CAP ONLINE GAMING NEWS WEEKLY REVIEW 06/06/08
[B][COLOR="Indigo"]PARTYGAMING US SETTLEMENT IN SIGHT?[/COLOR][/B]
London market reacts to Friday rumours
Party Gaming spokesmen have declined to comment, but as the week ended there was more than a frisson of excitement on the London market as rumours circulated that the online gambling group has reached a settlement in its negotiations on its pre-UIGEA situation with the US Department of Justice.
The continued attraction of online gaming stocks was illustrated by the positive reaction to the rumour, which saw leading industry companies benefiting from share price increases – Party shares climbing 16 percent, Sportingbet 20 percent and 888.com nearly 8 percent.
PartyGaming began negotiations with the Justice Department in June 2007 (see previous InfoPowa report) as industry concern spread over possible legal action against Internet companies that took bets from Americans before a 2006 law barred financial transactions with online gambling companies.
Any settlement by Gibraltar-based PartyGaming would be "material'' and would "give people a better idea what they were worth if they were open to acquisition,'' Mark Brumby, an analyst at Blue Oar Securities in London told Bloomberg business news.
"The rumour going around is that they've [Party Gaming] settled with the U.S. Department of Justice,'' CMC Markets trader Claire Collingwood informed Bloomberg.
As we went to press there had been no clarification from Party Gaming.
SPECULATION RAMPANT ON PARTY GAMING U.S. DEAL
Did Party agree to a billion dollar settlement with the US DOJ?
Friday's rumours around a possible settlement between the US Department of Justice and Party Gaming (see previous InfoPowa reports) have continued to inspire extensive speculation in both Internet and print media, although no official confirmation has yet been issued by the London-listed company itself.
The New York Post published an article by Paul Tharp claiming that unidentified sources had revealed that redeeming Party Gaming's pre-UIGEA "crimes" was going to cost the online gambling group a whopping $ 1 billion.
After outlining the nature of the rumours that have sparked the latest speculation, the article quoted "industry sources" on the $1 billion penalty which comes after extensive negotiation between the Department and Party Gaming officials seeking to clean the slate on pre-2006 activities in the USA.
The writer recalls that PartyGaming's husband-and-wife founders, Russ de Leon and Ruth Parisol, earned a $7 billion windfall when they took the company public in London, but could be bankrolling part of the alleged massive settlement to avoid shareholder backlash.
One online-gaming authority, law professor Joseph Kelly at the State University of New York-Buffalo, opined: "They may be paying a huge fine to get this behind them, but it won't get them any closer to online betting here anytime soon."
[B][COLOR="indigo"]ECOGRA APPROVED AS AN ISLE OF MAN ACCREDITED TESTING FACILITY [/COLOR][/B]
eCOGRA’s Total Gaming Transaction Review recognised to assess payout percentages and Random Number Generation fairness
The independent online gambling standards and player protection organisation eCOGRA has been approved as an accredited testing facility by the Gambling Supervision Commission on the Isle of Man, a premier European licensing jurisdiction.
The accreditation followed extensive presentations by eCOGRA Chief Executive Andrew Beveridge, the organisation's independent directors and audit team to the Commission earlier this year, which delivered credentials and explained the testing methodology used.
Commenting on the accreditation, Beveridge said: “We are delighted that a regulator of the calibre of the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission has accepted our credentials, audit experience and professional qualifications after intensive study. Our testing principles and methodologies have now been recognised by several international jurisdictions concerned with protecting players through the professional and continuous testing of online casino and poker room operators.
"Over 130 tier one online casinos and poker rooms currently use our test and audit services, and we number 25 leading operator companies and 16 quality software providers among our clientele. In addition, we have the added scrutiny of the leading audit firm KPMG through its annual quality assurance reviews, thus providing an unrivalled verification programme.“
The organisation's Total Gaming Transaction Review, used for continuous monitoring and data analyses to assess accurate payout percentages and certify Random Number Generation fairness, has previously been extensively evaluated and accredited by other leading jurisdictional authorities.
eCOGRA’s professionally qualified specialist team provides the most comprehensive data verification service available to online gambling operators to date.
The service includes:
* Onsite audits to ensure that software used by the online casinos and poker rooms is being developed, implemented and maintained in a manner representative of best professional practice standards;
* Independent verification of the completeness and accuracy of all data used in the calculation of the payout percentage and RNG reports;
* Annual quality assurance reviews by leading audit firm KPMG on the methodology and processes used to produce the payout percentage and RNG reports; and
* Continuous oversight and monitoring of accredited online gambling operations following approval by eCOGRA’s independent directors.
eCOGRA is a non-profit London-based organisation that sets online gambling standards and provides an international framework for best operational and player protection practice requirements, with particular emphasis on fair and responsible gambling. These are enforced through inspections and reviews, and continuous monitoring.
Companies that have achieved accreditation with eCOGRA are entitled to bear the organisation's "Safe and Fair" seal, indicating to players everywhere that all operational systems and games are fair and continuously monitored to consistently high standards.
Accreditation remains open to all software companies and their operators. For more information, go to www.ecogra.org.
[COLOR="indigo"][B]EUROPEAN COMMISSION INVESTIGATION INTO WTO DISPUTE UNDERWAY[/B][/COLOR]
Investigators want answers from the US on a range of questions.
Despite its controversially secret compensation deal with the European Union over its unilateral withdrawal of gambling from its World Trade Organisation obligations, the United States is still the subject of a European Commission investigation, and this week the publication Inside Trade gave the latest progress on the enquiry.
According to the London-based pressure group Safe and Secure Internet Gaming Initiative, the report reveals that the Commission has submitted a list of questions to leading US officials concerning a possible US trade violation for discriminatory trade practices against European online gambling companies.
It is known that several major online gambling companies in Europe, backed by the Remote Gaming Association, pushed for the EC enquiry, having gained little if any direct benefit from the compensation deal, details of which have been withheld by the US government.
The European Commission investigation was launched in March this (2008) year (see previous InfoPowa report). At the time, the EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said: "The US has the right to address legitimate public policy concerns relating to Internet gambling, but discrimination against EU companies cannot be part of the policy mix. We are interested in a constructive and mutually satisfactory solution to this issue."
The Commissioner had previously remarked that the United States should consider opening its market to overseas operators as a solution to the WTO trade dispute over Internet gambling, commenting: "I think [Representative Frank) takes a fair-minded commonsense approach."
The SSIGI quotes Naotaka Matsukata, formerly director of policy planning for US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and now a senior adviser to Alston and Bird, LLP as opining: "The cumulative effect of US-WTO related actions over the past year has forced the EU to take this dramatic step. The line of enquiry opened by the questionnaire could reveal that the US is engaging in unfair, discriminatory, and selective prosecution of European online gaming operators."
"If the EU takes the nuclear option and brings the US to the WTO, serious damage could be inflicted on the bilateral relationship at a delicate time in trasatlantic relations," added Matsukata. "Rather than taking this risk, the USTR should work with Congress, as the United States Constitution instructs, to resolve the dispute by adopting Congressman Frank's Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act to bring the US into WTO compliance."
Congressman Barney Frank's bill, HR 2046, would resolve the trade dispute by regulating Internet gambling and creating a level playing field among domestic and foreign Internet gambling operators.
"The European Commission investigation further highlights the reckless manner in which the USTR has sought a protectionist trade policy, setting a precedent that threatens to expand beyong online gambling into other areas of trade," said Jeffrey Sandman, spokesperson for the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative.
"Congress should not sit on the sidelines as the USTR unilaterally grants trade concessions and hypocritically discriminates against foreign online gambling operators. Congress needs to become part of the decision making process and create a non-discriminatory market for Internet gambling in the US as the way to restore integrity to the international trading system."
The investigation by the European Commission is the result of a Trade Barrier Regulation complaint filed by the Remote Gaming Association (RGA), which represents the largest remote gambling companies in Europe. The RGA claims the US violates international trade law by threatening and pursueing criminal prosecutions, forfeitures and other enforcement actions against foreign Internet gambling operators, while allowing domestic US online gambling operators primarily horsebetting, to flourish.
After the investigation, the European Commission could pursue discussions with the US to find an appropriate solution to end the dicrimination. If the parties cannot themselves settle the matter, the Commission could bring a case against the US to the WTO.
[B][COLOR="indigo"]WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE TO BECOME AN INSTANT MULTI-MILLIONAIRE? [/COLOR][/B]Online gambler won 11 million times original bet!
What does it feel like to wager 50 cents and reap a reward of five and a half million dollars? The question was answered this week in a follow-up story to the gigantic win of a Finnish player at the Blackjack Ballroom.com online casino site earlier this year (see previous InfoPowa report).
Online gambler Klaus E. from Finland made that 50 cent bet, and one click and 3 seconds later, the reels aligned, the screen lit up, the bells rang out… and Klaus E was $5.5 million richer! In an interview with Casino Rewards, the group behind BlackjackBallroom.com, Klaus revealed his reactions and emotions when the big hit took place.
"When I saw 5 556 753 flash on my computer screen I thought it was a US phone number," the super-lucky Finn recalled this week. "It couldn't be a jackpot, I must be mistaken! So I just got up from my table, went outside to clear my head, and then came back in again for another look… and noticed $5.5 million sitting in my casino account!"
Klaus soon realised it was no mistake, and certainly no telephone number – he had just made online gambling history as the winner of one of the biggest jackpot payouts ever!
"I got a phone call from Casino Rewards support who were very reassuring and helpful, and the next thing I knew I was on a plane to Australia to pick up my winning check!" he continues. "In Sydney, the Casino Rewards team took me to the wildlife park, the aquarium and a restaurant by the Opera House. The highlight of my trip? Apart from collecting my enormous check, it was having my photo taken with a koala bear!"
Whilst most jackpot winners choose to splash out on flashy sports cars, mansions and expensive designer labels, sensible Klaus has chosen a wiser option for his cash:
"I don't want any sports cars, as I don't even have a driving license, but maybe I'll invest. Oh, and some holidays too!"
[B][COLOR="indigo"]UK GAMBLING COMMISSION TO PROBE SHIRT SPONSORSHIP DEALS[/COLOR][/B]
Some of the industry's top firms could be impacted by a possible future ban
Disquieting sportsbetting news from the mainstream newspaper Edinburgh Evening News over the weekend is that football shirt sponsorship deals between online gambling companies and UK football clubs could be banned if it is decided that they encourage children to gamble.
The newspaper reports that the Gambling Commission has announced that it will investigate whether shirt sponsorship deals – such as those at Middlesbrough and Tottenham Hotspur – unfairly expose young fans to online casinos or gambling sites. Government ministers are apparently being put under pressure to prevent problem gambling and to stop gambling influencing children and vulnerable people.
Companies such as 888 Holdings, 32 Red, Bet24 and Mansion could be at risk of losing deals with Premiership clubs if a ban is imposed that seeks to strip the clubs of multi-million pound sponsorships, the newspaper reports.
The Edinburgh Evening News quotes marketing consultants Brand Rapport, who comment that online gambling interest has helped drive shirt sponsorship deals in Premiership football up by 25 percent to around GBP 70 million – with Spurs, Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough the main clubs to benefit.
[B][COLOR="indigo"]MAJOR ONLINE ROULETTE WINNER[/COLOR][/B]
Sussex businessman wine GBP 1.42 million at William Hill Online
Sussex businessman and Internet gambler Jason H. will by now be viewing a brilliant GBP 1 426 000 addition to his bank account following a bold winning streak on the virtual roulette tables at William Hill Casino.com.
For the forty-something Brit, who is a regular player at Will Hill, the lucky number combination is 23, and it came up trumps for him last week. Starting off with his usual bets, Mr. H built up his balance after a good run…and then his good fortune really kicked in. He wagered his entire balance around his lucky number and then watched in happy amazement as it came in for him, netting a cool six-figure amount.
Not content to stop there he followed the same tactics to see 23 drop again and again, boosting his payout to a total of GBP 1 426 000. At this point, Jason H couldn't believe his run of luck and he called the casino to check that his computer wasn't playing up and confirm his win was real.
"It was real alright," confirmed Hills spokesman David Hood.
''We must be the world's luckiest betting company……. for punters! Since Christmas, we have written three GBP 1+ million cheques out to winning customers and at this rate we're aiming to tackle the credit crunch one 'Willionaire' at a time! For Jason H, it wasn't a case of third time lucky, but 'twenty-third' time lucky as the number '23' came up several times in short succession. The client, because he was on such a hot streak kept increasing his stakes with his winnings until he hit that magical GBP 1.4 million win. Incredible!''
Mr. H's win comes just weeks after Yorkshireman Fred Craggs's historic GBP 1 million pound 8-horse accumulator win from a 50p bet, and hot on the heels of another Hills internet casino player, Mr X, who celebrated Christmas with a GBP 1 million slot machine win.
[B][COLOR="indigo"]CANADIAN MEDIA REACTS TO ULTIMATEBET SCANDAL[/COLOR][/B]
Claim that confidence in Kahnawke regulators has been shaken
Yesterday's statement by Tokwiro Enterprises ENRG concerning a cheating scandal at its online poker site UltimateBet.com (see previous InfoPowa report) received almost immediate attention in the Canadian media.
The National Post claimed that confidence in the ability of Mohawk regulators to police lucrative online gambling operations on the Kahnawake reserve has been shaken following the second cheating scandal in less than a year. UltimateBet's stablemate in the Tokwiro group, Absolute Poker.com, was involved in a similar debacle last year and was fined half a million dollars by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission.
The Post's report detailed the content of the Tokwiro announcement, noting that the company is headed by former Kahnawake grand chief Joe Norton, and that the company had refused to disclose the amount of fraudulent winnings. The report quoted poker observers as saying that the amount runs into the millions and that an analysis of the scandal on the online poker forum twoplustwo.com found that one of the cheaters alone won more than $600 000 in the space of four months last year. The software glitch at the heart of the affair was in place for at least 15 months.
The National Post report quotes industry analyst Bobby Mamudi, who said the new cheating incident is another blow to the reputation of Kahnawake's gambling industry. "They definitely do seem to be losing credibility and not doing too much about it," he said. He called the cheating uncovered in Kahnawake "quite unique" in the global online gambling world. Sites taking bets on sporting events have been shut down for failing to have sufficent funds to pay winners. "There's never been something like this to do with poker and this kind of overt cheating," he said.
The Post takes a look at the historical background to the Mohawk regulatory jurisdiction, commenting that the Canadian federal government considers the 400 or so poker and sports-betting sites operating from Kahnawake to be illegal, but, fearing a confrontation, both the federal and provincial governments have been reluctant to intervene.
"Last March, however, an aide to Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said the government was studying ways of shutting down the gambling, possibly by targeting financial transactions with illegal Internet operators," it claims.
Murray Marshall, legal counsel to the gaming commission, told the National Post that Kahnawake's regulation is among "the tightest in the world" and said similar frauds have occurred in casino gambling and banking. "We would obviously prefer to prevent all possibilities of this kind of thing happening, but no system is infallible," he said.
Steven Ware, author of an upcoming book on poker strategy is also quoted in the report, having followed the UltimateBet controversy closely since players first voiced their suspicions online in January 2008. In an analysis on twoplustwo.com of cheater NioNio's winning hands, he wrote that the odds of someone getting that lucky were "about the same as winning the powerball [lottery] jackpot three days in a row."
In an interview with the newspaper, Ware said stricter oversight is needed of the Kahnawake gambling sites.
"Online poker is a billion-dollar-a-year industry, and it's unfathomable that companies in this industry would operate with a total lack of transparency, beyond the reach of the law," he said. "Kahnawake and the online gambling sites that it runs have shown time and time again that they are not willing to keep their games fair or protect the players."
UltimateBet officials declined an invitation by the National Post to be interviewed. In an e-mailed statement, the company said the "perpetrators" of the fraud left the company "well before the fraudulent activity was uncovered." Asked whether the matter has been referred to the police, the company said only that it is in the hands of the [Kahnawake] gaming commission.
[B][COLOR="indigo"]FANTASY W.S.O.P. AT PKR[/COLOR][/B]
You don't have to go to Vegas to enjoy some of the fun
The PKR.com online poker site marketers have come up with a novel promotion to tap into the excitement that the annual World Series of Poker in Vegas always generates – fantasy WSOP.
With virtually all the big names in poker gravitating toward the gambling mecca to compete in poker's biggest championship, it makes sense to structure a fantasy promotion based on names like Joe Hachem, Phil Hellmuth, Chris Ferguson, Greg Raymer, Phil Ivey and hundreds of other talented and well known poker aces.
And that's just what PKR is doing – offering players and poker fans a chance to put money on their fave players with a World Series of Poker fantasy league. Entry into the competition is free, and cash prizes will be awarded to the 10 participants with the most points at the end of the series.
Contestants are required to put together a winning team of 10 poker professionals, working from a list of 300 famous names provided by the online poker site. Players have a notional GBP 5 000 budget with which to "buy" the professionals for their team, with a per head cost of between GBP 100 to GBP 1 000 for each ace.
The 300 players on the list will then be tracked throughout 32 of the World Series of Poker's 55 events, with points per player awarded on the basis of Top 20 finishes.
Once the competition events have been concluded at the WSOP, the top ten teams on points will each get a share of GBP 1 500 prize-pool.
PKR is itself getting in on the action, with a dream team that includes Barry Greenstein and Phil Hellmuth, and this is the one to beat – any player who's team scores higher than PKR's choice will win entry into another GBP 500 Fantasy Freeroll competition.
PKR will update its leaderboard for the fantasy league after each event of the WSOP, with the final results published after the completion of the Main Event in November.
Recent reports and statistics on the independent Internet poker information site Pokerscouts.com indicate that PKR.com continues to grow at a cracking pace and is set to hit 1.75 million registered users soon. Current developments have seen the 3D site overtake major competitors in the poker popularity stakes, including Cryptologic and Ladbrokes, in online rankings.
Despite eschewing play from the United States, it is currently ranked 17th on Pokerscout.
The company has also moved into the online casino sector, launching the Playtech-powered PKR Casino.com licenced in Alderney in March this year.
[B][COLOR="indigo"]DYNAMITE GAMES FOR 888.COM [/COLOR][/B]
Gibraltar online gambling groups continues the expansion of its cross-platform offering
Adding to its growing cross-platform games agreements with Rival, Cryptologic and GTS (see previous InfoPowa reports) the Gibraltar-based online gambling group 888.com has signed an agreement with Boss Media games developer subsidiary Dynamite Idea.
A 888.com statement this week reveals that it will integrate Dynamite Idea games into the group gaming inventory, gaming history and shared wallet, and will make the offerings available to customers at 888 websites and those of its white label partners. The agreement continues 888's dynamic strategy of integrating popular third party games on to its Integration Platform.
Dynamite Idea is part of the Boss Media Group and an established operator in the e-gaming industry, having provided gaming software to leading online gaming operators for over 7 years. The developer's portfolio has over 200 titles, including high performing games such as 'Triple Chance Hi Lo', which operate online, on mobile phones and other platforms.
Gabi Campos, Senior VP, Head of Offering for 888 said: "The number of new 888 customers from offerings launched in the last 12
months, such as Bingo and Sportsbook, is growing constantly. We are expanding our internal activities to build brand loyalty by the provision of best of breed games to complement our core offering. Dynamite Idea has developed a games portfolio of proven
popularity and this represents a significant source of exciting titles we offer our customers."
Dynamite Idea's CEO Simon Caddy, said: "We are delighted to add 888 to our client list. Our key gaming content includes the likes of Casino Dice, Aces High and many other titles that have constantly proved to be popular with players. We look forward to the launch of our package of games to the 888 players."
[B][COLOR="indigo"]PARIS ONLINE GAMBLING RULING GOES AGAINST EXPEKT AND UNIBET[/COLOR][/B]
Two online sites fined, banned over Roland-Garros betting
Adding yet more legal confusion to the monopolistic gambling scenario in France, just when logic and reason appeared to be emerging in relation to its commitments to EU principles, a French court has ruled against online betting companies regarding tennis game bets.
Two Internet sites were banned last Friday by a French court from taking online bets in France on matches at the ongoing Roland-Garros tennis championship in Paris. Ironically, the French Tennis Federation launched a similar action in the Belgian city of Liege, which was dismissed at the end of April (see previous InfoPowa reports).
The two internet gaming groups involved, Unibet and Expekt are both based in Malta. They were ordered to pay a total of Euros 800 000 (US$1.24 million) in damages and interest to the French Tennis Federation, which claims the rights to the popular sporting classic.
Both firms have said that they intend to appeal the ruling, in a statement issued by the European Gaming and Betting Association to which both belong.
In two distinct rulings, the Tribunal de Grande Instance court in Paris ruled that both sites "violated the operating monopoly conferred on the French Tennis Federation (as) the organisers of the tournament." It ordered Expekt to pay Euro 300 000 euros in damages and interest, and Unibet Euro 500 000.
"Promoting their on-line betting business by referring, without being required to, the French Open, otherwise known as Roland Garros'' is a "parasitic act'' that infringes on the federation's rights, Judge Veronique Renard said in the 14-page decision.
The Roland-Garros event, one of four major tournaments in professional tennis, continues this week with the women's final set for June 7 and the men's for June 8.
French Tennis Federation lawyer Fabienne Fajgenbaum said "…this is the first decision that is so clear on the exclusive rights of exploitation" of the Roland-Garros event.
The case hinged on a French law that prohibits betting on sporting events which are not organised by the French national lottery operator, Francaise des Jeux.
The EGBA said Friday's judgement in Paris merely demonstrated "the contradictions between different European courts."
"We regret that a French judge has prevented French Internet users from placing bets on their favourite tennis tournament, whilst Belgians can continue to enjoy this form of increasingly popular entertainment," said secretary general Sigrid Ligne, noting that Francaise des Jeux is currently under the European Commission spotlight over the legal status of its monopoly. "We do not believe that the decision issued is legally valid.''
[B][COLOR="indigo"]INTERACTIVE TV AND INTERNET BETTING ATTACKED IN AUSTRALIA [/COLOR][/B]
Private bill wants government rethink on interactive television and Internet gambling
In the Australian Parliament, a private member bill has been launched by Opposition MP Bruce Billson which seeks to ban interactive betting through pay-television channels, reports The Australian newspaper this week.
Billson said he was concerned about the despair, economic and emotional hardship caused by problem gambling, and this had motivated his Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2008 which could directly affect Two-Way TV, a company which recently signed a deal with Victorian wagering group Tabcorp and pay-TV group Foxtel to provide interactive betting through the Sky Racing pay-TV channel (see previous InfoPowa report).
"Pay-TV gambling has commenced in Victoria with racing and many suspect it is just a matter of time before pressure mounts to extend it to betting on football codes, other sports and even in virtual casinos across the country," Billson said.
"This private member's bill was motivated by the failure of the Rudd Labor Government to act to stop an insidious new form of pay-TV gambling," he added. "It seeks to prohibit the roll-out of new gambling technology in the form of subscription television based interactive gambling (and) rejects the suggestion by proponents and gambling revenue-addicted state Labor governments that this new form of gambling is no big deal and is simply an extension of telephone and internet betting."
The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2008 additionally calls on the Australian government to review the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 which allows wagering over the phone or Internet.
"The bill makes it absolutely clear that the limited exemption to current interactive gambling prohibitions, permitting wagering over the phone or Internet, does not allow for interactive subscription television gambling with all the sound, sights and stimuli of race day in the family lounge," Billson said.
The MP pointed out that the Commonwealth's 2004 Review of the Operations of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 expressed concern that interactive gambling, including television-based platforms "would potentially normalise aberrant gambling behaviour and exacerbate the social harm associated with problem gambling".
The Opposition said its bill had the support of the Victorian Interfaith Gambling Taskforce and its interstate affiliates, Clubs NSW and anti-gambling campaigner Reverend Tim Costello.
[B][COLOR="indigo"]TAIKAI – THE NEW SOCIAL BETTING GAME[/COLOR][/B]
Betfair and Jadestone partner in a unique service
The Swedish online game services provider Jadestone has developed and launched a new social betting game with UK betting giant Betfair as its partner. The game, branded TaiKai, is available on Betfair’s site and it is claimed to represent a new gambling genre: tournament betting.
Developed by Jadestone from a Betfair concept, TaiKai combines Betfair’s successful person-to-person betting with social web functions inspired by the likes of MySpace and Facebook. Jadestone was chosen for its experience in online game development after a rigorous selection process, and work on the project started in mid-2007, a company spokesman revealed.
TaiKai enables people to engage in friendly competition with each other, giving them a chance to show their sports knowledge and win money. Players pick a tournament from a range of sports and leagues, place virtual bets using TaiKai Dollars and pay the buy-in that forms the prize pot. Players win by accumulating the most virtual profit by the end of the tournament. Along the way, players can customise their avatars, review each others bets and banter to their hearts content. TaiKai can be played for fun or for money. In addition to playing against friends, players can also play against other TaiKai members in public tournaments.
"This is a truly exciting new game for Jadestone, for Betfair and for the wide audience of sports bettors and sports enthusiasts across the Internet", said Robert Henrysson, CEO of Jadestone. "TaiKai represents the coming together of online betting and social sports game playing. It provides a fun, dynamic and rich game playing experience today and we are all very confident that it will support a rapidly growing social and competitive online community".
The two Betfair directors who took TaiKai from concept to launching the business, Sajeeve Bahl and Roger Ahn, jointly commented:
"The launch of the TaiKai tournament betting product is the culmination of more than 12 months of thorough analysis, complex programme management, intense game production and customer research. We are very excited and very proud to have reached our goals for launch and we are extremely happy with the partnership with Jadestone. We think TaiKai will really take off. It’s a great product for all people who think that they know a sport, have some like-minded friends, and want to compete with them to prove their opinion and win some money".
The game is available on Betfair’s TaiKai.com site.
[B][COLOR="indigo"]TEN YEARS OF CASINOMEISTER[/COLOR][/B]
Another industry veteran celebrates a decade of service
With industry pioneers like Intertops, Microgaming and Cryptologic all celebrating a decade of online gambling business this year, the respected portal Casinomeister.com has joined the trend, maintaining a solid reputation for providing a wide range of good information and sorting out player problems.
Owner Bryan Bailey, a Californian who is based in Germany says: “Trust is what it is all about. Our mission at Casinomeister is to promote cyber-gaming as a safe and enjoyable form of entertainment. Since trust is spawned by information, the more a gamer knows about an online casino, the more at ease he will feel.”
The Casinomeister website lives up to its owner's opinion, providing a list of rogue and not recommended online poker rooms and casinos, tips on how to spot dodgy casino and poker room operations, how to fight spam, a player’s guide on how to select an online casino, and a forum that is one of the most active in the online gaming community.
Casinomeister regularly publishes newsletters for both players and industry folk, and a webcast is produced in Bailey's studio which includes Vortran007 – Casinomeister’s trusty warning robot and comical sidekick. The information that is gathered throughout the year, together with Casinomeister member suggestions, is combined to produce the popular “Best and Worst in Online Gaming” Annual Awards that are widely followed in the business.
Casinomeister's “Pitch a Bitch” is a valuable attraction for players to the site; a place where they can submit complaints concerning a casino or poker room operation and have these fast-tracked to the right person at the venue in question with the power to resolve the matter fairly and efficiently.
In an industry that remains relatively unregulated in the real sense of the word, Casinomeister has shown that information empowers the player community to make the right decisions when it comes to online gaming.
[B][COLOR="indigo"]US SENATOR REVEALS WHY UIGEA PASSED[/COLOR][/B]Politico on why the UIGEA passed
The Washington publication Politico carried an interesting story on poker this week, commenting on how many politicians in both the Republican and Democrat camps enjoy a little relaxation by playing the popular game.
One of the most interesting facets of the article was remarks made by former Senator Alphonse D'Amato, chairman of the million member Poker Players Alliance pressure group that has been so active in pushing for legalised poker in the United States.
Commenting on the passage through Congress of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act 2006 in a late night pre-recess session of Congress attached to an unrelated but must-pass security bill, the former Republican Senator said lawmakers approved the ban because it was pushed as the only way to prevent children from getting addicted to online gambling.
Lawmakers, he said, worried that voting against it would lead to misleading campaign ads asserting: “Your congressman voted to allow youngsters to gamble on the Internet.”
“You can easily curtail people who are underage from playing by licensing and regulating,” D’Amato told Politico, adding that licensing could generate $2 billion to $3 billion a year in additional tax revenue.
Like many other Capitol Hill politicians, D’Amato enjoys a friendly game of poker, and revealed that he became involved as the Poker Players Alliance chairman because he is a “true believer.” D’Amato said that, during his 18 years in the Senate, he would host poker games in his office when voting went late. The low-stakes games included aides, lobbyists and lawmakers ordering takeout, smoking cigars, telling jokes and swapping political intelligence.
Politico goes on to point out that more than a few members of Congress are players, and names Democratic Representatives Linda T. Sanchez of California, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Ed Perlmutter of Colorado, together with and Republican Senators John Ensign of Nevada and John Sununu of New Hampshire.
However lawmakers often hear more from gambling opponents than from supporters, the article claims – a problem poker backers are working to fix through better grass-roots organisation and explanations of how online poker works.
Louisiana Republican Representative Jim McCrery, who generally opposes online gambling but plays cards occasionally, told Politico: “There’s a difference between a bunch of guys getting together for a friendly game and having ready access to big money gambling at your fingertips."
Another Washington card player, Representative Stevens from Alaska, has played around town for years. The regular circle of former aides, former military officers and lobbyists plays for cigars, wine and other prizes, he said. But, like many players, the Alaska Republican wouldn’t name names.
Though an avid card player, Stevens said he voted for the Internet gambling ban and doesn’t know if poker should be exempted. “No person has ever talked to me about online poker for money,” he said, “and I hope you don’t invite them to do so.”
But the PPA has it's allies, too the report notes, quoting a New York Democrat who referred to the notorious legislative carve-outs for online horserace betting and commented: “If it’s a question of morals, we’ve got exceptions for horse racing. What the hell?”
Also on board is Texas Republican Joe Barton, who opined that if House leaders put the bill [to legalise poker] on the floor, it would pass. It would be a tougher sell in the Senate, he acknowledged, but it could be helped by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from gambling-friendly Nevada.
Barton and other supporters have argued that poker is a game of skill, not a game of chance. To prove his point, he suggests pitting lawmakers who argue otherwise against professional poker players.
“I guarantee you, if there was $10,000 in the game, the pros would walk out with $9,000,” he said. “You can tell when you’re up against people that know a lot more about it than you.”
[B][COLOR="indigo"]NEW GAMES AT VIRGIN CASINO[/COLOR][/B]
Wagerworks quality in new offerings
Virgin Casino.com has launched Vegas, Baby! – an online version of a popular Las Vegas slot game offering players the chance to enjoy the adrenaline and spirit of the gambling mecca.
Developed and powered by Wagerworks, Vegas, Baby! is a 5-reel, 20 pay-line game featuring classic Vegas action and the chance to win up to 50 000 credits/coins on a single bet.
To reap this top reward, five 'Vegas, Baby!' symbols are needed on any payline when a 100-credit max bet is placed. The 'Vegas, Baby!' symbol also acts as a 'wild' multiplier, doubling players' award value if two symbols appear in a payline.
Players who reveal three or more bonus symbols anywhere on the reel will be going uptown to the 'Fortune Free Spin Bonus,' where fifteen free spins at a 3x bonus multiplier await. And to increase the chances of further rewards, players who reveal three or more bonus scatter symbols during the 'Fortune Free Spin Bonus', will receive an additional 15 free spins with recursion up to 180 free spins available in any single bonus round.
The new game joins several recent premium releases including Cleopatra II, Capt. Quid's Treasure Quest and Elvis Multi-Strike. Further big IGT-Wagerworks brands such as Da Vinci Diamonds will be added to Virgin Casino in the coming months, ensuring a constant stream of new and exciting games.
[B][COLOR="indigo"]CHARTWELL AND PARLAY PARTNER UP IN BINGO DEAL [/COLOR][/B]
Canadian companies to collaborate on a new online bingo network
Two Canadian online gambling industry companies, Parlay Entertainment Inc. and Chartwell Technology Inc. are partnering up to launch an online bingo network branded Bingo Nexus, powered by an Internet platform that combines Parlay’s front-end bingo product with Chartwell’s back-end administration system. Expected launch date is summer 2008.
The European-facing network will be based in Malta and managed by Chartwell, with both Parlay and Chartwell contributing a variety of slots and other games to the platform.
Scott White, President and CEO of Parlay Entertainment, said: “This is a huge win for licensees and bingo players alike. By combining the strengths of Parlay’s industry-leading bingo games with Chartwell’s advanced administration system and network operations expertise, we’re creating a very compelling bingo network solution. Player excitement will grow exponentially as bingo sites pool their liquidity to create bigger games, huge jackpots and lively communities.”
Darold H. Parken, President and CEO of Chartwell, said: “The respective strengths of Chartwell and Parlay are a perfect fit, so it’s natural for us to work together to build a new European bingo network. Online bingo continues to reach new heights in the UK and Europe, and we’re excited to become serious players in the bingo business under our relationship with Parlay and the Bingo Nexus brand.”
Chartwell and Parlay were at one stage last year contemplating a merge (see previous InfoPowa reports), which was subsequently called off.
Parlay have now completed over 50 direct licence deals. More players in more countries play Internet bingo using Parlay software than any other supplier or operator, the company claims, pointing out that some of the world's best-known brands use Parlay Bingo solutions, including Virgin, Yahoo!, Paddy Power, Bet24, NetPlay TV, Bingos.com and the St. Minver bingo network.
[B][COLOR="indigo"]GOLF, WORLD WAR 2 BOMBERS AND RUSSIAN TSARS IN LATEST MICROGAMING RELEASES[/COLOR][/B]
It's all about slots in June's new games
The month of June is all about slots, slots, and more slots, from Isle of Man-based online games developer Microgaming, which this month’s serves up an innovative mix of Russian Tsars, Bomber Girls, and a Hole in One.
Capturing the live-for-the-moment feel of World War 2 is a big, colourful and entertaining 5 reel, 20 payline slot branded Bomber Girls with a theme that harks back to the Fighting 'Forties, with giant bombers, women-power in the factories and buxom babes guaranteed to distract the most focused aircrew.
The game features the American second screen bonus concept combined with the popular free spin awards favoured by Australian gamblers. Players will find brilliantly executed graphics, great sound effects and a range of features that include Wilds, Scatters, a maximum of 14 Free Spins with up to 3x Multiplier, and a new High-Low card game with a further High-Low Gamble option. This gives the player a possible 100x bet payback if five correct choices are made.
Eagles, birdies and holes-in-one take second place to really big rewards in the golf-themed video slot Lucky Shot. The game features doubled opportunities to win significantly through Free Spin and Gopher Bonus trigger multipliers, Multipliers, Scatter rewards, a second screen Bonus game and Free Spins.
Look out for the gopher symbol, a cheeky rodent that brings several chances to win when it appears, and the golf cart that delivers Free Spins aplenty during the game, 3, 4 or 5 gophers across adjacent reels will trigger the Gopher Bonus and the award of between 2x and 50x the triggering bet. The number of Gophers that appear also determine the number of “picks” between 3 and 5 that the player will receive in the second screen bonus game, where a golfer faces 15 gopher holes. Each time the player makes a pick during the bonus game, a random value multiplies the total bet making possible major awards of up to 300x the bet.
Similar actions, increasing the chances to score on the triggers themselves, develop from the Golf Cart Free Spins feature, initiated by 3, 4 or 5 carts across adjacent reels and providing similar rewards. The trigger also brings on a random number of 9 or 18 Free Spins that carry a 2x Multiplier.
Lucky Shot carries the golfing theme through excellent sound effects and sharp, colorful and amusing graphics reflecting elements of the game and those who play it with such dedication.
Priceless Faberge eggs, the distinctive onion domes of St Basil's, seals with the double headed eagle of Imperial Russia and bejeweled aristocrats immediately give away the historic theme of Microgaming's 5 reel, 25 pay-line slot Days of the Tsar.
But there's nothing historic about the advanced technology powering this advanced online gambling gem, which offers players the chance to win big-time with Wilds, Scatters, up to 25 Free Spins, Multipliers and a Gamble feature where bottom line winnings can be quadrupled on the right card suit call.
The last of the Romanov Tsars, Nicholas, is the Wild in this enthralling game set against the backdrop of the privileged Eastern emperor's reign. His passion for intricately crafted jeweled eggs is reflected in the Scatter nature of the famous Faberge masterpieces which trigger the Free Spins; each appearing with a random number. Add the numbers, and up to 25 Free Spins are delivered, with one spin added for each egg achieved during free spins.
Russian aristocrats were partial to a flutter on the cards, and this is represented in the final Gamble feature, where the player can double winnings by calling the right colour, or quadruple gains by getting the suit right.
[B][COLOR="indigo"]FRENCH SUBMIT DRAFT ONLINE GAMBLING PROPOSALS[/COLOR][/B]
"Controlled opening" unlikely to please everyone
The French government budget minister, Eric Woerth, revealed his government's proposals for a "controlled opening" of the French gambling market in a meeting with European Commission chief Charlie McCreevy this week, but the cautious content is unlikely to appeal to everyone.
Under pressure from the EU to remove barriers to the free movement between EU members of goods and services, the French state monopoly has hitherto fiercely resisted the introduction of competitive products from major European companies. It's recent preparedness to reconsider its position will possibly influence the policies of other monopolised gambling states such as Sweden, Denmark and Holland, all of which have been warned by McCreevy that they could face the European Court of Justice unless there is change.
The Financial Times reports that the meeting between Woerth and McCreevy was cordial and positive, and France will now be expected to submit more detailed legislative proposals in the autumn, at which stage the Commission would take a final decision on how to proceed.
But betting companies remained sceptical about the proposed changes. The FT recalls a report compiled earlier this year for the French government (see previous InfoPowa report) that recommended protecting horse-race betting and allowing sports betting only if companies were located in France.
Ladbrokes, the UK operator, said a genuine opening up of the market would have to mean cross-border competition.
“However it is likely that the French government will adopt a very restrictive regime with high tax rates,” a Ladbrokes spokesman said.
The European Gaming and Betting Association said the details and the exact scope of the proposals remained unclear.
”While the implementation in France of an online gambling regulatory framework would be a long-expected move for the EU regulated operators, it is crucial that such a framework is fully adapted to the cross-border nature of the online sector and does not lead in practice to any forced establishment”, it said.
[B][COLOR="indigo"]SKILL GAMING COMPANY CRACKS ALDERNEY ACCREDITATION[/COLOR][/B]UK company has an impressive client list.
The UK skill gaming provider GameAccount was awarded an Associate Certification this week by the Alderney Gambling Control Commission.
Operators licensed in Alderney by the AGCC can now elect to join GameAccount's network, giving their players access to the firm's head-to-head multiplayer online games including Gin Rummy; Multiplayer Blackjack; Backgammon and Poker Dice.
Rank Group's interactive sports gaming business Blue Square will become the first Alderney-licensed operator to launch GameAccount's games in the coming weeks, a company spokesman revealed.
Blue Square will become the another major operator this year to join the GameAccount Network following membership by William Hill, BoyleSports, PaddyPower, Sportingbet Europe and most recently Stan James and Gala Coral.
"We are delighted to receive the Associate Certificate from the AGCC following exhaustive technical due diligence on the GameAccount software suite," said Dermot Smurfit, the chief operating officer of the company. "We're now open for business to all Alderney-licensed operators seeking to add our unique games to their gaming portfolio. Our software platform and associated technical infrastructure is now compatible with the majority of white-listed licensing jurisdictions relied upon by the major regulated eGaming operators in Europe."
[B][COLOR="indigo"]BRITAIN DESCRIBED AS 'POKER CRAZY'[/COLOR][/B]
One in four adults played poker last year
Quoting news and rsearch study sources, the Canadian publication Canada Free Press reports that Britain has gone poker crazy, with one in four adults playing last year, one in 14 playing every day and 1 in 7 playing at least once a week.
The article quotes a survey last November from the UK company Mintel (see previous InfoPowa report) which found that poker now gets 40 times the TV coverage it did five years ago. And a third (35 percent) of British poker players say they are playing for the sheer fun of it, choosing not to put money on the game.
The Mintel study analysed responses from 4 000 British residents, discovering that online and land poker have equal appeal. Senior analyst Matt King said .. “The extra excitement and social side are important … “ Talking about gambling .. Air travellers will soon be able to gamble during flights as airlines introduce on-board casinos. Passengers on long-haul journeys will be able to log on to the internet and stake cash on games including poker, blackjack and roulette.
King was referring to the 888.com deal with Canadian-based DTI Software announced late last year and targeted initially on British airlines, but with global ambitions. At that time CEO Gigi Levy said: “This venture represents a significant addition to our innovative ‘every game; everywhere' offering, alongside our Internet and mobile proposition, that clearly attracts entertainment consumers in more places every day. By partnering with DTI, the clear In Flight Entertainment market leader, we are redefining interactive gaming in flights and expanding even further our global reach.”
King added: “Live games are just as popular as online ones, and it would appear that the extra excitement and the social side of the game is an important aspect for many players.”
[B][COLOR="indigo"]ECOGRA BOARD WELCOMES NEW DIRECTOR[/COLOR][/B]
Senior online gambling executive has commercial and scientific credentials
The online gambling player protection and standards organisation eCOGRA has announced a change to its 7 person Board of Directors, in which Chris Hobbs, Head of Corporate Affairs at software developer Microgaming replaces Roger Raatgever as one of the Founder Directors of the independent, non-profit body. The other Founder Member seats are held by Bwin and 888.com.
Under the eCOGRA charter, the Board currently consists of three Member Directors and four Independent Directors.
The Independent Directors, to whom CEO Andrew Beveridge reports, are solely responsible for the executive control of eCOGRA and the activities of its powerful Seals Compliance and Audit Committees, which test and monitor "Safe and Fair" seal operators and control the award, review and if necessary revocation of the seals.
Chris Hobbs (45) is the senior executive responsible for corporate affairs at the Isle of Man-based Microgaming head office. Educated at the prestigious Kearsney College in South Africa and the University of Natal, he holds Bachelor degrees in Commerce (business finance, business administration and business data processing) and Science (pure and applied chemistry).
Prior to joining Microgaming in 2005, he held management positions at Sentrachem Limited in the chemical industry, and as a corporate banking executive for Absa Bank in Johannesburg and London.
eCOGRA's chairman of the Board, Michael Hirst OBE welcomed Hobbs and thanked Raatgever for his invaluable services to the organisation since it formed in 2003.
"During his term as a Director, Roger Raatgever has given his complete commitment to eCOGRA, during which time it has expanded well beyond its original remit and now covers many more operating and software companies than just the Founding Members," Hirst said. "His integrity, business and industry knowledge has been invaluable to the Board.
"We look forward to working with Chris Hobbs, who brings to the Board impressive management experience and credentials and a strong commitment to player protection and responsible gambling."
eCOGRA is the only not-for-profit organisation within the online gaming industry that offers player assurance and protection with regard to fair gaming and responsible operator behaviour.
The Independent Directors of eCOGRA are: Bill Galston, OBE, retired Chief Inspector for the Gaming Board of Great Britain; Bill Henbrey, former head of gaming services at leading international accounting firm BDO; Frank Catania, former Assistant Attorney General and Director of New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement and Michael Hirst, OBE, a former board member of Ladbroke Group Plc, and formerly Chairman and CEO of Hilton International.
The organisation's Seals Compliance Committee is comprised only of Independent Directors, and is responsible for:
• Determining the rules and procedures under which the seals may be awarded;
• Proposing and approving changes to eGAP;
• Considering suitability of membership applications and eGAP review applications from standalone software suppliers and operators, and where necessary requesting additional information to complete the acceptance process;
• Approving new seals and renewing existing seals after considering eGAP review findings submitted by the Compliance Manager and any other information which has come to the attention of the Committee;
• Revoking or suspending seals following significant operator and / or software supplier contravention of the eGAP requirements; and
• Requesting special investigations by eCOGRA employees or independent experts into alleged contraventions of the eGAP requirements.
Over 130 tier one online casinos and poker rooms currently use eCOGRA test and audit services, with 49 operations currently undergoing inspection and review for its "Safe and Fair" accreditation seals.
[B][COLOR="indigo"]CITADEL PARENT AGREES TO $9.1 MILLION SETTLEMENT WITH US [/COLOR][/B]
A high price to pay for processing US online gambling payments
The Canadian listed financial services company ESI Entertainment Systems – perhaps more familiar to online gamblers as Citadel – has settled its case with US authorities by agreeing to pay $9.1 million. The payment will expunge all charges that the company facilitated 'illegal' Internet gambling by processing payments for U.S. customers, an Associated Press report revealed this week.
Federal prosecutors in New York said Citadel Commerce Corp., a subsidiary of ESI, processed more than $2 billion in wagers for American gamblers between 2003 and 2007, a time when there was confusion within the industry over the offshore reach of U.S. law.
Following the Neteller debacle in 2007, when two founders of that Isle of Man and Canadian e-processing group were arrested in the United States, Citadel left the US market and began cooperating with federal prosecutors (see previous InfoPowa reports).
ESI has admitted to criminal wrongdoing, in return for freedom from further prosecution; the company will disgorge some $9.1 million of its profits and implement monitoring procedures to make sure its services are not again used for gambling transactions.
In a notice on its website, the company revealed that its revenue fell dramatically when Citadel exited the US gambling market