gambling, but the Department of Justice has stifled the industry by attacking banks that take credit card payments and media outlets that accept advertising from online gaming operators.
At the height of the industry, about 120 online gaming operators once did business in Antigua but that has fallen as low as 22 since the US crackdown. the FT report claims.
Mark Mendel, lead attorney for Antigua, accused the US of dragging its feet in complying with WTO rules and said the legal wrangling could continue for four or five years.
GERMAN SPAMMER SUED
24 June 2005
Don’t mess with Hotmail…
Techweb News reported this week that Microsoft’s German unit has sued an unnamed company in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia for spamming the U.S.-based company’s Hotmail service.
One of Germany’s 16 federal states, North Rhine-Westphalia is in the northwest part of the country. Notable cities in the state include Essen, Cologne, Dusseldorf and Bonn.
The as yet unidentified company and its managing director were both listed in the lawsuit, which contends that several million spam messages were sent to Hotmail accounts.
Most of the messages were advertisements for Web design and development services, but some touted online gambling or pornographic sites. A network of companies in both the U.S. and the Ukraine were used to send the spam, Microsoft alleges.
The company’s owner denied sending the spam, and blamed business partners who he refused to name.
Although Germany does not have a federal anti-spam law in place, Microsoft was able to sue under a provision of the country’s anti-trust legislation.
BIG NAME INVESTMENT CONFERENCE ON INTERNET GAMING
24 June 2005
Morgan Stanley and a serious examination of online gaming
The investment heavies are taking an increasing interest in online gaming due to the recent speculation on lucrative IPOs and the intensity of poker coverage.
This week the international specialists Morgan Stanley were in the thick of things with a conference targeted on institutional investors in London.
BETandWIN.com Interactive Entertainment AG were among top companies making presentations on June 23, and InfoPowa intends to provide details on the discussions as soon as these are to hand.
B&W co-CEO Norbert Teufelberger was scheduled to deliver a paper followed by a panel discussion as we went to press.
MARKETING TO BE BOOSTED AT VC GAMING
24 June 2005
Slower business a wake up call
British gambling group Gaming VC has not let the grass grow under its feet following weakening revenues over the past three months.
With refreshing honesty, the company has announced its intention to introduce a new marketing program following a fall in profits that directors believe is due to marketing deficiencies.
Although 2005 had a positive start with daily average net revenues ahead of target, thanks to the launch of new slot machine games, Gaming VC declined in the second quarter with deteriorating revenues. Projected half-year profits of Euro 21 million are below target as a consequence, the company reports.
Immediate marketing responses to the situation have made improvements, and further large-scale marketing initiatives are being prepared over the next few weeks, backed by a fresh marketing strategy for the remainder of 2005.
Gaming VC?s CEO, Steve Barlow says ?whilst we are disappointed to have fallen short of some of our targets, we are encouraged by the success of our recent marketing efforts and are confident that the strategy we have defined will allow us to meet market expectations for the year.?
SALUTE TO THE TROOPS
24 June 2005
Kudos to Bodog on a patriotic move
Kudos to Calvin Ayre’s Bodog gambling group were due this week following an imaginative celebrity “Thank you to the troops” initiative for the 110,000 men and women of the U.S. military currently in Hawaii, many of whom are awaiting or returning from deployment in the Middle East.
The four-day event is scheduled for July 21-24, 2005, under the banner ‘Bodog Salutes Our Troops: A Tribute to American Heroes,’ and will be held in Oahu, Hawaii.
The program includes visiting celebrities, musicians, comedians, professional athletes and troops interacting in various activities including a poker tournament, family picnic, and a softball game. There will also be a comedy show and concert held at the world famous Waikiki Shell for 8,000 military members and their families.
All proceeds from the event will go to the military charity Fisher House Foundation.
“Bodog Salutes our Troops is an opportunity to give something back to the men and women who have risked their lives in the interest of protecting our freedom,” said Ayre. “Giving these troops a little entertainment and leisure time is the least we can do for their sacrifices, and we are thrilled to be involved with Fisher House Foundation, a charity that truly supports troops in their time of need.”
“We are delighted to welcome all of the celebrity participants who will visit our island for this event,” said Kathy Giannetti, Leisure Activities Director CPRP CPP, U.S. Military. “Every little bit helps in keeping morale high, and this event will be a real treat for the personnel stationed here.”
The entertainment will bring together the service men and women of the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Marines, Army and Coast Guard based at Hickam Airforce Base, Schofield Barracks, Pearl Harbor, and Kaneohe Marine Corp Base.
One of the highlights of the weekend will feature an inter-service poker tournament with finalists playing with celebrities at Camp Bodog on the beach. The finals, which will be held at world renowned Kahala Mandarin Oriental resort, will be overseen by world famous poker tournament director Matt Savage. The tournament will feature approximately 15 celebrities, 10 Bodog.net players and over 60 U.S. Troops going head-to-head in No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em, with the top celebs and troops squaring off at the final table.
“Fisher House Foundation is delighted to be working with Bodog on this event to salute the troops,” said James Weiskopf, Vice President of Fisher House Foundation. “It’s a wonderful way to combine fun and entertainment while giving a little something back. So many families will benefit and that’s what our Foundation is all about.”
24 June 2005
Deep pockets and a yen for competitive celebrity hobnobbing? This could be for you…
The Las Vegas Sun reported on a new and expensive twist to the poker phenomenon – competitive private games with top celebrities for seriously pricey prizes.
The publication recounts that a couple of weeks ago, a Connecticut businessman sat at a poker table at Wynn Las Vegas with actor Matt Damon, sports legends Pete Sampras and Wayne Gretzky and investment maven Warren Buffet. Around him, other wealthy individuals were deep into their games of no-limit Texas hold ’em.
There was no media frenzy or cable television crew on hand. The poker tables were set up in a ballroom far from the incessant ring of slot machines and the steady buzz of the main casino floor.
For these affluent businesspeople, the prizes at stake – which included a ride in a Boeing business jet, a Maserati sports car and Dom Perignon champagne – were besides the point.
About 200 businesspeople got a chance to play high-stakes poker, TV-style, at the private poker tournament, organised by NetJets Inc., a Buffett-owned jet ownership company.
NetJets invited some of their best customers to participate in the tournament, which was hosted by Wynn Las Vegas using free “chips” and luxury prizes donated from NetJets clients.
State law allows private poker games that do not involve a “rake,” which is a percentage of bets taken by the house, the way most Las Vegas poker rooms make money.
Private poker tournaments are becoming more of a trend at a time when companies are looking for new ways of jazzing up corporate meetings, rewarding customers or recognizing valued employees, observers say.
On any given week a Las Vegas casino is hosting a private poker tournament, said Anthony Curtis, publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor newsletter for gamblers.
“Companies looking to set up an event are looking for something other than getting a talking head or a private rock concert,” said Curtis, whose company is expected to begin organizing such tournaments to meet demand.
“Poker is the new cigar, the new martini,” he said. “It fills all these needs and it’s got the flavor of Vegas. People who’ve never tried it get off on it. They’re like giddy little kids.”
Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., which is now hosting its World Series of Poker tournament at the Rio, has been approached by several business groups that want to offer private poker events.
“A number of corporations, sales forces, investment banking firms and auto dealer associations … are trying to catch the wave and do these things,” Harrah’s poker tournament Director Gary Thompson said.
NetJets founder and chairman Richard Santulli said the poker event went so well that he expects it to become an annual event at Wynn Las Vegas.
Santulli said he came up with the idea during a plane ride with Steve Wynn, a NetJets customer.
“We thought it would be an interesting way to get people to see Steve’s spectacular hotel and have fun the way we see poker on TV,” Santulli said.
Players who were knocked out of the running waited around to watch those remaining until some 200 people were left watching the final table. NetJets set up stands so guests could watch and broadcast the action on a television monitor in the style of a major televised tournament.
CYBERSLOTZ APPOINTS NEW FINANCIAL CHIEF
24 June 2005
Talarius plc., owners of gaming portal Cyberslotz and the Quicksilver businesses has appointed Andy Hall (49) as finance director.
Hall, a father of four, joins from the Black Leisure Group which, amongst other interests, owns outdoor specialists Milletts and the UK licence to the O?Neill surfing fashion brand. Prior to that, he spent 16 years as group financial controller with Whitbread, working with brands including David Lloyd Leisure, Costa Coffee and Marriott Hotels.
Hall believes this is the right time to be joining Talarius plc; he explained: ?The company has just been floated on the Alternative Investment Market, investors have bought into the Talarius vision, and the laws regulating the industry are changing. So, from a professional perspective, the timing couldn?t have been better.?
24 June 2005
Here’s a summary for your diaries:
SEPT 8 – 9 2005
I-Gaming InDepth: SkillGames
Lake Las Vegas, Nevada, USA | Details Forthcoming
SEPT 27 2005
IPO 2005 I-Gaming Public Offerings
New York, USA | Details Forthcoming
NOV 7 – 9 2005
EiG Expo 2005 European I-Gaming Congress & Expo
Nice, France | Tradeshow Co-Produced by RCG & ATE
DEC 8 – 9 2005
I-Gaming InDepth: Online Poker
Nassau, Bahamas | Details Forthcoming
Somwhere around here ICE is likely to take place in London, too.
FEB 20 – 21 2006
PCIG 2006 Pacific Congress on I-Gaming
Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Macau | Details Forthcoming
May 16 – 18, 2006
8th Annual Global Interactive Gaming Summit & Expo (GIGSE)
Palais des congr?s de Montr?al – Montreal, Quebec
FULL HOUSE AND PLENTY OF INFORMATION AT GIGSE ’05
15 June 2005
Day One emphasis was on regulation, customer service and anti-fraud measures
Online gambling’s biggest annual get-together opened in the Palais de Congres, Montreal yesterday on a note of continued growth and confidence in the future.
Organizer Sue Schneider from River City Group said in introducing the keynote speakers that attendances were significantly up again, with over 1200 delegates from 47 countries pre-registered and scores more arriving on opening day.
She revealed that 96 top companies were sponsoring or exhibiting in the Expo section, which opens today (Tuesday) and promised that the speaker program would have wide appeal and interest with everything from current international issues to relatively new phenomena such as poker, skill games and developments in the burgeoning mobile market sector.
Keynote addresses at the opening were given by the American Gaming Association’s Frank Fahrenkopf, and the CEO from Austrian land games equipment supplier Novomatic AG, Franz Wohlfahrt – the first time that both introductory speakers are from the land gambling industry.
Fahrenkopf gave an expert history, background and current situation summary of the frustrating US legal situation, emphasising that Sen. Kyl was back with a new “no exceptions” anti-online gambling proposal on which the AGA was presently neutral. However, he left the large opening day audience in no doubt that the AGA position was subject to change if the “no exceptions” nature of the new proposal changed in any way – especially in the way of carveouts for vested interests.
Wohlfahrt gave a delivered a very professional presentation and said that in Europe there was a need for effective regulation rather than attempts to ban online gambling, and he foresaw interesting collaborative land / online possibilities in a more liberal European environment.
He did not minimise the current “sovereignty” hassles with established state monopolies, however and said that the growing power of i-gaming with its cross border capability was clearly making a serious impact.
Turning to regulation, he used Alderney, IOM and Gibraltar as examples of real and effective government based regulation, and expressed optimism in the continued development of the UK Gambling Act and the good potential this has.
Possible synergies for the land and i-gaming industries were discussed, and he said that the two were not mutually exclusive and could embrace areas such as central server based download games and network partnerships.
He closed on a high note, saying that technology and massive consumer demand had made i-gaming “unstoppable”, but that genuine regulation was critical.
With the conference formally opened, the familiar dual track presentations swung into action with the very topical areas of customer service and payment concepts taking centre stage.
Wagerlogic md A J Slivinski moderated lively presentations by Evan Hoff of London-based investigative agency Quest and Iovation’s Greg Pierson , both dealing with ways in which good investigative risk management and new technologies could help to combat the menace of online fraud.
Although there was no silver bullet solution, verification technologies and public record checks could definitely reduce the risk in this important area was the message.
Pierson’s expert review of what his and other technology companies could offer had many delegates furiously scribbling notes, whilst the astonishing array of public record checks available to specialists like Quest was impressive in making the “Know Your Customer” requirements and philosophies a reality.
Quoting from a NY Times headline “The Age of Privacy Is Over” Hoff identified the huge amount of electronic information publicly available to those who knew where and how to access it, particularly in developed countries like the USA.
The advantages and pitfalls of Customer Support centres have always been an area of keen interest for operators and players alike, and two excellent, if at times rather technical papers followed on the complexities of running a profitable and customer-friendly centre. Mridul Sharma of eGAIN in the USA gave an especially noteworthy guide to success focused strongly on customer satisfaction rather than number crunching. It was good to see an executive with a firm grasp of what customers need, and his points on proactively training, motivating, informing and updating service reps would have received applause from any player audience.
“Don’t get too hung up on numbers at the expense of customer satisfaction,” was a strong message to the audience that will resonate with the player community as well.
Ziv Chen from the uniquitous LiveChat service showcased the extraordinary statistic that support that relies too heavily on self service averages a 1 in 100 conversion rate in terms of player interest, whilst using the more personal and interactive technique of LiveChat improved that rate to 10 conversions per 100. “You only have a 30 second conversion window of opportunity to get the player on board,” he opined in a presentation that emphasised the upselling potential of a good service centre.
“Online gaming marketing through affiliates is generally good at getting prospects to the gambling sites,” he said. “But converting those prospects to players needs more work in the industry.”
Payment concepts as always attracted the attention of delegates in separate presentations moderated by respected legal expert and eCOGRA director Frank Catania.
Thomas Kenny of Techet in England examined new developments, and the active war against fraud was illustrated through highly competent papers from Chris Rickborn of Verid (USA) Gareth Wong of Gambond in Britain and a particularly informative delivery by Andrea Wilson of First Atlantic out of Bermuda.
Late afternoon presentations by Neteller CEO Gord Herman and Accurate software’s Peter Jameson were well received and showed that operators are directing more energy and resources into this area, where a great deal of very professional assistance and service was available.
GIGSE performs a valuable service in producing speakers who identify and describe this assistance in easily referenced format, and industry people not present at the conference are recommended to contact RCG to plug in to this stream of valuable operational information.
Perhaps one of the most lively sessions in the traditionally slow late afternoon, pre-party slot was a round table on bonusing.
Arguably the prime cause of casino-player friction, this session attracted a large and very participative audience and was chaired by Gone Gambling’s Debbee Silverman, herself a successful mediator for GG clients with bonus problems.
It was encouraging to note that the well-established companies represented on the panel were as one in agreeing that T&Cs must be honoured by both player and casino, and that what was due should be paid prior to any lockouts.
The importance of escalation procedures, clear T&Cs and expert promo construction was underlined and InfoPowa’s Brian Cullingworth gave a player perspective and hints on how to deal with disputes.
Other speakers were Amrit Bhatta of SlickStreet and the erudite Peter Marcus of Adsdotcom, together with Brad Romano of Bodog and Marty Jensen of Main Street group, all giving good value in discussions on this key operational aspect and how to handle its high potential for conflict with the player community.
Party Poker’s huge opening night bash was as usual a mega-networking affair with great hospitality and entertainment that included a 36 player poker tournament for a $10 000 prize – we’ll be back with news on that later.
Then, it was the turn of Montreal’s many great restaurants and clubs to receive an serious injection of capital from expense account wielding company people intent on getting the maximum from the event through private dinners and functions with their clients and prospects.
Day Two’s looking good as InfoPowa goes to press this fine if hot and humid Montreal morning. With major affiliate panels and some heavy-weight solutions to industry problems like DDoS and Phishing attacks, together with executive papers on IPOs and a range of business and start-up strategies it’s a day full of promise, heightened by the midday opening of the exhibition centre.
GIGSE Day One news
Watch out for a major (they claim the biggest yet in Internet gambling) $1.5 million online casino gaming tournament from the Fortune Lounge group.
International Casino Games.com will consist of a variety of slots, table and poker games hosted at nine different casinos from next month (July) thru’ to December 2005.
The top 100 players will advance to a final tournament aboard a luxury liner cruising the Caribbean for seven days early in 2006, with a Grand Prize for the top gambler of $250 000.
Prize money totalling a further $750 000 will be available in the weekly qualifying tournaments with a wide range of players picking up cash rewards.
Royal Vegas.com is the place to go to get in on what promises to be some outstanding action with special opening offers and newbie player arrangements.
Participating casinos are:
Casino City Appeal Lodged
You can’t keep a good man down, and you’ll be reading a lot about feisty Casino City publisher Michael Corfman over the next few months, we’ll wager.
Corfman has lodged an appeal in the Fifth US Circuit Court against a decision earlier this year which went against his challenge to the US Department of Justice to cease its widely perceived as intimidatory tactics against advertising venues carrying online gaming advertising.
The DoJ’s actions in sending “informative” letters and subpoenas opining Internet gambling as probably illegal in terms of the Wire Act to search engines and media has resulted in massive advertising losses. Corfman challenged these actions on grounds of the Freedom of Speech provisions of the US Constitution but because he had not been sent one of the “Informative” letters the ruling went against him.
He’s back with all guns blazing in an appeal which the federal government will have to address within 30 days.
A positive outcome will have major implications for the industry.
Poker Room joins the eCOGRA Seal list
Michael Hirst and Andrew Beveridge (chairman and CEO respectively of the eCOGRA self-regulatory initiative) were very active throughout Day One of GIGSE, and they used the opportunity to announce the latest seal award – to Poker Room.com which follows:
For immediate release 14 June 2005
INTERNATIONAL POKER GIANT AWARDED eCOGRA SEAL
Self-regulation comes to online poker rooms
Following closely on the heels of eCOGRA?s recent approval and acceptance of poker software supplier Ongame as a member, the online gambling regulatory body has announced the award of the “Play It Safe” seal to PokerRoom.com.
The international online poker giant boasts over 3.8 million global players from more than 140 countries and these will now have the benefit of eCOGRA regulations governing every aspect of poker operations from fair gaming to timeous payouts and efficient customer service.
The award of the seal followed weeks of intensive onsite probity and systems inspections by an independent professional services group, which will continue to review and monitor the business activities of PokerNetwork and PokerRoom.com, including the central clearing house operations and anti-collusion measures.
The award of the first poker seal has significant implications for the booming online poker industry, representing as it does real and enforced self-regulation.
Ongame-owned PokerRoom.com becomes the 56th venue in a global regulatory framework within which 55 top online casinos powered by leading companies Microgaming and Casino on Net operate, handling well over fifty percent of the online casino gambling market.
eCOGRA CEO Andrew Beveridge says the successful PokerRoom.com accreditation is an important milestone for both the poker industry and his organisation. “This is the first application of independent regulations to elements within the online poker industry,” he said “PokerRoom.com is a highly respected brand handling a significant proportion of the international online poker market, and their commitment to player protection and responsible gaming through the G4 organisation is well known.”
The eCOGRA initiative is open to all and provides practical player protection through a carefully developed set of regulations that are applied through third party international professional services organisations to member casinos and poker rooms.
Online gambling operations that successfully pass the inspection are identified by the eCOGRA “Play It Safe” Seal, awarded by the three independent directors on the eCOGRA Board who control the organisation’s operational activities.
The eGAP regulations cut across political and geographic barriers to address every aspect of online casino and poker room activity, including FATF-relevant money handling procedures, fair gaming, responsible gambling and efficient customer service.
The London-based staff of the regulator includes a Fair Gaming Advocate to whom players can appeal if any disputes cannot be settled at casino or poker room level.
Patrik Selin, CEO of PokerRoom.com commented: “This is the culmination of tough, detailed on-site inspections and probity checks, but we believe it is an important step forward for our PokerNetwork and partners, and for the industry as a whole. Real and practical regulation such as eCOGRA offers has benefits for everyone, protecting the players and at the same time enforcing high levels of professional and business conduct at both the software provider and poker room level.”
Beveridge is also a speaker at a key presentation later in this conference on the regulation of online gambling.
GOLDEN STAR CHANGES?
Speculation as to new owners
The word in the GIGSE corridors this morning is that Microgaming-powered Golden Star group (Miami Paradise, Francenetcasino, Golden Riviera et al) is about to change hands.
There has not yet been a public announcements although rumour is that one will be made soon.
The good news is that the new owners are reportedly a respected and well established, successful group that can be expected to introduce major imporvements in performance and customer care.
Watch this space.
UK BOOKMAKER INVESTING MILLIONS IN ONLINE OPERATION
Done brothers think it’s a “sexy industry”
UK based Done Brothers is making a multi-million pound drive into the online gaming sector.
Fred Done, the multi-millionaire Salford-born businessman who heads the UK’s fourth largest betting shop business, is determined to grab a share of what he calls “the sexy industry”.
DYNAMISM, CONFIDENCE AND QUALITY AT GIGSE
Day Two – 16 June 2005
Expo showcases online gambling’s top companies and products on day 2…and look what Skill Games are doing!
Several delegates looked a little the worse for wear at the GIGSE venue in Montreal’s Palais de Congres as day 2 launched with a full program – clearly there had been plenty of late night business socialising and networking.
It was nevertheless a full turn out as the first presentation got under way. Hardly surprising, for the subject was Distributed Denial of Service attacks with practical, realtime demonstration of this ever-present threat…and what to do when attacked.
Nikolaus Hottenroth from i-SEC Consult of Canada very professionally handled the demo and illustrated how aggressors, usually with extortion in mind attempt to overwhelm a target site with info overload generated by armies of *zombie* computers.
Hottenroth was using up his supply of business cards afterwards, an indication of how effective an example he had provided of what can happen if the right counter measures are not in place.
In another conference channel Jason Chen from G-Master Technology in Macau answered the perennial call for information on how to penetrate the Asian, and especially Chinese market so long coveted by online gambling operators.
His point that few are either equipped or sufficiently knowledgeable to tap into this market without expert help was well made, and his keys to success, developed over 8 years were carefully noted by a large audience.
Running concurrently was a dissertation on the skill of integrating a meaningful marketing campaign, led by FunTime’s Jeffrey Haes.
The word of everyone’s lips this year seemed to be Skill Gaming. It’s another form of online gambling with a similar model to the poker network concept, it’s been around since circa 2000 and it’s on fire judging by the intense interest InfoPowa encountered everywhere at this conference.
Nowhere was this more in evidence than a packed series of presentations by leaders in the US and European field like FUN Technolgies, Game Account Global and Greentube.
Standing in for his CEO Lorne Abony (who was closing a $12 million deal with Fanball out of Minneapolis) Anton Kaszubowski from FUN offered some useful market information on this sector, which embraces both single player and P2P multiplayer gamestyles.
Players are at present mainly females aged 25 upward, who constitute 65 percent of the mainly single player market, chiefly in the USA. However, this demographic is changing as more men enter the are from Europe and experts are predicting a 50-50 scenario as P2P becomes more prominent and European demand grows after lagging behind the USA by around 2 years.
Although stakes tend to be lower than online casinos, affiliate costs are lower and site dwell times seem to be longer, enabling community building and networking to build high volumes of business.
The sector has exhibited a steep upward growth curve since 2001 ($35 million) to $137 million in 2003 and current figures in the $270 million range, displaying an astonishingly high growth rate of around 40 percent – easy to see why it is attracting attention.
Player acquisition costs tend to be lower, and typically players are more entertainment oriented, although the multiplayer aspect is attracting growing numbers of competitive male players to FUN’s 50 white label partner sites and 150 distribution points that include online casino giants like 888.com and Golden Palace. The network currently offers over 70 different games from which FUN takes a small rake.
Extended across Internet, iTV, mobile and kiosk platforms the network is pushing hard and its popularity is being enhanced by the better playing experience users achieve through broadband access.
FUN is a group to watch, with SkillJam and Betbull in the group and the dynamism of savvy entrepreneurial execs such as Andrew Rifkin, Lorne Abony and Simon Noble driving it forward.
Kaszubowski told delegates that Asia was still a largely unknown quantity but clearly has massive potential to trigger even larger growth and revenues.
“This is a good alternative revenue generating stream for online operators,” he said. “It presents a wide range of different games that can be single player or the more competitive head-to-head multiplayer style, and it is business model familiar to poker operators in particular – sportsbook owners are finding it appeals to their players and has good cross marketing potential.”
Game Account’s David McDowell said his company was currently the biggest in Europe and was still growing strongly, with 40 brands using the channel and 20 and rising white label sites.
GA has found that the introduction of integrated electronic wallet facilities has boosted conversion rates among sportsbook players to a phenomenal 40 to 50 percent.
McDowell’s experiences in the sector were similar to those of the FUN representative, and he saw continued activity as companies sought to acquire players, build networks and prolong lifetime value.
“Looking ahead, we’ll need to introduce more multiple currency and language capability, run really big million dollar tournaments and focus on mobile delivery, too,” he said. “This (skillgame) product is more legally acceptable in sensitive areas like the States, has excellent tracking and good scaleability.”
Eberhard Durrschmid from Austrian based Greentube had a similar spectacular growth story to tell, commenting that single player games were currently driving most revenues but that multiplayer has a big future in the sector.
His company operates across mobile, iTV and Internet with operations in Austria, Germany, Spain and (soon) the UK.
Greentube has blended the skillgame concept with high quality innovative action content such as a ski-race game. Promoted in collaboration with a TV channel, the game recently generated 800 000 downloads and continues to enjoy popularity – an example of what can be achieved with imagination and technology.
Skill Gaming does not have a trade association, but talks have taken place and given the increased impact of this gamestyle there will probably be more cohesive relationships among the major companies involved, especially regarding liaison with regulatory jurisdictions.
The many new faces at this year’s GIGSE was well illustrated in the affiliate marketing panel discussion moderated in characteristic laid-back style by Bryan Bailey, owner of the top portal Casinomeister. Bailey estimated that as high as 60 percent of his packed audience were new to the industry and keen to learn. In that they were well served by a panel that comprised Jeff Tuttle of Winneronline, Brian Cooke of CasinoProfitShare, Nicky Senyard from Income Access and Edward Ihre from Poker Room.com.
Delegates were treated to expert views on what works and what doesn’t in every area of affiliate activity, and how to manage and market affiliate programs. The maxim “Casino Reputation is Everything” and an asset to be consistently protected came up repeatedly, together with the sometimes overlooked fact that the customer should be the King.
“Affiliates are only one click away from sending their players elsewhere,” Bailey told program managers. “A trusting and efficient relationship between the program and the affiliate is critical.”
Challenges in the affiliate marketing future were identified as a trend toward more offline advertising, and the continual need for new promotional ideas to keep the marketing fresh and appealing.
The newbie element was again obvious in the large attendances at several “I-Gaming Primer” sessions held on Day 2. Focused on “how to” models, the prospective new operators and marketers accessed a wealth of information from expert speakers and the sessions were clearly a big hit.
A strong turnout by regulatory bodies from Alderney, Antigua, the Philippines, Malta and the Isle of Man seemed to attract more interest than has been the case at previous conferences, highlighting renewed interest in acceptable regulatory regimes.
One of the most popular sections at GIGSE is the exhibition floor, where top companies in software, operator, marketing, security, media and financial processing show off their latest and greatest.
And this year the entertainment on the exhibition floor was pretty impressive, too. RTG had a contortionist, there was a really patient guy building meda structure from playing cards and a Segway commuter trial track. It all added to the fun and action around the many booths where delegates could get down to the detail.
First stop was the Microgaming stand, where a personable Mark Fredericks showed off the latest products from this industry pioneer and leader, which is currently pumping out quality new games with diverse themes at the rate of 4 games a month. It’s a long way from the days when online casinos typically had less than 10 games in all, and Microgaming’s inventory now stands at over 250 in both Flash and download suites, with more on the way in slots, table games and VP categories.
Hardly surprising then that the company has Skill Gaming in development and is also well advanced in Beta testing a revolutionary new casino network concept multiplayer concept through Riverbelle Casino.
The Viper platform has been “tweaked” for more modular functionality and performance, and poker development, together with mobile gambling work with Spin 3 is ongoing.
The company is looking for the right sort of new operator to open up new markets, especially in Europe, and progress is apparently significant in Japan through the efforts of highly reputable and established operations like Gaming Club and Trident Group.
A new name that caught the eye was MyPokerProfit.com which seems to be a one-stop poker operation with the objective of providing a comprehensive service to would-be entrants to the booming poker sector. Experienced execs are involved, and the software is well proven Microgaming. It is understood that Aztec Riches and Golden Reef investment is behind the new company.
Across the corridor from Microgaming, crowds were building up around the Prima Poker Network stand where a very large plasma flatscreen was running a highly professional video program capturing the play at the last Monte Carlo Millions Tournament. The tightly edited, top quality production halted visitors in their tracks and is an example of the kind of excitement and suspense that TV Poker has generated all over the world.
The nest Prima Poker Millions tournament is scheduled for November 20 – 23 this year and is an important promotional vehicle for this network which now has 35 poker rooms, with at last another 5 scheduled to join within the next quarter.
Prima manager John Docherty told us that the network has now moved up to the number 3 position behind Party Poker and Poker Stars – a remarkable rise over the past 18 months. Prima can now field up to 25 – 30 000 players simultaneously, and regularly runs $10 000 and up tournaments.
Still with Poker, the Bluff Magazine publisher Eric Morris was brimming with confidence and new ideas which will lead to more excitement from this highly successful media group in the coming months.
Current circulation numbers (245 000) show that a combination of slick layout, top writers and active promotions and tournaments across diverse media platforms has propelled Bluff to the top of the poker media list in an extraordinarily short time. Watch for their WSOP Bubble Insurance, which promises to be both spectacular and innovative.
Staying with the media, Inside Edge, the UK gambling magazine is also launching a poker publication we’re told, and in September this year the Trump empire will be launching “Poker Life” under the management of Michael Jacobson with a projected circulation of 200 000 by the end of 2005.
Trent Schwartz of Parlay Entertainment promised players 5 new slots and showed us his company’s new 90 ball Bingo for the European market. Parlay have been improving their offering with better and more user friendly facilities, and are busy building up more community and network activity.
Playtech had some superb 3 D graphics-fronted games like Roller Coaster Dice on their screens, and told us that their poker network is going full blast with 11 new skins ready to go. Like other turnkey providers the company is working on single player Skill Games and they have additionally rolled out 10 new casino games over the past few months. The mobile and “next generation” developments are visually outstanding, and a look at the licensee roll shows continued growth at this group.
Steve Mosely took us through Real Time Gaming’s progress, and players can look forward to a feast of mainly slot games as the company gets into its next release cycle of 3 newgames every 4 to 6 weeks. 4 new slots were launched, and the production line has over 40 mainly 20 payline, 5 reel games with tons of bonus features. “Diamond Dozens”, “Prince of Sherwood” and a Blackjack branded “Caribbean Blackjack” look especially good.
RTG’s poker initiatives seem to have stalled, with the LVFH partnership now dead, but a new alliance to be announced soon. 4 new mobile licensees will soon be launching, using the Phantom Fiber technology, with some advanced cashier facilities.
RTG shed a number of smaller licensees but is signing up new operators on a more stringent acceptance program. Steve told us that Montana player disputes facility was improving in turnaround times and that this would continue.
Boss Media continues to work across mobile, PC, IVT and iDTV technologies on a range of gambling products. Players can expect 4 new video slots (Kangaroo Zoo is one) with 9 and 25 payline, 5 reel formats.
The mobile players are to get 6 new Boss games in addition to the 10 already available on cellphones. And, yes – Boss is working on Skill Games, too!
The poker product is being upgraded to meet the needs of Boss’s growing International Poker Network which features big industry names like Bowmans, Littlewoods, Bet & Win and Sportingbet – WG.
Over at Net Entertainment, VP Sales exec Johan Ohman told us that their gambling kiosk project has been put on hold, but that development on a proprietary mobile product was forging ahead. The company is also working up a multiplayer casino project, and on the poker front is partnering with Ongame’s Poker Network to provide licensees with poker action. Look for the new “Hi Lo” card game, cross-over no download casino / soft games and an upgraded v.3 of their Casino Module.
Here, too Skill Games are on the agenda.
It was good to see World Gaming on display again, with 17 no download and 16 download games, horse racing and sportsbook products. The company is taking on two new licensees soon and their corporate problems now appear to be history. WG is using the Boss poker software for its licensees.
GIGSE WINDS UP
Day Two – 16 June 2005
Charity races and heavyweight discussions on last day
The final day of this year’s Global Interactive Gaming Summit and Expo (GIGSE)started on a serious note but ended in typical light-hearted fashion as delegates from 47 countries started heading back to their offices and homes.
Online gambling issues in law and regulation were under the microscope by panels that reviewed everything from the UK Gambling Act to the US legal climate and recent actions against US advertising media by the Department of Justice.
In the UK, the soon-to-be-announced commission that will control gambling in Britain will be faced with consultation and framing regulation to govern companies seeking a UK home. And the word at GIGSE was that come August this year the industry will hopefully know what the tax rate for online gambling companies falling under British law will be, a key consideration for gambling groups considering a move to that jurisdiction.
The current sovereignty litigation on cross border gambling within the European Community was summarized by lawyers from several countries, trying to guide delegates in the sometimes complex path of legal action taken by state bodies that see their monopolies threatened by the borderless nature of on line gambling.
Later in the day, Sanjay Balakrishnan of Party Gaming in Gibraltar and Costa Rican based David Gzech of True Poker reviewed the vibrant poker sector and possible growth areas in terms of marketing, location and technological advances.
There seemed to mixed views on how fast mobile poker could take off. Most delegates could see the potential for this new area, and certainly all the main providers seem to be developing solutions in this area. Poker Room staffers put on an excellent practical demonstration of their good looking and cleverly focused product, showing razor sharp graphics. Using a large screen, delegates were taken through the intuitive steps required and were generally impressed.
Back in the Expo Hall, Gambling Federations Talia Paschini said that the provider had recently acquired an RNG certificate from the independent TST labs. With some 88 licensee brands on board, the group has introduced multi-currency services and is busy integrating the Tribeca Tables poker software with a July launch in mind for its licensees.
GFED has some 85 games in its inventory now, and is committed to launching a new game every month using its proprietary software. Caribbean Poker, described as a blend of poker and blackjack was on display, together with a slot called Dragon’s Lair. The group is also set to offer the popular Oriental tile game Mahjong following a deal with Mahjong Mania.
Skill Games are on GFED’s agenda, too but will be outsourced from FUN Technologies subsidiary SkillJam.
Alan Weinrib’s CredECard that was discussed at the EIG in Barcelona late last year was soft launched just before GIGSE as an alternative payment solution for the industry. The full operational debut is scheduled for August this year.
Soaking up knowledge and making contacts was a 9 man delegation from the South African government, which is considering genuine regulation of online gambling, depending on the conclusions of a special study task force due to present its findings to government before June next year. The group, which included officials from the SA Reserve Bank has received advice on different regulatory options by well known figures in the international regulatory sector including Andre Wilsenach from Alderney and Andrew Beveridge, the CEO of eCOGRA. A decision in favour of i-gaming could have benefits for the industry and the country, which has advanced telecommunications and financial services infrastructures.
On the Chartwell Technologies booth, Aideed Shortt told us that Chartwell Technologies was busy integrating the new MicroPower poker technology into its systems following the acquisition of this company recently. A no-download poker variant using Flash technology is due for introduction within the next two months.
Other Chartwell developments include new bingo offerings and intensive in-house activity is taking place on mobile casino and soft games. Impressively fast and slick looking soft games (one is called Matterhorn) were demonstrated on the Chartwell kiosk, with crisp and imaginative graphics and a fun gamestyle.
Although Skill Gaming is on the Chartwell agenda it is not apparently an immediate priority for the company. The full suite of Chartwell games is now available on both download and no-download platforms, and the company’s 30 plus brands will have new games in all categories at the rate of 8 to 10 each quarter.
As we went to press GIGSE was closing on a high note of confidence, and not a little sense of fun after a thoroughly absorbing series of discussions and the ever useful networking. Segwat commuter vehicles were being used in a series of races between industry execs to raise money for a Californian problem gambling project this year, and $50 000 had already been reached before the conference began. The final champion had yet to be announced as we went to press, but our money was on Mike Staw of RTG, who looked as if he had been getting in a lot of practice on the unusual two-wheeler.
With many delegates flying out to global destinations, River City officials were being congratulated on a particularly successful and confident online gambling conference that showcased an industry of growing maturity and positive ambitions for the future.
BRANSON LAUNCHES VIRGIN ONLINE BINGO
3 June 2005
Big prizes and low buy-ins the plan for “the new poker”
One of England’s most successful business personalities, the flamboyant billionaire Sir Richard Branson hosted a launch party for Virgin Bingo atop a London roof garden at the end of last week.
Branson addressed the assembled crowd at the Roof Gardens in Kensington ? one and a half acres of beautiful themed gardens, with bars and a nightclub, installed six-floors up above a London street ? to usher in the next phase of Virgin gaming.
Virgin Bingo aims to become the dominant player in the burgeoning UK online bingo market by offering players from all walks of life the chance to win big prizes for low buy-ins. Branson said he hoped that online bingo is set to become ?the new poker?.
Virgin will be offering games tailor-made for the UK market. ?There are currently about 100 bingo games available on the internet,? explained Branson, ?nearly all of which are American and offer the US flavoured 75 numbers game. At Virgin, we are launching the game most favoured in the UK, namely a 90 numbers game. Research has shown that this is the game the UK wants to play and nothing pleases us more at Virgin than giving the customers what they want.?
The site will offer a wide variety of diversely priced games ( from 5p to GBP 1 per card) with fixed jackpot prizes of GBP 5,000 or more, as well as progressive jackpots that climb higher and higher.
MAJOR POKER COMPANY JOINS eCOGRA
3 June 2005
Way now open for international self-regulation of online poker
The important turnkey online poker provider Ongame has successfully completed rigorous acceptance inspections for membership of the international regulator eCommerce and Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance (eCOGRA).
The announcement today has significant implications for the first ever self-imposed regulation of the booming online poker industry. Ongame powers PokerNetwork which hosts many poker operators including PokerRoom.com servicing some 4 million and rising online poker players, and the successful accreditation of the software opens the way for these companies to apply for the eCOGRA seal, conditional on meeting the standards required.
The Swedish provider now joins a global regulatory framework within which 55 top online casinos powered by leading companies Microgaming and Casino on Net operate, handling well over fifty percent of the online casino gambling market.
eCOGRA CEO Andrew Beveridge says the successful Ongame membership is an important milestone for both the poker industry and his organisation. ?This is the first application of independent regulations to elements within the online poker industry,? he said ?Ongame is a welcome addition to eCOGRA. Our compliance committee were extremely impressed with their professional approach to corporate governance and responsible gaming. From the outset they have put the player first, and an example of this is that they were the first online gaming operation to achieve G4 responsible gaming accreditation,? he said.
?For eCOGRA it is the realisation of months of in-depth research and professional advice in framing ground-breaking rules or eGAPs as we call them, for online poker sites,? he continued. ?We are confident that other high profile poker networks will submit their sites to our independent inspectors and achieve the eCOGRA seal?.
The eCOGRA initiative is open to all and provides practical player protection through a carefully developed set of regulations that are applied through third party international professional services organisations to member casinos and poker rooms.
Detailed inspection and ongoing monitoring to ensure continuous compliance with the regulations are key to the success of the initiative, and extensive financial and management probity checks are carried out as part of the acceptance process.
Online gambling operations that successfully pass the inspection are identified by the eCOGRA ?Play It Safe? seal, awarded by three independent directors on the eCOGRA Board who control the organisation?s operational activities.
The eGAP regulations cut across political and geographic barriers to address every aspect of online casino and poker room activity, including FATF-relevant money handling procedures, fair gaming, responsible gambling and efficient customer service.
The London-based staff of the regulator includes a Fair Gaming Advocate to whom players can appeal if any disputes cannot be settled at casino or poker room level.
Patrik Selin, CEO of Ongame commented: ?This is the culmination of tough, detailed on-site inspections and probity checks for Ongame, but we believe it is an important step forward for our poker rooms and the industry as a whole. Real and practical regulation such as eCOGRA offers has benefits for everyone, protecting the players and at the same time enforcing high levels of professional and business conduct at both the software provider and poker room level.?
JUNGLE ADVENTURES AND WAGERING ON WAR IN LATEST MICROGAMING RELEASES
3 June 2005
Four brand new games from top software company
The latest set of new online casino games from Microgaming consists of an entertaining mix of powerful video slots, a Jacks or Better 50 Play Power Poker and an up-to-the-minute rendition of the popular casino table game War.
Taking the lead in the launches this week is Jungle Jim, a 5 reel, 15 payline video slot carried by a light-hearted jungle adventure theme backed by amusing graphics and true to life sounds. With generous Bonus Game, Wild, Scatter and Free Spins features the game has plenty of fun and profit potential, with jackpots that can go as high as 100 000.
Supporting all of this action and sheer gaming appeal are vibrant and brilliantly coloured graphics. Lantern-jawed Jungle Jim himself is there, together with a crusty old colonial explorer, a dazzling damsel and a positively spine-tingling selection of brightly coloured snakes, razor toothed piranhas, spiders, man-eating plants, alligators and a svelte but scary looking jaguar.
Also joining the substantial Microgaming slots inventory is Elementals, which echoes the current entertainment fascination with animated Super Heroes in a uniquely gambling way in a 5 reel, 20 payline, 10 coin game, with Wild and Scatter symbols, a Free Spin Bonus Feature, and a Gamble feature – a wide range of thrills and excitement packed into one major slot.
Using bright primary colours and the latest graphic design techniques and technology, the theme introduces several super heroes including a massively muscular giant, a Fiery Fury balanced by a really cool Ice Queen and an ethereal being that is, well….electrifying!
This game follows the formula introduced with the popular Thunderstruck and has the major “pull” of a 20x Free Spins feature and a 2x Gamble feature with Wild and Scatter opportunities. 25 000 is the reward for hitting the top jackpot. Add the 2x multiplier and free spins possibilities and this doubles up to a very attractive 50 000 that will appeal strongly to any slots gambler.
Microgaming is also declaring War on its competitors with a strikingly rendered new version of the popular table game, which has been branded Casino War. This easiest of table games to play will be popular with novice and veteran gamblers alike. The graphics and gameplay are outstanding and use the latest technologies.
The fourth game on the new release list expands further the new 50 Play Power Poker range recently launched by Microgaming, providing the Jacks or Better variant with generous pay tables and a possible jackpot of 100 000.
All of the new releases will be available on the sites of Microgaming’s Viper-equipped licensees within the next few weeks, and bring the inventory of the well established company to over 200 top quality download and Flash games.
Editor note: a full list of Casinomeister Accredited casinos powered by the Viper software can be found here.
3 June 2005
Post-holiday financial blues not a problem for this player
William Hill Casino.com had some great news for a British man just back from a budget holiday this week. He hit a major GBP 209 977 progressive jackpot.
Back at home after his holidays, the 39 year old logged on to the Cryptologic-powered casino and placed a GBP 3 stake on the Rags to Riches progressive slot game to hit the bigtime.
The win is William Hills’ third six-figure payout in a week after big GBP 100,000 and GBP 200,000 wins on football over the weekend.
NEW LOOK FOR POKER SITE
3 June 2005
Full Tilt Poker debuts revamped website
Full Tilt Poker.com has launched a newly redesigned website that is to serve as a gateway to Full Tilt Poker’s online poker software, and a hub for those looking to play, chat, and learn with the some of the biggest names in poker.
In addition to streamlined navigation and a wealth of new content, the new site features updated biographies for “Team Full Tilt,” a select group of the world?s finest professional poker players, including Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, Phil Ivey, Howard Lederer, Erick Lindgren, Erik Seidel, Andy Bloch, Phil Gordon, Clonie Gowen, John Juanda, Jennifer Harman and others.
For those looking to learn how to play online poker, the new site also offers free exclusive poker articles and tips from the members of Team Full Tilt.
Raymond Bitar, CEO of Tiltware, LLC, the consultants for Full Tilt Poker said that player demand had been extensively sampled prior to the redesign commencing.
TiltWare LLC, a software development and licensing company based in Los Angeles, California and licensed to Kolyma Corporation, A.V.V. is regulated and licensed by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission in Canada.
SPIN 3 IN LINE FOR INTERNATIONAL AWARD
3 June 2005
Mobile gambling company one of five finalists
Microgaming’s mobile technology partner, Spin3 received the good news this week that their flagship wireless casino system, GameWire has been short listed for the prestigious 2005 Mobile Entertainment (MEF) Innovation Award.
Spin3 is among the top five nominations for this award, each of which were selected by panels of independent industry experts and judged on the basis of their overall effectiveness in driving the take-up of mobile entertainment.
GameWire will be judged on:
* Outstanding technological innovation
* Demonstrated success in driving take-up of mobile entertainment
* Quantifiable business benefits
* Proven success in the market
* Evidence of increasing the success of the mobile entertainment industry
Matti Zinder, CEO of Spin3 commented, “We are enormously proud to have been chosen as one of the five finalists for this award. Our mobile casino system was successfully launched in January 2005 and is the first commercial, fully featured wireless casino system.”
The GameWire system uses a powerful, proven Internet casino back-office and gaming system by Microgaming and a robust, wireless Java casino to provide a true platform for the wireless gambling market.
It has been selected by Ladbrokes and other leading gaming companies. Casino operators, mobile network providers and any company with an internet presence can now offer a trusted and secure mobile casino via a large selection of mobile phones and other wireless devices.
The winner of the MEF Innovation Award will be announced at the awards ceremony on June 15th as part of the Mobile Entertainment Market (MEM05) event at Earls Court in London.
ALDERNEY REGULATOR GETS AWARD
3 June 2005
Andr? Wilsenach Named Online Casino Regulator of the Year
Channel Islands online gambling jurisdiction Alderney was in the news last week as the Alderney Gambling Control Commission was named for excellence by the World Online Gambling Law Report.
The Commission’s CEO, Andr? Wilsenach, was chosen as ?Regulator of the Year 2005 by the Report. The former South African has also served as CEO of a South African provincial gaming board, and was at one time a member of South Africa?s National Gaming Board. He is currently a member of a number of associated organisations which monitor and regulate both land-based and online casino sites.
Alderney Gambling Commission chairman John Godfrey paid tribute to Wilsenach, saying that his energy and skill has made Alderney “…the top name for online gambling regulators.”
The Commission was also reported to be engaging with Alderney legislators in revising laws to ensure that the island does not lose business following any future UK developments in regard to the licensing of online gambling.
Although the island is a UK entity, it is self governing and has passed legislation that allows online casino and gambling sites to operate within regulations that meet most international standards.
In 2004 gambling profits increased 43 percent on the island with a surplus of GBP 767 794, and the government is concerned that the new UK developments do not prejudice the continued success of the jurisdiction. It is therefore likely that changes will be implemented to ensure that Alderney remains competitive.
One area may be the current requirement that at least one worker from each online casino company be physically present on the island. It has been reported that legislators may seek to relax that rule. There are also plans to open internet hosting in Guernsey, another one of the Channel Isles, which is thought to have a stronger IT infrastructure and is thus better connected to the Internet.
Last year alone the Commission awarded six new licences to blue chip operators worldwide: Wagerworks (Alderney) 4 Limited, Blue Square Gaming (Alderney) Limited, WagerWorks (Alderney) 5 Limited, Cantor Casino (Alderney) Limited, Paddy Power (Alderney) Limited and Samvo International Limited.
In addition, The AGCC issued a total of five Certificates of Prior Approval: Tribeca Tables Software LLC, Gaming & Entertainment Group Inc; Secure & Holdings Ltd., Chartwell Technology Ltd. and Orbis Technology Ltd.
The total number of AGCC licence holders now stands at 14 operators and includes among others, top names Ritz Interactive, SkyBet, Hard Rock Casino, Lucky Me, The Price is Right, Blue Square Gaming, Virgin Games, Cantor Casino, Paddy Power and Samvo International.
AGCC Chairman John Godfrey says that in order for Alderney to “…safeguard its worldwide lead and to continue attracting blue chip international operators,” it has carried out a review of legislation and has proposed changes that include bringing to an end the requirement for licence holders to have a nominee on the island.
The fee for an interactive gaming licence or an electronic betting licence is GBP 75,000 per year, and GBP 30 000 for a Certificate of Prior Approval.
3 June 2005
Giant Vegas Casino will be familiar to many readers after various player disputes took place last year, but there’s a new concern now following a cautionary statement on the highly respected Wizard of Odds site – there’s apparently a spamming problem.
“On March 26, 2005, Giant Vegas was added to the blacklist for selling me out to spammers. Whenever I sign up at an online casino I use a specially coded email address specific to that casino, and used only at that casino. Then if I ever get spam to that address I can tell which casino sold me out. That’s what happened when I started getting spam trying to sell me Viagra and fake Rolexes sent to the special address I had used with Giant Vegas.”
Has GP gone too far this time?
That’s a question frequently posed when Golden Palace *fans* disrupted Olympic and other major sporting events, but the latest guerilla marketing antics of the company may have gone too far in the opinion of many players.
In its current marketing moves the headline-grabbing casino spent $15,000 to name another child GoldenPalace.com. The baby boy’s official name is GoldenPalaceDotCom Silverman, according to press reports, and he’s the most recent in a series of eccentric advertising campaigns by the Internet casino.
Other babies also share the casino’s name, together with a Tennessee resident who sold her naming rights on eBay for $15,199, and subsequently changed her name to GoldenPalace.com to help support her five children.
“We congratulate the new parents of GoldenPalaceDotCom Silverman,” said GoldenPalace.com CEO Richard Rowe. “We wish them and their beautiful baby boy all the best. You can expect more baby-naming in the future as I am sure other people will follow suit and be looking to auction off the naming rights to their children.”
Whilst it’s easy to put all the blame for burdening an innocent child with such an outlandishly commercial name on the misguided parents, it doesn’t reflect well on the casino for making the offer. But then, opinions differ – some players thought the matter amusing and clever. Others were sure it must have been a hoax.
During the message board furore that erupted over the baby-naming incident, some interesting information came to light. Apparently the Athens incident involving GP resulted in complaints to its licensing jurisdiction, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission in Canada.
After investigating and meeting with representatives of Golden Palace, the KGC directed that Golden Palace should not “…use, promote, encourage or fund this type of ‘marketing’ ever again”, and would make “…a substantial donation to Kahnawake organisations to be identified by the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake.”
There was no indication as to the size of the *donation* or whether it was paid and to whom.
Gamblers using the Sands of the Caribbean casino belonging to Peak Entertainment are advised to pay very careful attention to the bonusing rules. As we went to press there were disquieting reports of highly questionable bonus disqualifications without paying out monies due to players.
EMPIRE ONLINE LISTING CONTINUES TO MAKE THE HEADLINES
3 June 2005
Some significant operational numbers
The Haaretz story that formed the basis of our InfoPowa report on the forthcoming listing of Noam Lanir’s Empire Online continued to achieve widespread publicity this week, fuelled by an efficient Empire publicity machine.
The thrust of the coverage this week was the returns possible from a well run Internet gambling enterprise, with Haaretz opining that the money in online gambling is astonishing. Noam Lanir’s company’s numbers are being published before its public offering, and the profits are considerable.
Even though the firm provides the technology behind the gambling sites, and does not service the gamblers directly, it still projects revenues of almost $2 million per employee, of which a cool million is expected to represent profit.
Lanir wrapped up the Empire Online road show for Israeli institutional investors this week, when the online gambling entrepreneur held a two-day conference at the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv, targeting institutional investors, private investors and investment banks.
In Israel, Empire Online is represented by Tamir Fishman, which is considering allocating $50 million worth of securities to Israeli investors.
The Israelis showed intense interest in Empire Online, which was established in 1998. The firm has been profitable since its founding and for the year 2005 it expects to net $66 million on revenues of $100 million.
Given the surge of demand in Israel and England, where the company will be floated on the AIM, the underwriters are considering increasing the scope of the initial public offering.
Empire Online is expected to hit the market in the first two weeks of June and the issue is expected to be in the $225-275 million range, most of which will go directly into the pockets of the owners, especially Lanir, the largest shareholder. Of this, the firm plans to raise $50 million, with the rest going to the shareholders in exchange for 20 percent of their holdings.
Daniel Leventhal, chief financial officer at Tamir Fishman, described the issue as a golden opportunity. “It’s a highly interesting company with high turnover, tremendous profits and enormous growth. Given its profit margin, a billion-dollar company valuation isn’t out of the question: It’s entirely reasonable,” Leventhal said.
Empire Online customers include Casino On Net and Pacific Poker, both of which belong to a duo of brothers: Shay and Ron Ben Yitzhak, and Avi and Aharon Shaked. Lanir has been their business partner since 1998, when they discovered together the tremendous potential of online gaming.
‘TIS THE SEASON TO BE LISTING…
3 June 2005
VIP Management scheduled for LSE end June
Listings, takeovers and mergers are in the air this year it appears, with VIP Management, the Curacao-based sportsbook and casino operator now about to make its debut on the London Stock Exchange following a US $44.5 million reverse takeover by listed firm Leisure & Gaming.
L&G, which is listed on the LSE’s Alternative Investment Market, has agreed to pay US $35.5 million for the assets of VIP Management Services, which comprises nine sports betting, casino and poker brands.
The all share deal will see VIP’s shareholders take a majority stake in L&G, with a further US $9 million payable if it meets profit targets over the next two years. L&G has also raised almost US $10 million in working capital through a placing of new shares, and analysts predict that the newly combined firm will soon be on the acquisitions trail.
VIP is debt free and had an operating profit of US $6 million for the year ended December 2004 from a turnover of US $330.1 million and gross win of US $19.1million.
Founder Alistair Assheton is quoted in the media as saying that he is happy with the valuation of VIP at six times its historic earnings and said it was a reflection of his faith in the team behind L&G.
“We could have raised a lot more money elsewhere, but we were not looking for exit and this deal was by far the most compelling going forward,” sais Assheton, who will take over the role of chief executive of L&G following the takeover.
L&G?s chief executive is Benjamin Shaw, who was involved in the Betcorp acquisition of BetWWTS and led the takeover of UK land-based gaming operator RAL earlier this year.
Shaw said the acquisition of VIP would be the first stage in developing ?….a substantial egaming group through acquisition?.
VIP is a heavily US-focused sportsbook with 84 percent of its 30,000 customer base coming from the US. 34 percent of its revenues emanate from online casino operations. The firm expanded into Europe through its BetEuro brand and opened a UK office last year.
The takeover deal will go before shareholders for approval on June 24, and if the acquisition is agreed VIP will be acquired and L&G will relist on AIM on June 28.
PARADISE POKER MILLIONAIRE WILL BE DECIDED JULY 3
3 June 2005
Second Masters competition will have $1.5 total prize pool this year
Paradise Poker.com’s second Master’s competition will be decided on July 3 at an as yet unannounced tropical location.
Ten finalists are about to compete for the grand prize of $1 million in an online tournament that began on May 23rd and ended May 28th with 10 finalists from the main event. These competitors will be flown to the mystery location, with a guest, to play the remainder of the tournament at the final table face-to-face.
For an investment as small as $3, players from around the world competed for a shot at the $1.5 million prize pool, and a 5 Star all-expenses paid weekend.
“Masters I was such a huge success we decided to step it up for Masters II,” said Bruce Stubbs, Marketing Director ParadisePoker.com. “We increased the overall prize money guarantee to $2 million this time, with a $1.5 million main event. We’re expecting an exciting tournament.”
3 June 2005
Boss Media and Svenska Spel team up
Swedish online gaming companies Boss Media and Svenska Spel have formalised their strategic partnership after several years of collaboration on a number of digital gaming projects.
The announcement notes that interest for digital games has increased dramatically, and the two companies have consequently decided to leverage the experience that they have acquired. Boss Media has been responsible for technical and platform development and Svenska Spel has developed game concepts and handled daily operational matters.
Svenska Spel is selling its expertise and Boss Media’s technical platform to members of the World Lottery Association with a focus on Europe. Currently the WLA has about 140 members, of which there are some 60 in Europe that are potential customers.
“We see this as a significant opportunity to strengthen the regulated gaming market,” said Jan Stocklassa, manager of international business matters at Svenska Spel. “If more companies within the WLA sphere increase their level of technical competence and improve their product offering, they will have significantly better ability to withstand competition from Internet companies and other competitors.”
U.S. ADVERTISING HASSLES CONTINUE
3 June 2005
Two agencies back away from Belle Rock’s $20 million
Speculation was rife this week that the US Department of Justice’s threatening moves against advertising media could have caused two more agencies to back away from a lucrative contact.
The speculation followed reports in Adweek that two U.S. agencies had withdrawn from a pitch for the $20 million Belle Rock interactive gaming account. One agency refused to comment, whilst the other cited a parent group’s corporate policy against working for wagering entities.
The two agencies, both members of the Omnicom group were Integer in Dallas and Zimmerman & Partners in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. This leaves the field open to Interpublic Group’s Avrett Free Ginsberg and Havas’ Euro RSCG, both in New York, sources said. It was unclear if Zimmerman will be replaced with other contenders for the offline ad duties that Belle Rock places through them.
Omnicom is apparently not the only holding company barring shops from pursuing such (online gambling) business. MDC Partners has also told its shops to pass up such reviews, due to the pastime’s dubious legal status in the U.S.
“MDC’s general policy is to prohibit its agencies from representing clients engaged in unlawful online gambling,” according to a statement from a MDC representative.
Adweek says that online gambling interests, such as Party Poker and Hollywood Poker, have thus far skirted laws barring ads from TV and print by promoting their brands via “educational,” or free play sites. Both poker venues advertise -.net sites on TV. When players are ready to graduate to wagering sites, they can move onto the -.com venues.
The report concludes that the U.S. Department of Justice has made clear its position on the placement and acceptance of such ads. A 2003 letter to the National Association of Broadcasters said, “Any person or entity who aids or abets in the commission of [illegal Internet gambling] is punishable as a principal violator,” and likened such advertising to ads for “illegal narcotics sales, prostitution, child pornography or other prohibited activities.”
The interpretation of the law as it applies to agencies, however, has been left to corporate counsels.
It is said that IPG is leaving such new business decisions open to its shops. In fact, Belle Rock is the second online gambling account pursued by AFG. The shop was also a contender for the $20 million Fortune Lounge Group account, which was ultimately awarded to independent Eisner Communications in Baltimore.
3 June 2005
US feds and information from Internet Service Providers
Causing something of a ruckus on several Internet sites this week was the question of US Federal Government access to sensitive information typically held by Internet Service Providers (ISP’s)
Apparently the federal government is trying to preserve the authority to send National Security Letters to ISPs in order to obtain records from them without the legal niceties of obtaining a subpoena.
It seems this authority was first granted by legislation in 1986, and then expanded by the Patriot Act.
Last year a US District Court judge ruled that the provision was unconstitutional, as it did not allow challenges and prohibited those companies who recieved a National Security Letter from revealing that they had. A further objection raised by the ACLU is that the statute does not inform readers that citizens or companies that receive a NSL can challenge it. It is claimed that this is illustrated by the fact that in 20 years noone has filed a challenge.
In what is referred to as “….a stunning case of circular reasoning,” the federal Administration has claimed that the District Court ruling was incorrect because people could challenge NSLs, as the case itself proved. This is interpreted to mean that the judge’s ruling should be thrown out because the case was successfully brought to Court to begin with.
Due to the secrecy requirements surrounding the NSL issue, ACLU initially had to file the suit under seal, and then had to negotiate in order to get permission to make any kind of public statement about the case.
According to one article, some of the material was only declassified months after the decision, and material that was previously withheld included the phrase “national security” and the sentence “I am a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” from an agent’s statement.
WIRELESS BILL THROUGH NEVADA SENATE
3 June 2005
Restricted use mobile gaming possible if this is signed into law
The Linux Electrons site reports that the Nevada Senate has approved Assembly Bill No.471, which authorises the use of mobile communication devices for gaming in public areas in Nevada casinos.
Nevada Governor Kenny C. Guinn has signed AB471.
The Bill authorises the Nevada Gaming Commission to continue with the appropriate rule-making process.
Further detail is being sought.
MALTA REGULATOR APPOINTS NEW COUNCIL MEMBER
3 June 2005
Italian WorldMatch marketer voted on
The Malta licensing authorities have announced the appointment of Gianni Corradini as the first Italian to sit on the Remote Gaming Council, an online gaming advisory committee that has been set up by the Maltese government.
Corradini, who is a promoter and an advisor of WorldMatch, an online casino company based in Malta was voted on to the seven-member council by representatives and experts from the world of online gaming and betting.
WorldMatch was the first company to be awarded an online gaming licence by the Maltese government in accordance with the Republic of Malta?s regulations, which it claims are underpinned by tight legislation, transparency, and user security.
NEW VENUE FOR WSOP
3 June 2005
The Rio All Suite Hotel in Vegas chosen
The land and online popularity of poker shows no sign of slackening and participation records will be shattered in coming weeks when the 36th World Series of Poker opens in Las Vegas, US reports said this week.
Tens of thousands of players compete in more than 40 events that will be held from June 2 to July 15, and the world championship spans the final nine days.
For the first time, the tournament will be held away from its birthplace, the former Binion’s Horseshoe Casino, now simply known as Binion’s, in downtown Vegas.
Harrah Entertainment, in its second year as owners of the tournament, will hold all but the final two days of the championship event in a new 60,000-square foot convention center at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, just off the Strip on Flamingo Avenue.
Players gain entry to World Series tournaments either by buying a seat — most preliminaries require a buy-in of $1,000 to $2,500 and the championship is $10,000 — or by qualifying in so-called satellite sponsored tournaments in land or virtual poker rooms.
PARTY POKER LISTING HYPE CONTINUES
3 June 2005
June 27 now the target date, say analysts
The pre-listing publicity machine at Party Poker was hard at work this week, with reports from analysts and wire services telling the world that the top online poker site aims to price its flotation on the London Stock Exchange by June 27.
The reports indicate that parent Party Gaming is tentatively planning to list about 800 million ordinary shares (around 20 percent of its capitalisation) and an additional tranche known as a *greenshoe* of about 15 percent depending on demand.
Analysts estimate the listing could value Party Gaming at about $10 billion (GBP 5.5 billion), and they expect the stock to qualify for inclusion in blue-chip indexes compiled by FTSE and MSCI.
The last company to raise an equivalent sum in London was Friends Provident in July 2001, according to financial data providers Dealogic.
Further proof of the boom in Internet poker and London’s position as the listing centre for the industry was provided midweek by Empire Online, which said it plans to list on London’s junior AIM share market on June 15 just before Party Gaming arrives.
Stock in Party Gaming will be sold by its founding shareholders Crystal Ventures, Coral Ventures, Russell De Leon, Ruth Parasol and management.
These shareholders have agreed not to sell any more stock for 12 months in order to help stabilise the share price in the aftermath of the flotation.
Party Gaming will use the listing to gain better access to capital markets, strengthen visibility and promote its brand. Management plans to hit the road to promote the company’s shares to institutional investors between June 14 and June 24.
Broker Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein will be the coordinator and sources claim that the Party Gaming deal will position the firm as one of the leading advisers in the online gaming industry. It handled last year’s expansion into online poker by London-listed Sportingbet, when the company bought the Paradise Poker site.
Edison Investment Research and Durlacher have estimated online gambling revenue – effectively the amount lost by gamblers – as exceeding $8 billion in 2004, up 37 percent from a year earlier.
IT’S OFFICIAL – PARTY GAMING IS GOING PUBLIC
Company has announced its intentions after weeks of speculation
PartyGaming, the world’s biggest online poker company settled weeks of intense speculation Thursday by announcing plans to float on the London Stock Exchange in what is likely to be the City’s biggest new listing for four years.
Based in Gibraltar, PartyGaming barely existed four years ago but riding a wave of popularity in online poker playing, the operator of the PartyPoker website is set to be valued at GBP 5 billion, bringing a major windfall for executives, shareholders and employees.
With that sort of valuation, PartyGaming would immediately enter the FTSE 100 share index. The flotation would be London’s biggest since insurer Friends Provident in 2001.
BIG REWARDS FOR PARTY POKER PEOPLE IN LONDON LISTING
3 June 2005
Owners and staff alike in for a bonanza
The publicity this week surrounding Party Gaming’s plans to float their poker website for GBP 5.5 billion on the London stock market showcased some interesting personalities.
The 1,100 staff – from Indian call centre workers to head office staff in Gibraltar – will be given GBP 308 million in shares, averaging GBP 281,000 per employee.
Founders Anurag Dikshit, 32, and Vikrant Bhargava, 33, both graduates of the Indian Institute of Technology, own the company with American husband-and-wife team Ruth Parasol and Russ DeLeon. The four stand to pocket GBP 4.2 billion between them from the flotation but will retain 77 per cent of the company.
PartyGaming’s founders rarely give interviews and three of the four refuse to release photographs of themselves. However, The Guardian reports that Ruth Parasol is known to have made millions in the Nineties by setting up premium-rate adult chatlines and pornographic websites before severing all links with the industry in 1997 to switch to online gambling.
Ms Parasol, a lawyer, lives in New York with Mr DeLeon and their two children. The couple, both Harvard law school graduates, act as consultants to the company and deal with the legal side of the business which is based in Gibraltar because of its relaxed gambling laws.
The Party Poker site averages about 70,000 users playing online against each other at any one time. New figures released as InfoPowa went to press reveal 4.3 million people in Britain have gambled online, and experts predict the market will grow in the next year.
The employees’ share pot will be put in trust for options packages over five years. “It’s a very generous gift,” said chief executive Richard Segal, whose own one percent stake could be worth more than GBP 57 million.
The companys statement of intention to float included trading figures showing pre-tax profit in the three months to 31 March rocketed 77 per cent on a year earlier to GBP 67.5 million, on revenues up 93 percent to almost GBP 128 million.
RESTRICTED MOBILE GAMING IN NEVADA MAY BE DIFFICULT TO ENFORCE
3 June 2005
Technology views on latest Nevada law proposal
The Las Vegas Sun carried a relevant and very interesting article on the latest Nevada legislative moves to permit and regulate a form of mobile gambling that will be restricted to the land operations in the state.
The article reports that Nevada is on the verge of passing a law that could enable land casinos to offer mobile gaming, but technology experts have cautioned that it will be tough for the state to control who plays and from where.
Mike Wood of the Natural Intelligence Group is quoted as saying in a panel discussion at a gaming conference last week that wireless technology should increase play in casinos (which is presumably why the land casinos want it), but regulators may be challenged to set regulations for play because wireless data transmissions will be difficult to control.
The panel was part of the two-day Gaming Technology Summit at Green Valley Ranch.
While about 200 delegates discussed casino technology issues, many Nevada professionals were considering the implications of approving state legislation allowing regulators to draft rules on mobile gaming.
Wood said it’s difficult to control the boundaries of any wireless network.
“You may be able to establish a network to cover the pool area, but it may extend beyond the pool to the parking lot,” he said. Systems are being developed to triangulate network locations and set boundaries, but they probably don’t offer the precision necessary to satisfy regulators, he said.
He added that many encryption systems he has seen are not secure. Another problem regulators will face when drafting rules for the use of wireless devices is to determine player qualification systems that can’t be corrupted.
Asked whether a wireless system has been developed that could prevent underage gamblers from playing, Wood concurred that there hasn’t. But he also noted that casinos already have safeguards preventing underage playing.
Wood and panelist Rob Lewis of Ameranth Wireless, San Diego, said some wireless applications already are in use in casinos, but they don’t tie in to game play. Apparently the Mirage used wireless technology to issue credit to players and the Venetian has used it to check in hotel guests.
Others use wireless technology to notify poker players that seats are available in their rooms. Such a system is in place at the new Wynn Las Vegas resort. Wood said poker rooms that have used the technology have reported that it has increased business.
In a session on security, speaker Mark Rasch, senior vice president of Solutionary, a security services provider based in The Woodlands, Texas, warned delegates that their casinos are only as secure as the weakest link in their systems.
He discussed biometric identification systems, radio frequency identification systems that include embedded transmitters in gaming chips, new wireless technologies and player loyalty cards that help casinos collect information on their players.
Rasch said that a whole new level of security issues is on the horizon with the arrival of wireless gaming systems and server-based technology.
“There’s a lot of money that can be lost but the worst that can happen is the loss of confidence in your customers,” he said.
AUSSIE AND ASIA DEAL FOR ZONE4PLAY
3 June 2005
Mobile gaming agreement is initially worth $1.75 million
It seems that hardly a week goes by without Zone4Play announcing a new deal, mostly in supplying technology for the mobile gambling sector.
This week it was a long term agreement with Two Way TV Australia Limited, which provides live, competitive and enhanced TV entertainment and interactive TV applications and technology to the Australian market, where it is acquiring exclusive rights to distribute Zone4Play’s advanced SMS-TV solution, iTV solutions and mobile gaming and gambling products in Australia, New Zealand and 26 Asian territories.
Under the terms of the five-year agreement, Two Way TV Australia (TWTVA) will pay $1.75 million to become the exclusive distributor of both Zone4Play play for real and play for fun gambling solutions in the sprawling Asian and Pacific markets. The fee is recoupable from significant revenue shares payable to Zone4Play from any deal that is signed in these territories.
The live gambling products including Texas Hold’em poker, blackjack, roulette, lotteries, sports betting and racing packages will be offered to licensed gaming operators wherever regulations permit. Zone4Play’s gaming products have been selected by some of the largest licensed gaming operators in the UK and Europe.
ZONE4PLAY LAUNCHES FIRST CROSS-PLATFORM POKER PRODUCT
3 June 2005
Texas Hold ‘Em can be made available across a range of delivery platforms, enabling mobile, iTV and Web gamblers to compete against each other.
Zone4Play, Inc. today (Tuesday) launched the world’s first cross platform multi-player poker solution as an technology-based answer to the worldwide Texas Hold’em poker demand.
Worldwide poker-playing communities are now estimated at nearly 100 million people and growing, and this spurred Zone4Play to leverage its unique cross-platform gaming technology in order to launch the services that reach across interactive TV (iTV), Internet and mobile delivery platforms over the coming months.
The amount gambled on poker websites around the world in 2005 is estimated to exceed US$ 60 billion, with commission revenues around US$ 3 billion or approximately 60 percent of the Las Vegas strip revenues, the company claimed.
The first ever iTV multi-player Texas Hold’em poker will be available on Sky’s iTV system in the UK and accessible from more than five different channels, including Avago, The Poker Channel (sponsored by Party Poker), Channel Five and other major broadcasters. The solution will be initially launched on a play for fun mode, ultimately being replaced by a real gaming solution, depending on legislation changes in the UK.
Other iTV deployments to be launched later this year include one of the largest cable operators in the US and the largest hospitality provider in the world.
Zone4Play claims that its multi-player Texas Hold’em Poker is the first and only poker game available for iTV. The company has managed to overcome major technological barriers in order to present the market with a swift and easy to use product.
On the Internet where Texas Hold’em poker is recognised as being the hottest product, Commonwealth Telephone Enterprises, Inc., is set to launch an online version of the multi-player Texas Hold’em poker game in the third quarter of this year.
Additional to the iTV and Internet deployments, Zone4Play is currently developing a mobile version of the multi-player Texas Hold’em poker for one of UK’s leading bookmakers. The Mobile MP Texas Hold’em Poker will be introduced to the market later on this year and will enable play for real and play for fun versions of the popular game.
Zone4Play hosts the game on a unique hosting environment platform, allowing competition between players who use Mobile, iTV and the web.
SECURITY COMPANY JOINS IGGBA
3 June 2005
UK trade association now has over fifty members
The Interactive Gaming, Gambling and Betting Association (iGGBA) has accepted Kroopier as a member. The companys objective is top security solutions for the remote gambling industry.
Ignacio de Juan, Director of Kroopier, said that the company sees it acceptance as a unique opportunity to actively participate in the development of the gambling industry and its regulations, by contributing knowledge on security related issues.
SATELLITES COULD NEUTRALISE INTERNET GAMBLING BANS
3 June 2005
A U.S. company claims to have developed satellite technology that works
Details were sparse this week on an intriguing story carried by the Kentucky Courier-Journal, which reports that an American company has patented a way to make casino-style gambling available via satellite.
Kenilworth Systems Corp., based in Mineola, N.Y., says it is courting Indiana and its riverboats as the hosts for its games, promising millions of dollars in state revenue. Its Roulabette product is specifically designed to meet state and federal laws that prohibit most interstate wagering and gambling on the Internet.
It could allow gamblers in states or countries that approve it to wager from home or other locations on casino action taking place in Indiana.
The newspaper reported that the administration of Gov. Mitch Daniels is somewhat sceptical of the proposal. State Budget Director Chuck Schalliol called it “…only an idea at this stage,” and “…not something the state has committed to seriously.”
WEB EXTORTION ATTACKS STILL A THREAT
3 June 2005
Payment company successfully fought off DDoS assault
The BBC carried a report this week which, whilst dating back to August 2004 remains a timely reminder that website owners cannot relax their guard.
One evening last year Asif Malik, security director of the UK online payment firm Nochex received an email offering a stark choice – immediately send a wire for $10,000 to a European bank account or face an attack on the company’s servers.
It has become common practice for extortionists to target Internet firms and threaten to cripple their websites with deluges of data unless they pay a ransom.
Not all the e-criminals are able to follow through on their threats but when the Nochex site went down an hour later it was time to sit up and take notice.
The first thing Malik did was to contact his service provider Pipex, who confirmed the site was being overwhelmed by a zombie attack – a typical modus operandi used by extortionists who have armies of zombie computers. These frequently consist of ordinary users’ computers that are hijacked and remotely controlled often without the owner even knowing. Usually the hijacking is achieved through covertly infecting machines with a worm or virus delivered via mass emailing .
Playing for time, Malik opened communications with the crooks by offering to send the money early the next day.
But for Mr Malik paying up was never an option. Instead it was a chance to see whether technology could do battle with the e-criminals and beat them at their own game.
In this particular case the criminals in question were part of a Russian gang, already well known to the UK police but not yet within the grasp of the authorities. With the cooperation of New Scotland Yard and international enforcement agencies the hitech battle was joined.
The solution, in this case, was a network product developed by the U.S. computer company Cisco. Called Cisco Guard it has been created specifically to fight DDoS attacks by sorting the legitimate traffic from traffic intent on attacking servers.
“All of the traffic is diverted and we analyse the flow and identify aspects of the flow that we believe to be malicious,” explained Kevin Regan, a security consultant with Cisco.
Once installed Mr Malik’s attitude was one of “bring it on”, confident that the new armour that had been put around the network would remain impenetrable. The attacks did come and have continued to come ever since, but so far the Nochex system has remained online.
DDos attacks have become a big problem for businesses in the last 12 months.
At one point in the autumn of last year Pipex was seeing as many as three to five attacks each day, although that number has since slowed down.
Most of Pipex’s high risk clients, categorised as gaming, gambling and payment gateway sites, have had the Cisco equipment installed and the patterns of attacks are becoming familiar to the backbone engineers.
“We have become veterans at it. Our guys have been doing it for 15 months and we have become quite battle-scarred along the way,” said a Cisco spokesman.
According to Regan, such attacks are getting more determined – lasting for days or even weeks – and more and more zombie machines are being recruited into the hijackers’ armies.
According to the Honeynet Project, set up to create solutions to security problems, there are over one million zombie computers. Britain has the largest zombie PC population of anywhere in the world.
It has not been a cheap option for Nochex. In fact, with an initial cost of GBP 20,000 and a further GBP 3,000 a month, it would have possibly been cheaper to pay off the hijackers, at least initially.
But, as Malik says, “…who is to say the hijackers wouldn’t have come back next month and the month after?”
The nature of denial-of-service attacks…
* Average cost of mission critical services compromised $100,000 an hour
* Britain has largest zombie PC population in the world
* Over 1million connected computers are zombies
* 30,000+ internet connected zombie networks in 2004
* Estimated 25 percent of all infected PCs are under control of hackers
* Broadband responsible for 93 percent increase in infected PCs in 2004
* 11 percent of small to medium sized businesses suffered DDoS attacks in the last 12 months
MORE DVD POKER TUTORIALS
3 June 2005
NuTech Digital Inc. selected for distribution
Pokerthink Inc., a Florida firm that produces DVD tutorials on poker playing has briefed NuTech Digital for the distribution work on an upcoming DVD Poker Tutorial.
Tom McEvoy, a four-time winner of World Series of Poker events, and the World Series of Poker Championship in 1983, has been named as the star of the tutorials.
Tom, who is recognized as one of America’s greatest poker teachers, has completed the first in the series, titled “How A Poker Champ Thinks His Way To Success,” which is being promoted through direct response TV ads running in all areas of the country, as well as on the company’s website, PokerThink.com.
BRUNSON – CARO POKER MATCH TEACHES TOO
3 June 2005
CD-ROM now available
Doyle Brunson, winner of nine championship bracelets at the World Series of Poker, has a new CD-ROM out that is attracting comment on Internet poker fora this week.
The highlight of the offering is a lively and informative heads-up poker game between Brunson and the ?Mad Genius of Poker? Mike Caro, poker?s leading educator.
“This is different from anything you?ve seen before,” says Caro, who has joined Brunson at Doyle’s Room.com to promote the tutorial.
?You see us on video competing online from separate rooms, commenting to the camera as we make our decisions and explain exactly what we?re thinking. After they pieced the video together, I was shocked to hear some of Doyle?s on-the-money comments about what he thought I was holding and I?m guessing he was surprised by some of mine.?
Brunson revolutionised poker education with the 1978 publication of his Super/System ? A Course in Power Poker, followed this year by the long-awaited sequel Super/System 2.
Aged 71, he’s still winning in the world?s largest games and on primetime network television. Earlier this year, he emerged as the champion in a major World Poker Tour event. There were 667 players dealt in, but in the end, there was only Brunson, with everyone else?s chips stacked in front of him.
Look out for “Doyle Brunson?s Guide to the New World of Poker”, an interactive CD-ROM available for free this month. For the first time, players will be able to access – at no charge – tips from both Brunson and Caro, whom Brunson believes is the world?s best teacher of both the fundamentals and the subtleties of the game.
The CD provides multimedia instruction for players at all levels, contains a documentary on the evolution of the game from the days of ?Texas Dolly? Brunson?s Texas Rounders to the cultural phenomenon the game is today.
3 June 2005
Don’t forget the Bodog conference
For a second consecutive year, BoDog, a major online gambling operation based in Costa Rica, will host the “Poker and Sports Marketing Conference” at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
This year’s conference is scheduled for July 6 and 7.
Scheduled to give presentations are poker tournament director Matt Savage, sports handicapper Marc Lawrence, online gambling editor Christopher Costigan of Sports911 and others.
For information visit Bodog Conference.com.
Multi-Platform Gambling Content 28-29 June, London, UK
Don’t miss a two-day conference discussing gambling content across multiple platforms and tapping into a market worth over US $16 billion.
The Betting Show 19-20 October 2005, NEC Birmingham, UK
The only show in Europe for everyone in the sports betting industry.
EIG – the European i-Gaming Conference & Expo
7-9 November 2005, Nice, France.
Europe’s largest and most comprehensive i-gaming event with conference sessions, exhibits and plenty of networking.
With GIGSE on the doorstep, River City Group has announced an imaginative new entertainment in collaboration with Party Poker.com.
At this year’s opening night reception in Montreal, delegates can win $5,000 in the PartyPoker.com Free-to-Play Poker Tournament.
PartyPoker.com is sponsoring the opening night party at GIGSE 2005, and the party’s highlight will be a free-to-play poker tournament with a top prize of $5,000. And for the none poker folks, there will be Roulette, Craps and Blackjack available throughout the party.
When: Monday, June 13, 2005; 6pm – 9pm
Where: Palais des Congres, Panoramic Room 710
Would-be poker champions need to enter online first. To secure a seat at the GIGSE 2005 PartyPoker.com tournament table, register at PartyPoker.com by June 11, 2005, using the code GIGSE1. Registrants will automatically be entered into the 36-player tournament draw.