PLAYTECH LISTING CONFIRMED (UPDATE)
24 February 2006
Rumours are true - Israeli owned firm plans IPO in London
The rumoured London listing of turnkey provider Playtech was confirmed this week by a company spokesman, who said that his company hoped the shares would be placed with institutional investors by the end of March.
The spokesman confirmed that Playtech plans to raise GBP 175 million in a London stock market flotation that will value it around GBP 550 million.
The firm, majority-owned by Israeli internet-gaming entrepreneur Teddy Sagi, counts the Tote, Bet365 and BetFred among its clients and is the latest in a series of online gambling firms to opt for a London listing. Yesterday, Excapa Software, which also makes online poker software, floated on London's junior AIM market and saw its shares rise 5 percent in early trade.
Cyprus-registered Playtech said in a statement it made sales of GBP 27.4 million and a post-tax profit of GBP 20.5 million for the financial year to December 31, 2005.
Collins Stewart has been appointed as sole bookrunner, nominated advisor and joint broker. Seymour Pierce is joint broker.
Playtech has 37 licensees which operate in 89 online casinos, 16 online poker rooms and 14 bingo sites, it said.
Playtech competitors include Toronto, Canada-based CryptoLogic Inc., which has a market value of C$379.8 million ($329 million)
While the company's management is based on the Isle of Man, 90 percent of its workers are in Estonia. The company has a "close relationship'' with the University of Tartu, located in the southern part of the Baltic country, and recruits its graduates as software developers, the spokesman said.
Israeli press coverage on the company late last year included some interesting inside detail, claiming that Playtech was founded in 2000 by NAV New Age Investments Ltd., controlled by Sagi and three 30-something entrepreneurs from central Israel, with current Playtech VP marketing incumbent Elad Cohen as CEO. NAV was delisted from the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) in 2003.
The other two founders are said to be Amnon Ben-Zion and CEO Rami Beinish. Ben-Zion and Cohen met during their compulsory military service in the Israeli Defence Force central processing unit. Ben-Zion sold his Playtech stake a year ago.
The article reports that a valuation for Playtech conducted for NAV in late 2002 found that NAV owned 68 percent of the company, Elad Cohen 19 percent, and the other two founders 6 percent and 7 percent, respectively. Playtech was valued at $18.4 million, after deducting debts, a figure that now seems unlikely. The valuation was carried out for a failed attempt by Sagi to obtain capital for the company by issuing 10 percent of its capital to an external investor. The valuation indicated that Playtech had $4.5 million in revenue in 2002, and an operating profit before financing expenses of $1.5 million.
There are likely to be some heartsore investors in the wake of software developer Playtech?s recent announcement that it intends to go public in a London IPO that will likely generate millions for its principal shareholder, Teddy Sagi, reports the Israeli business newspaper Globes.
The report reveals that Israeli companies Gibor Sport, Leader Investments, and Resido sold their stakes in Playtech?s parent company, NAV New Age Investments, for only a few million shekels losing out on a current opportunity that could rake in millions.
The report goes on to name the major Israeli shareholders in these companies, commenting that they will see little if any reward from the forthcoming IPO, but could have made huge profits from their holdings in Playtech had they believed in the company?s future.
Eitan Eldar and Roi Gil of Gibor Sports, Itschak Shrem, Yair Fudim and Avigdor Kelner of the company bearing their names and Freddi Robinson of Resido all invested in Sagi?s NAV in 2000 but sold heir holdings in 2001-2002 for relatively low profits.
Eldar and Gil sold their 11.5 percent of NAV to Sagi for 8.5 million Israeli shekels. At today?s potential that would be worth an estimated $60 million, giving a hypothetical loss to the two of some 300 million Israeli shekels.
Globes reports that three months after Gil and Eldar sold their NAV stakes, Freddi Robinson followed suit. He sold his 5 percent stake in the company to Sagi for 3.9 million shekels. Robinson held the shares through Resido, which would have indirectly owned Playtech shares worth $30 million, giving a theoretical loss of 130 million shekels.
Shrem, Fudim, and Kelner were the last to sell their 3-4 percent stake in NAV, again to Sagi for 2.3 million shekels, and would have indirectly owned Playtech shares worth $20 million today. The theoretical loss is 90 million shekels.
Globes speculates that the Playtech IPO has the potential to make Teddy Sagi one of Israel?s richest men. Sagi?s NAV New Age Investments Ltd. Controls a 68 percent stake in Playtech, according to a 2002 valuation. When the company goes public on the London Stock Exchange next month at a value of $800-900 million, Sagi will reportedly make $90-120 million from the issue, still retaining shares worth $370-400 million.
WILL US BANNING ATTEMPTS IMPACT WTO AND ANTIGUA?
24 February 2006
Is the USA on a collision course with the World Trade Organisation?
The launch last week of the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act by Reps. Goodlatte and Boucher, and other legislation reported to be about to enter the US lawmaking system could put the United States on a collision course with a World Trade Organisation already eying the Americans over the hotly contested Antigua online gambling dispute.
If the Bill passes and impacts offshore gaming it may be in contravention of the WTO ruling regarding the prohibition of Internet gambling regardless of whether the servers are located in the US or outside of it, says the BBC, which claims that the bill will put the US on a collision course with the WTO, which has ruled that the US "...must not interfere with online gambling sites based overseas."
If the bill passes, the US could be subject to WTO sanctions come April for not bringing its laws into compliance with the WTO ruling.
Antigua has already protested the new U.S. efforts to outlaw Internet gambling and complained the United States had done nothing to implement a World Trade Organisation ruling against current restrictions. In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman released last Friday, Antigua's ambassador to the WTO, John Ashe, expressed concern about two U.S. legislative proposals to outlaw Internet gambling.
"Each of the bills is in key respects expressly contrary to the rulings and the recommendations of the Dispute Settlement Body of the World Trade Organization," Ashe said. He also complained that the United States had made no move to comply with the April 2005 ruling.
Sponsors of the 'Internet Gambling Prohibition Act,' which seeks to update the antiquated 'Wire Act' claim that it was narrowly defeated in previous incarnations due to the influence of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. That's debateable - just last week the chief of the American Gaming Association, Frank Fahrenkopf pointed out in an interview that up until the media blitz started, very few people had even heard of Abramoff, let alone considered him a top lobbyist.
Nevertheless, Goodlatte was damning in his indictment of the disgraced Abramoff, saying: "I have previously introduced similar legislation in both the 106th and 107th Congresses only to have them both derailed by Jack Abramoff's campaign of misinformation. Jack Abramoff's total disregard for the legislative process has allowed Internet gambling to continue thriving into what is now a twelve billion-dollar business which not only hurts individuals and their families but makes the economy suffer by draining billions of dollars from the United States and serves as a vehicle for money laundering."
The last part of that statement is arguable, too in light of the repeated pleas of large Internet betting companies to be legalised, regulated and taxed on US soil. And the old "money laundering and terrorist funding" allegation has repeatedly been disproved.
The new law as it now stands would be absolutely explicit - any gambling using the Internet is illegal in the US. Additionally, Goodlatte seeks to target US-facing offshore gambling sites by making official the ban on accepting credit cards, electronic funds transfers, or checks from US players. Banks and other American financial institutions have been imposing their own ban for some time, but this will certainly turn the screws tighter if it passes. Penalties for violations have been raised from two to five years in jail.
The Bill apparently seeks to avoid previous pitfalls that have generated opposition. For example, it does not seek to overthrow or limit the rights of individual states to authorise gambling within their borders. That would appear inconsistent, because if the goal is to stop money from being lost and laundered to 'shady outfits' based offshore, why is Internet gambling banned within the US as well? If the reason is to save the minority of citizens who are prone to addictive behavior, why do legal commercials run on TV every night encouraging citizens to visit Vegas?
Previous attempts have been bedevilled by wheeling and dealing over exemptions for vested interests in other gambling sectors (such as Indian gaming and horse racing) and politico-religious groupings. Whilst these might not necessarily be friendly toward online gambling per se, they have their own interests to protect and this has been an important factor in the past.
The progress of the current banning attempt, and those for and agin' it is going to make very interesting reading in the weeks and probably months ahead.
30 million U.S. online gamblers are a major impediment to banning
Morgan Stanley, one of the top international business services groups has issued an objective analysis of the new moves in the USA to ban internet gambling, coming to the conclusion that it is unlikely that bans will come about in the next 12 to 18 months at least.
Surveying the three seperate legislative attempts in process from Reps.Goodlatte, Leach and Sen Jon Kyl, the report examines the effects of state vs federal authority, lobbying and "carve out" efforts from a wide range of self-interested audiences, the history of previously failed attempts going back a decade, political timing and the fact that 2006 has the fewest ever Congressional days before November elections.
In relation to these forthcoming elections, the report notes that with Nielsen NetRating numbers indicating 30 million or more American online gamblers, these potentially unpopular proposals may well face a lack of political support. Summing up, the authors say that an "Adverse regulatory outcome is unlikely."
Considering the financial contraints under consideration, the report notes that U.S. financial institutions introduced these in a private and de facto sense some two years ago, with credit card financing dropping from 90 percent to less than 50 percent, and alternative methods appearing that resulted in the industry continuing to grow.
In the event of the proposals becoming law, there would also be a 12 month lag time to enact the new law, and difficulties in its enforcement, especially if this involved interference in access to the Internet for Americans should an ISP blocking strategy be adopted. The report quotes Sen. Kyl himself as saying, "Online gambling would be a difficult kind of activity to regulate, because we don't have jurisdiction over the people abroad who are doing it."
The report also notes the recent WTO rulings and the still outstanding amendments to horse racing betting over the Internet if the US is to be consistent with its claim that it objects to online gambling on moral grounds.
Quoting CCA statistics, the report reveals that the global industry is expected to turn revenues of $15 billion in 2006 and more going forward, with 80 nations outside the US, including Great Britain licensing operators and 300 companies with over 2 000 sites.
"Ultimately, we think that the size and scale of the industry will dominate the attempts to moralise and prohibit," the authors opine. "It is inconsistent with its popularity to ban online gambling."
The report touches on regulatory moves within the industry, saying: "Operators have gone to great lengths to legitimise the industry, including initiatives such as eCOGRA, with measures to limit problem gambling, increased security and identity checks, a full audit trail to eradicate money laundering and promoting websites such as Gamcare."
Mention is also made of the Bet On Sports initiative to prove there are no links between online gambling and money laundering.
Concluding that the US legal scene is likely to remain "a grey area" for at least the next 18 to 24 months, the report calls attention to developments in the UK, pointing out that online gambling is regarded in that country as a "legitimate leisure activity" to be regulated, and that this view will predominate internationally in time.
HERE COME THE HORSE RACING CARVE OUTS
24 February 2006
Minnesota horse race promoters want to use the Internet
With the latest US attempts to ban online gambling just launched, and the WTO dispute still calling for the horse racing exemptions in US law to be addressed by April 3, this is possibly not the best time for horse racing firms to try and get internet betting exemptions.
That hasn'r stopped the Minnesota horse racing fraternity, which is exploring ways to give Canterbury Park access to the lucrative world of online betting on races.
Rep. Andy Westerberg, said he intends to introduce a bill authorising, regulating and taxing online betting on horses. But even Westerberg predicts there is little chance of passing the bill this year.
He and members of the Minnesota Racing Commission met recently with Internet bookies to discuss the business.
Advocates of the horse racing industry say the debate is not about expanding gambling. Instead, they argue it would merely ensure that state government and the local racing industry get a cut of the profits.
Canterbury Park, in Shakopee, Minn., said it has seen about a $6 million decline in simulcasting wagers from 2004 to 2005. Simulcasting allows betting on races at other tracks as long as the bet is placed at the Minnesota track.
"It's mainly due to what has become an onslaught of available Internet gambling," said track President Randy Sampson.
Simulcasting provides winter income for Canterbury, but it is becoming particularly vulnerable to competition from online wagering because people can stay home and still bet. A harness track planned for Anoka County also would appear to benefit from legalised online betting.
Meanwhile, American Indian tribes are reacting cautiously to the proposal for legalised Internet gambling on horse racing. The tribes have helped sink other gambling proposals that would allow casino-style games at the track.
Hotels sold, British group now focuses on online gambling and Asian and European gaming opportunities
The UK Hilton group completed the formalities on its GBP 3.3 billion hotel sale to US Hilton this week, and immediately set about transforming itself into a bigger, stronger Ladbrokes gambling group
The group has re-branded itself as Ladbrokes - a pure gaming company using the Internet to exploit opportunities in Europe and Asia, reports Reuters.
"Through e-gaming we reach into 200 countries around the world, and there's the intention to push that even faster," outgoing Deputy Chief Executive Brian Wallace told the news service.
Hilton reported a 10 percent rise in full-year profit and said it would return up to 4.2 billion pounds to shareholders early in the second quarter following the hotel sale.
The Ladbrokes name will be registered this week and the Hilton Group title dropped.
Profit before tax rose 9.9 percent to GBP 413.9 million in 2005 and operating profit from online gaming nearly doubled to GBP 41.4 million. The group is currently valued at around GBP 6.1 billion.
"When we said four years ago this business could make 50 million, people laughed," Wallace said of the online gaming division. "Well, we're a long way towards that."
Rosemary Thorne, the new group finance director, said Ladbrokes was in a number of discussions for ventures in Europe and Asia.
"But these are very small acorns and not all of them will grow into big trees," she added.
Chris Bell, the chief executive of Ladbrokes, who now takes control of the group, said it would soon review the policy of not taking online bets from the United States, where the legality of online gaming remains ambiguous.
The potential profits offered by online gambling are phenomenal and, over the past few years, the smart money has turned to poker.
This trend has resulted in a boom that has transformed the game into an industry that rivals the early days of the dotcom gold rush.
According to Ladbrokes, an estimated GBP 36 million was staked on online poker sites every day in 2005, up 89 percent year on year. "Launching early [in the poker sector] was a key critical advantage," said Albert Tapper, general manager at Ladbrokes Poker.
"We launched in May 2002 and we were the first big name betting brand to launch online poker. We established 'liquidity' early on, which is the word used in the industry for having lots of players. Lots of players is critical because it means you can offer a range of tournaments and a good choice of cash games."
However, Tapper maintained that it is unfair to talk of online poker in terms of a boom which implies a bust just around the corner. Ladbroke's research suggests that the future for the market is bright, as its main audience is young players.
The company's report from January 2006 shows that 60 percent of players are under 30 years old and the average age is just 32. There are more 19 year olds than any other age year.
"I don't think it's right to say that poker is a bubble about to burst. There are a huge number of people playing; at peak times we'll be dealing 15,000 hands an hour and that's a lot of games," said Tapper.
Lee Ferris, poker marketing manager at sports betting firm Victor Chandler, backs up the argument that demand is leading the success and not the other way around.
"Some of the greatest dotcom successes - eBay, Amazon, online poker - have been as a result of the clever reinvention of a product or service repositioned properly for the online consumer," he said.
That?s what greets many customers when they have a problem at an online casino. It often seems that once it is clear a dispute exists, nobody is interested?and there is no excuse for it.
No excuse, because the systems and technology are on hand to accurately record, acknowledge and track complaint traffic and it needs only the will to merge this with good human customer care to develop a successful business relationship.
The majority of disputes could be resolved in a stress-free and timely manner through the simple act of communicating with the customer and explaining what is happening, whether it be a payout delay, a disqualification, a legitimate enquiry or any one of the many areas where friction with the customer can arise.
Where the ordinary customer service rep in the Support trenches lacks the authority or current information it is still possible to placate anxious clients by providing a working escalation route to a more senior company employee or manager. It is guaranteed to avoid hassles for everyone ? but most importantly the player ? almost every time.
Most players are in the main reasonable people with understandable concerns, and to ignore this is not only discourteous but dangerous from a lost business perspective. Sure, there are *difficult* customers who are hard to satisfy or naturally rude and aggressive, but this is a tiny minority of the players with problems.
This week has seen a number of cases where players and in a few cases mediators have simply been ignored despite several, and in some cases numerous attempts to establish a sensible dialogue with casinos to sort out perfectly resolvable issues.
If there?s one word worth repeating to operators this week it?s Communicate, Communicate and then Communicate again with your players ? they are expensive to acquire and easy to lose.
All the bells and whistles on this new Poker Academy software
Edmonton, Canada-based poker software developer Poker Academy, has released Pro Texas Hold'em Version 2.5 - the first Texas Hold'em poker software game and training tool that allows its users to create, simulate, and host online multi-table tournaments of any structure.
Pro 2.5 also empowers users to analyse their game play from real world experiences by now being able to import hand histories from popular online poker rooms, including Party Poker, Poker Stars, and Paradise Poker.
?With poker tournaments the rage worldwide, for fun or for money, players of any skill level need help training to win at casinos, online poker rooms, or poker leagues,? said Kurt Lange, president and chief executive of Poker Academy.
?Our new version of Poker Academy Pro delivers that in spades. Players can design, simulate and save tourney structures from their favorite local casino or online poker site. We have empowered them with the tools to train to win without taking any risk.?
?Another compelling aspect of our multi-table tournament feature in Pro 2.5 is that individuals, organisations, or poker leagues can now host their own Holdem events online for free. To participate, one only needs to own a copy of our software. This is ideal for poker leagues who want to expand into the online world or for non-profit organizations interested in holding Texas Hold'em charity events via the Internet.?
As part of the update, Pro Texas Holdem 2.5 comes to market with other new and exciting additions. The Hand Evaluator window strength tab shows better simulation values, running through 100 000 simulation trials and calculating the results in terms of strength against 1-9 players.
Other distinguishing components include "Play and Learn" facilities enabling users to challenge themselves against advanced computer opponents with AI that learns and adapts to play, and opponents can be edited to mimic real-life players. Adjust aggressiveness, hand selection, odds estimation, and betting tendencies. Zip Play and Advanced Actions produce an intensified game play experience.
The Advisor function provides expert suggestions on when to bet, check, or fold, and how often, together with pop-up alerts that warn of potentially bad decisions. Messages explain why an action may be ineffective in the context of the current situation.
Supply the details of the desired game and the tournament clock feature will manage blind levels, breaks and payouts.
Once users are confident in their abilities, it's time for the Advanced AI which helps strengthen skills against heads-up specialist bots derived from the respected University of Alberta Poker Research Group. And talking about research, this package gives a complete history and alalytical capability that embraces every aspect of play.
Canada's latest womens poker champ outplays 249 competitors
Clarissa Hannem of Esquimalt took top honours and won $22,680.00 this week when she became Canada's first ever Women's Poker Classic champion.
Hannem out-manoeuvered and out-played 249 other womenpoker players to nab the top prize after about five hours of play in the $75,000 No Limit Texas Hold'em tournament held at Cascades Casino in Langley.
"It was great to play in a tournament for women only and to see so many women turning out to have a good time playing poker," said Hannem.
Friday, February 17, Limit Texas Hold'em kicked it all off at noon with a $37,500 prize pool. February 18 and February 19, No Limit Texas Hold 'em, the main event, started at noon and featured a $75,000 prize pool. The top 20 players in both the Limit and No Limit games finished in the money.
With over $112,000 up for grabs, Canada's first women's poker tournament made Canadian poker history and supported Breast Cancer research at the same time. Cascades Casino made a $25,000 donation, $50 for every registered participant to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and Treasure Cove Casino & Hotel donated an additional $5,000. In total, over $30,000 went directly toward breast cancer research in British Columbia.
With 26 percent of American college males playing poker, here's a scheme that could have wide appeal
The marketing staff at Titan Poker has launched a campaign aimed at college poker players, starting with a series of tournaments in conjunction with Campusfood, a nation-wide network of restaurants in the USA. The concept is to provide innovative marketing to restaurant partners and offer online menus with interactive ordering to students.
University students who sign up at Titan Poker with a special bonus code provided by Campusfood will be eligible to play in a series of exclusive online freeroll poker tournaments. Winners will receive special Campusfood Cash coupons, redeemable for food orders at participating restaurants. A total of $20,000 in free food is on the table in the special inaugural Campusfood tournaments at Titan Poker, which will culminate in a major final on April 23.
And in March, Titan will stage a series of March Madness tournaments especially geared for college students. A special March Madness Poker website is to be launched allowing new players to download the Titan Poker software and register to represent their school in this special series.
During the month of March, Titan Poker will stage 64 qualifying tournaments to determine which players will represent their school in a special free March Madness Main Event online poker tournament. Winning players at this Main Event will win valuable prizes for themselves and their schools, including championship rings and jackets, laptop computers, iPod Nanos.... and cash to spend at CampusFood.
The March Madness tournaments will be offered to all registered Titan Poker players. Each player will be able to represent his school, or his alma mater, in the special tournament series leading up to the Main Event.
In a survey last year, the University of Pennsylvania found that 26 percent (and growing) of male US college students played poker to some extent.
EXCAPSA LISTING SHOWS RENEWED INDUSTRY CONFIDENCE
24 February 2006
GBP 56.2 million raised.
The original target that Excapsa had in mind (see previous InfoPowa reports) in raising cash through an IPO in London last Thursday was reportedly GBP 75 million. Although the result fell short of that, the company seems pleased enough with their debut, which brought in GBP 56.2 million.
?There is clearly investor appetite for quality companies in this sector,? said David Collins, head of corporate finance at Excapsa?s legal adviser, Berwin Leighton Paisner, whilst analysts were upbeat and described support for the listing as evidence of renewed interest and confidence in the industry.
The placing raised a total of GBP 56.2 million for the company, giving it a healthy market capitalisation on admission to the exchange of GBP 214.2 million. Company spokesmen said that GBP 26.2 million will be used to eliminate debt and provide additional working capital for the group going forward for possible acquisitions. The successful poker operation UltimateBet is one of the Excapsa subsidiaries.
CEO Jim Ryan said: ?We are pleased with the strong investor response to our flotation, which will not only raise our corporate profile but enable Excapsa to maintain its total commitment to client service excellence and value creation.?
SALES AND PROFITS UP AT CHERRY GROUP
24 February 2006
Good fourth quarter and full 2005 results announced
The Swedish gambling group Cherry, which recently rearranged itself into three seperate operations has reported good numbers for its fourth quarter and full 2005 year.
Sales for the quarter increasing 46 percent to Swedish kroner 136 million (about GBP 10 million) compared with the same period for 2004. SEK42 million flowed from the acquisition of online sportsbetting company Betsson. Over the 12-month period to the end of 2005 sales grew by 45 percent to SEK452 million, with Cherry Online and Net Entertainment bringing in SEK121 million.
Cherry's restructuring last year divided the group into three: Cherry Online, which includes gaming portal Betsson and CasinoEuro.com; Net Entertainment, a turnkey provider and gambling software developer; and gaming machines provider Cherry Casino. These three divisions will each be independently listed, Cherry?s board confirmed - the three business entities will be split into three independent listed companies.
Operating profits for the quarter were SEK 14 million, Net Entertainment reporting 60 percent increase in profit and Cherry Online SEK 8 million profit compared with a SEK 2.8 million loss for the same period in 2004. Operating profit for the 12 months period SEK 46 million with Cherry?s internet-related activities reporting an increase in operating margins of 25 percent.
Overall profits after tax were SEK 178 million, up by SEK 12 million on the previous year.
Highlights in the report included the announcement that Betsson had achieved and surpassed its annual objective of 200 000 registered customers by the end of 2005, with 242 000 registered players as of 31 December, although the number of active players was 36 000.
186 000 players were registered on Betsson's poker platform by end of 2005, a 28 percent increase compared with 145 500 at the end of Q3. The number of active poker players grew 47 percent to 30 900. The results from Betsson's mobile poker operation were also interesting, with Betsson signing up 2 100 customers for real money play.
Betting exchange and online casino numbers were encouraging, too: the number of betting exchange players rose by 32 percent to 4 300 by year-end and active casino players on the Betsson portal was 7 600 as the year came to a close, compared with 6 200 in September 2005. CasinoEuro player registrations reached 203 700, 8 300 signing up in the fourth quarter.
Revenue for Cherry?s online casinos was SEK 15 million for Q4 and SEK 48 million for the 12 months.
Betting exchange gamblers have a useful new tool this week following the launch of a new comparative platform by Global Gaming Technologies (GGT)
The company has launched what it claims is the first betting platform that allows consumers to compare the best prices on different betting exchanges, and to transact with one click across several exchanges.
Using a proprietary technology, GGT has developed a product that allows live feeds from numerous exchanges to be displayed, so customers can see where the best value bets are available. Subscribers can see the prices side by side before deciding which bets to place.
Remember Owen O'Donnell? He was the top financial man at Betfair between 2003 and 2005 before being replaced (to the surprise of many) and moving on to pastures greener, in the shape of King.com, an Internet skill gaming outfit.
O'Donnell has just been appointed chief financial officer at King, a post for which he is well qualified by training and experience, having worked in senior management positions for the Financial Times, A.C. Neilsen and Pearson plc before his move to Betfair in 2003.
He is widely attributed with doing much of the groundwork to support that business at a key stage of its development including reorganising the corporate structure, implementing financial planning and reporting systems and strengthening the control environment to help further growth.
Thumbs up to the Paddy Poker poker marketers, who this week came up with a new distribution method for their poker software.
The Irish online casino, poker and sportsbetting group has inked a deal with Brandedmedia for the production of a promotional compact disc featuring its poker software in download form.
The discs will be inserted in the UK newspaper "The Times" on February 25, reaching an audience of millions of readers - the first time that a gaming promotional CD has been carried by a major national British newspaper, they claim.
Watch this space - full details on costs have not yet been released and could be considerable, and there is the risk of some adverse reaction from certain sectors of the public.
GET MOVING ON WTO RULING, SAYS ANTIGUA
24 February 2006
Caribbean island jurisdiction ups the ante in its fight with the USA
The recent introduction of more legislation designed to ban online gambling in the USA (see previous InfoPowa reports) seems to have spurred Antigua into protesting that the Americans have done little to meet the WTO rulings on its dispute with the US over online gambling.
The island government's WTO representative has formally protested at the current efforts to outlaw Internet gambling and complained that the United States has thus far done nothing to implement a World Trade Organisation ruling against its current restrictions.
Populated by 67 000 islanders, many of whom depend on offshore Internet gaming companies for their livlihood, Antigua and Barbuda has been trying to build up its Internet gambling industry as a way to make up for sharply declining tourism revenues.
In doing so, it has had to take the United States to the World Trade Organisation over federal laws that bar the placing of bets across state lines by electronic means. Antigua challenged that ban in 2003 as a violation of service sector commitments the United States made when the WTO was formed in 1995.
Both sides claimed victory after the WTO Appellate Body released a final decision in the case in April 2005.
In a letter to US Trade Representative Rob Portman, Antigua's ambassador to the WTO, John Ashe, expressed concern about two US legislative proposals to outlaw the $12 billion Internet gambling industry.
"Each of the bills is in key respects expressly contrary to the rulings and the recommendations of the Dispute Settlement Body of the World Trade Organization," Ashe said.
He also complained the United States had made no move to comply with the April 2005 ruling.
"As of today, with less than two months remaining on an 11-month and two week compliance period, to our knowledge no legislation has been introduced into the Congress that would seek to bring the United States into compliance," Ashe said.
Neena Moorjani, a spokeswoman for the US Trade Representative's office, said, "The US is exploring a number of different avenues to clarify there is no discrimination ? even outside of legislation.
"The issue is a very narrow one. ... The time period for compliance has not yet expired," she said.
The United States argued in the WTO case that it never meant its services liberalisation to include gambling, and that WTO rules allowed states to restrict trade on moral grounds.
The Appellate Body accepted much of the U.S. reasoning, but said that when it came to betting on horse racing, there appeared to be discrimination between foreign and local operators, which violated trade rules and had to stop.
'NIENTE' SAY BRIT GAMBLING GROUPS
24 February 2006
Italian moves to curtail online gambling criticised
The Italian government could be faced with some tough opposition to its recent decision to clamp down on Internet gambling through internet service providers (ISPs) judging by the hostile reaction to the announcement by major Brit gambling groups who are members of the Remote Gambling Association (RGA)
The Register reports this week that UK gaming companies are threatening to take legal action against Italian regulators unless they reverse recent changes which outlaw access to gaming sites outside Italy.
Italy's Ministry of Economy and Finance recently unveiled a law threatening to fine any Italian ISP which allows access to a list of gambling sites.
Last November the RGA pushed out a press release objecting to the at that time proposed changes, which are claimed to breach five categories of EC rules. Since then individual members of the RGA have been developing a dialogue with the Italians in attempts to head off a confrontation and possible legal action, but the RGA is likely to review its options at the end of this month following the latest Italian moves.
European Commission laws allow governments to restrict cross-border services on genuine moral grounds, but not due to external competition.
The fight by UK gambling companies against Italian government action banning online gambling by blocking sites from Italian ISPs seems to be gaining momentum.
News to hand this week is that the Remote Gambling Association (RGA), whose members include 888, Betfair and William Hill, is seeking legal advice after the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance approved a law to fine ISPs allowing gamblers to access offshore sites.
Under the Italian Finance Act 2006, which came in to force on 1 January, Italian internet service providers could be fined each time players are allowed to bet with a 'blacklisted' company.
To make the law effective with surprising speed, a number of decrees were passed earlier in Rome, requiring ISPs to block access to around 500 sites on pain of fines of up to GBP 120 000.
But three years ago, a European court ruled that member states are not allowed to block cross-border gambling services other than on grounds of moral objections. According to the RGA, the Italian decrees should have been approved by the EC prior to the law coming into effect.
The RGA has asked the EC to prevent the restrictions as it argues Italian consumers will suffer from reduced competition.
Thus far the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance has not commented on the RGA statement.
MALTESE SITES TO BE BLOCKADED BY NEW ITALIAN DECREES
24 February 2006
684 Internet gaming sites to be blocked by Italian ISPs - but counter moves are in progress
Maltese officials were clearly disturbed this week as the Italian bid to ban online gaming started to move into gear with plans to block 684 internet sites, among them Maltese licensed companies despite the fellow European Community status of the island.
It now seems that the Italians are using the fraudulent acquisition of passwords and credit card details - commonly known as phishing - as one of their rationales for blocking internet gaming sites from the end of this week. The Italian state plans to introduce the ban on Friday, blocking 684 internet gaming sites through ISPs despite the lack of hard evidence to suggest a connection.
All 100 + online gaming sites licensed in Malta are included in the list, which was put into force following Italy?s 2006 Budget, to block all online gaming sites which are not licensed in Italy. The law stipulates that ISPs in Italy should block the websites, otherwise they will be subjected to heavy fines.
The Italians have threatened ISPs with a daily fine of EUR180,000 in a unilateral move that has been described as a case of protectionism.
According to the UK's Financial Times, the legal director of gaming company Betfair, which has a Maltese licence, said that Italy?s move had unified the British gambling heavyweights to take legal action, leading to the hiring of specialist legal firm Freshfields.
The Maltese Lotteries and Gaming Authority (LGA) is taking a waiting posture, saying that there are ?a number of unclear factors? which the Italian regulatory body, the AAMS, needs to clarify before it will involve itself in the dispute, although it will be taking steps to ensure Maltese licensees are not affected by the law.
LGA spokesmen said that it has information that the list of banned websites will be blocked by an access list on ISP routers, although when this was tested last week ?...two major ADSL networks in Italy went down?. Subsequent reports claimed that the blockading of Maltese sites would probably take place in Milan, through which all Malta?s international IP traffic passes.
Another report suggested this would constitute a problem difficult to resolve that might require tunnelling through a foreign proxy or VPN tunnel outside Malta. There were also reports that the LGA is seeking to lease a server in London Docklands or Vienna.
The LGA has apparently revealed that a website will soon appear with links to all licensees. Each link will go through a "web anonymiser" so the IP address is different from the original website. It instructed each ISP to make a number of IP addresses available as it is possible the anonymous proxy will also be blocked.
INTEGRATED PARTY POKER SITE OFFICIALLY LAUNCHED
24 February 2006
One shop stop for gamblers
The much anticipated Party Gaming integrated online gambling site, incorporating casino and poker gaming in a "one player account" site was officially launched this week.
Reuters reported that the major Internet poker and casino firm had opened its new facility which seeks to exploit the trend of having a variety of different gamestyles and genres concentrated at one venue with a common e-wallet facility for the convenience of players.
"The platform enables customers to click through seamlessly from PartyPoker.com to the new PartyCasino.com and vice versa without having to log in separately and without the need to deposit money into separate accounts," a company spokesman said in a statement.
The development is widely viewed by analysts as essential to future organic growth, and enables cross-marketing. Party Gaming has literally millions of players on its books.
CASINO GAMES COMING FROM SPORTINGBET
24 February 2006
Finance chief says new initiative will make wider selection of games available
Sportingbet plans to launch a handful of casino games this year to expand its portfolio of sports betting, poker and roulette, says finance chief Andrew McIver whilst briefing press on the group's latest numbers.
Pretax profits leapt 72 percent to GBP 27million in the second quarter, and the company said it might beat full-year forecasts of GBP 103 million in operating profits.
Without giving details on likely software providers or specific games. McIver said the games offerings would be expanded to fall into the benefits of Sportingbet's "shared purse" system, which allows players to switch between games.
The group played down the risk of a US clampdown on online gambling. A prohibition bill was introduced to Congress last week, which would update existing laws to outlaw bets taken over the internet. It also would require credit card companies to disallow money transfers going to offshore gambling sites.
But Sportingbet said the bill sat awkwardly with the US stated policy on internet matters and pointed out that Congress might be reluctant to give full debating time to the bill in a year shortened by senatorial elections in November.
Last November, FUNTech CEO Lorne Abonie announced that Liberty Media would be taking over the group (see previous InfoPowa reports) subject to shareholder approval.
This week the shareholders voted unanimously in favour of the takeover bid for in a deal valued at US$195 million when it was. Under the multi-stage deal, Liberty will invest $50 million US in FunTech by purchasing 10.5 million of its common shares directly from its treasury. The strong financial position which will enable further development, expansion and acquisitions by the skill gaming group.
In the second part of the deal, Liberty will issue a tender offer to buy 23.2 million existing shares at 360 pence to take its total ownership in a recapitalised Fun to 51 percent.
Fun Technologies was created in June 2002 by two of the cofounders of CryptoLogic and has gone from strength to strength in the burgeoning skill gaming sector, signing up some of the biggest names in the business as clients.
NEWCOMER GOEHRING TAKES $2.4 MILLION IN LA POKER CLASSIC
24 February 2006
Six tough days of poker, 700 opponents including famous names...
Alan Goehring, a relative newcomer to the world of big-name poker has made an impression this week, taking home the $2.4 million first prize in a tough six day tournament that attracted some of the best and biggest poker players anywhere.
The L.A. Poker Classic at Commerce Casino was the focus of professional poker and Hollywood celebrities alike, and some 700 players paid up the stiff $10,000 buy-in for this classic No-Limit Texas Hold 'em tournament.
Contestants included the likes of Phil Ivey, Men ?The Master" Nguyen, Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth, Jennifer Harman, Barry Greenstein, Antonio ?The Magician" Esfandiari, Michael Gracz, Erick Lindgren, Mike ?The Mouth" Matusow, John Juanda, and Ted Forrest.
Among the cenebrity roster was Shannon Elizabeth, Gabe ?Mr. Kotter" Kaplan, Los Angeles Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss, Jennifer Tilly, and James Woods.
In tough games, 85 percent of the player pool was out of the running by the end of Day 2, leaving some 100 players to battle through another four days of hard-edged poker before the six final table players emerged.
Goehring and Daniel Quach were the last men standing in a final that took only an hour to decide. For his second place finish, Quach claimed $1.2 million, while Goehring took home $2.4 million and a $25K seat at the WPT Championships at the Bellagio in April.
Fresh from its recent successful IPO in London, software developer Excapsa has settled its differences with Pokershare in a confidential agreement.
The two companies have been at loggerheads since Excapsa excluded the player-profit participation poker site from its network back in November 2005, with Pokershare threatening to take the litigation route.
A spokesman for Playit Ownit Limited, the operators of PokerShare.com, said the company was pleased that an amicable resolution of its dispute with Excapsa Software Inc and its subsidiary, Game Theory Limited had been reached.
Commenting on ending the dispute, the CEO of PokerShare.com, Lucan Toh said: "We're very pleased to have resolved our differences with Excapsa Software Inc. and Game Theory Limited and wish them well. We consider them to be a very well run company and we will certainly be investing ourselves.?
PokerShare will be re-launching with new and as yet unspecified software in early March and Max Wright, Director of Gaming said: "We are in tip-top shape for our return to the market and are very pleased with our new partners. We fully expect to regain our status as the most promising site on the web."
Following the re-launch of its poker site, PokerShare will open an online casino in April 2006 to be called CasinoShare.com.
It?s not just the big poker site operators who are offering tuition in the game. This week a new site was advertising its free of charge educational services at Online Gambling Training.com, which has launched a new professional level learning centre for popular casino games like Poker, Blackjack, Craps, Baccarat, Keno, Slot Machines and Roulette.
A spokesman for the site said the objective is to improve the gambler?s capacity to win at popular casino games, using a free service that is available to anyone in the world with Internet access.
Joaquin Reveron, managing director of Online Gambling Training said, ?Online casino gambling is growing exponentially and knowing how and where to play are the two vital keys to winning at online casinos.
The new hostess for World Poker Tour and the Travel Channel partnered poker events is talented, professionally qualified and a stunner, too - an attractive personality who will surely be popular with the huge audiences that watch the televised tournaments.
Courtney Friel (25) replaces previous hostess Shana Hiatt this (fourth) season after an extensive search for the right combination of intelligence, personality and beauty that Friel won hands down.
Originally from Valley Forge, she's been a Californian since moving to LA in 1999, and is a graduate of San Diego State University where she successfully studied a BA in Political Science with minors in Broadcast Journalism.
Following graduation she moved into the high pressure world of network television and journalism with Channel One in Los Angeles, working as an anchor and reporter in Jackson, TN, and in the newsroom with KPSP in Palm Springs, CA. A highly competent writer and interviewer, her entertainment reportage has been widely used, including E! Entertainment Television, Nickelodeon, EBTV Gaming and other shows.
"I've done pretty much everything when it comes to reporting. I've lugged my own cameras, edited my own tape, even operated the teleprompter with my foot...just everything! All these skills, and more, I am hoping to bring to the fans of the WPT during the broadcasts," she says.
WPT put Friel right to work, sending her to the WPT Poker Boot Camp to better understand the game, and now she's rarin' to combine her new skills with her established experience for the popular WPT series.
Interactive software developer Zone4Play has released what it claims is an innovative and unique new game suitable for multiple e-gaming platforms in the poker genre branded Face-Up Hold?em.
Pointing out that the online poker market has grown to an industry that generated $4 billion in revenues in 2005, the Zone4Play release says that the new game, which has a patent pending, is based on the popular Texas Hold?em variant, but with a fixed odd twist.
The game will be available on all the Zone4Play interactive platforms in the UK, including mobile, Internet, interactive TV and in particular participation TV by the end of the second quarter of 2006, accessing 10 million households in the UK, and enabling for the first time TV viewers (interactive and broadcast) to play fixed odds poker. In addition, it will enable TV viewers to participate in poker TV shows by betting during each hand on the results of the game.
"We are excited about the introduction of this new game," said Shimon Citron, CEO of Zone4Play. "We are constantly looking to expand our selection of e-gaming solutions to provide maximum client satisfaction for our partners."
BIG GAINS IN POKER REVENUES FOR SPORTINGBET
24 February 2006
3.9 million players placed GBP 290 million in bets and player 339 million poker games
A buoyant Sportingbet, Britain's second-biggest online gaming group, reported a 72 percent increase in second quarter pretax profit this week and said poker commission rose 107 percent.
Second quarter pretax profit was GBP 27 million in the three months to January 31, said Sportingbet, which owns the Paradise Poker and Sportsbook websites.
CEO Nigel Payne said the group's "shared purse" technology, which allows players to switch easily between games, was bearing fruit, with over 23,000 of its U.S. sports betting customers playing poker in the second quarter, up 30 percent on the first quarter.
"We now have over 3.9 million registered customers, who placed 290 million sports and gaming bets in the first half of this year and played 339 million games of poker," said Payne.
"Should the current level of strong performance continue throughout the second half of the year, then the board intends to re-invest any such excess in furthering the organic growth of the business," Payne revealed.
Based on current shareprice, the group is valued at about GBP 1.7 billion.
Return to Top PARTY GAMING STIFFS AFFILIATES, SAYS C.A.P.
24 February 2006
Internet gaming company accused of failing to honour affiliate marketing relationships
Party Gaming's recent acquisition of Empire Online, and it's intention to integrate the players into its database, is creating anger in the affiliate marketing sector due to a refusal to recognise former Empire Online affiliate deals.
Lou Fabiano, editor and president of the affiliate resource site Casino Affiliate Programs.com issued a press release this week suspending the Party Partners certification by his organisation. The move comes in response to the acquisition terms outlined for Empire Online as the parent of EmpirePoker.com, a former PartyGaming licensee.
Referring to the Empire Online acquisition, the release says that the $250 million deal announced on February 15, 2006 includes migrating Empire Poker players to a consolidated platform that no longer honors the affiliate relationship that initiated the player relationship.
Under the new terms, affiliates who had participated in the Empire Online affiliate program will receive no compensation or consideration for the thousands of players they acquired for EmpirePoker.com. Fabiano says that this is clearly in violation of the terms and conditions affiliates had agreed to with Empire Online whereby they would receive compensation on the sales and value generated by their players for the life of their association with the poker room.
PartyPartners was well aware that a substantial number of the players at EmpirePoker.com were referred by affiliate webmasters and that an agreement to compensate the affiliates for these players was in effect at the time of purchase.
Fabiano said: ?As a result of this predatory action by Party Partners, CasinoAffiliatePrograms.com is left with no alternative but to suspend their certification at CAP and advise all affiliates to cease promotion of all PartyGaming clients until a satisfactory resolution to this problem can be worked out. Our affiliate webmasters have made it clear that they want a fair compensation plan that recognises and rewards their efforts as previously agreed upon.
"It would be relatively easy for Party Partners to transfer all existing players and affiliate accounts to the PartyGaming platform and honor the existing terms and conditions. We are hopeful that PartyPartners will do the right thing and properly include their affiliate partners.?
Irish research outfit Research and Markets has launched their study of poker - online and off - with some interesting facts and predictions.
Online Poker - Driving Gambling to New Heights is a detailed industry report that includes the results of a survey conducted among industry experts and covers many well known online poker sites.
The company says that gambling reinvents itself constantly, and online poker is the product that seems to be the current guarantor of future growth as the perfect symbiosis of two mega trends in gambling: online gambling and poker.
"What began as triumphant advance in the US is now leading to a global poker wave on the Internet with tremendous potential," say the authors, giving the following examples to substantiate their claims:
* The amount gambled on poker websites around the world is estimated to be more than US $ 60 billion for 2005.
* Over 60 percent of industry experts surveyed believe that online poker will be the dominant offer in online gambling in 2-3 years.
* 75 percent of the industry experts surveyed believe that the global annual rake/commission in the next 2-3 years will be greater than US $ 4 billion.
An important reason for the rapid growth of online poker is the increasing number of successful TV shows featuring poker. There are many examples of successful poker TV coverage, among them the World Series of Poker on ESPN, Celebrity Poker on Bravo, and the European Poker Tour on Eurosport.
Online poker has also gone up in the estimation of the global business and financial community, with growing numbers of successful gambling groups adding online poker to their product offerings.
On the downside for new entrants, the online poker market will become a tougher in the future. With decreasing revenues per active player and growing competition, poker operators have to find successful strategies for the future.
Industry insiders surveyed confirmed the importance of large networks, and predicted that consolidation would be the consequence of more big betting groups expanding their poker interests or entering the sector.
When it comes to geographical expansion, Europe seems to be the place to go; 52 percent of the experts believe that Europe offers the greatest future potential for online poker.
Las Vegas, appropriately, is the venue for the inaugural Hispanic Gaming Summit, presented by Ascend Media Gaming Group, and scheduled for place July 18 at Paris Casino. The event conveniently precedes the Third Annual Casino Marketing Conference.
The Hispanic Gaming Summit will address the opportunities and responsibilities that the fast-growing Hispanic population presents to gaming operators across the United States.
Topics addressed in conference sessions include an in-depth look at the demographic and cultural aspects of the substantial Hispanic market, case studies on effective marketing to Hispanics by gaming companies, and how to build and maintain constructive and mutually rewarding relations with the Hispanic community.
Harrison & Montoya Associates, a Santa Ana, Calif., based firm that has extensive experience in both the U.S. Hispanic market and the gaming industry will act as co-presenter of the Summit. Harrison & Montoya is led by Charles Harrison, who has experience of more than 15 years in the gaming industry ? including Managing Director North America for the Spanish gaming giant CIRSA/UNIDESA ? and his partner, Martha Montoya, who is recognized by Hispanic Business magazine as one of the 100 most influential Hispanic business leaders in America.
Return to Top GOODLATTE LAUNCHES LATEST ANTI-ONLINE GAMING BILL
17 February 2006
Blames failure of previous attempts on lobbyist "misinformation"
Arguably America's most stubborn legislator, Representative Bob Goodlatte is on the prohibition trail again with a media release announcing that he plans to launch yet another anti-online gaming Bill this week.
A release from the politician's office says that he will reintroduce a bill this week that would prohibit Internet gambling, a fast-growing industry currently valued at about $12 billion.
Republican Goodlatte first introduced legislation to ban online gambling almost 10 years ago and has faced successive defeats on the measures.
A spokesperson from his office said that in 2000 and 2001 his Bills at that time had strong support in the House but were unexpectedly derailed due in part to efforts by Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who represented gambling interests and was accused of misinformation, according to the spokeswoman.
Abramoff pleaded guilty to fraud charges in early January 2006 and is now cooperating with prosecutors in a corruption probe that could implicate lawmakers and officials across Washington.
Recent reports (see earlier InfoPowa bulletins) have confirmed that another anti-gaming politician, Jon Kyl and his staff have been working in close cooperation with fellow legislator Jim Leach, who also has a Bill with similar objectives.
Goodlatte's spokeswoman said details about the new bill would be released shortly. Other sponsors of the bill will be fellow Virginia Republicans Rick Boucher and Frank Wolf, she said. The previous version of Goodlatte's bill would make it illegal to use the Internet for gambling and give law enforcement officials the authority to stop credit card payments to offshore Internet gambling sites.
The Goodlatte prohibition Bills have differed from efforts by Leach and Sen. Jon Kyl in that they seek to amend the federal Wire Act to specify unequivocally that remote forms of gambling are illegal. The efforts of Leach and Kyl focus instead on preventing the financial transactions that facilitate online gambling from taking place.
The media alert from Goodlatte's office claims that: "Abramoff's total disregard for the legislative process has allowed Internet gambling to continue thriving and it's now a $12 billion industry. The Internet Gambling Prohibition Act is vital to protect our children and communities from the problems of addiction, crime, bankruptcy and family difficulties that come from gambling."
Shares in two European gaming companies, PartyGaming and 888 Holdings fell briefly in Tuesday trading due to concerns about new U.S. legislation, according to traders.
Good to his word, Rep. Goodlatte, sponsored by Rep. Boucher re-introduced the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act amid wide publicity as we went to press this week.
The politicians said they are reintroducing the law to crack down on ?the growing problem? of illegal, offshore gambling, as well as illegal gambling that crosses state lines over phone connections and the Internet.
Reps. Goodlatte and Boucher have previously proposed the legislation, but it went down to defeat two years ago. The congressmen blame the lobbying efforts of Jack Abramoff, a political lobbyist recently indicted for influence peddling, for the bill?s previous defeats when the legislation received support from more than 60 percent of the House of Representatives - 245 votes in favor and 170 votes against - but lacked the two-thirds majority required for passage. The bill required a two-thirds vote because it was handled under a special procedure.
The congressmen have referred the proposed legislation to the House Judiciary Committee, of which both Reps. Goodlatte and Boucher are members. ?We already have more than 100 co-sponsors and I think this bill will be passed in a couple of months,? said Rep. Boucher.
The Internet Gambling Prohibition Act does not attempt to override state regulations on gambling within their borders. ?Federal law preempts state law where they are inconsistent,? said Rep. Boucher. ?But if they are consistent, state law can continue to operate.?
The Goodlatte-Boucher bill targets the financial settlement part of wagering transactions by prohibiting gambling enterprises from accepting certain forms of payment, including credit cards, checks, and wire and Internet transfers, to satisfy gambling debts.
?We are basically saying that one may not operate a gambling enterprise using the Internet, and we are giving the power to law enforcement to seek injunctions with respect to those enterprises, including the financial settlement process,? said Rep. Boucher.
Rumours are true - Israeli owned firm plans IPO in London
The rumoured London listing of turnkey provider Playtech was confirmed this (Friday) morning by a company spokesman, who said that his company hoped the shares would be placed with institutional investors by the end of March.
The spokesman confirmed that Playtech plans to raise GBP 175 million in a London stock market flotation that will value it around GBP 550 million.
The firm, majority-owned by Israeli internet-gaming entrepreneur Teddy Sagi, counts the Tote, Bet365 and BetFred among its clients and is the latest in a series of online gambling firms to opt for a London listing. Yesterday, Excapa Software, which also makes online poker software, floated on London's junior AIM market and saw its shares rise 5 percent in early trade.
Cyprus-registered Playtech said in a statement it made sales of GBP 27.4 million and a post-tax profit of GBP 20.5 million for the financial year to December 31, 2005.
Collins Stewart has been appointed as sole bookrunner, nominated advisor and joint broker. Seymour Pierce is joint broker.
US$ 250 million cash deal will assuage Empire's hurt feelings and help European and Asian expansion
The bitter Party Gaming vs Empire Poker feuding came to an end this week with the announcement that Party is to pay $250 million (GBP 144 million) in cash to Empire Online to settle litigation between the online gambling companies. The deal will in effect see Party Gaming acquiring the Empire sites that originally fed its operation.
The two companies had been locked in dispute since last December when Party Gaming switched players to an exclusive and improved version of its site, leaving Empire skins on the old platform and detrimentally affecting the smaller company's profits.
Empire, which now uses its own Noble Poker brand, said it would "consider carefully" how to use the $250 million windfall, but CEO Noam Lanir hinted that it may be used to fuel expansion plans.
?This was a tough-but-necessary period in our development; we did not give up and we emerged stronger,? said Lanir, who founded Empire Online. ?We anticipate $37 million in profit this year from our existing business. The PartyGaming settlement will help support our efforts to enter into the European and Far Eastern Markets.?
Empire Online reported positive results in the fourth quarter of 2005, due in part to the success of their other online properties, Club Dice Casino and Noble Poker.
Party Gaming's announcement said that there were a number of advantages to the settlement, including:
* Acquisition of the EmpirePoker.com skin
* Further consolidation of the group?s strong market position in online gaming
* Conclusion of the skin strategy ahead of launch of fully-integrated, multi-gaming platform
* It ensured the withdrawal of all legal claims by Empire Online Limited
* Expected to be earnings enhancing in the current financial year
Richard Segal, Chief Executive of PartyGaming, said: ?This acquisition brings our skins strategy to a close and consolidates our leading position in online poker ahead of the launch of the fully-integrated, Party-branded platform. The introduction of Blackjack last October marked the beginning of our cross-selling strategy; the integrated platform will enable PartyGaming to take the cross-selling of games to a new level.?
ITALIAN GOVERNMENT MOVES TO HAMMER ONLINE GAMBLING
17 February 2006
Long running plans to restrict ISPs being introduced this week
The Italian government's crackdown on illegal gambling websites, long the subject of discussion and debate appears to be picking up momentum according to media reports from that country.
So far, the government has banned a few sites that were not complying with domestic laws and only allowed those with formal authorisation to operate online.
In a Feb. 13 press release, AAMS, the governmental agency in charge of controlling state monopolies, said starting February 24, some 517 "illegal" or "unauthorised" gambling Web sites are going to be obscured by an ISP level filter so that Italian Internet users will not be able to connect to them.
The providers not complying with the law will be fined 30,000 to 180,000 euros (U.S.$35,000 to $210,000).
AAMS Director Giorgio Tino said the decree is designed to "...safeguard consumers, public order and the competitive system."
Opposition is likely to mount. The magazine Punto Informatico has already asked why the "...freedom of the Italian Internet user to surf the Web at will" hadn't been mentioned in the official documents announcing the measures.
According to the Washington based National Journal, the annual salary of the chief lobbyist for Nevada casinos has increased 19 percent in two years and is now more than $1 million, with a total compensation package that exceeds $1.25 million per year.
Frank Fahrenkopf, president of the American Gaming Association, ranks 16th in salary and 23rd in total compensation among Washington lobbyists, the survey said.
The survey was based on reports filed with the Internal Revenue Service or the Labor Department for 2003 and 2004. Revenue for the American Gaming Association, which was founded in 1995, was about $7.2 million.
Fahrenkopf (66) declined to give his current salary. He said the board of directors of the gaming association usually determines his salary at its December meeting.
"I'm not going to comment on that. I'm wondering what the compensation of your publisher is. What's your editor's compensation? What's your compensation?" Fahrenkopf said.
Fahrenkopf's salary far exceeds that of the president of the United States -- $400,000 -- and those for members of Congress -- $165,200.
Fahrenkopf acknowledged he is concerned about the potential effect of the scandal surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff. After pleading guilty last month to three felonies in a fraud and bribery case, Abramoff is cooperating in a federal inquiry of corruption in Congress.
"He's being portrayed as the number one lobbyist in Washington, and before this scandal broke, nine out of 10 people in this city never heard of Abramoff," Fahrenkopf said. "Someone in the media really should focus on the 99.9 percent of lobbyists who follow the law, are very hard working and educate legislators on the (Capitol) Hill."
Jack Valenti, who retired in 2004 as the chief lobbyist for the Motion Picture Association of America, led all lobbyists in the survey with a compensation package of more than $11 million. Terrence McDermott, the top lobbyist for the National Association of Realtors, received the highest annual salary among lobbyists -- $2,633,204.
MAJOR PROGRESSIVE AVAILABLE ON MOBILE
17 February 2006
Spin 3 mobile games players can now shoot for millions
Microgaming's top mobile technology provider, Spin3 announced this week that its selection of games will rise to 8 with the new release of a major progressive capable of delivering multi-million dollar jackpots.
Expanding Spin3?s GameWire V2 suite, Major Millions is a three line progressive video slot game now available for registered adults to download onto their mobile phones. Bets start as low as GBP 1 per spin, and by placing the maximum bet of GBP 3 per spin, players are eligible to win a progressive jackpot in excess of GBP 250,000. And this jackpot can grow to over GBP 1million.
Major Millions is the third progressive slot game within the GameWire System, joining Treasure Nile and Fruit Fiesta. As with these two games, Major Millions accumulates deposits from players at all of the participating casinos where Microgaming progressive jackpot games are offered to create a single, giant jackpot.
?Progressive jackpots are proving to be very popular with our customer base and a distinguishing factor between our operators and others in the industry,? said Matti Zinder, CEO, Spin3. ?We?ve rolled out Major Millions, our third progressive jackpot game within the GameWire system, to meet this growing demand and continue to stay ahead of the industry curve. This addition should demonstrate Spin3?s ongoing commitment to develop innovative products for the mobile gaming market!?
All eight classic games of the GameWire V2 system (Roulette, Blackjack, Video Poker, Double Magic Slot, Scratch Card, Treasure Nile, Fruit Fiesta and Major Millions) are now available for download at Wild Jack Mobile Casino.
SPORTSBOOK TAX DEAL IN COSTA RICA
17 February 2006
Flat rate will please many operators - but still no formal online gambling legislation
AM Costa Rica reports from the South American country this week that the Asamblea Legislativa has agreed to a special tax deal for gambling enterprises in a new tax plan.
Distinct from other busnesses that will be taxed on their incomes, sportsbooks operating on Costa Rican soil will pay a flat fee, ranging from 13 million colons ($26,000) to 24 million colons ($48,000), depending on the number of employees.
Between 5,000 to 7,000 Costa Ricans are believed to be employed in sportbook enterprises and many of these have studied English and computer literacy to take up emplyment with the gambling operations and would be left jobless if these companies went elsewhere, said the legislator proposing the tax plan.
The motion, if finalised with the tax plan, would allow sportsbook companies to open checking accounts in Costa Rica, something they cannot now do. Typically the betting proceeds are sent out of the country.
The proposal would index the payments to inflation and place the collection in the hands of officials where the betting operation is located. Sportsbooks with up to 20 employees would pay the lowest rate. Those with 21 to 60 employees would pay 16 million colons ($32,000). Sportsbooks with 61 employees or more would pay the highest 24 million colon rate.
GOOD FOURTH QUARTER AND YEAR FOR CRYPTOLOGIC
17 February 2006
Fourth quarter: revenue up 40 percent, earnings up 54 percent, poker fees up 92 percent, casino fees up 20 percent
Pioneer gambling software developer and turnkey casino provider CryptoLogic Inc., announced solid financial results for the fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2005 this week.
Record revenue and earnings, and healthy operating cash flow reflected a disciplined strategy and strong growth in the major casino and poker segments of the global online gaming market.
"For CryptoLogic, 2005 marked a decade of innovation and consistent performance," said Lewis Rose, CryptoLogic's President and CEO. "It was a milestone year of delivering the world's most innovative games to some of the world's most trusted gaming and entertainment brands. The results speak for themselves - we achieved all-time highs in revenue and earnings. CryptoLogic is among the industry growth leaders in both the Internet casino and Internet poker markets."
Revenue for the three months ended December 31 was well up at US$25.1 million (2004: US$17.9 million) with a similar rise over the year 2005 of US$86.3 million (2004: $63.7 million) Earnings were US$5.8 million and $20.5 million respectively.
Other highlights included:
* Online poker fees derived from the company's WagerLogic licensing subsidiary rose 92 percent to $7.9 million over Q4 2004, up 13 percent sequentially over Q3 2005. Poker software fees accounted for 32 percent of Q4 2005 revenue, and grew 126 percent to $27 million in fiscal 2005 over that achieved in 2004;
* The launch of a new Greek-language Internet poker site for William Hill - the UK's largest sports bookmaker - marked the first multi-language version of CryptoLogic-developed poker software;
* Internet casino revenue rose 20 percent to $15.5 million compared with Q4 2004, up 23 percent sequentially over Q3 2005. Fees from casino software represented 62 percent of total Q4 2005 revenue, and rose 11 percent to $53 million in fiscal 2005 over 2004's totals.
* Geographic diversification remained on track with licensees' revenue from international markets exceeding 65 percent of total revenue, up from over 60 percent in 2004;
* In 2005, CryptoLogic repurchased and cancelled 509,700 shares at an approximate average price of US$18.05 per share ($9.2 million) under its Normal Course Issuer Bids; and
CryptoLogic delivered both record revenue and earnings for the fourth quarter ended December 31, 2005. The first and fourth quarters are typically the strongest periods for Internet gaming as players tend to spend more time indoors during the winter and fall seasons.
Revenue rose 40 percent to US$25.1 million (Q4 2004: $17.9 million) and earnings for Q4 2005 rose 54 percent to $5.8 million.
For the year ended December 31, 2005, CryptoLogic's revenue increased by 35 percent to US$86.3 million (2004: $63.7 million). Earnings for the full year improved by 50 percent to US$20.5 million.
Fourth quarter revenue reflected strong organic growth from existing customers in both Internet casino and poker. The immediate popularity of the company's new Bejeweled and Marvel-themed casino games, coupled with increasing player volumes and growth in popularity of the company's Internet poker licensees have contributed to record top line performance in these core game segments.
CryptoLogic's US$12.5 million investment program to enhance its software and systems, launched in Q3 2004, is now complete, and as a result, the company remains at the forefront of bringing the latest product innovation and entertainment concepts to its Internet gaming software, as evidenced by significant revenue growth and industry awards.
One day on from sign-up, this lucky starter took the progressive at VIP Casino
Player Jemo at VIP Casino
must be one of the most fortunate newbies in online gambling this week - after only a day as a member of the casino player base he took the Rags to Riches progressive jackpot home, banking $131 250 after depositing just $100!
The jackpot will be paid out in one cash payment.
Still celebrating his big win Jemo said, ?This is a dream come true for me. When I won I just stared and stared at the screen with my mouth wide open, thinking this cannot be for real. I was almost in shock. I?m so happy.?
VIPCasino.com Manager Kate Berkley congratulated the player and said, ?It?s fantastic to see new players win big. We pride ourselves on our jackpots, and this is proven by the fact that more and more new punters are playing with us every day.?
Jemo was not the only big winner to hit the news this week. Slotland.com reported its first major jackpot win for 2006 when player Cowgyrl Ghost (there's a nick to conjure with!) struck it lucky on Striking Sevens with the site's second biggest win ever. A regular $50 player, Cowgyrl signed up in January and was going at it on $3 a hand when she won a jackpot worth $155 917.
?Generally I love card games so Striking Sevens has been my favorite,? said the player when asked how she came to hit the big jackpot. ?I like the Jacks or Better and the Wild Hearts games. But I really love getting wild cards like you only get in Striking Sevens. I am not one to believe in instinct, but following my gut really paid off this time! My first three hands were junk. My heart was beginning to pound pretty hard and my head was screaming at me to stop and cash in my chips. I steadied myself and decided to stick with my decision to play out 20 hands at max bets.?
It wasn?t until her sixteenth hand, when she was dealt a Jack of Hearts, that she realised she had struck the mother lode. ?I looked at my account, where just a few minutes ago I was so proud I?d gotten my $50 deposit up to $600 plus balance, and there was an astounding $156,000 PLUS balance! ? she recalls.
Independent poker film is attracting critical acclaim
An independently financed and produced movie with a poker story as its central theme is attracting attention from both poker players and the general public - and it was mostly financed from poker winnings!
"Freeze Out" was filmed three years ago on a tight $20 000 budget, three quarters of which came from the producer's poker winnings. The movie is currently running in a festival at Cinequest (cinequestonline.org) and has received plaudits from viewers around the world. Some have even compared it to "Rounders" for good all-round gambling entertainment.
The plot revolves around a small town home game of "dealer's choice" poker between friends which escalates into a do-or-die "freeze out" tournament for higher stakes than most of the players can really afford, and examines the complex and often humorous human motives and reactions inherent in a competitive situation.
M. J. Loheed, a Los Angeles independent film maker and poker player who has hosted home games, wrote, directed and produced "Freeze Out", turning his passion for the game into an entertaining movie with crisp dialogue and all the excitement of the game of poker. Loheed selected actors of the calibre of comedian Greg Behrendt and actress Laura Silverman, both of whom worked on the movie without pay, having enjoyed reading the script.
Loheed is hoping that "Freeze Out" will gain more exposure from being featured on the Cinequest Online festival site, and feels that industry and public interest over the next six months will determine the firm's future, which might include availability from video stores or the larger independent film channels.
Readers interested in viewing and having their say on the film can do so until February 24 at Cinequest Viewers' Voice Online Festival, where the film can be downloaded.
Gamblers visiting Las Vegas will be seeing a lot more of the vermilion branding of the Bodog group of online gambling companies following a deal this week with Allegiant Air.
Brand-conscious Bodog has arranged for the airline's six large passenger jets servicing McCarran International airport to be externally and internally branded in the colors and logo of the international digital entertainment and gaming company.
The advertising initiative will cover a three-month span on six Allegiant Air, 150-seat MD-80 passenger jets.
"Our advertising partnership with Allegiant Air is a natural fit for us. Branding encompasses everything from good customer service to strategic advertising positioning and targeting," says Calvin Ayre, founder and CEO of Bodog.com. "This in-air branding exercise will allow us to target a specific player demographic, while continuing to expand the presence of our brand throughout the continental United States."
The Allegiant aircraft will fly between Las Vegas and 32 nonstop Allegiant Air destinations. The planes will be parked at Terminal D in McCarran Airport, near the airport's busiest runway.
Extending the advertising value, passengers flying in any of the Bodog.com-branded jets will have a chance to win their next trip to Las Vegas when they sign up for a Bodog.com account and deposit a minimum of $20.
Along with an in-flight announcement highlighting some of the Bodog.com product offerings, the sleek and sophisticated Bodog.com plane inserts are available in each seat back. These brochures come complete with detachable Poker and Black Jack strategy cards.
For passengers looking to get into the Vegas mood early, each of the passenger seat trays is designed to look like a Black Jack table.
MORE DETAIL ON EXCAPSA FLOAT (update)
17 February 2006
Still strong vibes that an IPO is on the cards
The Canadian poker software developer Excapsa, which is headed by ex-Cryptologic exec Jim Ryan and runs sites like UltimateBet was apparently active in London recently, with presentations to several investment oriented bodies. The news gives weight to persistent rumours that the company will soon seek a London listing (see previous InfoPowa reports)
eGaming Review reported that its sources were of the opinion that the meetings went well. ?The offer is three times oversubscribed. There has been a lot of appetite for this issue,? said one source.
Canaccord Capital are believed to be advising Excapsa, which took over UltimateBet last year when it bought out software company ieLogic, on the IPO. Ultimatebet?s intellectual property is owned by eWorld Holdings, but Excapsa is believed to take a major share of the revenues from the site.
Professional online casino manager to take up post as VP Ops
Industry management veteran Thorsten Hillebrecht is packing his bags for Singapore this week, where he is to join the spanking new Elite Club Management centre as VP Operations.
Hillebrecht has wide industry experience, most recently with the giant Austrian gambling group Bet & Win which he departs to join Elite. His new appointment follows that of Glen Bullen (see elsewhere in this InfoPowa bulletin) who will be looking after any Chartwell Tech related player disputes, which are now channeled through Elite.
Las Vegas striptease venue Sin Gentlemen's Club devised an unusual topless poker tournament last month, but was prevented from going ahead with the concept by the Nevada Gaming Commission, which said that the establishment was not authorised for gambling events.
The idea was a free-roll, topless player (and no doubt suitably endowed club personnel would be involved) tournament with physical as opposed to hard cash prizes, and was designed to be more eye-catching than practical. The organisers could not be accused of being cheapskate, however - prizes included iPods, High definition TV sets, poker chip sets, humidors, and expensive wine baskets.
CELEBRITIES HEAD TO THE PHILLIPINES
17 February 2006
Inaugural World Celebrity Poker Tournament to take place in Casino Filipino
The Phillipines is set to become the latest venue for celebrity poker players following a move by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) to host the popular game.
The inaugural World Celebrity Poker Tournament has been scheduled for February 22 at the Casino Filipino in the city of Cibu.
Pagcor spokesmen said that the body will host some the the world's top poker players for the event, including poker legend Doyle Brunson and his son Todd. In addition to the poker stars playing in the tourney, Jack Binion, the legendary former host of the World Series of Poker, will be playing poker host.
NEXT NATIONAL HEADS UP CHAMPS ANNOUNCED
17 February 2006
Helmuth to defend his title at Caesars Palace
March 4 to 6 will be in the diaries of many poker fans following the announcement of the date and venue for the next National Heads Up Poker Championship, scheduled for Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, where spanking new facilities have been completed.
One of the most popular poker events in 2005, the championship was won last year by Phil Hellmuth who will be back defending his title.. The tournament, which was held at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas and broadcast on NBC in May, brought sixty four of the greatest names in the game together to determine the best heads up player in the world.
Many will remember the epic showdown in the final tournament, which was won 2-1 by former World Champion Phil Hellmuth in a tense tussle with another former World Champion, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson.
Elite Club comes through
In previous Casino Cautions we have been critical of Chartwell Technology's "hands off" policy when it comes to player-casino disputes, and we recently took their major sub-licensor Elite Club Management to task for not responding to player complaints. We did this because a senior Chartwell Tech exec assured us that the company was concerned about player satisfaction, but had decided to handle complaints through Elite Club Management as it was closer to the interaction point. This information was duly passed on to the player community, but when several players were ignored last week we took up the issue again and placed the companies concerned in Cautions.
However, hardly had the bulletin gone out when Elite Club's president explained that they had been at sixes and sevens due to the departure of key personnel and a major move. He promised that a new customer relations manager, Glen Bullen was about to start work and his priorities would be the aggrieved players. Good to his word, Bullen hit the ground running this week and several players have already informed us that their cases have been satisfactorily resolved.
On the basis of this, we are pleased to withdraw the original Caution, and express relief that Chartwell, through Elite Club at last appears to be coming to the disputes party. Their future handling of player issues in a timely way will be the ultimate test, but the indications are positive at this time.
A very bad start
Villento Las Vegas.net had everything going for it as it launched last week - a great site, top quality software and positive reports about the integrity and experience of the owner, understood to have been a co-founder of the Fortune Lounge group.
By the weekend, perceptions had changed, however following a widespread spamming campaign that had many players up in arms and invoking The Boulder Pledge not to use services offered by spammers. The casino may have outsourced the email marketing to a third party, but from a player perspective this makes no difference, and the casino itself is held responsible for these infuriating invasions of player privacy. Damage to reputation inevitably follows.
It has to be said once again: email marketing is an ethical selling technique...but only if it is professionally targeted on players who have "opted in" through an unambiguous arrangment where they understand the implications and agree to accept this form of market information. And any request to "opt out" of a list should be honoured efficiently and in a timely manner. All other cases, and especially where invasions of privacy occur through transferred or sold player lists are spam. And unwelcome.
Recent message board discussions on the evils of spam and ways of fighting it in the online gambling context brought to light the Boulder Pledge, which InfoPowa believes is something to be supported.
Spamming - the unsolicited invasion of player email in-boxes by unprofessional online gambling operators - has become a scourge, clogging up what should be a fast and convenient communications medium and wasting the precious time it takes to delete or block this garbage.
The rules for effective and ethical email marketing are clear:
Do not send uninvited email offers to players who have not specifically signed up for it and know they have done so eg "opted in"
Having "opted in" if a player asks to be removed from the list it should be done so quickly and effectively.
Player information is to be zealously guarded, and player privacy respected. That means no trading mailing lists unless every player on that list has opted in and has agreed that his or her details can be sold on.
Any marketing email should have a clear and genuine "unsubscribe" facility that is quickly effective, and ethical marketers should have no problem in indicating exactly who is sending the email and how that person or company can be contacted in the event of problems or complaints.
Judging by the number of spam complaints from players every day, it is clear that the industry is not applying these guidelines with diligence. The Boulder Pledge therefore presents the player with an opportunity to show displeasure and censure in a most effective way - by denying his or her business to those guilty of this malpractice.
Wikipedia informs that The Boulder Pledge is a personal promise, first coined by Roger Ebert, not to purchase anything offered through email spam. The pledge is worded as follows:
"Under no circumstances will I ever purchase anything offered to me as the result of an unsolicited e-mail message. Nor will I forward chain letters, petitions, mass mailings, or virus warnings to large numbers of others. This is my contribution to the survival of the online community."
During a panel at the University of Colorado at Boulder's Conference on World Affairs in 1996, Ebert presented the Boulder Pledge. He wrote the text which appears above and encouraged everyone to support it. It was subsequently published in the December 1996 issue of Yahoo! Internet Life magazine in Ebert's column titled "Enough! A Modest Proposal to End the Junk Mail Plague."
The Boulder Pledge has become one of the basic principles of the anti-spam community in an attempt to make e-mail spam less profitable.
TAX AND REGULATE US, SAYS BET ON US
17 February 2006
Editorial aimed at American legislators at a sensitive time
With increasing reports of a strong Leach-Kyl alliance to take down Internet gambling through new legislation, last weekend's news that Bet On Sports CEO David Carruthers is showcasing an industry view is welcome.
Carruthers was voicing his opinion in the influential Washington paper "The Hill" (www.thehill.org) in an op ed piece clearly targeted on U.S. legislators.
Calling recent proposals to ban Internet gaming "...wasted efforts" the high profile executive urged legislators to regulate the industry rather than prohibit it.
"Instead of more rhetoric about the dangers of Internet gambling and more empty legislative exercises to prohibit global Internet businesses from operating in the United States, let?s really do something to address the concerns about Internet gambling," he wrote. "Let?s develop strong regulations that would create consistent and enforceable standards for the industry to uphold."
Commenting that online gambling executives shared concerns about gambling abuse and have been seeking support from governments to devise systematic ways to protect vulnerable populations, Carruthers said that thus far American politicians have not wanted to help.
"As a $12 billion industry consisting of more than 2,000 companies, our business is a thriving reality that requires regulation. While many companies in this industry are operating with high standards of ethics, we need consistent standards enforced across the board so that all operators will conduct business responsibly," Carruthers opined.
"We need specific guidelines and protocols to protect those who are vulnerable to gambling. We need partnerships with consumers, watchdog agencies, regulators and the general public to ensure that we are responding to people?s fears about the industry. We want to work with regulators to ensure that best practices of the industry can be extended to all companies and new ways to prevent abuse can be explored and implemented."
Carruthers went on to discuss various areas where critical areas were already being addressed, including identifying and enforcing best practices to prevent underage gambling, emphasising that regulation makes these more enforceably and extends their reach.
First, identifying and enforcing best practices to prevent underage gambling can be implemented. Online gambling companies have a number of safeguards to prevent underage gambling. We do not advertise to the age group. We have clear rules on our sites, we double-check credit-card information and we can provide links to filtering systems so that parents can put on restrictions. He outlined measures to contain compulsive gambling and ways in which regulation could strengthen these measures, and he underlined the benefits to transparency and good governance that legality and control could bring.
The moves towards regulation and control of online gaming in Britain were recommended as an alternative to U.S. politicians wasting time and resources on futile legislative efforts to prohibit online gaming from doing business.
"Legislation to ban Internet gambling has been submitted at least seven times in Congress, and each time the effort has failed. One of the reasons is that even the sponsors of the bills cannot agree on what type of online gambling to prohibit; some are in favor or horse betting online; others support lotteries online. Clearly the issue of what to oppose is even confusing for our critics," Carruthers wrote, concluding that this energy would be better spent on developing effective ways to protect consumers.
The Bet On Sports CEO concluded with a telling statement: "There are very few businesses in this world that say to governments: 'Regulate us and then tax us.' But that is exactly what we are requesting. I bet it would be a step in the right direction for all concerned."
There's a new blackjack player's aid on the market with big claims to improve your fame and fortune : Blackjack Cheater from GoSub 60. The suppliers boast that it is the first-and-only wireless blackjack game that actually shows players how to shift the odds and beat the house, and it can be used by newbies and veterans alike.
"With Blackjack Cheater," says Josh Hartwell, CEO of GOSUB 60, "we've combined the entertainment value of 'Celebrity Poker' with the complex statistical intelligence of the M.I.T. Blackjack Team. Not only do players get a fantastic blackjack game, but also a full blown cheater school with all the tips, tricks and inside-info on how to win."
Hartwell goes on to reveal that Blackjack Cheater is the only wireless blackjack game that lets players compete in tournaments, play with AI tablemates, unlock 8 unique casinos around the world, and get hints at every step.
There are in-game personal coaches to explain basic hitting, standing and betting strategies and give the full download on how to count cards. Plus, the company says: "....our 'real life casino tips' teach players how to react in a casino setting and most importantly, cheat undetected."
The game sounds as if it has a basic strategy auto-play capability and a bonus "hand advisor" in which players enter a hand they're actually playing, and are coached on what to do next.
GoSub 60 has considerable experience in the mobile card game market beginning with Solitaire Deluxe, their premiere release in early 2003. Since then, the Solitaire Deluxe family of titles has been a top-seller on carriers worldwide, with over 1.5 million downloads to date.
GS60's mobile entertainment titles are available on Cingular, Verizon, Sprint, Alltel, Nextel and dozens of other wireless carriers in more than 20 countries. The company is offering a free game demo on its website.
This week's takeover of Vegas Wireless Entertainment, a specialist creative and distribution firm for mobile entertainment, has presented Bico Inc with an opportunity to get into the mobile online gaming field, says the management company.
Bico inked a deal with VWE "....to take advantage of the rapidly emerging market of mobile online gaming products which will allow a global audience, regardless of service provider or handset manufacturer, to download and play a wide variety of popular casino style games, as well as participate in mobile lotteries and sports betting," says President and CEO Richard Greenwood.
The acquisition means BICO will be in a position to offer mobile games like Poker, Blackjack, Roulette and Slots, all supported by an embedded e-payment processing solution for real time game play and wagering.
Greenwood revealed that a white label B2B product was also on the business agenda which will provide online casinos with a cost effective software solution to offer play on wireless handsets, without the need for their own development and IT staff.
Under the terms of the acquisition agreement, which is to close soon, Vegas Wireless shareholders will be issued shares representing 80 percent of the outstanding shares of BICO calculated on a fully diluted basis.
Paul Wieber faced a tough choice this week when he won a major online poker tournament at market leader Party Poker - he had to choose between a cash payout and the use of a private executive jet to fly anywhere he wished for 25 hours.
The 32 year old customer service manager from Grand Rapids in the USA went the responsible route as a married man with a young family, and elected to leave the private jet on the runway and fill up his bank account instead with the $125,000 cash equivalent.
He's putting some of it aside to invest in his child's college education, and has plans for the rest of it: "Flying around like a star of show business would be nice, but the way I see it $125,000 is going to buy me a lot of normal plane tickets!" said a delighted Wieber.
Besides starting a college fund for his son Ethan, he plans to visit relatives in Florida, "buy some fun stuff, a couple of toys and put money towards a new house."
And some of his PartyPoker cash is earmarked for the novice poker player's very first trip to Las Vegas! Wieber describes himself as "pretty much brand new to poker" and has only been playing online for six months.
Better yet, since the PartyPoker tournament was a "freeroll," where the entrants do not have to put up a dime of their own, Wieber's winnings will be pure profit.
"To say I'm a little bit surprised to win is an understatement ? it is unbelievable! I remember when I was on the final table going heads-up and we had a little break. I wrote a little note to my opponent and he couldn't believe he was there either. For the past few months I've only been on the play money tables ? I have to say I was pretty lucky. Thirty minutes into the game I was down to $170 and was almost out but somehow I just came back."
PartyPoker spokesman Warren Lush said: "Paul is a great example of how a novice can go really far in poker in a very short space of time. We know he's trying to qualify for the PartyPoker.com Million V in March and hope to see him there."
EU CHALLENGE FOR HUNGARIAN GAMBLING COMMISSION
17 February 2006
Advertising ban to be revisited
Major UK gambling group Sportingbet is to challenge an anti-advertising ruling by the Hungarian government appointed Gambling Commission in a European Union court.
Hungarian authorities ruled that Sportingbet's advertising in Hungary is illegal because the company is not licenced as a gambling operator in the country, as required by law. In response, Sportingbet argues that any prohibition of its advertising would be illegal because banning a private EU company from performing the same activity as a state-owned company goes against EU principles.
The Hungarian Gambling Commission disputes this with an allegation that there are no uniform regulations on gambling in the EU, and claims it is up to each member state to determine its own rules reagrding the offering of services by foreign companies, even if these are EU members.
New information medium for poker players - the iPodcast
Next time you see a poker player listening intently to an iPod he or she could be accessing enough information to out-manouevre you, thanks to the arrival on the scene of Online Poker Podcast.com.
The product launched this week as the first podcast featuring information on all areas of online poker. Podcasts are all the rage in mobile technology, and it was only a matter of time before someone put the online poker juggernaut together with this latest trend in broadcast technology.
The weekly podcasts will be available as a paid subscription service for downloading to all digital receivers and offers online poker players access to online tournament information, poker site reviews, poker room promos and tips.
Creator and host Chip McGee said, "A podcast is the perfect way for us to reach out to online poker players. The Online Poker Podcast will keep players updated on everything happening in the online poker world." His company plans to promote the show with contests, giveaways, and online freerolls for its listeners.
CHARTWELL SIGNS UP STAN IN A FLASH
17 February 2006
Gibraltar bookie adds Flash casino games to online gambling site
Turnkey provider Chartwell Technology scored another European deal this week when Gibraltar based bookie client Stan James.com took on the provider's Flash gaming suite to complement an existing download offering.
Darold Parken, CEO at Chartwell said that the Stan James brand has been at the forefront of sports betting for the past decade, and with innovative markets and value prices it has become one of the most acclaimed names within the betting and gaming industry. Stan James is currently ranked in the top 20 online sportsbooks and racebooks according to Casino City Press.
"The decision to release new software is fundamental to keeping our customers satisfied and excited with new and advanced technology in gaming? commented Peter Fisher, MD of Stan James. ?We are a company that prides itself on integrity and overall fairness to the customer, and one which consistently delivers quality in every dimension of its business, affording the customer the sense of trust that is essential to online gaming.?
The Seattle based provider of downloadable soft games and music owned by Rod Glaser, RealNetworks, picked up Dutch skill games developer Zylom Media Group for a cool Euro 17.2 million this week, paving the way for it to become another major player in the burgeoning skill games sector.
Zylom was founded in 2001 in Eindhoven, and has been developing skill games such as Mirror Magic and Hotel Solitaire for the European market. It operates and distributes its products through its Zylom.com website and through partnership agreements with companies such as Wanadoo, AOL and Yahoo!.
Zylom turnover for 2005 was around US$8 million with net profit of around US$ 750 000. RealNetworks spokesmen said they expected Zylom to be "...slightly accretive to 2006 earnings with contributions to earnings increasing in future years?.
Rutger Pieters, chief executive of Zylom, said that by teaming up with RealNetworks his company could become the strongest casual games company in Europe. "Our combined strengths will allow us to deliver the very best games and services to our portal and ISP partners throughout the European market," he said.
Zylom's development team and management will remain based in Eindhoven, Holland.
Canadian based but London-listed FUN Technologies continued to power ahead in 2005 according to preliminary year-end results released this week, highlighting its consolidation activities and organic growth throughout 2005.
Annual turnover reached GBP 13.6 million, with GBP 9.4 million attributable to acquisitions made in 2005, up from a mere GBP 1 million for the same period for 2004. Quarterly turnover rose to GBP 5.5 million, with GBP 4.2 million attributable to acquisitions made in 2005, up by almost an order of magnitude from GBP 541,000 for the same period for 2004.
CEO Lorne Abony commented: ?I am pleased to report another strong quarter, capping off a successful year for the company. We have exceeded our goals of rapid organic growth, strategic acquisitions and significant new distribution partnerships.?
FUNtech focused on the casual games products it intends to distribute via its partner sites and through Liberty Media?s network of TV channels and media outlets and reported that it had also acquired mobile games software developer Octopi in January 2006 to develop growth revenues in the mobile gaming sector (see earlier InfoPowa reports).
Through its skill gaming subsidiary SkillJam, the group has signed an agreement with the UK?s biggest-selling daily newspaper The Sun this month, to provide its official website with a white-label skill gaming platform.
?The Sun has tremendous brand identity and reach throughout the UK, both through its daily newspaper distribution and major online presence. This partnership represents an important landmark in the growth of SkillJam?s network of European customers,? Abony said.
BETONSPORTS PROFITS WILL MAKE PROJECTIONS
17 February 2006
But analystS recommend switch to Leisure and Gaming
BetonSports released a trading statement this week in which it said it expected pre-tax profits before exceptional items for the year to 5 February would be ?broadly in line with market expectations?.
The statement added that the company was pleased with final-quarter key performance indicators on customer sign-ups and deposits that continued to be ahead of the comparative period in the preceding year.
A sombre note was a comment that despite betting on the Superbowl reaching record levels, the margin would be neutral due to the favourite - the Pittsburgh Steelers - winning the game.
Bet On Sports was moved to Hold from Buy by a leading brokerage and analysts firm, which recommended that investors look to switch into fellow US-facing sportsbook Leisure & Gaming (L&G). Greg Feehely and Wayne Brown, analysts at Altium Capital, said L&G shares looked ?far more compelling? at present levels.
They added: ?Furthermore, we know L&G?s numbers for the year to December 2005 are ?in the bag? and we believe the current year estimates leave room for upgrades as the year progresses, given the encouraging performance from the recent acquisitions of Nine.com and English Harbour.?
Poker fans will be on the lookout for a new game from London-based skill gaming operator and white-label provider GameAccount, which has announced that it is to launch its 3-Card Poker game this week.
The peer-to-peer game will be a skill- and rake-based adaptation of the popular table game, where online opponents play against each other with the objective of building up the highest chip stack possible through the same sequence of cards dealt to both players.
The product is part of GameAccount?s intention to distribute high-value gaming products into its network of sportsbooks, poker and casino partner sites and will launch with a range of instant-win cash tournaments with entry fees ranging from US$2 to US$900.
GA chief executive John Jones says that 3-Card Poker represents "....a compelling opportunity for egaming operators to generate incremental revenues from existing customers and re-activate lapsed customers with an instantly recognisable skill-based gaming opportunity.? GameAccount believes that advertising skill games is legal in most countries will be a big attraction for operators.
Previous InfoPowa bulletins have reported on the Bodog gambling group's venture into reality television, but this week the full detail of the series has been released and makes for interesting reading.
Bodog founder and CEO Calvin Ayre will host the six-episode reality show, which will be taped in March this at the Bodog compound in Costa Rica. The episodes will air weekly on Saturdays from 11:00 p.m. - 1:00 a.m. EST, beginning April 15, 2006.
"We are on a mission to find the next poker star and eager to showcase the play hard aspects of the Bodog lifestyle," Ayre commented. "Poker and television -- combined with Bodog-style entertainment -- will make for one heck of a show, and our next step into the world of reality TV."
The television series will intimately detail the journey of 40 individuals - 10 celebrities, 10 poker professionals and 20 Bodog poker players - who intend to use their card-playing skills to capture a US $500,000 grand prize. Each episode will feature a poker game, with each winner taking US $50,000 and securing a spot at the sixth and final table for a chance to win the half-million-dollar grand prize.
For reality show hopefuls, this is a chance to win a trip to Ayre's Costa Rican estate and star alongside poker pros and celebrities in the globally broadcast network television series. To be eligible, contestants have to set up an account on Bodog.net and submit a completed application questionnaire.
The reality show will showcase poker games, Costa Rican excursions, Bodog Music artists and the rich lifestyle of the show's host.
Last week we reported on the mysterious Red Giant company in the UK, which claims that it owns 49er and Omni casinos despite a similar claim from Peak Entertainment. These apparently conflicting views were spotted by a wideawake player when he noticed that 49er had switched to RTG software, whilst Omni remained on the Cryptologic-Wagerlogic platform.
This week all of the companies so obviously involved in this mystery remained tight-lipped. Cryptologic's spokeswoman was stalling by saying that she was checking with Wagerlogic; Wagerlogic was ignoring emails; RTG said they were unable to comment without the client's permission and the client (presumably Red Giant Limited) was steadfastly refusing to comment at all. Peak Entertainment likewise clammed up, but was found to be promoting 49er despite the confusing ownership questions!
What is clear is that some sort of business relationship exists between Peak and Red Giant, but for some reason known only to these companies they do not want to detail this, or clarify who owns which casinos.
49ercasino closed down last autumn, and players were apparently transferred to Omni. Now the apparently re-opened casino claims: "49erCasino is owned and operated by Red Giant Ltd, a global leader in online gaming entertainment which manages two of the most recognisable and well respected online casinos, (www.49erCasino.com and www.omnicasino.com), as well as one of the largest poker rooms (www.SunPoker.com) on the Internet today."
However, there is no information about Red Giant at omnicasino.com or sunpoker.com, which still seem powered by Wagerlogic, and Peak Entertainment still claims to operate these venues. Red Giant was only registered as a company in October 2005 and the registered address is in a deprived area of Newcastle, UK.
Return to Top LOOKING FOR A MOBILE CASINO? TRY E-BAY!
17 February 2006
Online gambling sites to be auctioned on famous Internet site
Latest online gambling websites to be offered on Internet auction site E Bay are a mobile multiplayer poker platform and and a mobile multiplayer chess game called ChessEverywhere.
Ringing the changes on the recent attempted rip-off deals involving affiliate websites, in these cases the successful bidder gets all source code to the cell phone clients and Java server, as well as domain names and the ASP.Net Web sites that support wireless delivery of the products.
Branded Maui Texas Hold 'Em, the mobile poker platform includes Texas hold'em on cell phones for up to 8 players at a time. It is also advertised as supporting standalone play for off-network use. The sellers claim that over 50 different phones have been tested, including Nokia Series 40 and Series 60, Sprint PCS Vision, and Sony.
The base platform also supports chess in both standalone and multiplayer formats. A Telnet-based interface for connection to Internet Chess Services provides a mobile-to-desktop option.
The server-side multiplayer platform is pure Java 5, and connects to a MySQL database. This auction includes thousands of lines of server-side and client-side Java and Java 2 Micro Edition code. Documentation includes hundreds of pages of Javadocs. The included Ant build system supports automated creation of clients.
The sale also includes a .Net-based platform for wireless delivery of the client software to handsets (known as "over-the-air" or OTA, delivery). The platform is implemented using C# code-behind, and connects to a MySQL database.
There can be little doubt that the Ladies International Poker Series (LIPS) has done wonders in introducing hundreds of smart women poker players to the Internet and land tables.
Using an exciting and entertaining series of women only tournaments coinciding with WSOP circuit tourneys, LIPS has creatyed interest and involvement in the game across the USA. In last year's Ladies' Tournament at the WSOP alone over 600 women competed for the championship with many of them coming from LIPS events.
LIPS conferences are always a ton of fun as well as poker ac tion and education, and this year the organisation is throwing the doors open to any poker player with a yen to improve his or her skills.
The conference for 2006 is scheduled for April 13th and 14th at Binion's Gambling Hall and Casino in Las Vegas and will feature an opportunity to learn about poker from some of the biggest names and best minds of the game.
Seminars will be conducted by tournament directors Linda Johnson and Jan Fisher; 2005 double World Series bracelet winner Mark Seif; WSOP and WPT champion Kathy Liebert; cash game veteran and author Roy Cooke and other stellar players on the circuit. The format is intense and personal, with small groups under tuition by the experts.
Ending the conference with an opportunity to put all that newfound knowledge to the test, a No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em Tournament will be held.
The cost of the event is $425, which includes a three night stay at Binion's (Wednesday, April 12th through Friday, April 14th), conference materials, a continental breakfast and buffet lunch during both days of the conference and the cocktail party. Those who want to give it a go in the No Limit tournament will be charged a further $125. The conference is being capped at 200 participants and all registrations for the conference must be received before March 31st.
Tough sports results to be compensated for by poker profits
The Australian business media reported this week that the Betcorp betting group is to turn to online poker to compensate for painful losses to gamblers on the sports side of its business.
The Australian reported that Betcorp hopes to exploit the conventional wisdom that sports betters are best attracted to poker, and will make attempts to interest its large gambler base in using online poker facilities as well.
Betcorp, which is based in Melbourne but runs its websites from Toronto and Antigua in the Caribbean, outlined a strategy to convince more sports gamblers to broaden their gambling tastes.
Chairman David Hudd said the company hoped to reduce its reliance on sports betting - which accounted for 64 percent of its gross revenues - by "cross-selling" poker and casino games. "Betcorp takes no risk in poker games because its income is generated by charging a percentage fee on each pot played," Hudd said.
Betcorp suffered at the hands of the sportsbetters on American football in the last quarter of 2005, when a string of heavily backed favourites won games in the lead-up to the Super Bowl.
Nevertheless, the group reported strong growth in revenues and profits over the whole of 2005 with:
? A$5.6 million (US$ 4.3 million) profit after tax (2004: loss of US$ 8 million)
? Gaming revenues up 42 percent to US $ 29.4 million (2004: US$ 20.7 million)
? Major turnaround from A$10.9 million (US$8 million) loss in previous year
? 44 percent growth in the number of active clients
? Casino revenues up by 86 percent to US$6.9 million (2004: US$3.7million)
? Exponential growth of poker rake from US$0.2 million in 2004 to US$3.6 million in 2005
? Successful integration of Sinsational Intertainment Inc
? On track for further substantial growth in 2006
This performance reflects the strategic repositioning of Betcorp under new management as a multi-product, online gaming operator offering sportsbetting, casino, poker and skill games to a broad base of recreational customers. The board of directors say that operationally, the business has been strengthened and the building blocks are now in place to deliver further substantial growth in 2006.
Commenting on the results, Colin Walker, Chief Executive Officer said: ?I am delighted by the turnaround we have achieved in 2005. The year finished with poker, casino and sportsbetting all at record levels of activity. Meanwhile, 2006 has started very well and has reversed the sports margin trends experienced in the fourth quarter of 2005.?
Mobile company Cingular has selected a new set of 3D casino games developed by Superscape Group plc under the brand Capone Casino, and will shortly make the suite available to customers via download.
Capone Casino 3D is set in the seedy casino owned by Big Al and his sidekick Peanuts. Players have a choice of roulette, blackjack, video poker and slot machines, combined with animated 3D characters.
Kevin Roberts, CEO, Superscape Group plc, said: "This game was conceived and developed in-house and is proving to be a real winner. It combines some of the world's best known casino games with a great gambling atmosphere to produce a compelling mobile experience."
Return to Top POKER PROS HEAD FOR THE LAND OF THE LONG WHITE CLOUD
17 February 2006
New Zealand casino is the venue for a major new tournament
Christchurch Casino (which also operates Kiwi online casino) has been selected as the venue for the New Zealand Poker Championships scheduled for 1 to 8 April this year.
Some of the world's greatest poker players are expected to enter the competition, with a total of around 150 players from around the world taking part. Among them, renowned Kiwi poker player Lee Nelson, who recently won the Aussie Millions poker tournament.
The winner of the Championships will take away the lion's share of a $200 000 prize pool and receive a fully sponsored seat at this year's World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.
Christchurch Casino's Gaming Manager, Peter Arbuckle, is in no doubt that the competition will attract some of the world's best poker players: "Not only is this New Zealand's only nationwide poker competition with the richest prize pool, it is one of only a few seats for the World Series that has been offered in the Southern Hemisphere."
The week will begin on Saturday, 1 April 2006 with a '$20,000 Celebrity Challenge for Charity' in which the winning celebrity will donate their $20,000 winnings to their charity of choice.
The following day the Canterbury Championships will be held with the South Island Champs following on Wednesday, 5 April. The New Zealand Poker Championships will be held over Friday, 7 and Saturday, 8 April 2006.
Large numbers of US college students taking to online gambling
Results from a survey of US college students conducted late last year indicates that as much as 26 percent of college men gamble on Internet card games at least once a month, and 4 percent once a week or more.
The survey was conducted by the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center, and revealed that the most popular game for the students is online poker.
"We keep waiting for it [the college poker craze] to peak," said Dan Romer, director of the Risk Survey of Youth. "So far, it hasn't."
Prime time exposure for the game via television's million-dollar tourneys has imbued poker with glamour and trendiness, creating demand for both online and land action, with the former especially favoured due to its accessibility.
Students responding to the survey said that online poker appealed to them because it was a test of will and intelligence; a form of "psychological warfare" consisting of personal battles they were confident they could win due to a belief in their own superior intellect. Many described their play as a "job" requiring constant, and sometimes tedious, discipline.
Return to Top BETTING BEFORE BOOZE SAY UK GAMBLERS
17 February 2006
Intercasino study shows that some UK respondents would rather gamble than booze
Intercasino's recent UK study of online gaming habits was picked up by the UK Internet publication Webuser.co.uk this week in a story that focused on the predilection of some players for online gambling over enjoying a pint.
"UK online gamblers would rather gamble online than go to the pub to have a pint," Webuser reports, revealing that 38 percent of online gamblers would give up TV to play online while 19 percent would give up a drink in the pub. And 9 percent of casino and online poker players said that they would like to quit their jobs to play online professionally.
The survey uncovered some quirky nuggets, too like the fact that 15 percent of respondents said that they play online in their underwear or stark naked.
Some 375 000 UK gamblers play for over ten hours in any given week, and office managers shouldn't be too concerned - just 3 percent say they regularly play during office hours. More than 1.5 million internet users visit UK online casino and poker websites every month.
Most popular online game is Texas Hold 'Em Poker, followed by Blackjack, Roulette and other Poker variants, the survey found.
InfoPowa has previously reported on the light hearted Paddy Power "Poker 2006 - The State of Play" poker study conducted earlier this year, but the deviltry is in the detail, so here are a few of the more amusing facts:
With typical Gaelic eloquence, Paddy Power Poker.com said it "....delved deep into the hearts and minds of British and Irish poker players" to discover that:
? 55% of all poker players have played the game naked or in their underwear - hopefully online! (see Intercasino results above)
? 63% would rather play poker than have sex.
? 13% have injured themselves playing poker.(the mind boggles)
? 33% would stake their partner in a $1 million game.
? 37% have told little white lies in order to play poker ("Just going up to pay the accounts on the Internet, dear").
? 71% have wanted to destroy their computers after a ?bad beat?.
? 81% believe poker is a game of skill.
? 38% play poker every day.
The survey of over 500 poker players across Ireland and Britain also found that most poker players in Ireland will vote for Fianna Fail in the next general election, while most players in the UK intend to vote Conservative.
When asked the fun question of who would win a game of poker between George W. Bush, Osama Bin Laden, Tony Blair, Fidel Castro, Kim Jong Il and Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro was voted the clear champ.
Given the choice of playing a game of poker with a historical figure, Elvis the Pelvis narrowly won out over gun slinger and poker legend Wild Bill Hickok. Almost as many people wanted to play with Hitler as Jesus, go figure.
The report, published as a full colour, six page PDF is available for download at www.paddypowerpoker.com/media-suite.
Return to Top IGH SIGNS UP FOR NEW OPENBET CASINO
10 February 2006
Hot on the heels of its launch at ICE comes the first Openbet casino agreement
Orbis/Openbet's launch of their turnkey online casino concept at the ICE show in London (see earlier InfoPowa reports) has been followed by news of a deal with Interactive Gaming Holdings plc for the product.
IGH is an online sportsbetting and gaming operator which this week announced an additional software licence agreement with Orbis Technology Limited.
Under the agreement, IGH will licence the OpenBet Casino back office, and OpenBet Marketing products. OpenBet Casino will be integrated within the websites for both Heathorns and Premier Bet, IGH's two proprietary gaming businesses, with the remaining modules being used throughout the Group to cross-promote the casino and sportsbook offering and streamline IGH's operations.
Orbis OpenBet Casino is a comprehensive platform for operators, supporting all major gambling products. It will enable IGH to offer its customers a full suite of casino games from a single user account.
OpenBet Casino is an open solution allowing games to be added or changed quickly, using Orbis' own games offerings or other suppliers. The suite of marketing products provides greater control to manage affiliates, campaigns and promotions, allowing IGH to maximise marketing activities including 'Freebets'.
David Loveday, Managing Director of Orbis, said: "The agreement with IGH is a significant market entrance for both parties."
Commenting on the agreement with Orbis, Thomas Taule, Chairman and Chief Executive of Interactive Gaming Holdings, said: "This agreement with Orbis will dramatically enhance IGH's gaming offering and gives our customers access to a complete range of casino games. Importantly, we can now offer a complete range of products, including casino and sportsbook betting, from one single user account. The new website for Premier Bet will be fully operational by March 2006 using the OpenBet system. The OpenBetCasino launch will follow."
Who is the mysterious Red Giant, does it own Omni and who's changing to RTG software?
InfoPowa has been trying to unravel some pretty mysterious corporate manoeuvring that seems to be in progress this week, involving turnkey provider Cryptologic-Wagerlogic, their longtime licensee Peak Entertainment and two of its casinos, the software provider Real Time Gaming and a hitherto unknown UK company called Red Giant Limited.
Here's a summary to date:
Peak Entertainment, one of Cryptologic-Wagerlogic's long established licensees had the following online casinos and poker rooms in their stable:
Sands of the Caribbean
Caribbean Sun Poker Room
Several of these claimed to be powered by Omni, but this was clearly Wagerlogic software, presumably under license.
Last month 49er was "unavailable" for a brief period and this was noticed in passing, however an alert player this week noticed that it had changed to RTG software. On inspection, the site referred to a hitherto unknown UK company called Red Giant Limited, which claimed that it owned Omni and 49er and had negotiated a deal with Time Warner to use the cartoon character Yosemite Sam in it's promotional work.
Note that the players had no intimation of change up to then.
Coinciding with this, 49er players started receiving promo emails from Peak Entertainment - pushing the new software at 49er.
This begged the questions - what is the relationship between Red Giant and Peak Entertainment? What is happening regarding player accounts? Who owns Omni? Why has only one casino (49er) switched to RTG and are there future plans for other casinos in the Peak group to follow suit? What happens to the poker operation? Who is Red Giant, and what other online gambling interests does it hold? Why have these moves not been made known to the players and the online gambling community at large?
Despite persistent attempts to obtain answers to these questions from RTG, Cryptologic, Red Giant and Peak Entertainment very little further is known.
Red Giant refused to comment. Peak ignored repeated emails, as did senior execs at RTG and Cryptologic made a guarded comment along the following lines:
1) They too are puzzled and will seek clarification from Wagerlogic, which has an exclusive licensing deal with Peak for both casino and poker which covers Sands, Sun Poker and Omni. As far as is known there are no plans to change this.
2) Last year the smaller Peak brands like 49er, 1on1 and 3 Diamonds were the subject of closedown discussions in pursuit of the corporate objective of focusing on the more successful and profitable operations.
3) They are not familiar with the Peak - Red Giant relationship.
We are still digging on this, but it certainly looks as if Peak is putting together some sort of deal with Red Giant on these smaller properties - but then why is Omni involved? And without Cryptologic's knowledge?
As we went to press this week the wall of silence continued to meet every attempt to clarify this unusual situation.
The Net Entertainment-powered online Casino Europa.com is on the run-up to an important milestone in its commercial life - the registration of its 100 000th player. And to mark the event, the company has bought a spanking new Peugeot 206 Cabriolet, which now awaits the lucky player who becomes the signup that counts.
In the near future, the company will be celebrating the signup of its 100,000th member by handing over the keys to the vehicle.
Company spokesmen said that since its inception in 2002, Casino Europa.com has grown quickly through its offering of casino gambling in the Euro currency and the major European languages. The promotion is open to residents of the European Union (EU), Norway and Turkey.
Casino Europa.com is licensed in Malta and is a fully owned subsidiary of the Swedish public company Cherry.
Planet Ace (Gibraltar) Ltd. has received a clean bill of health and randomness on its Random Number Generator from the Australian test specialists iTech Labs Australia.
The certification is that the RNG used to shuffle cards by the companys PokerPages software has been independently examined and has passed inspection as at the date of test in January 2006. The company says that with a certified RNG, poker players know an unpredictable shuffle algorithm is being used, which is critical to a fair poker game as is provided at Bugsys Club.com.
Tina Napolitano, Planet Ace co-Director remarked: "With certification of our RNG, players now have independent confirmation that they can trust the poker hands dealt by our PokerPages.com FreePlay and PokerSchoolOnline.com School sites, and in particular by Real-Money licensee BugsysClub.com."
The independent Australian testing facility evaluated PokerPages? Random Number Generator (RNG) for statistical randomness, unpredictability, non-repeatability, internal state of the RNG, seeding and background cycling. Correct operation of the RNG ensures that cards are statistically random and unpredictable, which is essential for fair card dealing and playing.
The company uses the Mersenne Twister pseudorandom number generator (PRNG) invented in 1997, claiming that this method is increasingly accepted as the random number generator of choice for statistical simulations and generative modeling, especially because it overcomes the shortcomings of prior pseudorandom number generators.
Napolitano said that RNG certification is not a one-time event, but includes ongoing monitoring. The certified RNG module is sealed, and very day a signature of the sealed RNG module is generated and sent to the monitoring station to ensure that it is not inadvertently or maliciously changed or replaced.
NEW SPILL PORTAL HAS GAMEACCOUNT SKILL GAMES
10 February 2006
Office opened in China, too
The European portal group Spill launched its latest and most comprehensive gaming portal to date this week, SkillGame.com .
Early reports from the company suggest that the new site is already generating record numbers of daily visitors. Since launching its first gaming portal in the Netherlands in 2004, Spill Group has tripled profits through gaming portals now operational in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Austria and Switzerland.
The UK's GameAccount company was selected to provide the many browser-based games offered on the portal which include P2P skill games and knockout tournaments and popular sit 'n go games such as multiplayer Gin Rummy, Backgammon and 8-Ball Pool, Blackjack, Hi-Lo Solitaire, Pyramid Solitaire, Riverboat Rummy, Blocs, Mah Jong, Mah Jong Airplane, Klondike Solitaire, Gem Trader, and Singleplayer Golf and Pool.
Spill Group has been expanding its international network of portals in an effort to capitalise on booming growth in the gaming industry in Asian markets, and has recently opened an office in Shanghai to tap markets in China, Malaysia and India.
"In 2008, the Chinese online gaming industry is predicted to be worth 14.2 billion RMB yuan, and we would like to share in the returns," said Spill's marketing director Mr. S. te Brake. The company also has plans to introduce branded gaming for advertisers as well as a new mobile gaming platform in the second quarter of 2006.
INTEGRATED GAMING SITE LAUNCHED BY CHERRY SUBSIDIARY
10 February 2006
Betsson offering wide range of betting facilities
Catching the new business wave of integrated betting and gambling sites this week was Betsson, the sports betting arm of Swedish egaming holding company Cherry, which launched a new site that includes a casino, betting exchange, sportsbook and poker room, with plans for further additions throughout 2006.
Betsson aims to widen its influence and grow its share of the Scandinavian, Central and Eastern European markets, where it is currently most active and where it plans to further challenge the national gambling monopolies.
Pontus Lindwall, chief executive of Cherry, said: ?Betsson has evolved from being a pure betting exchange to becoming a real gaming portal destination and our new site reflects our growth in the past 12 months.?
Lindwall said his company was planning to strengthen its market presence through increased marketing and communication campaigns and with additional staff on the ground.
?It is not a problem for people who are technically savvy to use egaming sites but we will make sure those who have doubts know they are safe and secure on our site,? Lindwall added. ?This is done by increasing our physical presence in those territories.?
Lindwall added Betsson would be launching new gaming products to complement its existing offers, and it is believed the new additions will include skill games from an as yet unspecified source.
UK Betting has launched a mobile, "use anywhere" version of its Oddschecker.com software, an odds comparison tool for sports gamblers.
Thought at 300 000 monthly users to be the largest odds comparison site in the UK, the service will be available to mobile users with WAP-enabled phones and will allow them to select any betting event offered by bookmakers contributing to the Oddschecker site.
Gamblers register with Oddschecker on the internet or through their mobile phones, opening an account that allows them to place their bets with the bookmaker via debit or credit card.
The new mobile service will be advertised throughout ukbetting?s sports content network, which includes TeamTalk and Sportinglife, and reaches over eight million users every month.
Peter Dubens, UK Betting chairman, said: ?Oddschecker is proving to be a valuable asset to the content network. It now has in excess of 300,000 regular monthly users, which have more than doubled over the past two years. With the launch of Oddschecker Mobile, we are continuing to strengthen our offering for mobile phone users.?
BASIC BJ GLITCH ON WORLD PLAYER MAGAZINE
10 February 2006
Inadvertent error to be corrected
A wideawake player this week picked up a significant basic strategy error in a blackjack article for newbie gamblers published by the Fortune Lounge group magazine "World Player"
The article titled Blackjack 101 offered a blackjack strategy guide that included standing on a hard 8 versus dealer upcards from 2-6. Also standing on A4, A5, and A6 versus upcards 4-6.
Playing this way cedes the casino a serious edge, claimed the player, adding that the mistake was clearly an honest one that would be immediately spotted by experienced players as 'that can't possibly be right'. The software used by the casino group also offers autoplay settings with the correct strategies.
What was worrying was the fact that the article was tailored to BJ beginners, and InfoPowa drew it to the attention of the publication. A spokesman apologised for the error, which he said was unintentional and gave an undertaking that a correction would be issued.
Watch out for a big new Microgaming powered casino just launched branded Villento Las Vegas.net. The operator is a highly experienced online gambling executive who was a co-founder of the large Fortune Lounge group but has been doing his own thing in the industry for some time.
Villento Las Vegas has a huge games suite of over 180 Flash and Download (Viper platform) games that embraces almost the entire MGS range. It's a well laid out and well equipped site with fully contactable, round-the-clock support, a wide range of financial options through ProcCyber and PlayCheck, CashCheck and other aids.
This one has the look and feel of big money behind it - allied to the experience and savvy of the owner this is likely to lead to quick progress in the market.
At the recent ICE show in London Mike Marandino, the sales executive for Chartwell Technology software assured InfoPowa that legitimate disputes against online casinos powered by his company could be channeled through their major sub-licensor Club Management Services, but this promise does not appear to have been passed on to that Curacao registered company.
Several aggrieved players with legitimate complaints report that their requests for a hearing have been ignored, and when InfoPowa tried on several occasions this week to open a positive dialogue on the issues it was ignored.
Providing a working disputes channel for players has become standard in the industry and this sort of unprofessional discourteously is both churlish and unwise. There will be further reports on this incident as it develops.
African Palace and Indio criticised by high roller
The operators of African Palace and Indio online casinos have been in many slowpay disputes with players going back to their days as a Futurebet software licensee. When they switched to Playtech software there were hopes in player-land that this wayward conduct would stop, but unfortunately it appears to have become worse with player complaints surfacing regularly.
One issue that stands out from the crowd in terms of both longevity and value is described below by a high roller who mistakenly thought that these casinos would treat him with respect and honesty.
"In September of 2004 I took part in a weekend promotion running at African Palace Casino and its sister, Indio Casino. The promo was clearly intended to entice well bankrolled players. I received the promotional e-mails, and confirmed that I could participate. Between both accounts, I deposited $25,170 and finally withdrew $41,585, completing the wagering requirements playing mostly VP and some Blackjack.
"Then my troubles began. The previously attentive casinos would not respond for weeks as to why I was not being paid, except to say that management was looking into unspecified ?irregularities with my accounts.? In November 2004, Neteller very creditably agreed to step in and started investigating this case. After several more months, the casino management finally proposed a settlement of $28,740 for the two accounts, which I agreed to in the interest of resolving this case.
"Neteller was the third party in these negotiations and continued to monitor the casino?s compliance. While this was not clear at the time of the agreement, African Palace eventually stated that it was only going to pay the settlement in installments of $3000 per month. The monthly payments started in May of 2005 and then ended after only two months without explanation.
"In October 2005, I filed a complaint concerning this case with Playtech?s dispute channel. I never even received a response. However, the next month I received an additional $3000 payment from the casino. Unfortunately, the payments did not continue the following month or thereafter.
"To this date I have only received $12,000 of the promised amount and have no expectation I will receive any more."
This is a stunning example of casino bad practice, first in not paying out the original $41,585 to a player who had fully complied with all the conditions, and then subsequently in reneging on its own settlement offer. It's a cautionary tale for any other player - high-roller or otherwise....
What's up at Playtech?
Some 15 Playtech-powered operations have been the subject of a growing number of complaints in recent weeks, mainly related to unfair tactics to avoid paying out on bonus deals, over-the-top T&Cs and retrospective declarations of bonus abuse followed by winnings confiscations.
Regrettably, the promised intervention of software provider Playtech via its new Player Disputes Channel has fallen well below expectations, and players are complaining that this turnkey company apparently has serious problems in policing its allegedly unruly and dishonest licensees.
There's a price to pay for every player that is unfairly treated, and that price is a bad reputation for both casinos and software provider, which will untimately start to impact on business as the word gets around. Players are now so irate that threats of a boycott were being made this week, and that could damage the good with the bad.
Playtech needs to focus on this problem and police the guilty licensees. It looks as if a program of Fair Casino Management 101 would not go amiss either.
License in pocket, the world's biggest betting exchange is poised for antipodean action
The traditional Australian betting industry, and especially the horse racing fraternity was bracing itself this week for the long awaited entry into the market of UK betting exchange group Betfair.com.
It's been a long and bitter slog through the political circus, but last month the Tasmanian Government overrode objections from local bookmakers to award Betfair the first-ever licence to operate a betting exchange in Australia.
With a reported 90 percent of the world betting exchange market already achieved, Betfair will have full advertising and marketing freedom to go after Australia's $2.5 billion betting market from Tuesday in a 50-50 joint venture with James Packer's Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd.
Ed Wray, who co-founded Betfair with Andrew "Bert" Black six years ago has been based in Australia since March 2004 laying the groundwork for what Betfair describes as its second global hub.
Since Betfair started operating profits have doubled every year, achieving GBP 22 million in 2005. Wray, who with his fellow founder Black has a 30 percent stake in the company, anticipates dramatic growth in Australia, say press reports.
Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Wray said: "Our growth in the UK was curtailed from time to time when it exceeded our technological infrastructure of the day. Also, we made mistakes. It's quite difficult to plan your systems when demand is increasing by 50 times every three months. But we know that our Australian systems will have more than enough capacity and we now know what marketing strategies work best."
The Australian venture provides Betfair with a platform from which to access the gambling-mad markets of South Asia, and could open up the significant South Africa market. Betfair is reportedly pursuing further licences in the region.
"Clearly, Asia is a huge market which everyone is excited about, and it will help us immeasurably to be based here," Wray told SMH. "We are expecting to have a team of 150 people based in Hobart in two years, which is more than we need for Australia."
Mark Davies, managing director and one of the founding management team was equally upbeat, and said: "We are on our way to building what I believe could be one of the world's great businesses and the only fear is that we don't fulfil our potential."
The corporate ructions and resignations over a postponed IPO that plagued Betfair in October now appear to be history, with a new team of heavyweight non-executive directors in position, giving new impetus to industry claims that the company will be going after a GBP 1 billion float in London later this year.
Return to Top
32 RED GETS A NEW DIRECTOR
10 February 2006
Ex-Chandler exec joins top online casino
The board of directors at online casino and poker company 32Red plc has appointed Edward Andrewes (38) as the company's director responsible for development with immediate effect. He will take responsibility for marketing, commercial partnerships and new product development.
Andrewes brings a wealth of experience and expertise in all areas of the online betting and gaming world. He joins 32Red from Victor Chandler International ("VCI"), the online gaming and telephone betting arm of the Victor Chandler Group, where as Managing Director he was responsible for driving all aspects of business performance.
Prior to joining VCI, he spent four years on the executive board of Blue Square Limited as Commercial Director.
Other directorships held over the past five years include:
Blue Square Interactive Development Ltd
Rank Interactive Gaming Ltd
Victor Chandler International Ltd
32 Red CEO Ed Ware said: "We are delighted to have secured Ed's appointment. He is a highly experienced industry executive and his arrival further strengthens our executive team. We are keen to develop the profile and reach of the brand as well as increasing the 32Red portfolio of products and services."
Canadian deal will showcase global poker activities
Canadian viewers are in for a feast of global poker following a deal between online poker company Riverbelle and the popular TV program Poker Night Live Canada.
The program will be broadcast daily by CGTV, a Canadian cable channel specialising in gaming entertainment, on Rogers Digital Cable channel 228. During Thursday and Saturday broadcasts, players will compete on the River Belle branded playing felt.
Riding on the success of the UK version, Poker Night Live will televise a virtual poker table with participating online players.
Commentary will be provided by two avid poker players with tournament experience. The broadcast allows viewers the opportunity to watch how online poker is played while practicing their skills. Additionally, Canadian poker players now have a live platform to exhibit their poker talent through Poker Night Live Canada and River Belle - the "TV Tables" can be accessed through the River Belle Online Poker software, which is available to download at RiverBelle.com.
River Belle recently launched a new and innovative online poker room complete with Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi/Low, 5-Card Stud and 7-Card Stud, all available with a wide range of table limits. The site provides players the opportunity to create their own private tables and replicate weekly poker nights with friends at any time.
Features also allow players to pre-select their seats, locate a specific player, or search for their favorite table. More advanced players can play at ten tables at once while watching each game via the "Mini View" feature. River Belle Online Poker also offers free poker school for learning the skills and rules of each game.
"Poker Night Live will give online players the rare opportunity to showcase their poker skills on live television," said Tim Johnson, Chairman of Carmen Media Group, owners of Belle Rock Entertainment."
NEW POKER SOFTWARE A FLOP FOR BODOG?
10 February 2006
30 percent drop in online poker action following launch of new software
Readers of the main message boards will have seen the many derogatory comments that followed the introduction of Bodog's new poker software recently, and this week a news item on the event seemed to confirm that the well respected company has suffered a setback on this product.
The item, on Gambling 911 revealed that: "Bodog.com is reporting that their online poker volume is almost back to normal after a major setback. Upon releasing their new platform, widely regarded as the next generation of online poker sites, Bodog.com's poker volume fell by more than 30 percent."
The report does not elaborate further on what remedial measures were taken or on specific detail regarding the drop in business, but it is known that Bodog negotiated a special deal with the MicroPower poker software company (later taken over by Chartwell Technology) which empowered Bodog technology specialists to amend the source code in order to produce a revolutionary product.
Bodog.com Productions was in the news this week, too. The division is producing a poker reality series with a major network in March and the shows will be hosted by Bodog.com Founder and CEO Calvin Ayre and shot on location at the Bodog Compound in Santa Ana, Costa Rica.
This marks the first time an online gaming industry pioneer has produced and starred in a reality TV series. Company spokesmen say it is an extension of Bodog's evolution into a mainstream entertainment company.
The on again, off again IPO by Canadian poker company Excapsa was making the news as we went to press this week with fresh reports that the company has a London launch in mind.
The software company, which powers sites such as UltimateBet and UltimatePoker is gearing up to raise as much as GBP 75 million in an AIM flotation, which would value the company at more than GBP 150 million.
Excapsa had announced plans for a listing last summer after Party and Empire went public, but the volatile nature of the market following Party Poker's pessimism in September discouraged a launch at that time.
NEW WORLD GAMING POWERED SITE LAUNCHES
10 February 2006
Sportsbook, casino and poker operations in a one-stop offering
The internet marketing firm Global VIP Traffic has launched a new online casino, sportsbetting and poker site this week powered by World Gaming no-download software, with poker software from the Dobrosoft group.
Vegas Sportsbook and Casino.com is operated by entrepreneur Paul Sidelinger, who teamed with Access Corporation to design a site for all gamblers with an array of facilities to match: ?I wanted to create something that offered the player a site that has it all, similar to Las Vegas casinos,? says Sidelinger.
?Las Vegas casinos focus on having everything within the walls of their establishment, and I?m planning on taking that concept to the website.?
The site has a definite Vegas ambience to it without being groundbreaking, and offers a wide range of financial options for the player together with full support facilities and a limited (by today's standards) but attractive no-download gaming suite. Among the promotions on offer is a 110 percent signup, freerolls and 4 player shootouts.
U.S. SPORTS LEAGUES PLEAD FOR ONLINE SPORTS BAN
10 February 2006
National sports bodies canvas politicians for support for a ban
Rep. James Leach is getting some heavyweight support this week from five major U.S. sports leagues who want to see the politician's bid to kill off Internet betting once and for all succeed.
Leach's HR 4411 Bill "Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act" seems to be the vehicle of choice for this objective, and the presidents of the football, baseball, basketball, hockey and collegiate athletics leagues are all putting their weight behind it, saying that it is supported because sports wagering threatens the character of team sports.
Introduced to the House by Leach in November, H.R. 4411 is similar to past iterations of I-gaming prohibition bills in that it seeks to prohibit online gambling among the American public by making it illegal to pay for such services using credit cards, wire transfers, or any other banking instruments.
A letter urging the ban and signed by the five presidents has been sent to politicians on Capitol Hill noting that: "Allowing rampant sports gambling can cause a cynical and suspicious perception of athletic events, in place of the traditional American values they should represent.
"Unfortunately there is a booming industry of offshore websites accepting bets and wagers from persons located in the United States. Because these businesses are located offshore, they usually cannot be reached through state or federal law enforcement. Easy access to Internet gambling websites and lack of law enforcement give the U.S. public a misimpression that Internet gambling is legal. This encourages widespread gambling by minors and young adults, and it holds the potential to tarnish our sports if continued unchecked."
There were 18 co-sponsors for Leach's bill when he introduced it, with 5 more joining in since then. The representative's office says the bill is almost identical to one from another arch-enemy of online gambling, Sen. Jon Kyl which is scheduled to be introduced to the Senate soon.
The respective staffs of Leach and Kyl are understood to have worked closely on the Bills to avoid any clashes further into the legislative process that might short-circuit either one or both.
Both politicians have tried and failed to take down online gambling in previous legislative sessions.
Poker stalwart hires financial advisers to "explore growth" in online gaming
Reuters issued an intriguing report this week claiming that World Poker Tour Enterprises has hired a financial adviser to guide management in their quest for growth alternatives...and a sale or merger of its business could be on the table.
The news clearly pleased investors, driving the stock up by 8 percent when it broke.
Reuters quoted a statement from the company which revealed that it wanted to explore ways to increase its presence in the market for online gaming.
Online gambling, although arguably illegal in the United States, is expected to grow worldwide, with a report by Christiansen Capital Advisors estimating that online poker revenues will grow from about $1 billion in 2004 to $6.7 billion by 2010.
High price exacted by federal authorities on convicted Internet bookies
Associated Press brought back four year old memories this week with a report that Federal authorities have recovered $9.3 million in fines, forfeitures and income taxes from a group of men who operated an overseas betting operation.
Duane Pede and Jeff D'Ambrosia (see 2002 InfoPowa reports on Gold Medal Sports) were convicted of violating federal laws against an offshore bookmaking operation in 2002 and of filing false income tax returns.
Pede and D'Ambrosia co-own Gold Medal Sports, a betting operation in the Caribbean nation of Curacao, and they also ran a publishing house in Nelsonville that advertised the gambling service. The two were sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay more than $5.1 million in fines and back taxes on conviction.
500 000K ONLINE POKER TOURNEY THIS WEEKEND
10 February 2006
"Grand Tournament" is well named....
The coming weekend will see some exciting finals action in a major online poker tournament at Eurobet Poker.com, when a guaranteed prize pool of at least $500 000 will be the reward for the skilled and the fortunate.
Scheduled for Saturday 11th February, and branded ?Grand Tournament VI?, this event will begin at 15.00 ET.
Online ?qualifier? sessions have already commenced and can be found in the Eurobet Poker.com lobby. Winners of the stage two qualifiers will automatically be entered to the final, but less lucky players can also buy in directly for $1000.
Eurobet Poker joined the vast Ongame network in November 2005 and its been a happy partnership with the number of scheduled tournaments currently up to over 800 weekly, offering over $610 000 in guaranteed prize money.
Mark O?Donnell, Marketing Manager at Eurobet Poker said: ?Our tournament schedule is packed and is offering excellent choice and value for players of all levels. The size of the Ongame community means that we can offer huge guarantees, and with qualifying satellites, almost anyone has a chance of making it into the money.?
The schedule for the Grand tournament VI qualifiers can be found at the Eurobet site.
LADBROKES TO MOUNT EU CHALLENGE ON NORWAY
10 February 2006
Another sovereignty tussle looms
The major British bookie group Ladbrokes, owned by Hilton Group PLC, is taking a dispute over being refused a licence in Norway before the European Union.
The case goes back to 2004, when Ladbrokes' application for a betting licence in Norway was rejected. Ladbrokes filed a lawsuit against the Norwegian government arguing it should be able to offer its services in competition with the state-licenced monopoly under the principles of free and fair trade which are enshrined in the Treaty of Rome.
Following a negative judgement before a Norwegian court, The betting group has successfully applied for a referral to the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) court in Luxembourg.
Representative Kasper ready to abandon attempt to legalise online poker in North Dakota
Readers will recall some excitement last year (see InfoPowa reports) when it appeared that a gutsy state representative in North Dakota, Jim Kasper might achieve the legalisation of online poker in the state.
U.S. media reports this week had a more pessimistic flavour, quoting the politician as saying he was about to abandon his initiative due to lack of financial and public support.
Kasper's first efforts failed last year, when a bill he sponsored to legalise online poker in the state was defeated with a hefty majority. Unabashed, the politician apparently approached a number of online poker companies to help him fund a second attempt, estimating the cost of this at around $1 million. Kasper also spoke at trade functions and shows in an attempt to grow his support from the industry.
Some months later, the media report that Kasper's efforts to legally sanction online poker are nearing their end. He is alleged to be frustrated by the lack of both public and industry interest in his efforts, with a lack of financial support increasing his feeling of futility.
Kasper blames the fragmented character of the online poker industry for the apparent lack of unity and says that several bodies in the online gaming sector have voiced support but failed to provide funding.
New study shows that most UK respondents think there should be more control over Internet gambling
A new study in the UK conducted by XTN Data shows that most respondents feel that tighter controls are necessary on Internet gambling when it attains legal status in Britain next year.
Only one in five people, or 20 percent think that the British government is doing enough to regulate online gambling, the study found in its research into the imminent introduction of the UK Gambling Act, which for the first time will legalise and regulate online gambling.
British government spokesman have on several occasions said that protecting the underaged and addictive gamblers is an important goal in the new regulations, on which a consultation phase commenced last week.
The XTN Data survey questioned 1,000 Internet gamblers to get their views on gambling, looking at where they played and what they thought of the industry.
Over 35 percent of respondents felt that overseas or offshore based gambling sites were less trustworthy than if they were based in the UK. Top poker site brand Party Poker was recognised by almost 50 percent of those interviewed, and was the destination of chopice for nearly a third of those who played online poker.
Although there was a desire on the part of most of those participating to gamble more frfequently on the Internet, over 50 percent said they did not know the rules or how to play most casino games, and felt that online casinos were not helpful in this regard.
XTN Data founder, Greig Harper, said: "As online gambling becomes more mainstream gaming operators need to do everything they can to attract new users including teaching them basic strategies for games."
The growing number of poker fans in Europe will soon have easier access to World Poker Tour merchandise following a deal signed between the US poker competition group and ITV's Granada Ventures.
Andrea Green the vice president of global consumer products at WPT Entertainment Inc. says that the partnership with Granada will work well for WPT: "Europe has already proven to be a wonderfully receptive region for WPT-branded products, in particular in the U.K., and we are truly excited to be joining forces with Granada Ventures because they have the expertise to exponentially increase our licensing line-up in the region."
Spring 2006 is the target date Granada has set for WPT-licensed products to appear on the shelves of European stores. The company has built up considerable expertise in marketing famous brands, and manages licensing programs for the Arsenal and Liverpool soccer clubs.
Europe has embraced poker with poker themed television networks, magazines and the acceptance of online play and tournaments.
DOYLE BRUNSON - SEC INVESTIGATION CONTINUES
10 February 2006
Nakano declines twice to testify
The Doyle Brunson - World Poker Tour dispute from last year (see previous InfoPowa reports) continues to attract the investigative interest of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the United States.
Media reports this week suggest that considerable pressure is being applied, including two attempts to subpoena Wallace Nakano who operates the online poker room that bears Brunson's name. Nakano has refused to testify on technical grounds thus far. The reports say that the SEC subpoenas seek to uncover evidence in connection with its investigation of what it feels was a questionable bid for WPT in Brunson's name.
Last July, the poker legend and an anonymous group of investors made an unsolicited bid to acquire the World Poker Tour for $700 million - almost twice the WPT's market value at the time.
Brunson's inflated bid led the WPT's stock to skyrocket 66 percent the day the bid initiative was announced. But after the initial publicity, the bid was allowed to expire in such a manner that irate investors and speculators complained to the SEC, which commenced an investigation last December focusing on Brunson and his online poker site Doyles Room.com.
Industry observers say that the investigation is examining whether Brunson overstepped security laws with his highly-publicised bid, and whether he employed deceptive tactics in exchanging securities or made false statements in regard to the offer.
Two subpoenas have so far been served on Nakano, but his legal representatives have said that he has no intention of testifying because the subpoenas were incorrectly served and were thus invalid.
7.8 MILLION AMERICANS CAN'T BE WRONG
10 February 2006
Impressive numbers quoted by legal publication, but are they on the light side?
The Legal Times published some interesting but probably understated figures for online gambling this week in an article that examined the frustrating legislative climate in the USA, which still dominates the player market.
The article opined that: "Although online gambling is illegal in the United States, you'd never know it by looking at the numbers. Last year alone 7.8 million Americans logged on to Internet gambling sites. And with the online gambling industry banking almost $12 billion in revenue in 2005, some U.S. [land] casinos think the time has come to legalise Internet gambling and cash in - a position that was considered all but unthinkable until recently."
Unfortunately the author does not source his statistics, and although the financial number pretty much gels with research from respected statistics firm CCA, those numbers of players look a little on the light side when considered in the context of the millions of players on the databases of major online casino and poker room companies.
The author goes on to outline the current political moves to hamper or ban the industry in the States (see earlier InfoPowa reports on the latest Kyl-Leach moves) saying that these could potentially force U.S. casinos to stay off-line permanently.
The conclusion is that the chances of the gaming industry pushing through favorable online gambling legislation in the near term are slim, especially if the powerful AGA (American Gaming Association) fails to come out in support of such a measure.
The piece had an interesting corollary in a story in the Thoroughbred Times, a journal for the U.S. horseracing industry that has long opposed online gambling.
Reporting on an address to the delegates at the 4th quaderrenial Racing Congress by MGM-Mirage Inc. Chairman Terry Lanni, the Times quoted him as saying that gaming companies and racetracks should work together to legalise more forms of Internet gaming.
Currently, only pari-mutuel racing is exempt from a law that prohibits gambling on the Internet.
Lanni delivered his remarks during the opening day general session of the Thoroughbred Racing Association and Harness Tracks of America joint annual meeting this week at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.
"Online gaming is a multibillion dollar industry, and it's ridiculous we can't be part of that," Lanni said. "We should be able to utilise our brands - racetracks and casinos - to give people confidence to wager online."
Lanni cited a poll that indicated more than 60 percent of people have at least some concern regarding whether they will receive payment from offshore wagering sites on winning wagers.
"That's the best business to be in," Lanni said. "You have people willing to pay even though they think they have to win twice: once with the bet and once regarding concern if you'll pay them."
Offshore gaming companies are not just the scourge of racetracks, either, as Lanni offered statistics showing that Americans wager a staggering amount of money on sports.
Americans can make a legal wager on a sporting event only in Nevada, where about $94.5-million was bet on this year's Super Bowl compared to an estimated $1-billion offshore.
"Party Gaming admits that Americans wager on its site and that a significant portion of its revenue comes from those who shouldn't be using the site," Lanni said.
"You have people volunteering to pay a tax, and the government won't go for it; it's a farce."
Lanni said that despite the differences in the types of players who play the various games, casinos and racetracks have much in common because in the current entertainment age, both industries must rely on avenues other than gaming to keep the customer happy.
Las Vegas casinos used to count on gaming to bring in up to 80 percent of its revenue. That figure at the MGM-Mirage properties is closer to 42 percent, and at the ultra-luxurious Bellagio the figure is closer to just 25 percent.
The Canadian Press publication showcased some surprise support for online gaming from a member of the Ontario Police illegal gaming enforcement team this week in an article about corruption in sportsbetting.
Quoting Det.-Insp. Stuart McDonald, the journal reported: ' "Bookmaking is still a large problem in Canada," said McDonald, who added he finds it baffling that people still use bookies when there are other less risky options, legal or otherwise, such as online gaming.'
"It may be the ease of just picking up the phone, versus having to go online. There's a familiarity - you don't know who you're dealing with on the other end of an Internet connection," he said.
McDonald went on to reveal that bookies have a strong appeal for pro athletes, who have deep pockets, connections and knowledge of other professional sports leagues - and money to burn among friends.
"These guys are out there socialising and gambling all the time. And they know sports, they love sports, and they think they have insight into it."
Police said the gambling ring linked to NHL players had a connection with organised crime in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey - no surprise to Canadian authorities. The NHLers did not bet on hockey, authorities in New Jersey said.
"We've done bookmaking investigations on a fairly regular basis in Ontario and most of them are involved in traditional organised crime," said McDonald.
There's a new and fierce competitor on the British online Bingo market. Christchurch Casinos Group, the New Zealand land-based casino operator behind Kiwibingo.com and Tikibingo.com, has launched Blackpool Bingo.co.uk, an online bingo site with a specific UK-themed interface.
Blackpool is famous in the UK for its funfairs, video game arcades, land-based casinos and stag and hen nights, and the new site will offer customers the chance to play online bingo with a particular Blackpool theme.
A company spokesman said that 90-ball bingo has been a part of British culture for decades. ?In the past few years it has made the transition to the internet but until recently has always played second fiddle to the American 75-ball version. Blackpoolbingo will change all that,? he said.
Blackpoolbingo will aim to reproduce the interaction and community feel of real-life bingo and will feature advanced chat features. Players will be able to pre-buy bingo cards, set them to play automatically and open the chat window to talk to other players online.
?With our multi-window option you can chat while keeping an eye on how well your cards are doing. Gone are the cramped ?chat boxes? squeezed into the corner of the screen,? the spokesperson said.
New casino-style games at Sky Vegas drive revenues up
BskyB interactive television's subsidiary Skybet enjoyed a 15 percent rise in revenues in the six months to end December 2005, the company has revealed in its latest financial reportage.
The company said the growth over the period to GBP136 million (US$239.7million) was mainly due to an increase in activity through Sky Vegas following the launch of new casino-style games.
Digital TV subscribers rose by 215,000 to 8.1 million households generating total revenues of GBP2.1 billion - a 9 percent increase.
Return to Top WSOP'S NEW HIGH FLYING TOURNEY BOSS
10 February 2006
Harrah's introduces 2006 tournament director
Poker fans will be assessing the third director of the World Series of Poker in as many years following Harrah's announcement this week that Robert Daily is to be the man in charge of the big games, scheduled for June 25 to August 10 at the Amazon Room of the Rio Pavilion Convention Centre.
Daily (62) is the highly experienced poker room manager at the Rio All- Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, with a 30-year career in the casino gaming industry under his belt.
His life has not been without adventure - prior to entering the gambling industry Daily was a contract pilot for "Air America", the airline owned and operated by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), during the Vietnam War.
"I am a very experienced poker person," said Daily, "Being a pilot, just like being a tournament director, requires you to multitask and make correct decisions under pressure."
Daily says that his company has learned a lot from the past two years and intends to make the 2006 World Series of Poker the best ever. "Many of the issues brought up by the players last year, including restroom access and smoking, have been addressed," he said.
Caesars Palace Las Vegas poker room manager Michael Matts has been appointed as an assistant tournament director for the 2006 WSOP and is also an experienced manager. The two men have supervised the two WSOP Circuit events, as well as the 2005 WSOP Tournament of Champions, held in Las Vegas last year.
WSOP Director of Communications and Operations Gary Thompson revealed that tournament directors have a tough working day.
"The tournament directors at the 2005 WSOP were working 16-to-18-hour days everyday for over 40 days, and they were exhausted by the time the Main Event started," he said.
"We need to keep our tournament directors fresh and awake so that they will be able to make correct rulings that may involve hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars." He added that additional tournament directors would probably be appointed to spread the load.
"The tournament directors will be split up into two shifts," added Daily. "The day shift will start the tournaments in the afternoon and the swing shift will come in to finish the day of tournament play sometime between midnight and 2 a.m."
Just when is a Nevadan "underage" or "legal" when it comes to online gaming?
An at times heated debate took place on a leading message board this week around the question of underage gambling.
A Bella Vegas Casino player from Nevada who's winnings had been disqualified but deposits returned for being "underage" initiated the thread to protest, and the resulting exchanges showed that complex casino T&Cs, allied to the requirements of individual states in the confusing US market can be a problem.
In this case the over 18 but under 21 years old player registered without difficulty at the casino and for a period of three months gambled through 17 transactions and 3 minor payouts without the casino objecting.
Then she was lucky enough to make a big win...or perhaps unlucky, because the size of her withdrawal seemed to trigger the casino ID verification systems and she was adjudged "underage" Appeals to respected watchdogs like Casinomeister and eCOGRA were unsuccessful, and the young player took to the message boards.
Her argument is that in terms of the casino T&Cs she is not underage.
Bella Vegas T&Cs say inter alia that:
The casino is limited to individuals of legal age of majority in their jurisdiction.
Legal age of majority in Nevada (the player's residential jurisdiction) is 18 yrs (19 if still at college) Gambling age in Nevada is 21. It would therefore appear on the face of this, that the player was not underage in terms of majority, but should not have been gambling anyway. And why was she allowed to register if this was the case? However.....
The casino's T&Cs also state that "Participation in the activities and games (the "Game") of this casino are open only to residents of those jurisdictions where such participation is legal."
Nevada has not legalised online gaming, which would suggest that in addition to being below the land gambling age in Nevada the player in this case was in any case breaching State law by gambling online! But she was nevertheless allowed to register at the casino and play for three months, and chances are the casino does no more to enforce this condition than place the onus on the player.
You cannot play under any circumstances if you are not at least eighteen years of age...the player met this requirement, but the other T&Cs and her State of residence would seem to make this rule irrelevant.
However, should the legal age of majority in your jurisdiction be older than eighteen ? you shall abide by those restrictions.
In this case her age of majority in Nevada was 18 (19 if in college) but the State forbids internet gambling, and the land gambling age is 21!
Lawyer's caveats are one thing, but as the player points out in the real world things are not so clearcut:
"There are 8 states in the USA where it is not legal to gamble online, are they [the casinos] going to return deposits to all players from New York, Arizona or Vegas ?"
On the face of it, it would appear there is fault on both sides in this dispute and the more reasonable among the debaters have suggested that this would be a good case for further negotiations between the player and the casino.
Certainly it seems that the casino involved needs to re-examine and tighten up its measures against underage gambling.
WAGERLOGIC THE BEST SAYS U.K. MEDIA GROUP
3 February 2006
Gambling software provider honoured
Wagerlogic, the software development arm of Canadian industry veteran Cryptologic was honoured in London this week with the award of iGaming Software Provider of the Year at the 2006 in the UK Gambling Awards - a premier UK industry event.
The citation praised the company for its innovative Internet casino and poker software at the awards ceremony, held at the historic Banqueting House at Whitehall Palace, London.
"This prestigious award - along with a growing number of other industry honours - makes it clear that CryptoLogic is developing games of choice that players love to play," said Lewis Rose, CryptoLogic's President and CEO.
"As both industry pioneer and an industry leader, CryptoLogic works hard to stay close to the heart of the online player - in both casino and poker - and this type of industry acclaim shows we're on the right track in producing innovative, industry-leading games and software."
In more than ten years in business, CryptoLogic has consistently developed groundbreaking products and entertainment concepts through its Internet casino and poker suites.
The company introduced more than 20 new casino games in 2005 alone; these including Bejeweled, the popular gem-matching game, and six new multi-jackpot games featuring world-famous Marvel Super Heroes such as The Hulk, Daredevil, X-Men, Blade and The Punisher.
WagerLogic licensees' central poker room has consistently ranked among the top five poker rooms on the Internet, and now attracts more than 9,000 simultaneous online players.
"In our industry, it's a great tribute to be named the iGaming Software Provider of the Year," said A.J. Slivinski, WagerLogic's Managing Director. "For WagerLogic, this validates our commitment to providing state-of-the-art casino and poker software."
Presented by Dennis Publishing, the UK Gambling Awards honours the best in the industry. Founded in 1974, Dennis Publishing is an independently owned group of media companies. The company publishes 19 magazines in the UK, including Maxim, InsideEdge, PokerPlayer, TOTAL Gambler, PC Pro and The Week, and four titles in the US - Maxim, Stuff, Blender and The Week.
Reports suggest one offer of almost GBP 4 billion turned down
Speculation on the fate of the Ladbrokes betting group following the Hilton Hotels sell-off intensified this week as Reuters reported that bids had been made for the betting group but not accepted.
Ladbrokes parent group Hilton, which is selling its hotels to U.S. namesake Hilton Hotels, said it had received several more "expressions of interest" for Ladbrokes since it first announced approaches in December, but not one that would encourage it to sell.
"These approaches included a number of pre-conditions and failed to recognise the long-term strategic value of Ladbrokes," Hilton said in a statement. But a Hilton spokesman refused to be drawn on a report that a GBP 3.7 billion bid from CVC had been rejected.
Reuters quotes sources who revealed that private equity groups CVC Capital Partners, BC Partners and Blackstone were keen on buying Ladbrokes, which has 2,000 bookmaking shops and online and over-the-phone betting interests. Investment bank UBS said on Thursday that it valued Ladbrokes at around GBP 3.83 billion.
"The board reiterates its confidence in the business and prospects of Ladbrokes and is looking forward to Ladbrokes trading as an independent betting and gaming company," Hilton said.
U.S.-based Hilton Hotels Corp. is paying the UK Hilton Group GBP 3.3 billion for its hotel operations in a deal expected to close within the next few months.
Aussie MP wants the federal government to close service down
Australian press reports said this week that the Federal Government is being urged to clamp down on a new scheme in which people can bet by sending SMS messages on their mobile phones.
An Adelaide-based company known as 'txt2-bet' is encouraging punters to sign onto their plan which allows users to place bets on racing and sports events 24 hours a day.
South Australian MP Nick Xenophon has written to the Commonwealth demanding amendments to the Interactive Gambling Act to stop the scheme on grounds that it is likely to put more young people at risk of becoming problem gamblers.
"The promoters of this scheme in their own information on their website, talk about 24 hours a day, seven days a week punting," he said. "That you can place a bet while you are at work or at a family gathering, I think indicates that it will lead to more problem gambling."
He has written to Federal Communications Minister Helen Coonan asking for the government to intervene.
Keith Boerholm, a director for txt2-bet says the scheme is safer for users than other betting methods because punters receive an audit trail of their transactions. "And it's debit based, in other words there's no credit. The man or the woman has to put money on the card in order to use it," he said.
Irish betting group Paddy Power Poker.com revealed the April dates for its 25th Irish Open Tournament this week.
The event is to take place on 10 - 16 April at Jurys Ballsbridge Hotel, Dublin in association with Liam Flood and the Merrion Casino Club.
The Irish Open has become one of the richest poker tourneys in world poker. The main event has a Euro 1 million prize pool guaranteed and Euro 50 000 added by Paddy Power, and entry and registration fees of Euro 3200 are charged.
The main event starts Saturday 15 April at 4pm GMT and will attract the top names in poker from Ireland, Britain, Europe, the US and beyond. The final table will play down to the winner on Monday 17 April.
Players can qualify online at Paddy Power Poker.com from just Euro 10 ? the online qualifier who places highest in the Irish Open will also receive a package worth $12 500 to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas in August.
Gaming technology firm St Minver has inked a deal with Littlewoods Gaming to supply the betting firm with a white-label online bingo service.
The deal will see Littlewoods Gaming join St Minver?s UK bingo network, which already includes customers like Yahoo! Games, Virgin Games, Lastminute.com and Wanadoo. LittlewoodsBingo.com will join this network as a fully managed, bespoke branded bingo game under St Minver?s Gibraltar gaming licence.
Ian Penrose, CEO of Sportech, the parent company of Littlewoods Gaming, said: ?Bingo players want to have fun with brands they know and trust. By leveraging the Littlewoods brand, we aim to broaden the company?s reach into the marketplace and look to establish LittlewoodsBingo.com as a leading UK bingo website.?
The move represents Littlewoods first foray into online bingo, and gives the brand an opportunity to capture a share of a lucrative female gaming audience.
The service joins Littlewoods traditionally male orientated suite of gaming products, which include the Football Pools, online casino and poker, Sports Betting within Bet Direct and GameOn.
Card Player magazine will be rolling out the red carpet on February 15th at the Henry Fonda Music Box Theatre in Los Angeles for the poker industry's first Player of the Year Awards Gala Banquet.
Co-sponsored and produced exclusively by online gambling group Bodog.com, the awards show will feature Hollywood and poker superstars gathering for the game's most coveted prizes.
Card Player magazine's 2005 Player of the Year Award and a number of other awards, including Card Player's "Lifetime Achievement Award, will be presented.
MC for the event will deep-voiced Everybody Loves Raymond funnyman Brad Garrett.
"For the first time, the poker world will get what it deserves: a first-class awards banquet to honour all the professionals who have helped grow this industry into a mainstream sport," says Card Player Media Chairman Barry Shulman.
"Thanks to our partnership with Bodog, Hollywood will not only experience the best award show, but also get a chance to rub shoulders with the true poker superstars."
The 2005 Player of the Year award was locked up by Men "The Master" Nguyen. Nguyen's 16 final tables and $973,620 in earnings secured him the top seed among poker's most lethal players.
In addition to the prestigious Player of the Year award, eight additional awards will be announced at the Awards Banquet on February 15th. Poker's top players voted on the best cash game player, poker's top ambassador, the best no-limit player, most entertaining player, best heads-up player, best mixed-game player, most feared player and most underrated player.
Two additional awards, favorite overall poker player and best celebrity poker player, comprise Card Player's People's Choice Awards. After weeks of online voting at CardPlayer.com and thousands of votes cast, Card Player has narrowed votes to a final nominee list.
Final nominees for favourite poker player include big names like Doyle Brunson, Chris Ferguson, Phil Ivey, Mike Matusow and Daniel Negreneau. And finalists for best celebrity player include Gabe Kaplan, Tobey McGuire and Jennifer Tilly.
With more than 18 years of service to the poker industry, Card Player Media is the publisher of Card Player, Card Player College and Card Player Europe. Combined, these magazines have a monthly circulation of over 500,000. The group also owns and operates a leading poker information portal on the Internet, CardPlayer.com. The site provides visitors with free webmail, lively information forums, a poker analyst tool that allows players to track their winnings, odds calculators, live tournament reporting, poker blogs from top poker professionals, and insightful content that ranges from basic rules of the game to advanced strategy analysis. An opt-in poker newsletter is distributed twice-monthly to more than 350,000 subscribers through the site.
Betting on whether groundhog Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow on Groundhog Day tomorrow (February 2) is an American tradition that several online casinos have picked up on in recent years.
The folklore surrounding this betting event, which dates back to the late 1800s is that if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow there will be six more long weeks of winter, but if he does not then there will be an early spring.
Since 1887 the records show that Phil has seen his own shadow on 95 occasions out of 118, and these statistics inform bettors on the current year's event.
PUNXSUTAWNEY PHIL DID SEE HIS SHADOW (update)
3 February 2006
Six more weeks of winter for the Northern folks
Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on February 2 at Gobbler's Knob, giving his groundhog's prediction of six more weeks of winter.
Members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's Inner Circle - the top-hat and tuxedo wearing businessmen responsible for carrying on the groundhog tradition each year made the announcement that he had seen his shadow after waiting some time for him to emerge from his burrow. Thousands of high-spirited spectators turned out to watch the ceremony.
Mike Johnston, a member of the Groundhog Club's Inner Circle says that the tradition comes from a German superstition. The Germans believed that if a hibernating animal casts a shadow Feb. 2 - the Christian holiday of Candlemas - winter will last another six weeks. If no shadow is seen, legend says spring will come early.
According to the Groundhog Club, Phil has now seen his shadow 96 times, hasn't seen it 14 times and there are no records for nine years. The last time Phil failed to see his shadow was in 1999.
4 NEW SITES IN INSIDE GAMING DEBUT
3 February 2006
Experienced management team announced
New managed services kid on the online gaming industry block (see previous InfoPowa reports) Inside Gaming Limited has announced the launch dates for its first four managed gaming sites for clients. The new sites include one marketing and three casino/poker sites.
During the first quarter of 2006, IG is launching fully managed gaming sites for the following clients: Financial portal ADVFN will launch with ADVFN Poker.com; marketing specialist company Home-ad is launching casino and poker room Heaven.com; new UK high street bookmaker Better will be launching a Better.com branded casino and poker and promotional company Bonnevista Limited are launching their flagship European brand Lukto.
The gaming operations are all powered by Chartwell Technology software. Chartwell recently took over the MicroPower poker software developer, adding this technology to their production processes.
The launches, timed over a four-week period, introduce what IG calls its "holistic approach to managed service gaming."
CEO Chris North says: ?We appear to have found a niche in the market for fully managed gaming sites where our clients are able to concentrate on their core business whilst we work in partnership to ensure that they are able to maximise the returns from their gaming products.?
Richard Hogg COO of IG said: ?IG hopes to steal a march on the competition by offering a total end to end solution backed-up by cutting edge software. Before we launched our service, companies who had access to potential gaming players often had to work out their own promotion or have some good gaming knowledge before they could work with a managed service.?
The senior management team at IG can boast some useful experience: Chairman Brian Mattingley led a management buy out of Ritz Bingo, backed by Duke Street Capital in 1997. Six months later he backed the business into Gala Bingo itself being a Venture backed business. He took on the position as the Group Finance Director and led all of Gala?s acquisitions over seven years including the acquisition from Hilton of the Ladbrokes Casino Chain.
CEO Chris North has over 7 years experience in the online gaming sector where he specialises in online casinos and online poker. His last project was the successful re-launch of the At the race casino.com and its sister poker brand and he is one of the founders of the Fox Poker Club.com in Mayfair scheduled to open in mid-2006.
Richard Hogg, the COO has a professional background within the web-based IT industry. In a career that has spanned across two decades and three continents, he recently oversaw the induction of Australia?s largest independently owned sports betting company, Sport Odds, into the competitive UK market under the brand name. Super Odds is currently trading as CentreBet.
Major online casino and poker room group 888.com's fourth quarter results this week again illustrated the staying power of the online poker phenomenon, with poker revenues up 22 percent from the previous three months, the company revealed.
"Our new financial year has started well," the owner of the Pacific Poker site said after reporting poker revenues of $36 million (GBP 20.3 million) in the three months to December 31. Compared with a year before, poker revenues were up 138 percent.
Speaking to the Reuters news agency, Chief Executive John Anderson also said that he was in the market for a sportsbetting operation to add to the group's diversity sometime this year. And he shrugged off comments from the global online poker market leader PartyGaming plc that it would soon dominate the casino marketplace too.
888?s overall gaming revenue was up 52 percent to $271 million in 2005, and the number of real money registered member accounts rose by 49 percent to 5.5 million at the end of last year. The number of active members (an individual member who made a game-related balance movement in a real money account in the relevant quarter) rose to 330,962 in the fourth quarter, 75 percent more than in the fourth quarter of 2004.
2005 was a good year for 888. Net gaming revenue rose by 52 percent to $271 million for the year, with net gaming revenue from casino interests up 16 percent to $161 million, and net gaming revenue from poker up 179 percent to $110 million.
888 posted $77 million in net gaming revenue for the fourth quarter of 2005 alone, 56 percent more than for the corresponding quarter of 2004. In the same period, net gaming revenue from casino activities rose 19 percent to $41 million, and net gaming revenue from poker soared 138 percent to $36 million.
Net gaming revenue per active member in casino fell by $39 in the fourth quarter, compared with the preceding quarter, due to efforts aimed at reviving dormant members. Net gaming revenue per active member in poker rose by $27, from $129 in the third quarter to $156 in the fourth quarter.
888 boss John Anderson specifically mentioned the acquisition of a sportsbook operation, saying it would be valuable for customer retention and organic growth
UK REGULATION PROPOSALS NOW PUBLIC
3 February 2006
Three month consultative phase begins
The UK government has begun a three-month consultation period for its Gambling Act proposals, which were published this week.
The proposals for the new Act, which will come into effect from 1 September 2007, illustrate in more detail how the government intends to move from the current legislatory system of licences, permits and registrations to the new regulations and what the transitional arrangements are. The proposals include arrangements regarding interactive gaming.
The proposals are also intended to make sure that operators have a clear understanding of what they have to do and when, in order to convert their existing permits and allow a sufficient lead time so that both the industry and regulators can have enough time before September 2007 to prepare properly.
Turnkey provider Chartwell Technology Inc. released its audited financial results for the fourth quarter and year ended October 31, 2005 this week.
Highlights of the year, where compared to the same twelve-month period of 2004, total revenue increased 46 percent and income from operations increased 77percent included:
* Revenue of $17.8 million compared to $12.2 million in 2004;
* Net income before income taxes of $6.4 million and net income of $4.0 million compared to income from operations of $3.6 million and net income of $4.0M in 2004;
* Software license fees $16.4 million compared to $11.3 million in 2004;
The company reports that 2005 was the latest in three consecutive years of profitability, and a year of significant growth for Chartwell, both financially and operationally.
Don Gleason, CFO reported: ?Financially, we achieved record revenue, maintained quarterly profitability, increased our EBITDA and operating margins, strengthened our balance sheet and increased our working capital. Operationally, we extended the capabilities of our product development, deployment and support teams through a staged investment program which included the acquisition of Micropower Corporation. These investments are essential to enabling the company to drive continued growth in the expanding market for our products.?
POKERSTARS SHOWCASES NEW V.I.P. CLUB
3 February 2006
4 million players use one of the Internet's largest poker venues
PokerStars.com, one of the world's largest poker rooms has launched a new VIP Club intended to reward players with a wide variety of prizes.
The site, which claims over 4,000,000 registered players and is one of the poker industry's fastest-growing poker rooms was created with poker players in mind, and this is reflected in the new focus on loyalty awards. Top rewards include gift certificates for Neiman-Marcus and Dell, high-demand electronics such as iPod nano and plasma-screen televisions and Porsche Cayman sports cars.
The new VIP Club boasts that it offers prizes which are unavailable anywhere else in the world. For example special poker matches with Joe Hachem, the reigning World Series of Poker champion. Plans are well advanced that will allow members to play with former world poker champions Greg Raymer, Chris Moneymaker, and Tom McEvoy.
A concierge service to box seats for professional sporting events is also on the schedule.
Players with real money deposits at PokerStars.com start earning VIP Player Points (VPPs) immediately. With the first hand dealt, players become Bronze-Star VIPs. Then, as more hands are played, players reach higher club levels - Silver-Stars, Gold-Stars, and Platinum Stars. The most loyal players of all earn SuperNova status -- which is the highest VIP Club level.
Getting poker to the people is to get a technological boost from a company called Wi-Fi TV Inc., trailblazer that streamed the first full-length film online, and is now adding poker to its offerings.
Wi-Fi TV has partnered with Poker TV Network Inc., an Internet TV network devoted exclusively to poker programming, and will soon begin streaming poker content straight from its website at Wi-FiTV.com. Using this technology and facilities, Poker TV Network aims to extend its worldwide reach.
Eric Rosenberg, president of Poker TV Network Inc. said that the relationship with Wi-Fi TV would "....bring our exclusive programming to the global content platform offered by Wi-Fi TV. We look forward to working with Wi-Fi TV to expand our audience and the reach of our sponsors."
MAJOR FREEROLL TOURNEY SERIES LAUNCHED BY ACTION POKER
3 February 2006
Major network cardrooms to generate plenty of free action, cash and seats at the WSOP
Action Poker Network, home of ActionPoker.com, TigerGaming.com and PokerInCanada.com has launched a $500,000 guaranteed prize pool freeroll tournament series, giving poker enthusiasts a chance to win hundreds of thousands of dollars with no tournament entry fees.
The new freeroll competition started on January 15th and will feature tournaments running daily through to October 1st.
This is the latest in a series of successful promotions run by the flagship cardrooms and other member cardrooms at the Action Poker Network. The tournament will pay out 30 places, with the first prize of $200,000 going to the winner of the grand final to be held in October.
"We want our players to be rewarded and to feel excited about playing at the Action Poker Network and the $500,000 Freeroll is the just the beginning of our 2006 activities," said Jake Kalpakian, CEO.
Another major competition has been launched to please those poker players trying to fulfill their dreams of getting to the World Series of Poker 2006 by qualifying through online cardrooms.
"We've guaranteed seats in the World Series of Poker (WSOP) to the players who win our ongoing World Series of Poker Satellite Tournaments, and we've made it super affordable," adds Kalpakian. Players can enter the WSOP Satellite Tournaments with buy-ins starting as low as 5 cents.
The WSOP's final prize for 2006 is estimated at $11,000,000.
D OF J CHALLENGE DROPPED BY CASINO CITY
3 February 2006
Freedom of speech case withdrawn as advertising threats diminish
With the news last week that a major media group had paid up $7 million to avoid a Department of Justice confrontation (see earlier InfoPowa reports) readers could be forgiven for thinking that the intimidatory tactics adopted by the Department to discourage media from accepting adverts from online gambling companies was a thing of the past.
However, it is fair to say that the Department's efforts in writing to U.S. media executives to warn them that carrying Internet gambling advertising "may" be illegal, has gone low profile in recent times.
There were strong rumours at the International Casino Exhibition in London last week that feisty Casino City chief Michael Corfman had dropped his companys case against the U.S. Department of Justice, and this has now been confirmed.
Initiated in the summer of 2004, the action involved the hiring of a top legal team and was filed to seek a ruling from the U.S. court system as to whether certain actions taken by the DOJ to discourage online gambling advertisements violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Casino City's President Michael Corfman has explained that the seemingly long period of silence coming from the Justice Department with regard to online gambling advertisements played a large role in his decision to discontinue the litigation.
Unfortunately, this would seem to leave the field clear for further Department of Justice threats without prosecutions which has been so effective in scaring many media companies away from online gambling advertisements in the States.
It looks as if the London-based bookmaker and sports content provider UK Betting has ambitious plans for 2006.
The firm is reported by the business press in the UK to have entered into a placing agreement with Collins Stewart Limited to sell just over 19 million shares at a price of 60p per share.
The objective is to raise up to GBP 11.5 million to accelerate the development of the firm's content network, sophisticated modes of advertising and video streaming, and to make provision for multi-lingual versions.
New status should make for easier dealings with Brit sports sites
Speculation ten days back that gambling software technology group Zone4Play was in the running for a UK bookie licence has been confirmed by the announcement that the company has been granted a bookmaker?s licence to operate in the UK.
A company spokesperson said that its new status will help it distribute its gambling products to end users and increase its opportunities to offer cross-platform egaming solutions to major UK organisations like British Telecom, Betfair or Coral Eurobet.
Online casino operator group Gaming VC has confirmed the full appointment as Finance Director of Gerard Cassels.
Cassels has held the position in an interim capacity since last November.
Commenting on the board appointment, Steve Barlow, Gaming VC chief executive, said: "Over the last three months it has become clear to us that Gerard is the right candidate for the permanent post and I am delighted that he has taken up the opportunity."
MORE CHANGES TO ISLE OF MAN REGULATIONS
3 February 2006
Major shift in software testing - move is to outcomes based testing and monitoring
The Isle of Man government used the recent platform of the International Casino Exhibition last week to publicise regulatory changes to its Online Gaming Regulation Act 2001 (OGRA).
The changes include a major move to outcomes-based software testing, something which the Malta and Kahnawake jurisdictions have recently agreed to in their closer relationships with the private standards body eCOGRA.
A spokesman said the aim of the changes is to improve the island?s regulatory framework to make it more attractive to licensees in order to develop the egaming sector and the contribution it makes to the Isle of Man?s economy.
The new framework was developed in conjunction with London law firm Berwin Leighton-Paisner and the head of its gaming and betting practice, Hillary Stewart-Jones.
Bill Mummery, head of e-gaming development for the Isle of Man government, said: ?The island has seen significant progress in recent years in attracting leaders from key sectors including Microgaming, Neteller and PokerStars. These legislative changes, produced with the support of Berwin Leighton-Paisner, will increase the competitive advantage for the island?s economy and its operators.?
The changes centre around three key areas: software testing, disaster recovery provision and advertising and marketing.
The emphasis for software testing will be on reducing the cost and complexity of compliance for licence holders by simplifying the software approval process, which it aims to achieve by moving to a ?results and output?-based system of testing.
The updates relating to disaster recovery will allow operators licensed in other jurisdictions to make use of the telecoms infrastructure and IT skills available on the island to provide disaster recovery and off line data storage facilities in support of their global operations
New regulations will enable the specialised activities of advertising and marketing to be established, managed and controlled from the island in support of their clients.
?These are exciting and dynamic times and the Isle of Man with its 0 percent corporate tax strategy, nil capital gains, world-class telecommunications infrastructure and regulatory framework, will continue to be a leading jurisdiction for supporting the industry and its operators,? Mummery said.
POWERFUL 4TH QUARTER FROM NETELLER
3 February 2006
e-cash processor takes in US $ 4.1 million daily, and signed up an average 3197 new users a day
The ubiquitous payments processor Neteller issued a bullish trading update this week announcing powerful fourth quarter results and new customer sign ups.
The Isle of Man based company reported average daily receipts of around US$4.1 million during the quarter, compared with US$2.3 million during the same period in 2004. Q4 average daily receipts from customers was up by 15 percent on the Q3 2005 average daily receipts of US $3.64 million.
Average daily receipts from customers for the full year 2005 was US$3.4 million, up by 90 percent on average daily receipts for 2004 of US $1.8 million.
By the end of 2005, Neteller had 2,320,670 signed-up customers, an increase of 1,069,318 or 86 percent from 1,251,031 on 31 December 2004. An average of 3197 customers signed up every day throughout the fourth quarter last year, an increase of 54 percent over the corresponding period in 2004.
Ron Martin, newly-appointed president and chief executive of Neteller, said: ?Neteller has continued to show excellent growth across all areas of the business in the fourth quarter and the full year results will demonstrate the continuing strength of the company.?
Almost 850 000 new players signed up in 2005...and 30 percent were from outside the USA
The world?s largest online gaming operator Party Gaming has released its fourth quarter trading update showing some impressive results.
Party Gaming is a public company listed in London which owns PartyPoker, the largest online poker room with millions of players around the world.
Group revenues for the quarter were up 65 percent to US$320.3 million compared with US$194 million for the same period in 2004. Net poker revenues (excluding skins) were up by 31 percent compared with the previous year to US$233.7 million.
Company spokesmen said the growth reflected the increase in player sign-up numbers and the improvement in player yield.
The new blackjack offering appears to have distracted poker players, because for the three months to December 31 2005, yield per active player day increased by only 8 percent, but was down from US$19.1 compared with the same 2004 period.
New real money players playing on PartyPoker.com increased to 229,227 during the quarter, bringing the total number of real money signups for the year to 839,317, ahead of PartyGaming?s stated target of 800,000.
Average daily revenue during Q4 was US$2.5 million compared with US$1.9 million for the same period in 2004, an all time high for a quarterly period since the launch of the PartyPoker site in August 2001, the company said.
More than 30 percent of the poker sign-ups came from outside the USA, with European Union (EU) and Scandinavian countries providing most of the players.
Richard Segal, PartyGaming chief executive, said: ?Excluding the UK, Europe provided 7.5 percent of our group revenues in Q4 compared with Q3 2005 while the UK supplied 2.5 percent revenues for the same period. North American players provided 82 percent of our revenues compared with 84 percent in the same period.?
Net casino revenues were US$82.3 million in Q4, way ahead of the US$11 million achieved in Q3 2005. While sign-up numbers were consistent with previous quarters, the significant upturn in casino figures was the result of cross-selling blackjack through PartyPoker.com with 44 percent of all active poker players in the period also playing blackjack, the company said.
With the strong performance of blackjack, daily net casino revenue reached an average of US$ 900 000 per day compared with an average in the previous year of $100 000.
?During the quarter, 44 percent of active PartyPoker.com players also played blackjack, which had a substantial and sustained impact on the profitability of the group. The success of blackjack has transformed our casino business and proved very popular with a large number of our poker players. PartyGaming?s next major milestone will be the launch of the fully-integrated platform and shared purse in the first half of 2006,? Segal said.
Contrary to recent press reports, Segal added that the legal dispute between PartyGaming and Empire Online over the termination of the ?skins? agreement in October 2005 would be lengthy and protracted and ?Although there is some uncertainty with any litigation, PartyGaming is confident or achieving a successful outcome?.
FORMER MINING COMPANY LAUNCHES POKER ROOM
3 February 2006
But what software is this?
Readers may recall publicity last year in which the Golden Spirit Mining Company announced the unlikely intention to operate an Internet poker site.
This week these intentions materialised in the form of a renamed company (now it's Golden Spirit Gaming) and an average sort of online poker site branded Golden Spirit Poker.com. Unfortunately there is not a lot of significant information (like network and poker software in use) upfront here, and the live chat Support refused point blank to disclose this fundamental information.
We can tell you that the site claimed to have 14 295 players in action when we visited, which would seem to indicate a reasonably effective network, if we knew which one it was.
The site does offer a multitude of financial options including Neteller, Nexum Financial, 900Pay and eWallet Express, and it offers free lessons for novices with the basics of the game to speed up the learning curve.
There's also play for free or for real facilities, a nondescript sort of online casino option and various tournaments. The bonusing looks generous at a matchplay signup on all deposits over $50, but its maxed at $250 and caution is needed on ascertaining what the WT is. There's also a $30 bonus on all re-ups. The domain is owned by Arc2 Intertainment out of Vancouver, and the licensing is from Curacao.
COULD DELAY, ABRAMOFF SCANDAL MOTIVATE A BAN?
3 February 2006
Republican lawmakers could make a more determined attempt to ban following lobbying scandal
Speculation that the recent lobbyist scandals in Washington could result in a more determined attempt this year to crush online gambling was presented this week in an interesting article in IGN.
The article theorises that because US lobbyist and politician Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay may have manipulated voting and other factors surrounding the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act in 2000, Republican lawmakers could seek to distance themselves from political scandal by again launching an online gambling prohibition bill in 2006.
The legitimacy of events surrounding voting on the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act of 2000 first came under suspicion in October 2005 when the Washington Post reported that an aide of Rep. Tom DeLay helped defeat the bill after receiving favors from Jack Abramoff.
DeLay, who until recently was House Majority Leader, is now under indictment for criminal conspiracy while Abramoff, a Republican lobbyist and fundraiser, has already pleaded guilty to several political crimes and faces more charges.
One of several contenders for DeLay's vacated position as Leader of the House, Rep. John Shadegg has on several occasions mentioned his five-point plan for reforms he would pursue if voted into the position, and among those five priorities is obtaining another vote on legislation to prohibit online gambling.
Last week Shedegg wrote in a Congressional newspaper "In 2000, a ban on Internet gambling received 245 votes on the suspension calendar, but, according to news accounts, we were kept from passing it because of Jack Abramoff?s machinations and manipulation. Passing it now would be good public policy and a clear signal that the era of Abramoff's influence is over."
At the moment Shadegg, who has confirmed support from only about ten House Rebublicans, seems to be the long-shot candidate for the House Majority Leader election that will take place on February 2. The best odds are on Rep. Roy Blunt, who has secured 91 votes, followed by Rep. John Boehner with 47 votes. A candidate needs 117 votes to win the election.
Even though Shadegg has only an extremely thin chance of winning, the I-gaming industry is not completely safe from prohibition becoming a serious part of the Republican agenda in 2006. There is always the possibility that Shadegg could withdraw from the race and throw his support behind one of the other candidates in exchange for their vowing to concentrate some effort on his five-point platform. Also, the other two candidates are also pledging to make reforms a crucial part of their agendas.
Rep. Jim Leach, who has authored prohibitory I-gaming legislation during the last five Congressional sessions, says the bill he introduced in November 2005 has been gaining momentum as the Abramoff scandal has gained more attention.
"We expect this to move sometime this year," stated a Leach spokesperson to news publication American Banker last week. Leach's bill has already attracted 23 co-sponsors, including Rep. Spencer Bacchus, who chairs the House subcommittee with jurisdiction over financial institutions and has been a vigorous supporter of I-gaming prohibition in the past.
Other lobbying groups played a significant role in blocking the 2000 bill. Concerned groups such as the National Indian Gaming Association, various state lotteries, Internet service providers and the Interactive Gaming Council all concentrated lobbying efforts on defeating the bill.
Meanwhile, Sen. Jon Kyl is believed to be ready to introduce an identical prohibitory bill in the Senate soon. Doing so would eliminate the hurdle of merging two competing versions of the bill at a later date.
Last week InfoPowa carried the story of an American 20-something hacker who managed to access US Defence computers. The activities of Jeanson James Ancheta have captured more newspaper headlines this week as details of his moves become public.
The Downey, California, resident worked in an Internet cafe and hoped to join the military reserves. Given his modest aspirations, Ancheta lived an upbeat lifestyle, driving a BMW and spending upward of $600 a week on new clothes and car parts.
Last week in a Los Angeles federal court, Ancheta pleaded guilty to four felony charges of violating United States Code Section 1030, Fraud and Related Activity in Connection with Computers.
According to the multiple-count indictment, Ancheta authored a worm that allowed him to infect as many computers on the Internet as he could with off-the-shelf remote access Trojans (RATs). These include common home computers without firewall and antivirus protection.
Ancheta's worm-compromised computers installed a custom version of rxbot, a commonly available Trojan horse, customised to listen to an IRC channel in Ancheta's control. Over time, he amassed about 40,000 worm-infected remote access computers or bots.
Incredibly, some of the bots included computers at the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) in Falls Church and at China Lake Naval Air Facility in California. The DISA offers network-based solutions for the President, the Vice President, and the Secretary of Defense.
Shortly after acquiring his first 1,000 bots, Ancheta went into business. To control his growing army, Ancheta rented a hosted server where he installed IRC and hosted a Web site. The Web site advertised rental prices and advice to other cybercriminals. On it, he suggested how many of his bots one would need to take down companies of various sizes. The indictment lists a few exchanges with individuals who took Ancheta up on his offer, individuals who went on to create denial-of-service (DoS) attacks against US companies. Soon Ancheta had as many as 40 000 bots at his disposal.
Ancheta also entered the murky world of Adware - parasitic programs installed on computers (often without notification) Online vendors, such as gambling, marketing affiliate or pornography sites often sign up affiliate Web sites that download the programs to anyone visiting.
He became involved in adware companies currently facing complaints for unfair business practices, and began to direct all the remote-controlled zombie computers to hit their affiliate servers, which then automatically downloaded and installed adware on his compromised botnet computers and in turn netted a sum of money, via PayPal, for Ancheta.
Overall, Ancheta is said to have made about $60,000 over a six-month period.
This criminal activity was not the result of a mafia crime syndicate, but the work of one young adult employed at an Internet cafe. Industry observers speculate that quite apart from Eastern European invasions there are probably hundreds like him, operating as yet unexposed botnets.
It underlines the very real threats to business and personal computing equipment that these hackers can constitute.
Minimum protection recommended by the experts is a two-way firewall (one way blocks malicious incoming traffic, and the other protects against adware that attempts to broadcast personal data to third parties). The best solution is probably to install an Internet security suite.
BRITISH MINISTER PROPOSES INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION ON REGULATION
3 February 2006
Reiterates the need for stringent control
British government officials were again proposing internationally consistent regulations for online casinos and poker rooms this week.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Richard Caborn, the minister responsible for gambling, raised the possibility of international restrictions to protect internet gamblers.
Mr Caborn said that Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary, would be inviting her foreign counterparts "...to see whether we can look at some international regulation whereby we can look at these issues of problem gambling on the internet". He said that his department planned to involve credit card issuers in discussions.
The proposal to put together an international summit to create better and more consistent international regulation was enthusiastically received by many Internet gambling bodies when it was suggested earlier this month, and both the new UK Gambling Commission and government offices in Britain were bombarded with requests from interested parties for more information and expressing support.
Several licensing jurisdictions and private standards bodies such as eCOGRA have been exchanging views and information on their systems and regulations for some time, and this has already led to the Kahnawake and Malta jurisdictions signing cooperation agreements with eCOGRA concerned the acceptability of outcomes-based software verification, operational and probity checking requirements and player dispute resolution channels.
German-facing companies have long discovered that this is an attractive potential market for online gambling, and the latest eMarketer study on Internet usage is therefore of interest.
eMarketer's new study Germany Online shows that more than 83 percent of Germans aged 14-29 use the Internet. Usage is high for most age groups in the country, with 50 percent of those under 60 reportedly using the Web. Only those 60 and older are largely offline, with a mere 20 percent of that group using the Internet.
"In assessing the growth of the Internet, and e-commerce in particular, many marketers, as well as many analysts, tend to overlook Germany," says James Belcher, eMarketer Senior Analyst and author of the new Germany Online report.
"That's a mistake. Germany is the third-largest economy in the world, right behind the US and Japan, and what happens there - and when and why it happens - is vitally important to the growth of the Internet's infrastructure and economy."
More than two-thirds of working people are online in the country, and Internet capability is now a requirement for many jobs. At-work Internet users tend to be online at home, too.
"The Internet has a huge presence in German life, both public and professional, and Germany is a huge presence in the world economy," says Mr. Belcher. "Marketers who ignore these facts are missing a huge opportunity."
Germany's Internet users are also heavy online shoppers, making the country the largest e-commerce market in Western Europe. Comfort with the Internet has encouraged a nation of active online shoppers predicted to spend over $108 billion in 2008.
eMarketer's Germany Online report has a wealth of ainstakingly researched information, and is available at eMarketer.com.
Next Bodog Marketing Conference will be at Wynn Las Vegas
The marketing guys will want in on this one - set to take place at the Wynn Las Vegas July 23-25, the third annual Bodog.com Marketing Conference will focus on providing the tools necessary to "Ignite Your Online Gaming Business."
Attendees will have the opportunity to learn about and discuss customer acquisition, retention and loyalty - the business issues that all online marketers face. These issues came up as the areas of interest requested by previous years' attendees. As a result, this year's conference will have an even stronger lineup of speakers and seminar topics with lessons to help the online gaming space prosper and grow.
"Our goal is to make each Bodog conference better than the last, and this year's event is already shaping up to be the most exhilarating yet," said Bodog.com Founder and CEO Calvin Ayre.
Along with the Bodog.com Conference's ongoing theme of Work Hard, Play Harder, the 2006 event will highlight the subject areas of Seduce, Induce, Ignite.
Seduce = Get new customers - that's always a goal of any successful business. The 2006 Bodog.com Marketing Conference will teach proven ways to acquire new clients.
Induce = Keep your customers loyal to your enterprise. At the Bodog.com Marketing Conference, speakers from an array of fields will educate registrants on how to build customer relationships that last.
Ignite = Grow your venture to its fullest. With the outrageous expansion of the online gaming industry, businesses need to know how to manage that growth and how to make decisions today that will not undermine chances for success in the future.
Keep checking the Bodog.com Marketing Conference web site at www.bodogconference.com for the unveiling of this year's speakers.