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Online Gaming News Weekly Review

SKILL GAMING FIRM SIGNS UP TOP UK BOOKIE GameAccount adds Stan James to it's blue chip client list The respected UK bookmaking firm Stan James is the latest client to join the client list of the UK skill games provider GameAccount. The multi-year deal enables Stan James' online customers to engage in playing GameAccount's market portfolio of online games including Gin Rummy; Multiplayer Blackjack; and Backgammon.  All GameAccount person-to-person skill games offer multi-table tournaments – a first for skill gaming – together with head-to-head cash games.  "Skill games broaden the demographic appeal of our online sportsbook offering, particularly relevant for southern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries where Backgammon is a cultural phenomenon," said Russell Young, Head of eGaming for Stan James.  "GameAccount was chosen after an exhaustive process investigating the potential for these emerging games, the experience of potential suppliers and the technical capabilities of their respective platforms."  Stan James becomes the first licensee sportsbook operator in 2008 to join the GameAccount Network following membership by other leading bookie firms like William Hill, BoyleSports, PaddyPower and Sportingbet Europe.  All GameAccount licensees enjoy the benefits of GameAccount's recent software upgrade which includes navigation enhancements for the games lobby, more information for tournament players and brand new side games. Players can now easily find and register for the next tournament to start and simply navigate between game tables. And for the first time in the skill gaming industry, players can launch side games from the game lobby without missing a moment of live person-to-person skill gaming action.  "We are delighted to welcome Stan James into our fast-growing Network, which has experienced explosive growth in player numbers and staking activity," said Kevin Dale, Chief Executive Officer at GameAccount.  "Our blue-chip corporate customers benefit from unique skill gaming software in attracting new players – reducing the dreaded churn and driving meaningful revenues comparable to poker. Gin Rummy, Backgammon and our unique Multiplayer Blackjack form a compelling suite of person-to-person games super-charged by the presence of new instant win side games to fill idle minutes. GameAccount is integrated with several sportsbook platforms including Orbis and Finsoft. Stan James is our third licensee sportsbook operator utilising the Finsoft sports betting software platform."  
BIG POKER CIRCUIT WIN FOR CUNNINGHAM
 Poker pro takes down the WSOP-C main prize at Caesars in Vegas Top poker pro and Full Tilt Poker Team member Allen Cunningham is $499 162 richer this week after winning the three day World Series of Poker Circuit championship at Caesars in Las Vegas. Cunningham outplayed his heads-up opponent Ben Fineman, who took home the second place prize of $257 637. This was despite a 3 to 1 advantage in chip stack in Fineman's favour going into the final tussle. The competition attracted an entry field that sported many famous names in international poker, including Todd Brunson, Alex Kravchenko, Erick Lindgren, 'ZeeJustin' Bonomo, Ralph Perry, Blair Hinkle and Chris Ferguson, and going into the final table Cunningham was low on the chip count totem pole at 296 000 – well behind his ultimate heads up opponent Fineman who started with a chip count of 828 000. 
BIG WINS IN INTERNET CASINOS
 European online gamblers score big Several online players hit into big money at online casinos over recent weeks, winning six figure amounts on both progressives and standard slots. At the Playtech-powered Europa Casino, a Norwegian player using the handle SisselA was described as 'ecstatic' over a Euro 289 500 hit on the progressive jackpot, Queen of Pyramids. Sissel had been a member of the online casino for less than two weeks when she struck it lucky after wagering a mere Euro 2.25 bet.
 
In an interview with Europa Casino management, an Sissel said that she prefers to play at online casinos for convenience, privacy and security….and tends to stay calmer and more controlled when placing her bets.
 
Players at Europa have been fortunate lately with a number of big wins, including an extraordinary progressive hit on the Diamond Valley progressive by GuyJ. of Luxembourg who scored a major Euro 125 137 win on a stake of only Euro 5.
 Later in the week, a 30-year-old unnamed player from Denmark won a remarkable Euro 323 578 in one day at Windows Casino…. all without hitting any progressive jackpots.
 
A press release from the casino reveals that the player is a relatively new arrival at Windows, who deposited Euro 110 and managed through good fortune to make it go a long way!
 
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like this,” Greg Gomez, the Windows Casino’s manager, opined. “This is one of the biggest wins we have ever seen at Windows Casino and certainly one that we will remember for many years”.
 
The lucky Dane achieved extraordinarily good results playing on a number of slots games: On 'Football Rules' he won Euro 224 000, on 'Desert Treasure' Euro 70 000 and by adding smaller wins from all the other slots games he played, he ultimately won in total a bank-boosting Euro 323 578 in prize money.
 
 ONLINE GAMBLING STUDY RESULTS RELEASED More males than females gambling online, and the biggest age group is between 18 and 34. The UK Gambling Commission has released its latest independent study results, presented by ICM Research. The omnibus study was carried out via a sample of 8 000 adults between June 2007 and March 2008. Key findings in the study are: * Over the year to March 2008, 8.8 percent of the 8 000 adults surveyed said they had participated in at least one form of remote gambling in the previous month.  * Those participating in remote gambling remain more likely to be male than female, and are more likely to be aged 18-34.  * If those only playing National Lottery games remotely are excluded, 5.1 percent of respondents had participated in remote gambling.
* Overall, 6.3 percent of respondents said they had gambled remotely on the National Lottery/tickets for the National Lottery draw in the previous month.
 * Remote gambling via a computer, laptop or handheld device was the most popular form of remote gambling (7.1 percent of all adult respondents), followed by gambling via mobile phone (2.4 percent) and interactive/digital TV (under 2 percent). Still on the subject of surveys, the Gambling Commission has also announced that it has commenced planning for the 2010 British Gambling Prevalence Study – a key assessment of the UK business carefully analysed by industry practitioners in previous years. The large-scale, nationally representative survey of participation in gambling and the prevalence of problem gambling in Great Britain will build on the two previous British gambling prevalence surveys carried out in 1999 and 2007. 
 
A Gambling Commission spokesperson said the project will be divided into three phases:
 
1)    pre-fieldwork: working with the survey steering group. The service provider will advise on study methodology and will design the study questionnaire
 
2)    fieldwork: the service provider will carry out the fieldwork, providing detailed reports on progress
 
3)    analysis and reporting: the service provider will provide detailed analysis of the findings, will draft the final report and incorporate peer review recommendations
 
Commission staffers plan to engage with academics and other interested parties who have expertise in gambling prevalence studies and have issued an open invitation for relevant persons to participate in a discussion on 17 June 2008 in advance of the tendering process. 
 
Interested parties are invited to contact Kati Virtaal Toohill at
k.virtaaltoohill@gamblingcommission.gov.uk
 
UK GAMBLING COMMISSION ENFORCEMENT CHIEF DEPARTS
 Director of Monitoring and Enforcement to leave Commission in July 2008
 
The UK Gambling Commission has announced the imminent departure of Andrew Lyman, a Director at the Commission responsible for Monitoring and Enforcement, who will be leaving shortly to take up a senior executive role with the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB).
 
"Having been involved in regulation for some years, I am looking forward to joining an organisation with a broad commercial focus.  This new role will provide an opportunity to develop my legal, negotiating and other skill sets in a challenging environment." said Lyman, whose remaining time with the Commission will be spent on internal project work, distinct from his current regulatory role. 
 
Gambling Commission Chief-Executive Jenny Williams said: “We are very sorry to see Andrew go but with his expertise and understanding of the Commission’s work he will continue to contribute to the promotion of socially responsible gambling in his new role at the ABB.”
 Lyman's successor has yet to be named. 
CARVE-OUTS DON'T HELP HERE
 Kentucky Derby could be impacted by UIGEA complications U.S. horse racing companies comfortable with their specially exempted online betting status in US legislation have apparently discovered some inconvenient facets of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act which has so effectively reduced competition by offshore firms. The Boston Herald quotes gaming and banking industry experts as saying that horse racing fans looking to place online bets for the 134th Kentucky Derby this weekend may find their transactions blocked by banks and credit card companies trying to avoid running afoul of unclear federal regulations.
 
"Unless the government takes the responsibility of telling the banks which merchants they shouldn’t deal with, and when banks take the position that they are not going to process these transactions without guidance, all heck will break loose," said Tony Cabot, an attorney with the Las Vegas firm Lewis and Roca, which represents the Nevada Pari-Mutuel Association.
 
The Herald notes that advocates for the banking and online gambling industries, legal scholars and several members of Congress are pushing the U.S. Treasury, the Federal Reserve and the Justice Department to clarify whether a regulatory exemption in the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act that allows Internet gambling on horse racing could also mean that banks and credit card companies would be penalised for processing the money from those wagers.
 
Under the law, passed in 2006 as part of the SAFE Port Security Act, the nation’s banks and credit card companies are prohibited from accepting payments for some online bets or wagers. However, the financial institutions are largely left to figure out which gambling transactions are illegal and block payments.
 
Financial institutions say this unfairly puts them in the position of trying to decide what’s legal with little clear guidance from the federal agencies responsible for implementing the rule.
 
Until the federal agencies issue better guidance, some financial service companies may refuse to handle any online gambling transactions, said I. Nelson Rose, a law professor at Whittier College in Costa Mesa, California. "The problem is that in some states online gambling is legal, in others it is not and in still other cases the question depends on where the bettor is, where the gaming operator is and what form of gambling is taking place," Rose told the newspaper.
 The Herald recaps recent Congressional hearings and requests from federal officials for comment on implementing regulations designed to underpin the UIGEA. Over 200 responses were received and are still being considered by federal drafters. On the hearings front, many witnesses across the spectrum of those involved in the process were sharply critical of the law, which they called vague and costly for financial institutions to implement.  One of the most common complaints is that the rules fail to sufficiently define key terms, leaving financial institutions to figure out how to comply, said Congressman Luis Gutierrez.
 
"For example, the regulation fails to adequately define what constitutes ‘unlawful Internet gambling’ or ‘restricted transaction,’ yet requires the financial institutions to make a determination on their own about what is lawful or unlawful," Gutierrez said.
 Also noted by the Herald are the current IGREA legislative attempts led by Congressman Barney Frank to legalise and licence online gambling, and a more recent move in concert with Congressman Ron Paul to halt federal drafters from further work on the now long over deadline regulations.
 
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and Rep. Chris Cannon took former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to task in a letter last year for the UIGEA's ambiguity on which states should block online horse gambling transactions. They still await a definitive reply.
 In response, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said then (and the Department of Justice has since reiterated that) "…while the UIGEA requires that the regulations be issued ‘in consultation with the attorney general,’ the Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve have the primary responsibility for drafting the regulations, and therefore we would defer questions concerning the timing or the scope of the regulations to those parties." 
MARVELLOUS MARTY IS THE PARTYPOKER WORLD OPEN CHAMP
 Irish eyes and fortune are smiling on 33 year-old Ulsterman
 
33-year-old Marty Smyth of Ulster in Ireland scooped $250 000 this week after winning the PartyPoker.com World Open IV in London, truimphing over 72 other entrants in the $8 000 buy-in event that generated a total prize pool of $576 000.  The final table line-up was impressive to say the least, and included Neil Channing, recent Manchester GUKPT winner Marc “Mr Cool” Goodwin, Andy “The Spider” Ward, Dixie Dean and Ryan Fronda. 
 
“I’m delighted and very proud,” said Smyth, who won the 2007 Irish Open and has made the final table in the Poker Million the last two years. “With the way Neil (Channing) is running at the moment he was the last person I wanted to take on heads-up. I hope this sparks a run for me as good as his! I’m so happy to win the trophy and the money will come in handy for Vegas.”
 
Smyth's heads-up opponent was Neil Channing, who has been on fire in recent months, taking Marty’s Irish Open title in January and leading Great Britain to victory in the PartyPoker.com Poker Nations Cup as well as other impressive results. He also looked the most likely winner to everybody. As well as playing some majestic poker, the man they used to call ‘Bad Beat’ was getting cards when he needed them.
 “I thought it was my day,” said Channing. “I believed during the final table that if I didn’t win this I would be disappointed and I am. That said, it would have been a bit ridiculous if I managed to take down this title as well!”
 
Channing went into the heads-up with Smyth leading 995 000 to 405 000. Many thought the writing was on the wall but Smyth clawed his way back and in an epic heads-up that lasted as long as the rest of the heat before it, the Ulsterman drew level making it an even match at 700 000.
 Many started to fancy Smyth but were convinced that perhaps it was too much to overcome the “goldenballs” of the European poker circuit. However, the Irishman wore Channing down and eventually all the money went in the middle. Channing flat called in the small blind with 9h 9c, Smyth came over the top with Qc Qs. Channing pushed all-in and Smyth called. The board 10s 5d 2d Kh Kd brought no help and the PartyPoker.com World Open IV had itself a very popular winner. Channing earned a useful $100 000 for his second placing.
 
A PartyPoker.com spokesman said: “It would be fair to say that Marty was an extremely popular winner. He’s done European poker a favour by derailing the Channing bandwagon, but make no mistake he is one of the finest players on the circuit at the moment.”
 
Eddie Hearn, Director of Matchroom Sport said: “This was without doubt the strongest field we have seen at the PartyPoker.com World Open and the players certainly didn't disappoint. The standard of play was simply stunning throughout and Marty was a deserved winner. The PartyPoker.com World Open is now firmly established as one of poker’s major titles.”
 
The event featured a top class field led by ‘Ambassador of Poker’ Mike Sexton and included Dave “The Devilfish” Ulliott, Juha Helppi, Theo Jorgensen, Ian Frazer, Roberto Romanello, Jon Kalmar, Thomas Bihl, Surinder Sunar, John Tabatabai, Christoph Haller, Jan Peter Jachtmann and Liam Flood. Coverage of the Matchroom Sport organised event will be broadcast on Channel 5 in the UK later this year and will be fronted by Jesse May. Last year, 45-year-old former Sidcup betting shop owner Anthony Hardy triumphed over a final table that also featured Ian Cox, Ram Vaswani, David Rudling, Ian Frazer and eventual runner-up Ian Woodley. The winner in 2006 was Pippa Flanders, while in 2005 Lee Nelson won the inaugural event.
 
The winner of each of the 12 heats progressed to the semi-final stage, and, for the first time in the event's history all was not lost for the runners-up on the table as they battled it out for the remaining two semi-final spots in “last chance” turbo heats. The two unlucky players who missed out on the bubble for the final table were Simon Craig and Andy Greekfish.
 
 
NBC NATIONAL HEADS UP CHANGES New list of automatic invitations A new automatic invitation list to play in one of poker's premier televised tournaments – the NBC National Heads-Up Championship – is was released this week, providing a tourney with increased expert participation and viewer interest. Now four years old, the championship generates so far unsurpassed poker television viewerships, with the likes of Phil Hellmuth (2005), Ted Forrest (2006), Paul Wasicka (2007), and Chris Ferguson (2008) the top stars so far.  According to a release from the NBC, the automatic invitation list will be used for the 2009 spectacular and will be structured as follows: * Previous 5 National Heads-Up Poker Champions * Previous 2 National Heads-Up runners-up * Defending National Heads-Up semifinalists * Any player who cashes in the past 4 consecutive years of the National Heads-Up Poker Championship * Previous 3 World Series of Poker Main Event Champions * Defending World Series of Poker Main Event runner-up * Beginning with the 2008 WSOP, multiple bracelet winners in the same year will receive an automatic invitation to the next Heads-Up Championship * Defending World Series of Poker Player of the Year * Defending World Series of Poker Heads-Up Champion * Defending World Series of Poker Europe Main Event Champion (21 or older) * Reigning World Poker Tour Player of the Year * Reigning Monte Carlo European Poker Tour Grand Final Champion (21 or older) * Reigning Card Player magazine Player of the Year * Reigning Bluff magazine Player of the Year * Reigning ALL IN magazine Player of the Year * Online and NBC qualifiers (1-3) (must be 21 or older) * 2 x host venue qualifiers (2) Players receiving an invite to the event are still required to buy-in for the full entry fee, unless they win a seat through an online qualifier.  
WEB GAMBLING STILL IN THE TOP TEN
 ZD Net blog users by category shows growth in online gambling interest The popular online information and news site ZDNet's latest US statistics for February and March 2008 indicate a growing interest in online gambling, currently showing the third largest percentage monthly increase. The Radio Entertainment category showed the largest visits growth from February to March 2008 with 27 percent, followed by Gay and Lesbian (albeit at very low actual numbers) at 26 percent and Online Gambling at 14 percent – an interest in March to 12 592 from 11082 the previous month. The only other category showing growth over 10 percent was Retail Health Care at 12 percent. ZDNet also notes that the top five search engines for March 2008 were: * Google with 58.7 percent of market share and a year-on-year growth of 25.5 percent. * Yahoo! which was in negative year-on-year territory at -4.5 percent but still holds 18.1 percent of the search business. * MSN showing impressive year-on-year growth of 36 percent to command a market share of 12 percent. * AOL which lost Y-o-Y growth by -19.4 percent and now has a 4.1 percent market share. * Ask.com tops the list in terms of Y-o -Y growth of 52.4 percent and now has around 2.4 percent of the market. Other items of current Web interest on the informative ZDNet site include the fact that 68 percent of searchers click on entries in the first page of search results, 59 percent of Internet users make use of social media to vent on customer care issues, and Web 2.0 spend will reach $4.6 billion by 2013.  POSITIVE Q1 RESULTS FROM NETENT Sales, profit and margins all up in January to March 2008 period The Swedish online gambling turnkey provider and games developer Net Entertainment is off to a good start to 2008, with positive Q1 results showing improvements in sales, profits and margins. Highlights of the interim report released this week include:  • Net sales increased by 27 percent to SEK 42.8 million. • Operating profit increased by 35.1 percent to SEK 16.9 million. • Profit after tax increased by 34.4 percent to SEK 15.4 million. • Net profit margin was 36.1 percent, up 2 percent on previous quarter. • Operating margin was 39.6 percent. • 4 new license agreements for the firm's CasinoModule system were signed. • The company received a pilot order for its CasinoCafé 'kiosk' system.    
 
Johan Öhman, CEO of the company said: "Net Entertainment achieved strong development in the first quarter, with a 27 percent increase in net sales over the same period in 2007 and a 17.7 percent increase over the previous quarter.
 "Profitability continues at a healthy level and the operating margin rose to 39.6 percent for the quarter. Growth is being driven by the generally strong growth in the market, successful new games and new customers opening a number of casinos in the quarter.  "Net Entertainment continues to make good sales progress and four new licence agreements for CasinoModule were entered into during the quarter. One of the agreements is with leading Internet operator, Bet-at-home.com. In addition, a pilot order for CasinoCafe was secured."  Ohman went on to reveal that during the quarter, Net Entertainment has pursued its recruitment drive in order to strengthen the organisation and reduce its dependence on consultants. The company has also started the development of contracts in the Ukraine in a bid to accelerate the pace of development and to increase cost efficiency.  The company plans to switch to the Swedish small cap exchange, hopefully in the thrid quarter of this year, and Ohman revealed that Net Entertainment's Board of Directors is to file an application to move its exchange listing to the OMX Exchange in Stockholm. The transition to a different exchange will increase investor awareness in Net Entertainment stock and likely its liquidity. Ohman predicts that the online gaming market will continue experiencing positive growth, benefiting the company through the organic growth of its current licensees.  "Our highly competitive product portfolio and continuing focus on the development of new, innovative games also present us with excellent opportunities for entering into agreements with new customers," he said.  "I am convinced that our healthy order book, strong product portfolio and brisk pace of development provide us with excellent opportunities for continued profitable growth." Ohman revealed that the second quarter indications point to a strong start for Net Entertainment, too, with strong developments in the sales pipeline. 
PUTTING ON THE RITZ
 PKR Poker lays on a night of glam, glitz and celebrity in London Jez San's burgeoning PKR.com online poker company scored another marketing coup over the holiday weekend when it laid on a night of glam, glitz and celebrity by hosting an afterparty for the attendees of the Professional Footballer's Association Awards. The initiative is another interesting involvement by an online gambling company in events in the wider sport and entertainment worlds following Full Tilt Poker's recent marketing partnership with the World Series of Golf (see previous InfoPowa report)  Held in London's plush Albannach restaurant in Trafalgar Square, the PKR.com team served up fun poker and casino room action for the star-studded guest list.  Celebrations continued well into the wee small hours of the following morning at the invite-only after party. The blackjack and roulette tables, along with a private poker room were extremely popular, with prizes ranging from free cash to spend at PKR Casino.com to personalised, luxury poker-chip sets. Partygoers at the bash included high profile Premiership stars Micah Richards, Jermain Defoe, Carlton Cole, Jimmy Bullard, Anton Ferdinand and the entire Fulham first team. There were also appearances from rugby legend Martin Offiah, as well as numerous celebs from the world of TV and music.  PKR.com added to the glamour factor with their own spectacularly costumed ‘team’ of eleven beauties in PKR football kit. Lucky online regulars at the PKR poker website were treated to complimentary tickets, allowing some lucky football fans a golden opportunity to rub shoulders with some of The Beautiful Game's elite. Marketing Manager Erika Schwartz said, “It was a great evening and a fantastic opportunity to introduce our brand to some influential people as well as reward some of our loyal players”.  PPA REMINDS SEN. KYL OF UIGEA IMPERFECTIONS One of the most egregious flaws in the bill is that it does not define "unlawful Internet gambling" clearly Las week's report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal (see previous InfoPowa report) that Senator Jon Kyl was growing impatient with the protracted drafting process on regulations to support the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act elicited a tart response this week from the Poker Players Association. The Las Vegas director of the PPA, Ken Illgen minced no words in his letter to the LVRJ editor, saying: "Frankly, the confusion regulators are dealing with as they develop the regulations to enforce the law is a direct result of how this act was written and sneaked into a must-pass port security bill in the dead of night, allowing no time for review and debate." Illgen goes on to point out that one of the most egregious flaws in the bill is that it does not define "unlawful Internet gambling" clearly – something that the legislators trying to make Internet gambling unlawful should have included.
 
"This law is clearly unworkable, as regulators, bankers and several members of Nevada's congressional delegation have publicly stated," Illgen concludes. "To truly place checks and balances on Internet gambling, Congress should look to existing legislation that would seek to regulate online gambling in order to protect children and problem gamblers and collect the billions of dollars in lost tax revenue from these transactions.
 
"Let's not blame regulators for struggling to enact this flawed and ambiguous bill, and [instead] start looking for workable solutions to truly regulate this growing online industry. 
 
 IF YOU PLAY, HAVE A SAY WSOP timing for Poker Players Alliance voter drive The World Series of Poker timeframe represents a unique publicity opportunity where world interest is focused on the game of poker, and the one million members strong Poker Players Alliance intends to exploit it.
 
The organisation announced this week that it will launch a voter registration effort during the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas, which begins May 31 and runs through November, with the aim of rallying support for reversing or blocking federal and state laws that prohibit gambling on online poker.
 The campaign is centred on the slogan "If you play, have a say," with messaging and strategy developed by the Herald Group, which is also providing media outreach and other tactical communications support. PPA has already launched a Web site, www. poker-2008.org, where players can download forms and get information on voter registration. Outreach timed for the 39th annual poker series will include speaking with trade magazines; posting comments on the online poker message boards where players discuss poker strategy, legislation, and other issues; running online, print, and possibly TV ads; and posting videos featuring top poker pros on social networking sites, such as Facebook and You Tube. Formed in 2005, the PPA is flourishing, thanks to funding from individuals and Canada-based industry trade group Interactive Gaming Council, according to PPA executive director John Pappas. Membership was further enhanced by the 2006 passage of the Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act, which, among other things, bans online gambling financial transactions, he added. "Out of this has sprung a political constituency that [we've] tapped into to influence public policy in Washington," Pappas said. "And we've found that one of the best things we can do is not only lobby members [to] send letters to members of Congress, and attend town hall meetings, but get players registered and active on election days." The PPA is encouraging members and other players around the country to support legislation currently proposed like Congressman Frank's IGREA, that would regulate online gambling to prevent play by minors or "problem" players.  Outreach during the WSOP, which annually attracts tens of thousands of players and is broadcast on ESPN, will include a booth and online terminals for registration, advertising, and still-to-be-determined public events.  
BONOMO JOINS BODOG
 Top Internet poker player signs up as a Bodog pro The handle 'ZeeJustin' used by top Internet poker player Justin Bonomo (22), is recognisable to most online poker players and could become more so following his agreement to join the professional player list at online poker site Bodog Poker. The young pro joins David Williams, Evelyn Ng, Josh Arieh and Jean-Robert Bellande on a team with big ambitions that include an appearance at this year's World Series of Poker.  In a statement released by Bodog, Bonomo said: "I'm extremely excited about joining the select ranks of Team Bodog pros and becoming an ambassador for the Bodog brand alongside David, Evy and Jean-Robert. I know each of them personally and I have tremendous respect for each of them." Bonomo added that he was ready to start his team involvement by playing online against players around the world on the Bodog virtual poker tables, and that he hoped for a big win and a gold bracelet at WSOP 2008. The young poker professional has done well in his short but successful career, which started online and developed into land tournament achievements of note, with numerous cashes in WSOP, WPT and EPT events. He made the final table of the 2007 $2 000 No-Limit Hold'em event, as well the 2005 EPT French Open and the 2007 Caesars Palace Classic. His most recent success was a fifth place finish in the 2008 World Series of Poker Circuit at Caesar's Palace, which boosted his bank balance by $69 594. Morris Mohawk Gaming Group, which now handles the North American operations of Bodog, announced Bonomo's involvement, with CEO Alwyn Morris saying: "Justin is one of the most feared and skilled players in poker today and we're thrilled to officially have him join our team of world-class poker pros. We expect him to make a lot of noise this year for Team Bodog, beginning with the WSOP this summer." 
BIG FULL TILT POKER WIN FOR POKER AUTHOR
 Sunday tournament pays off for Matthew Hilger Matthew Hilger, poker author, poker publisher, and poker pro, won the Full Tilt Poker $750 000 Guaranteed Poker Tournament over the holiday weekend, pocketing over $132 000 for his first placing. The win topped an rewarding tournament record this year, with 9 entries that yielded 3 top 100's, 2 final tables, and finally the big win.  Hilger now has his eyes set on the 2008 World Series of Poker (WSOP), where he has cashed three of the last four years in the main event and nine times overall.  Hilger became closely associated with Internet poker when he released his best-selling book, 'Internet Texas Hold'em'. Following the book, he created an online community, visited poker forums and read strategy articles to get


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Online Gaming News Weekly Review

SKILL GAMING FIRM SIGNS UP TOP UK BOOKIE GameAccount adds Stan James to it's blue chip client list The respected UK bookmaking firm Stan James is the latest client to join the client list of the UK skill games provider GameAccount. The multi-year deal enables Stan James' online customers to engage in playing GameAccount's market portfolio of online games including Gin Rummy; Multiplayer Blackjack; and Backgammon.  All GameAccount person-to-person skill games offer multi-table tournaments – a first for skill gaming – together with head-to-head cash games.  "Skill games broaden the demographic appeal of our online sportsbook offering, particularly relevant for southern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries where Backgammon is a cultural phenomenon," said Russell Young, Head of eGaming for Stan James.  "GameAccount was chosen after an exhaustive process investigating the potential for these emerging games, the experience of potential suppliers and the technical capabilities of their respective platforms."  Stan James becomes the first licensee sportsbook operator in 2008 to join the GameAccount Network following membership by other leading bookie firms like William Hill, BoyleSports, PaddyPower and Sportingbet Europe.  All GameAccount licensees enjoy the benefits of GameAccount's recent software upgrade which includes navigation enhancements for the games lobby, more information for tournament players and brand new side games. Players can now easily find and register for the next tournament to start and simply navigate between game tables. And for the first time in the skill gaming industry, players can launch side games from the game lobby without missing a moment of live person-to-person skill gaming action.  "We are delighted to welcome Stan James into our fast-growing Network, which has experienced explosive growth in player numbers and staking activity," said Kevin Dale, Chief Executive Officer at GameAccount.  "Our blue-chip corporate customers benefit from unique skill gaming software in attracting new players – reducing the dreaded churn and driving meaningful revenues comparable to poker. Gin Rummy, Backgammon and our unique Multiplayer Blackjack form a compelling suite of person-to-person games super-charged by the presence of new instant win side games to fill idle minutes. GameAccount is integrated with several sportsbook platforms including Orbis and Finsoft. Stan James is our third licensee sportsbook operator utilising the Finsoft sports betting software platform."  
BIG POKER CIRCUIT WIN FOR CUNNINGHAM
 Poker pro takes down the WSOP-C main prize at Caesars in Vegas Top poker pro and Full Tilt Poker Team member Allen Cunningham is $499 162 richer this week after winning the three day World Series of Poker Circuit championship at Caesars in Las Vegas. Cunningham outplayed his heads-up opponent Ben Fineman, who took home the second place prize of $257 637. This was despite a 3 to 1 advantage in chip stack in Fineman's favour going into the final tussle. The competition attracted an entry field that sported many famous names in international poker, including Todd Brunson, Alex Kravchenko, Erick Lindgren, 'ZeeJustin' Bonomo, Ralph Perry, Blair Hinkle and Chris Ferguson, and going into the final table Cunningham was low on the chip count totem pole at 296 000 – well behind his ultimate heads up opponent Fineman who started with a chip count of 828 000. 
BIG WINS IN INTERNET CASINOS
 European online gamblers score big Several online players hit into big money at online casinos over recent weeks, winning six figure amounts on both progressives and standard slots. At the Playtech-powered Europa Casino, a Norwegian player using the handle SisselA was described as 'ecstatic' over a Euro 289 500 hit on the progressive jackpot, Queen of Pyramids. Sissel had been a member of the online casino for less than two weeks when she struck it lucky after wagering a mere Euro 2.25 bet.
 
In an interview with Europa Casino management, an Sissel said that she prefers to play at online casinos for convenience, privacy and security….and tends to stay calmer and more controlled when placing her bets.
 
Players at Europa have been fortunate lately with a number of big wins, including an extraordinary progressive hit on the Diamond Valley progressive by GuyJ. of Luxembourg who scored a major Euro 125 137 win on a stake of only Euro 5.
 Later in the week, a 30-year-old unnamed player from Denmark won a remarkable Euro 323 578 in one day at Windows Casino…. all without hitting any progressive jackpots.
 
A press release from the casino reveals that the player is a relatively new arrival at Windows, who deposited Euro 110 and managed through good fortune to make it go a long way!
 
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like this,” Greg Gomez, the Windows Casino’s manager, opined. “This is one of the biggest wins we have ever seen at Windows Casino and certainly one that we will remember for many years”.
 
The lucky Dane achieved extraordinarily good results playing on a number of slots games: On 'Football Rules' he won Euro 224 000, on 'Desert Treasure' Euro 70 000 and by adding smaller wins from all the other slots games he played, he ultimately won in total a bank-boosting Euro 323 578 in prize money.
 
 ONLINE GAMBLING STUDY RESULTS RELEASED More males than females gambling online, and the biggest age group is between 18 and 34. The UK Gambling Commission has released its latest independent study results, presented by ICM Research. The omnibus study was carried out via a sample of 8 000 adults between June 2007 and March 2008. Key findings in the study are: * Over the year to March 2008, 8.8 percent of the 8 000 adults surveyed said they had participated in at least one form of remote gambling in the previous month.  * Those participating in remote gambling remain more likely to be male than female, and are more likely to be aged 18-34.  * If those only playing National Lottery games remotely are excluded, 5.1 percent of respondents had participated in remote gambling.
* Overall, 6.3 percent of respondents said they had gambled remotely on the National Lottery/tickets for the National Lottery draw in the previous month.
 * Remote gambling via a computer, laptop or handheld device was the most popular form of remote gambling (7.1 percent of all adult respondents), followed by gambling via mobile phone (2.4 percent) and interactive/digital TV (under 2 percent). Still on the subject of surveys, the Gambling Commission has also announced that it has commenced planning for the 2010 British Gambling Prevalence Study – a key assessment of the UK business carefully analysed by industry practitioners in previous years. The large-scale, nationally representative survey of participation in gambling and the prevalence of problem gambling in Great Britain will build on the two previous British gambling prevalence surveys carried out in 1999 and 2007. 
 
A Gambling Commission spokesperson said the project will be divided into three phases:
 
1)    pre-fieldwork: working with the survey steering group. The service provider will advise on study methodology and will design the study questionnaire
 
2)    fieldwork: the service provider will carry out the fieldwork, providing detailed reports on progress
 
3)    analysis and reporting: the service provider will provide detailed analysis of the findings, will draft the final report and incorporate peer review recommendations
 
Commission staffers plan to engage with academics and other interested parties who have expertise in gambling prevalence studies and have issued an open invitation for relevant persons to participate in a discussion on 17 June 2008 in advance of the tendering process. 
 
Interested parties are invited to contact Kati Virtaal Toohill at
k.virtaaltoohill@gamblingcommission.gov.uk
 
UK GAMBLING COMMISSION ENFORCEMENT CHIEF DEPARTS
 Director of Monitoring and Enforcement to leave Commission in July 2008
 
The UK Gambling Commission has announced the imminent departure of Andrew Lyman, a Director at the Commission responsible for Monitoring and Enforcement, who will be leaving shortly to take up a senior executive role with the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB).
 
"Having been involved in regulation for some years, I am looking forward to joining an organisation with a broad commercial focus.  This new role will provide an opportunity to develop my legal, negotiating and other skill sets in a challenging environment." said Lyman, whose remaining time with the Commission will be spent on internal project work, distinct from his current regulatory role. 
 
Gambling Commission Chief-Executive Jenny Williams said: “We are very sorry to see Andrew go but with his expertise and understanding of the Commission’s work he will continue to contribute to the promotion of socially responsible gambling in his new role at the ABB.”
 Lyman's successor has yet to be named. 
CARVE-OUTS DON'T HELP HERE
 Kentucky Derby could be impacted by UIGEA complications U.S. horse racing companies comfortable with their specially exempted online betting status in US legislation have apparently discovered some inconvenient facets of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act which has so effectively reduced competition by offshore firms. The Boston Herald quotes gaming and banking industry experts as saying that horse racing fans looking to place online bets for the 134th Kentucky Derby this weekend may find their transactions blocked by banks and credit card companies trying to avoid running afoul of unclear federal regulations.
 
"Unless the government takes the responsibility of telling the banks which merchants they shouldn’t deal with, and when banks take the position that they are not going to process these transactions without guidance, all heck will break loose," said Tony Cabot, an attorney with the Las Vegas firm Lewis and Roca, which represents the Nevada Pari-Mutuel Association.
 
The Herald notes that advocates for the banking and online gambling industries, legal scholars and several members of Congress are pushing the U.S. Treasury, the Federal Reserve and the Justice Department to clarify whether a regulatory exemption in the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act that allows Internet gambling on horse racing could also mean that banks and credit card companies would be penalised for processing the money from those wagers.
 
Under the law, passed in 2006 as part of the SAFE Port Security Act, the nation’s banks and credit card companies are prohibited from accepting payments for some online bets or wagers. However, the financial institutions are largely left to figure out which gambling transactions are illegal and block payments.
 
Financial institutions say this unfairly puts them in the position of trying to decide what’s legal with little clear guidance from the federal agencies responsible for implementing the rule.
 
Until the federal agencies issue better guidance, some financial service companies may refuse to handle any online gambling transactions, said I. Nelson Rose, a law professor at Whittier College in Costa Mesa, California. "The problem is that in some states online gambling is legal, in others it is not and in still other cases the question depends on where the bettor is, where the gaming operator is and what form of gambling is taking place," Rose told the newspaper.
 The Herald recaps recent Congressional hearings and requests from federal officials for comment on implementing regulations designed to underpin the UIGEA. Over 200 responses were received and are still being considered by federal drafters. On the hearings front, many witnesses across the spectrum of those involved in the process were sharply critical of the law, which they called vague and costly for financial institutions to implement.  One of the most common complaints is that the rules fail to sufficiently define key terms, leaving financial institutions to figure out how to comply, said Congressman Luis Gutierrez.
 
"For example, the regulation fails to adequately define what constitutes ‘unlawful Internet gambling’ or ‘restricted transaction,’ yet requires the financial institutions to make a determination on their own about what is lawful or unlawful," Gutierrez said.
 Also noted by the Herald are the current IGREA legislative attempts led by Congressman Barney Frank to legalise and licence online gambling, and a more recent move in concert with Congressman Ron Paul to halt federal drafters from further work on the now long over deadline regulations.
 
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and Rep. Chris Cannon took former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to task in a letter last year for the UIGEA's ambiguity on which states should block online horse gambling transactions. They still await a definitive reply.
 In response, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said then (and the Department of Justice has since reiterated that) "…while the UIGEA requires that the regulations be issued ‘in consultation with the attorney general,’ the Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve have the primary responsibility for drafting the regulations, and therefore we would defer questions concerning the timing or the scope of the regulations to those parties." 
MARVELLOUS MARTY IS THE PARTYPOKER WORLD OPEN CHAMP
 Irish eyes and fortune are smiling on 33 year-old Ulsterman
 
33-year-old Marty Smyth of Ulster in Ireland scooped $250 000 this week after winning the PartyPoker.com World Open IV in London, truimphing over 72 other entrants in the $8 000 buy-in event that generated a total prize pool of $576 000.  The final table line-up was impressive to say the least, and included Neil Channing, recent Manchester GUKPT winner Marc “Mr Cool” Goodwin, Andy “The Spider” Ward, Dixie Dean and Ryan Fronda. 
 
“I’m delighted and very proud,” said Smyth, who won the 2007 Irish Open and has made the final table in the Poker Million the last two years. “With the way Neil (Channing) is running at the moment he was the last person I wanted to take on heads-up. I hope this sparks a run for me as good as his! I’m so happy to win the trophy and the money will come in handy for Vegas.”
 
Smyth's heads-up opponent was Neil Channing, who has been on fire in recent months, taking Marty’s Irish Open title in January and leading Great Britain to victory in the PartyPoker.com Poker Nations Cup as well as other impressive results. He also looked the most likely winner to everybody. As well as playing some majestic poker, the man they used to call ‘Bad Beat’ was getting cards when he needed them.
 “I thought it was my day,” said Channing. “I believed during the final table that if I didn’t win this I would be disappointed and I am. That said, it would have been a bit ridiculous if I managed to take down this title as well!”
 
Channing went into the heads-up with Smyth leading 995 000 to 405 000. Many thought the writing was on the wall but Smyth clawed his way back and in an epic heads-up that lasted as long as the rest of the heat before it, the Ulsterman drew level making it an even match at 700 000.
 Many started to fancy Smyth but were convinced that perhaps it was too much to overcome the “goldenballs” of the European poker circuit. However, the Irishman wore Channing down and eventually all the money went in the middle. Channing flat called in the small blind with 9h 9c, Smyth came over the top with Qc Qs. Channing pushed all-in and Smyth called. The board 10s 5d 2d Kh Kd brought no help and the PartyPoker.com World Open IV had itself a very popular winner. Channing earned a useful $100 000 for his second placing.
 
A PartyPoker.com spokesman said: “It would be fair to say that Marty was an extremely popular winner. He’s done European poker a favour by derailing the Channing bandwagon, but make no mistake he is one of the finest players on the circuit at the moment.”
 
Eddie Hearn, Director of Matchroom Sport said: “This was without doubt the strongest field we have seen at the PartyPoker.com World Open and the players certainly didn't disappoint. The standard of play was simply stunning throughout and Marty was a deserved winner. The PartyPoker.com World Open is now firmly established as one of poker’s major titles.”
 
The event featured a top class field led by ‘Ambassador of Poker’ Mike Sexton and included Dave “The Devilfish” Ulliott, Juha Helppi, Theo Jorgensen, Ian Frazer, Roberto Romanello, Jon Kalmar, Thomas Bihl, Surinder Sunar, John Tabatabai, Christoph Haller, Jan Peter Jachtmann and Liam Flood. Coverage of the Matchroom Sport organised event will be broadcast on Channel 5 in the UK later this year and will be fronted by Jesse May. Last year, 45-year-old former Sidcup betting shop owner Anthony Hardy triumphed over a final table that also featured Ian Cox, Ram Vaswani, David Rudling, Ian Frazer and eventual runner-up Ian Woodley. The winner in 2006 was Pippa Flanders, while in 2005 Lee Nelson won the inaugural event.
 
The winner of each of the 12 heats progressed to the semi-final stage, and, for the first time in the event's history all was not lost for the runners-up on the table as they battled it out for the remaining two semi-final spots in “last chance” turbo heats. The two unlucky players who missed out on the bubble for the final table were Simon Craig and Andy Greekfish.
 
 
NBC NATIONAL HEADS UP CHANGES New list of automatic invitations A new automatic invitation list to play in one of poker's premier televised tournaments – the NBC National Heads-Up Championship – is was released this week, providing a tourney with increased expert participation and viewer interest. Now four years old, the championship generates so far unsurpassed poker television viewerships, with the likes of Phil Hellmuth (2005), Ted Forrest (2006), Paul Wasicka (2007), and Chris Ferguson (2008) the top stars so far.  According to a release from the NBC, the automatic invitation list will be used for the 2009 spectacular and will be structured as follows: * Previous 5 National Heads-Up Poker Champions * Previous 2 National Heads-Up runners-up * Defending National Heads-Up semifinalists * Any player who cashes in the past 4 consecutive years of the National Heads-Up Poker Championship * Previous 3 World Series of Poker Main Event Champions * Defending World Series of Poker Main Event runner-up * Beginning with the 2008 WSOP, multiple bracelet winners in the same year will receive an automatic invitation to the next Heads-Up Championship * Defending World Series of Poker Player of the Year * Defending World Series of Poker Heads-Up Champion * Defending World Series of Poker Europe Main Event Champion (21 or older) * Reigning World Poker Tour Player of the Year * Reigning Monte Carlo European Poker Tour Grand Final Champion (21 or older) * Reigning Card Player magazine Player of the Year * Reigning Bluff magazine Player of the Year * Reigning ALL IN magazine Player of the Year * Online and NBC qualifiers (1-3) (must be 21 or older) * 2 x host venue qualifiers (2) Players receiving an invite to the event are still required to buy-in for the full entry fee, unless they win a seat through an online qualifier.  
WEB GAMBLING STILL IN THE TOP TEN
 ZD Net blog users by category shows growth in online gambling interest The popular online information and news site ZDNet's latest US statistics for February and March 2008 indicate a growing interest in online gambling, currently showing the third largest percentage monthly increase. The Radio Entertainment category showed the largest visits growth from February to March 2008 with 27 percent, followed by Gay and Lesbian (albeit at very low actual numbers) at 26 percent and Online Gambling at 14 percent – an interest in March to 12 592 from 11082 the previous month. The only other category showing growth over 10 percent was Retail Health Care at 12 percent. ZDNet also notes that the top five search engines for March 2008 were: * Google with 58.7 percent of market share and a year-on-year growth of 25.5 percent. * Yahoo! which was in negative year-on-year territory at -4.5 percent but still holds 18.1 percent of the search business. * MSN showing impressive year-on-year growth of 36 percent to command a market share of 12 percent. * AOL which lost Y-o-Y growth by -19.4 percent and now has a 4.1 percent market share. * Ask.com tops the list in terms of Y-o -Y growth of 52.4 percent and now has around 2.4 percent of the market. Other items of current Web interest on the informative ZDNet site include the fact that 68 percent of searchers click on entries in the first page of search results, 59 percent of Internet users make use of social media to vent on customer care issues, and Web 2.0 spend will reach $4.6 billion by 2013.  POSITIVE Q1 RESULTS FROM NETENT Sales, profit and margins all up in January to March 2008 period The Swedish online gambling turnkey provider and games developer Net Entertainment is off to a good start to 2008, with positive Q1 results showing improvements in sales, profits and margins. Highlights of the interim report released this week include:  • Net sales increased by 27 percent to SEK 42.8 million. • Operating profit increased by 35.1 percent to SEK 16.9 million. • Profit after tax increased by 34.4 percent to SEK 15.4 million. • Net profit margin was 36.1 percent, up 2 percent on previous quarter. • Operating margin was 39.6 percent. • 4 new license agreements for the firm's CasinoModule system were signed. • The company received a pilot order for its CasinoCafé 'kiosk' system.    
 
Johan Öhman, CEO of the company said: "Net Entertainment achieved strong development in the first quarter, with a 27 percent increase in net sales over the same period in 2007 and a 17.7 percent increase over the previous quarter.
 "Profitability continues at a healthy level and the operating margin rose to 39.6 percent for the quarter. Growth is being driven by the generally strong growth in the market, successful new games and new customers opening a number of casinos in the quarter.  "Net Entertainment continues to make good sales progress and four new licence agreements for CasinoModule were entered into during the quarter. One of the agreements is with leading Internet operator, Bet-at-home.com. In addition, a pilot order for CasinoCafe was secured."  Ohman went on to reveal that during the quarter, Net Entertainment has pursued its recruitment drive in order to strengthen the organisation and reduce its dependence on consultants. The company has also started the development of contracts in the Ukraine in a bid to accelerate the pace of development and to increase cost efficiency.  The company plans to switch to the Swedish small cap exchange, hopefully in the thrid quarter of this year, and Ohman revealed that Net Entertainment's Board of Directors is to file an application to move its exchange listing to the OMX Exchange in Stockholm. The transition to a different exchange will increase investor awareness in Net Entertainment stock and likely its liquidity. Ohman predicts that the online gaming market will continue experiencing positive growth, benefiting the company through the organic growth of its current licensees.  "Our highly competitive product portfolio and continuing focus on the development of new, innovative games also present us with excellent opportunities for entering into agreements with new customers," he said.  "I am convinced that our healthy order book, strong product portfolio and brisk pace of development provide us with excellent opportunities for continued profitable growth." Ohman revealed that the second quarter indications point to a strong start for Net Entertainment, too, with strong developments in the sales pipeline. 
PUTTING ON THE RITZ
 PKR Poker lays on a night of glam, glitz and celebrity in London Jez San's burgeoning PKR.com online poker company scored another marketing coup over the holiday weekend when it laid on a night of glam, glitz and celebrity by hosting an afterparty for the attendees of the Professional Footballer's Association Awards. The initiative is another interesting involvement by an online gambling company in events in the wider sport and entertainment worlds following Full Tilt Poker's recent marketing partnership with the World Series of Golf (see previous InfoPowa report)  Held in London's plush Albannach restaurant in Trafalgar Square, the PKR.com team served up fun poker and casino room action for the star-studded guest list.  Celebrations continued well into the wee small hours of the following morning at the invite-only after party. The blackjack and roulette tables, along with a private poker room were extremely popular, with prizes ranging from free cash to spend at PKR Casino.com to personalised, luxury poker-chip sets. Partygoers at the bash included high profile Premiership stars Micah Richards, Jermain Defoe, Carlton Cole, Jimmy Bullard, Anton Ferdinand and the entire Fulham first team. There were also appearances from rugby legend Martin Offiah, as well as numerous celebs from the world of TV and music.  PKR.com added to the glamour factor with their own spectacularly costumed ‘team’ of eleven beauties in PKR football kit. Lucky online regulars at the PKR poker website were treated to complimentary tickets, allowing some lucky football fans a golden opportunity to rub shoulders with some of The Beautiful Game's elite. Marketing Manager Erika Schwartz said, “It was a great evening and a fantastic opportunity to introduce our brand to some influential people as well as reward some of our loyal players”.  PPA REMINDS SEN. KYL OF UIGEA IMPERFECTIONS One of the most egregious flaws in the bill is that it does not define "unlawful Internet gambling" clearly Las week's report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal (see previous InfoPowa report) that Senator Jon Kyl was growing impatient with the protracted drafting process on regulations to support the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act elicited a tart response this week from the Poker Players Association. The Las Vegas director of the PPA, Ken Illgen minced no words in his letter to the LVRJ editor, saying: "Frankly, the confusion regulators are dealing with as they develop the regulations to enforce the law is a direct result of how this act was written and sneaked into a must-pass port security bill in the dead of night, allowing no time for review and debate." Illgen goes on to point out that one of the most egregious flaws in the bill is that it does not define "unlawful Internet gambling" clearly – something that the legislators trying to make Internet gambling unlawful should have included.
 
"This law is clearly unworkable, as regulators, bankers and several members of Nevada's congressional delegation have publicly stated," Illgen concludes. "To truly place checks and balances on Internet gambling, Congress should look to existing legislation that would seek to regulate online gambling in order to protect children and problem gamblers and collect the billions of dollars in lost tax revenue from these transactions.
 
"Let's not blame regulators for struggling to enact this flawed and ambiguous bill, and [instead] start looking for workable solutions to truly regulate this growing online industry. 
 
 IF YOU PLAY, HAVE A SAY WSOP timing for Poker Players Alliance voter drive The World Series of Poker timeframe represents a unique publicity opportunity where world interest is focused on the game of poker, and the one million members strong Poker Players Alliance intends to exploit it.
 
The organisation announced this week that it will launch a voter registration effort during the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas, which begins May 31 and runs through November, with the aim of rallying support for reversing or blocking federal and state laws that prohibit gambling on online poker.
 The campaign is centred on the slogan "If you play, have a say," with messaging and strategy developed by the Herald Group, which is also providing media outreach and other tactical communications support. PPA has already launched a Web site, www. poker-2008.org, where players can download forms and get information on voter registration. Outreach timed for the 39th annual poker series will include speaking with trade magazines; posting comments on the online poker message boards where players discuss poker strategy, legislation, and other issues; running online, print, and possibly TV ads; and posting videos featuring top poker pros on social networking sites, such as Facebook and You Tube. Formed in 2005, the PPA is flourishing, thanks to funding from individuals and Canada-based industry trade group Interactive Gaming Council, according to PPA executive director John Pappas. Membership was further enhanced by the 2006 passage of the Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act, which, among other things, bans online gambling financial transactions, he added. "Out of this has sprung a political constituency that [we've] tapped into to influence public policy in Washington," Pappas said. "And we've found that one of the best things we can do is not only lobby members [to] send letters to members of Congress, and attend town hall meetings, but get players registered and active on election days." The PPA is encouraging members and other players around the country to support legislation currently proposed like Congressman Frank's IGREA, that would regulate online gambling to prevent play by minors or "problem" players.  Outreach during the WSOP, which annually attracts tens of thousands of players and is broadcast on ESPN, will include a booth and online terminals for registration, advertising, and still-to-be-determined public events.  
BONOMO JOINS BODOG
 Top Internet poker player signs up as a Bodog pro The handle 'ZeeJustin' used by top Internet poker player Justin Bonomo (22), is recognisable to most online poker players and could become more so following his agreement to join the professional player list at online poker site Bodog Poker. The young pro joins David Williams, Evelyn Ng, Josh Arieh and Jean-Robert Bellande on a team with big ambitions that include an appearance at this year's World Series of Poker.  In a statement released by Bodog, Bonomo said: "I'm extremely excited about joining the select ranks of Team Bodog pros and becoming an ambassador for the Bodog brand alongside David, Evy and Jean-Robert. I know each of them personally and I have tremendous respect for each of them." Bonomo added that he was ready to start his team involvement by playing online against players around the world on the Bodog virtual poker tables, and that he hoped for a big win and a gold bracelet at WSOP 2008. The young poker professional has done well in his short but successful career, which started online and developed into land tournament achievements of note, with numerous cashes in WSOP, WPT and EPT events. He made the final table of the 2007 $2 000 No-Limit Hold'em event, as well the 2005 EPT French Open and the 2007 Caesars Palace Classic. His most recent success was a fifth place finish in the 2008 World Series of Poker Circuit at Caesar's Palace, which boosted his bank balance by $69 594. Morris Mohawk Gaming Group, which now handles the North American operations of Bodog, announced Bonomo's involvement, with CEO Alwyn Morris saying: "Justin is one of the most feared and skilled players in poker today and we're thrilled to officially have him join our team of world-class poker pros. We expect him to make a lot of noise this year for Team Bodog, beginning with the WSOP this summer." 
BIG FULL TILT POKER WIN FOR POKER AUTHOR
 Sunday tournament pays off for Matthew Hilger Matthew Hilger, poker author, poker publisher, and poker pro, won the Full Tilt Poker $750 000 Guaranteed Poker Tournament over the holiday weekend, pocketing over $132 000 for his first placing. The win topped an rewarding tournament record this year, with 9 entries that yielded 3 top 100's, 2 final tables, and finally the big win.  Hilger now has his eyes set on the 2008 World Series of Poker (WSOP), where he has cashed three of the last four years in the main event and nine times overall.  Hilger became closely associated with Internet poker when he released his best-selling book, 'Internet Texas Hold'em'. Following the book, he created an online community, visited poker forums and read strategy articles to get


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FRANK LAUNCHES NEW ATTACK ON ANTI-ONLINE GAMBLING REGS
 
New bill seeks to stop implementation of unworkable UIGEA regs in its tracks
 
Following the recent Congressional hearings in Washington on the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, few can doubt that government agencies and the financial services industry required to police it have a monumental task in thinking up practical ways to implement this flawed law passed by Congress in 2006.
 
This week that task may have been made tougher by new legislation – H.R.5767 – introduced by influential House Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank and Republican presidential aspirant Ron Paul.
 
According to a statement from Frank and Paul, HR 5767 introduced this week seeks to prohibit the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and the Treasury secretary from "proposing, prescribing, or implementing any regulation that requires the financial services industry to identify and block Internet gambling transactions."
 
If approved, the Bill will effectively curtail the further operation of the UIGEA.
 
Frank's new initiative comes after intense criticism of proposed regulations drafted by government agencies to give teeth to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which was designed to disrupt financial transactions with online gambling companies but places the burden of enforcement on the U.S. financial services industry.
 
Both Congressmen claim the UIGEA unduly infringes upon personal freedoms. "The ban on Internet gambling infringes upon two freedoms that are important to many Americans: the ability to do with their money as they see fit, and the freedom from government interference with the Internet," Representative Paul said.
 
Critics protest that the UIGEA is impossible to implement due to ambiguities in its language and a serious lack of definition, together with the impracticality of tasking an already stretched financial services industry with its complicated enforcement across a variety of financial and in many cases international instruments.
 
Congressman Frank has highlighted these flaws, saying: "I believe that even those who agree with it ought to be concerned about the regulations' impact," and pointing out that the recent Congressional hearing had showed that "the regulations are unworkable for the financial services industry."
 
Federal government executive Louise L. Roseman to an extent confirmed that, warning that banks had expressed uncertainty about implementing the law at the hearing on April 2 (see previous InfoPowa report) and commenting on the difficulty in drafting effective supporting regulations.
 
"The payment system, frankly, isn't well designed to be able to identify this activity," Roseman said.
 
Congressman Frank has another card ready to play in his fight against the UIGEA.  His HR 2046 Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act currently has 48 co-sponsors and seeks to regulate and licence online gambling in the United States, raising tax revenues at the same time as controlling the popular pastime of Internet gambling. If eventually passed, this bill could effectively overturn the UIGEA, although it is still in need of more political support.
 
A spokesman for the anti-UIGEA pressure group Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative, Jeffrey Sandman applauded the new bill, saying:  "The Frank-Paul bill would stop the U.S. government from taking any further steps on regulations that would require all of the country's financial institutions to block Internet Gambling payments."
 
"It's a bold move, but a necessary one, in light of the warnings from the Treasury and Federal Reserve that they did not know how to write regulations to solve the problems created by UIGEA.  Further, witnesses representing a broad spectrum of the financial services community unanimously stated that the current ban on Internet gambling is dangerous to the payments system and ineffective in stopping people from using the Internet to play poker, make bets on horses, or engage in other types of wagering."
 
 
BANKERS APPLAUD ATTACK ON UIGEA (Update)
 
"We certainly appreciate the interest," says banking association
 
The Washington DC publication The Hill reports that the banking industry is cheering the fresh assault on the UIGEA (see previous InfoPowa report) mounted by House Financial Services committee chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Congressman and presidential aspirant Ron Paul (R-Texas).
 
Congressman Frank has teamed up with the libertarian-minded Paul, who crusaded against big government during his recent White House bid, on legislation to block the contentious 2006 legislation by forbidding federal officials from writing rules to implement it. Those officials have already admitted that the regulations supporting the UIGEA are proving difficult to draft, with strong opposition from the financial industry that is required to act as policeman for the federal government.
 
“I don’t know what can be done or will be done legislatively, but we certainly appreciate the interest,” said the top lobbyist for the American Bankers Association , Floyd Stoner, of the Frank-Paul legislation.
 
Frank’s new legislation attacks the practical hurdles regarding the implementation of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, rather than its legitimacy.
 
“While I do disagree with the underlying objective of the act, I believe that even those who agree with it ought to be concerned about the regulations’ impact,” Frank said in a statement. He argued that the regulations proposed by the Federal Reserve and the Treasury were “…impossible to implement without placing a significant burden on the payments system and financial institutions.”
 
Supporters of banning online gambling have been quick to respond to the latest attack on the UIGEA, vowing to beat back the new effort to undo the law.
 
“Our office will vigorously oppose any efforts to repeal or water down any parts of the [federal law],” said Ryan Patmintra, a spokesman for Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who was a chief sponsor of legislation to ban online gambling in the Senate.
 
“It’s another attempt to take apart a bill that was passed overwhelmingly by the House,” said Tom McClusky, the vice president for government affairs at the Family Research Council , which had pushed hard for the federal crackdown. He noted that 48 state attorneys general had pushed for the federal law to enforce their state bans.
 
The National Football League and other professional and amateur sports organisations are also gearing up to fight Frank's new law, threatening to “vigorously oppose” the legislation, said Martin Gold, a lawyer at Covington & Burling and a longtime lobbyist for the NFL.
 
Federal law is murky on what constitutes illegal gambling online. Congress stopped short of defining it clearly in the 2006 law, directing the federal government instead to enforce state laws restricting such activities. It also excluded online horserace betting from the crackdown.
 
Now, writing rules to implement the law is bedeviling regulators. “The challenge we have is interpreting … federal laws that Congress itself isn’t sure what they mean,” Louise Roseman, a Federal official, testified on April 2 before Frank’s committee.
 
The banking industry has flooded the Treasury and the Fed with complaints about their proposed rules, arguing that it is too difficult for banks to sort out payments for legal wagers — such as on horse races — and those that are illegal.
 
“The banking system is just not set up to sort out whether one payment is a legal payment and one payment is not,” said the director of congressional affairs for the Independent Community Bankers of America , Steve Verdier. “We think the [Frank-Paul] bill would give everyone the chance to take a breath.”
 
Charles Rothfeld, a lawyer at Mayer Brown who has argued several cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, said that the Frank-Paul legislation is not likely to pose any constitutional problems. “Congress gets to say the way in which its legislation is implemented. If it wants to issue legislation to preclude the promulgation of regulation, it can do that,” he argued.
 
The Hill reports that aside from the banking industry, the Frank-Paul bill also has support from gambling aficionados and firms.
 
The American Gaming Association , which says its members do not include online gambling operators, has not taken a stance on the bill and remains "neutral" on the 2006 law. However, the association supports a bill sponsored by Representative Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) to commission a one-year study of online gambling by a third party.
 
 
BRILLIANT MAIDEN RESULTS FROM ASIAN LOGIC
 
Recently-floated online and land-based gaming company turns in golden results
 
Recently listed gambling group Asian Logic plc has produced an impressive set of maiden results that include a 210 percent growth in pre-tax profits and annual revenues up 95 percent.
 
The company, which has a close association with online gambling software developer Playtech, reported pre-tax profits of $12.4 million, 210 percent up from the 2006 comparative of $4 million.  Annual revenues rose 95 percent to $54.3 million (2006: $27.8 million) with average daily casino turnover up 67 percent to $6.2 million (2006: $3.7 million)
 
Average daily poker rake and tournament fees soared 14 fold in 2007, and average net gaming revenue per day increased 57 percent from $92 243 in January to $145 249 in December.
 
AsianLogic floated on the London AIM last December, raising GBP44.3 million and has since embarked on an energetic acquisition strategy that has seen it acquire the Asian Poker Tour, secure a licensing agreement with Philweb and achieve the rollout of two additional casinos and one poker room powered by Playtech. 
 
A statement from the company advised that current trading and outlook were positive and that further agreements were in progress to acquire a 25 percent stake in a long established European online gambling marketing firm; buy an Asian e-gaming operator and obtain a strategic stake in a quoted Asian gaming company with a view to developing a range of joint venture projects.
 

5 YEAR GERMAN ONLINE GAMBLING DEAL FOR CHARTWELL
 
Saxony-licensed online casino operator chooses Canadian gambling software
 
One of the German states will soon have an online casino operation up and running. Calgary-based online gambling software developer Chartwell Technology has revealed that it has been successful in clinching a deal with Spielbanken Niedersachsen GmbH (SNG), the exclusive Lower Saxony state licensed and regulated casino operator, for an online gaming system.
 
SNG plans to launch its Internet gambling venture to complement its existing landbased business. The agreement is for five years and calls for the initial launch of both casino and soft games, with provision for the roll-out of additional gaming products to SNG sister companies as and when locally permissible in Germany. The launch of the Flash technology casino is scheduled for early next (May) month, with a preview currently available at www.casinoland.de
 
Owned by leading international gaming operator Casinos Austria International, which itself has been involved in online poker development with Sweden's Svenske Spel and Boss Media recently (see previous InfoPowa reports), Spielbanken Niedersachsen has been providing games of chance to the people of the German Federal State of Lower Saxony for almost 20 years.

Last year SNG's gross win exceeded Euro 94 million. The company holds the exclusive state licence to offer internet gaming to the residents of Lower Saxony, the second largest German state, with a population of 8 million inhabitants.
 
"We are delighted to provide our gaming system for SNG's launch into online gaming" said Darold H. Parken, President and CEO of Chartwell.
 
"We have gained an exceptional industry partner with a well established gaming business, helping to ensure our future growth in the key regulated German market. It has always been our strategy to align Chartwell with blue-chip licensed operators, and in SNG we have a perfect example" Parken said, adding: "Chartwell went through an extensive vetting process to win this contract with SNG. Our software and people passed the test and we are extremely excited with the opportunity to work with SNG in this growing gaming market."
 
Rainer Chrubassik, CEO of SNG commented: "We shall be launching Germany's first legal virtual casino, and are required by law to ensure the highest standards of security. With Chartwell as our partner we can fulfil our obligations in this respect, while at the same time offering an outstandingly attractive range of products. The intense process of system implementation has been a great challenge to all of us, but one we have succeeded in mastering. The project is unique in Germany and will point the way for future developments."
 
The advent of the German online casino project will be watched with interest by the European Commission, which has been pressuring Germany and 9 other EU members to open up their online gambling industries to private companies both within the country and in other EU nations.
 

SPIN 3 LAUNCHES NEW MOBILE POKER GAME
 
3 Card Poker already a firm favourite
 
Mobile gaming solutions provider Spin3 powered by Microgaming has launched a new 3 Card Poker gambling game for mobile phones.
 
3 Card Poker is a popular table game in land-based casinos around the world because it is easy to learn. Played with a standard deck of 52 cards that is shuffled before each game, 3 Card Poker consists of two games in one – the Pair Plus game and the Ante game – which can be played together or as individual games.
 
The launch of 3 Card Poker on Spin3's interactive platforms follows the recent launch of a Pub Fruity AWP slot, and joins classic games such as Roulette and Blackjack as well as slot and scratch card games in Spin3's growing mobile casino games portfolio.
 
Matti Zinder, Head of Spin3, says: "Our 3 Card Poker game is easy-to-follow because it is intuitively designed and comes complete with terrific graphics. With 13 mobile casino games, Spin3 is at the forefront of developments in the mobile casino industry and offers one of the most compelling portfolios of mobile casino games around."
 
3 Card Poker will be available to Spin3 customers currently utilising the GameWire platform for their mobile casino systems over the next few months.
 

FRANCE GEARING UP FOR ONLINE GAMBLING (Update)
 
Major new policy now evolving
 
The French daily newspaper Aujourd’hui en France has confirmed earlier reports in Le Parisien (see previous InfoPowa reports) that France is moving toward the regulation rather than prohibition of online gambling, perhaps as early as 2009. The newspapers report that “everything is ready” for France to initiate discussions on its proposed framework for online gaming and betting.
 
In current moves, former MP Bruno Durieux handed in the results of a study he carried out on online gambling for the French finance inspectorate at the end of last week, and President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to give his final approval for the policy shift in the near future.
 
President Sarkozy has displayed a more open mind to a competitive betting market in France, and Budget Minister Eric Woerth and other French government representatives have held talks with European Commission officials in Brussels this year.
 
Woerth disclosed earlier this week that the president favours a controlled approach to opening up the market, ensuring that competition is even and balanced.
 
The timeframe for “a new era in online gaming and betting” is thought to be towards the end of “2009 or early in 2010”, according to Woerth.
 
Reports suggest that France intends to develop a new “system” for online gaming and betting in partnership with other EU states such as Belgium, Germany and Holland, rather than adopt existing models such as those in the UK or Italy. An initial steering committee will gather at the end of April to move this agenda forward.
 
At a national level, operators will have to be licensed to offer their services in France and conform to the system, with strict guidelines relating to money laundering and player protection. 
 
In his latest disclosures, Minister Woerth said that France was not acting under threat from the European Commission (which has engaged with the French on the country's monopolistic gambling policy) but to address the changes brought in by technological developments and the Internet. He added that horse racing betting had to evolve, but he would not allow fixed-odds betting products to be offered on the sport.
 
For other sports such as football, fixed-odds bets would be offered, but Woerth added: “A sports bet is not betting on the colour of a tennis player’s jersey. The bet must be linked to the sporting performance, if not it can be the source of all kinds of dubious activity.” The French government would also expect to share in betting revenues by way of taxes, he added.
 
Regarding online casino and poker gaming, these activities will be licensed, although further study is necessary, Woerth said. Slot machines are for now at least not approved on grounds that these types of gambling were thought to be too addictive, the minister said.
 
Formerly one of the most aggressive opponents of any competition to its state gambling monopolies, France along with 9 other recalcitrant EU nations has been under increasing pressure from the European Commission, which is determined to enforce European Union requirements that member nations in the trading bloc permit free passage of goods and services with other members.
 
 
LADBROKES LAUNCHES NEW 'THRILL BUDS' AD CAMPAIGN
 
Adventure the theme of latest GBP 2 million advertising push
 
UK gambling group Ladbrokes has launched its latest campaign, a GBP 2 million initiative crafted by M&C Saatchi to promote the company's online casino.
 
Shot in South Africa, the ad. "Climb" drives the campaign and is the first in a series that show adventurers pushing themselves too far in their quest for the ultimate thrill. The tagline, "Quench your thrill buds," makes the point and attempts to tap into the emotional thrill of playing online casino games.
 
Shot in a documentary style, "Climb" is narrated by the local mountain man Nolbert Fernandez, who tells the story of his friend Pedro – a man who can't "quench his thrill buds".  Pedro goes to ridiculous extremes to get his thrills by climbing in increasingly dangerous ways, which ultimately leads to his downfall.
 
The mockumentary concludes by suggesting he should have "quenched his thrill buds" at Ladbrokes Casino.com instead of risking mortal danger.
 
Shortly after television advertising was opened up to gambling advertisements in Britain late last year Ladbrokes begin running the first nationwide TV advertising by a major bookmaker with a GBP 5 million campaign entitled 'café,'  again developed by M&C Saatchi.
 
The campaign had a tag of "everyone's got an opinion" and a football flavour, and starred sports personalities Ian Wright, Lee Dixon and Chris Kamara as well as Rangers' Assistant Manager Ally McCoist as builders enjoying a fry-up in a traditional café. TV presenter Kirsty Gallacher appeared as a waitress, with the original TV pundit Jimmy Hill, 79, making his screen comeback as the chef.
 
 
NEW MOBILE SLOT LAUNCHED
 
Slovakian software developer Inlogic hopes for mobile phone action
 
The Slovakian software developer Inlogic Software has released a new slot game for use on mobile phones, but at present the game is for fun only.
 
Players stake virtual amounts of money on three differently themed slot machines, in this latest product from the company says Jan Kalafut, Head of Business of Inlogic Software: "Inlogic has already developed several gambling games based on popular card games.
 
"Now we wanted to bring something new to the public: a game which would have, on one hand, a gambling character but, on the other hand, easy-to-play rules. Slot Machine is full of fun, graphically attractive and, of course, catchy."
 
Slot Machine will shortly be available for download via Inlogic's website, and will be compatible with most of the J2ME enabled mobile phones on the market.
 
Based in Slovakia, Central Europe, Inlogic Software has previously developed other mobile games for J2ME handsets, including Star Defence, Suicidal Squirrels, Ali the Penguin, Roboros and FootBallz.
 
 
eWALLET FIRM DEPARTS U.S. POKER SCENE
 
ePassporte calls it a day, citing US enforcement activity
 
The California based e-wallet service ePassporte appears to be about to exit the United States online poker market, although as InfoPowa went to press Sunday this had not been confirmed by a general public statement from the company.
 
However, both Cake Poker and Full Tilt Poker have been advised by ePassporte management that "…a widespread investigation of Internet gambling, including poker" by the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Southern New York" is responsible for the decision, according to online media reports from Poker News.com. 
 
Back in the day when Eliot Spitzer controlled the New York AG's office it conducted a number of busts involving online gambling and ancillary services, such as the prosecution against Neteller.com's founders which was eventually settled for well over $100 million.
 
"Although we do not believe we have done anything illegal, we do not wish to be associated with anything that might be considered illegal by the United States Government," a communication sent to poker operators by ePassporte on Friday is understood to have read.
 
A Cake Poker email to players advised: "We have received notice from ePassporte today that they are unable to continue to provide CakePoker with merchant e-wallet services. We have since confirmed that this situation is not unique to CakePoker and is, in fact, industry wide."
 
Full Tilt Poker told its players: "We have recently been notified by ePassporte that they are no longer able to facilitate deposits or withdrawals between ePassporte and Full Tilt Poker player accounts."
 
 
A VALUABLE DOMAIN
 
Casino770 buys "770.com" for GBP 175 000
 
Online domain marketplace Sedo.com has reported brokering the sale of the domain "770.com" to Casino770.com, widely believed to be associated with the French land casino group Partouche, for an impressive GBP 175 000 this week. The previous owner is described only as "a private investor."
 
The new owner will use the domain to expand its online web presence and market the 770 brand aggressively.
 
"In such a competitive online gaming market, it's crucial we secure the right names to grow and develop the company's online brand," said a spokesman for Casino770. "Using Sedo's marketplace and brokerage service, the business has secured an unforgettable name. It's short and sweet and fits the brand like a glove."
 
"We're pleased to have brokered such a high profile sale," said Nora Nanayakkara, director of business development for Sedo UK. "Short generic names like 770.com are red hot commodities – far more so than a physical business address. Any growing business looking to make its Internet presence felt will know its online strategy and domain portfolio are key components to successful brand development."
 
Sedo's online marketplace now lists over 10.5 million Internet domain names. It holds regular auctions for buyers and sellers.
Gambling related domain names sold by Sedo recently include Mobile.co.uk ($247 000) MicroJuegos (Micro Games in Spanish) $15 065 and FreeOnlineCasinos.com ($11 500)
 

LUCKY ONLINE GAMBLER
 
Two royal flushes in 3 days – and this is not the first time!
 
The Golden Tiger online casino reports an exceptionally lucky online gambler this week, identified only as "PS", who has scored two royal flushes and picked up a GBP 100 000 jackpot for each….all within 3 days.
 
The British player defeated all odds this month by hitting his second royal flush in only three days…and as recently as February this year he managed to do the exact same thing, and then again in March 2008, bringing his total winning balance up to GBP 400 000 in a mere three months, reports Golden Tiger spokesperson Emma Hall.
 
The royal flush is rare enough to be remarkable and is the best hand in poker, consisting of a 10, jack, queen, king, and ace all of the same suit. Probabilities of being dealt such a hand are over 600 000 to one.
 
Golden Tiger belongs to the Australian online gambling group Casino Rewards, which recently acted the white knight in taking over six failed online casinos from the liquidated Casino Action group, also Australian owned.
 
 
MORE BIG WINS AT CASINO REWARDS
 
Online casino group reports another double jackpot
 
Last week it was a British player at the Golden Tiger in the Casino Rewards group who had scored two royal flushes and picked up a GBP 100 000 jackpot for each….all within 3 days (see previous InfoPowa report). This time around another online casino in the same group – Blackjack Ballroom – reported making another lucky player wealthy after dishing out two jackpots in two days totaling more than $200 000.
 
Seasoned video poker player PL from Idaho collected the serious cheque with two royal flushes in a 48 hour period.
 
"I won $200 000 by hitting two Royal Flushes within two days," PL recounted. "This money is going to pay off my mortgage, student loans and start a very good savings account for my children to help them in their future."
 
Casino Rewards, an Australian owned group that recently acquired 6 premium online casinos from the liquidated Casino Action group, claims a total of 11 major jackpot winners in March alone at its range of 18 online gambling venues.
 
 
CHARITY DONATION COULD MAKE POKER TOURNAMENT ECONOMICALLY UNPLAYABLE
 
WPT and players disagree in percentage-of-prizepool donation plan
 
Entry into the World Poker Tour Ladies Tour scheduled for Las Vegas next week may be influenced by a disagreement over a charity donation which surfaced during a radio talk show this week.
 
Apparently the WPT has decided that the Las Vegas event at the Bellagio will have a 15 percent chunk of the prize-pool donated to
Susan G. Komen for the Cure (SGK), a breast cancer charity which the WPT has supported in the past.
 
Although the cause and the vehicle are regarded as worthy, it is the size and method of the deduction that is causing some waves, and these became apparent on the radio talk show Poker Talk America when former WSOP Ladies Event champion Susie Isaacs declared that she would not play in the Ladies Championship. She had earlier posted her decision on her blog titled The World Poker Tour Ladies Championship Controversy, saying:
 
"As a working player who would gladly have donated 5 percent of any win I may have taken, I am very disappointed that this event is no longer on my schedule. With the 15 percent (donation) and the juice I don't believe it is playable from a financial point of view."
 
Lisa Adams, the poker player hostess of Poker Talk America, joined Isaacs in boycotting the event because of her perception that withholding charity funds from the prize pool is unfair to players.
 
Both women have made it clear that they feel any event with part of the prize pool withheld for charity should be advertised as a charity event, not as a championship.
 
Steve Lipscomb, the CEO of WPT defended his company's decision, saying it was simply trying to do a good deed.
 
"We're trying to promote women in poker and promote a good cause," Lipscomb said, appearing as a guest on the show along with Isaacs.
 
That the WPT had partnered with a worthy charity was not questioned; the concern was over the equity of the issue, said Isaacs.
 
With 15 percent going to the charity, an additional 3 percent withheld for the tournament staff and a further $25 500 earmarked to provide the winner of the tournament with a seat in the WPT Championship, the prize-pool is likely to be depleted by almost 25 percent before play even starts.
 
Jesse Jones, founder and chairman of the World Poker Association, supported Isaacs in her opposition, writing a letter to the WPT in which he said: "I believe you are taking advantage of women, especially novice women who have no idea about prize pools and their equity in an event."
 
Jones went on to suggest that a better solution to the problem may be for the WPT to make the donation from its own treasury, based on the number of players entering the event, and then invite players to make a matching donation.
 
However, it appears that the WPT intends to continue on its present course, although it has said it will consider suggestions for future events.
 
UPDATE: The World Poker Association has issued a statement on this issue, with chairman Wendeen H.Eolis advising that the organisation has not yet taken a public position regarding the WPT Ladies Championship “obligatory charity donation”.
 
"Jesse Jones, Chairman Emeritus and founder of the Association has expressed his personal support for the ladies in question in a letter to the WPT," Eolis writes. "I am the chairman of the WPA and as its chief elected officer, I have been in discussions with many of the ladies and the top WPT officials.  The WPA’s executive committee will be meeting on this matter, following which I will issue a public statement.
 
FOOTNOTE: The WPA subequently held its meetings and came out on the side of the women players, who were not opposed to donating money to charity but objected to the unilateral approach by the WPT organisers to set and deduct donations from the prize pool.
 
"The furore has centred on the WPT's insensitivity to the varying financial means of 'working players' and more broadly on the decision to compel a charitable donation in an event labeled as a championship," said Wendeen Eolis, World Poker Association chairman.
 
Eolis pointed out that the WPT has not previously done this, and called upon the WPT to "reverse this mistake" for future events. Lyle Berman, chairman at WPT Enterprises reiterated CEO Steve Lipscomb's undertaking to reconsider, and said that in future there would be "…no such requirement in a WPT championship event."
 
Poker player Susie Isaacs, who initiated the protest against the WPT move, posted her satisfaction on her blog.
 
"I am no longer sad [about not playing] in the WPT Ladies Championship. It was worth it," Isaacs says in her blog. "I believe that the efforts of a group of women, from coast-to-coast, have made a big difference for the future of ladies poker tournaments."
 
The WPT Ladies Championship went ahead as planned with the 15 percent removed from the prize pool for the agreed charity. One hundred and fifty players entered.  
 

FIRST '21', NOW 'DEAL' AWAITS GAMBLING MOVIE LOVERS
 
Coming to a theatre near you from April 25….
 
Several top international poker aces have cameo roles in a new gambling movie set to follow closely on the heels of the popular "21" currently on the global cinema circuit (see previous InfoPowa report)  Titled "Deal," the new film is all about poker and stars Bret Harrison, Burt Reynolds and Shannon Elizabeth in the main character roles.
 
Appearing in cameo roles as themselves are Antonio Esfandiari; Joe Hachem; Phil Laak; Chris Moneymaker; Greg Raymer and Vincent Van Patten.
 
Many poker fans are quick to point out that the 1998 movie "Rounders" is the one to beat when it comes to a true depiction of the game and its action and appeal, and pre-launch reviews for "Deal" have already favourably compared the new film to its distinguished predecessor.
 
Apparently the plot of "Deal" involves a former poker pro coaching a cocky college student, which ultimately draws him back into the professional poker arena and the World Series of Poker, where he faces his protege across the felt. This is not an altogether dissimilar storyline to that in the 1986 classic "The Colour of Money" in which Paul Newman and Tom Cruise featured, albeit in a different game.
 
Movie and poker fans can get a preview taste at http://www.dealthemovie.com/
 
 
ROUSSO COURT DATE CHANGED IN ONLINE GAMBLING CHALLENGE
 
Washington dispute will now be heard May 15
 
After many months of legalistic stonewalling by Washington state representatives, it looks as if Seattle lawyer Lee Rousso is at last to get his day in court to challenge the constitutional legality of draconian state bans on Internet gambling.
 
Probably hoping to bury Rousso's challenge in demands for volumes of personal information, Washington state legal representatives have for months delayed the hearing as part of the discovery process.  Rousso fought this on grounds that certain information is personal, confidential and is entitled to Fifth Amendment protection.
 
Initially defeated on this aspect by the King County Superior Court, Rousso took the issue on appeal, and this week secured a largely favourable ruling from Judge Mary E. Roberts that enables him to move forward with the real case – a challenge to the Washington state laws on online gambling after one more requirement is answered. 
 
Rousso, a lawyer and the state representative for the Poker Players Association, is questioning the constitutionality of Washington's player-centred online gambling ban, and keeps PPA members informed of progress on the association's website.
 
He contends that there is a strong and constitutionally illegal element of protectionism in legislation passed by a state that has licensed many other forms of (land) gambling despite its moralistic claims. Protecting the state's licensed gambling venues would be a violation of the U.S. Constitution's commerce clause forbidding individual states from passing protectionist laws.
 
Rousso's court date has now been postponed to May 15 from the original April 25, and the PPA is encouraging those members who can to make an appearance at the court in a show of solidarity.
 
 
BWIN DEFENDS ONLINE GAMBLING IN SLANDER CASE
 
Austrian online gambling group strikes back for the industry
 
The Vienna-listed online gambling group Bwin has revealed that it has taken the organisers of the French Open tennis tournament to court for slander in a legal counterattack following litigation to ban Internet betting at the Grand Slam tournament.
 
The case dates back to February this year, when the tennis organisers filed complaints in Belgium and Paris claiming that computer betting companies stain the reputation of the clay-court championship.
 
"Following claims by the French tennis federation that services offered by online sports betting operators present a danger to the ethics of sport, Bwin is suing the organisers of the French Open for damages before a Paris court," a Bwin statement advised.
 
A Belgian court in Liege heard arguments in the case last Friday and is expected to rule before the French Open starts on May 25.
 
The issue of integrity in tennis surfaced last year when an online betting site – Betfair.com – voided all wagers on a match in Poland between fourth-ranked Nikolay Davydenko and 87th-ranked Martin Vassallo Arguello because of irregular betting patterns.
 
The French federation is suing Bwin, Betfair and Ladbrokes – demanding a court injunction to stop these companies from taking bets on the French Open. It seeks a fine of Euro 50 000 euros a day for any violations (see previous InfoPowa report).
 
Bwin spokesman Antoine Costanzo claims that the head of the French tennis federation made slanderous comments when he launched the court case and that his company seeks Euro 1 million in damages as a consequence. Bwin claims legal standing because it is a major provider of online gaming entertainment.
 
Countering the allegations of French Open organisers, the European Gaming and Betting Association said that the Internet is an excellent tool to trace any irregularities in betting operations. The organisation, which has most of Europe's top online gambling companies among its members, said Internet operations left "…a perfect audit trail, one that can, where appropriate, be shared with regulators and other authorities in order to trace bets and hence provide valuable evidence in the fight against fraud."
 
French Open organisers said that betting companies are tainting the reputation of the tournament and unfairly using it as a way of making money. They argued that if a match-fixing scandal hit the French Open, it would undermine the value of the tournament, which in 2007 had revenue of Euro 118 million and attracted 450 000 fans to Roland Garros.
 
The EGBA insisted betting companies stood to lose just as much. "Any match-fixing would penalise bookmakers severely as they take financial risk when setting odds for all sporting events," it said in a statement.
 
Vienna-based bwin has said it was confident it would be able to stave off the legal challenge, insisting it does no more than offer a fair and legal service. Along with football and horse racing, tennis is among the most popular sports to bet on in Europe.

AIRBORNE MESSAGE FOR ONLINE POKER SITE
 
"Poker Excitement" is PKR's slogan in helicopter campaign
 
PKR.com's marketing director Simon Prodger is nothing if not adventurous in his marketing tactics, this week introducing a new airborne campaign to get the PKR message across in big, bold letters.
 
The 3 D online poker company has commissioned a giant banner three-quarters the size of a football pitch which, when trailed through the skies behind a helicopter, will be seen by millions in the London area.
 
The company worked with Helicopter Overcity Banner Systems to produce the 25 000 square foot "Poker Excitement" banner which will be used in and around London during major sporting events.
 
Prodger claims the banner is visible for over 10 miles and with three flights already undertaken, he's pleased with the results, saying: “It’s a pretty awe-inspiring spectacle, and one that no one expects to see.  We’ve had reports of sightings from all over London, and people have even been sending in their own camera phone images of the big banner.”
 
Next time a giant shadow passes over, look up to see PKR's flying advert, especially on April 26 when the next banner flight takes place over central London and Stamford Bridge during the Manchester United vs. Chelsea Premiership match
 
 
WAGERWORKS LAUNCHES ON BOYLESPORTS
 
Fully managed online casino solution
 
WagerWorks/IGT announced this week that Irish bookie group Boylesports has ‘gone live’ with its fully managed end-to-end online casino solution. The new system replaces that previously used from Chartwell Technology, and integrates with the Finsoft MarginMaker sportsbook platform.
 
The new, fully managed system gives Boylesports full access to WagerWorks’ entire suite of casino games, allowing its casino to provide players with top quality online slot games. A Wagerworks spokesman said that the feature- rich WagerWare casino platform will additionally assist in Boylesports marketing campaigns through better data mining and player database management.
 
Boylesports’ new casino offering will augment their existing platforms and be available across all of their online betting and gaming sites.
 
Commenting on the agreement, Tom Kenny, Commercial Director of WagerWorks, said, “Boylesports required a fully managed solution that was adaptable as well as progressive. Our ability to provide a full turnkey casino solution, along with a steady stream of proven quality game titles, will let Boylesports provide its players with top-performing games now and in the future.”
 
Conor Grant, Head of Gaming at Boylesports, commented: “We had a very specific brief and were also aware we needed a supplier who ensured the integrity of our brand. WagerWorks’ overall package and brand image fitted our needs best. We look forward to a fruitful future with them.”
 
The integration to the Finsoft MarginMaker sportsbook platform will allow other Finsoft customers access to the high quality content available from WagerWorks, which is now able to offer integration to both Orbis and Finsoft, two of the leading sportsbook providers.

JAXX SPONSORS THE SCOTS
 
Motherwell FC deal valued at GBP200 000 a season
 
Scottish Premier League football club Motherwell has signed a new two-year sponsorship deal with the German online sports gambling firm English subsidiary JAXX.com.
 
The deal, valued at up to GBP 200 000 per season with revenue share, will see the JAXX brand appear on Motherwell's distinctive claret and amber strip from the beginning of the 2008-09 season, replacing Anglian Home Improvements, which has built significant market share in Scotland on the back of its association with the club.
 
In addition to the shirt sponsorship and advertising presence within Fir Park, a co-branded JAXX / Motherwell FC website will be established in time for the new season, including a range of betting propositions tailored specifically for the club's fans, 5 000 of whom regularly attend home games.
 
Motherwell chief executive Ian Stillie said, "The shirt sponsorship deal is the most important partnership for any club due to the strong association between the two brands. We were very impressed by the freshness and vitality of the JAXX brand and its sports betting offering, as well as the company's proven dedication to partnerships in football.
 
"The fans are paramount to the application of the Motherwell brand and we felt the commitment to consistently high quality offered by JAXX fitted well with our own values. The dedicated club betting page will also be a welcome addition to our online offering and we're looking forward to a successful long-term partnership.
 
"Our strip launch today has been strategically planned so Motherwell fans would be the first to see it. With the deals we've agreed with both JAXX and Bukta, we are confident the strips will be worn for the entire 2008 – 2010 seasons.
 
Mark Irvine, managing director of JAXX (UK) Ltd said he was pleased to partner with Motherwell FC, "Since we launched in the UK in 2007, we have worked to expand our network of football affiliations, signing betting partnership deals with West Ham and Newcastle United, but I was particularly keen to secure a presence in Scotland," he said.
 
"The Motherwell deal is a significant step in our brand development north of the border and we'll be working very closely with the club to make the partnership a success."
 
JAXX UK is operated by a dedicated UK-based team, including traders, marketers and affiliate managers. The new shirt deal was facilitated by Fuse Sport who specialise in developing sports related sponsorship packages for major brands.
 
 
BWIN REPORTS NET PROFITS OF OVER EURO 50 MILL
 
Vienna listed betting group achieves an important turnaround
 
Bwin, the Vienna-listed group that is a major force in the European online gambling sector has released 2007 results that show a turnaround for the business year, with net profits of Euro 50.4 million, a major improvement on the losses of  Euro 539.6 million euros in the previous (2006) year.
 
Adjusted operating profits were Euro 72.8 million in 2007, after losses of Euro 585.8 million in 2006, and gross gaming revenues surged 21.4 percent to Euro 350.3 million.
 
The company statement said Bwin had experienced the strongest organic growth across the European industry over the 12-month period to the end of December 2007 and had enjoyed record gross and net gaming revenues during the fourth quarter of 2007, as well as achieving revenues higher than those achieved before the company’s voluntary exit from the US and Turkish markets due to legislative developments in those countries.
 
Fourth-quarter profits were up to Euro 51.2 million, after a loss of Euro 489.8 million in the same period in 2006.
 
The turnaround was mainly due to a reversal in impairment charges in connection with the company's acquisition of Ongame Group, an online gaming company, Bwin said.
 
Earnings before interest, taxes, amortization and depreciation (EBITDA) was Euro 13.2 million, compared with a negative EBITDA of Euro 2.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2006.
 
Bwin has shifted its focus on its core markets and products following , and in the future it will seek to increase its sports sponsoring activities, where legally possible. The record gross gaming revenues it had enjoyed were the rersult of the strong performance of its core sports betting and poker products, the company revealed, saying this justified its strategy of investing in proprietary poker and sports betting platforms to safeguard future earning potential, and of cautious regional diversification.
 
Gross gaming revenues for the year were up 21.4 percent to Euro 350.5 million (2006: Euro 288.6 million). Sports betting gross revenues were up 19 percent to Euro 191.9 million, and annual margins were 8.7 percent.
 
Poker in Europe appears to remain a strong performer, with Bwin's revenues for the year up an impressive 38.6 percent to Euro 82.3 million. Net gaming revenues for the year were up 25.9 percent to Euro 309.7 million (2006: Euro 246 million) despite a fall in the number of active customers to 1 659 819 (2006: 2 162 250).
 
Trading thus far in 2008 has been strong enough for Bwin to anticipate another record quarter, with gross gaming revenues up 4.7 percent on the previous quarter to date. 
 

POSITIVE SIGNALS FROM POLAND
 
Senior government minister hints strongly at a regulated online gambling policy
 
The Deputy Minister of Finance in Poland has reportedly made a public statement this week that the EU country plans to regulate and license online gambling, and this could happen as early as the second half of 2008.
 
Minister Marek Kapica was quoted in Polish media reports as being pragmatic on the issue, saying: "We cannot control this process anyway and it is better that the budget at least derives some revenues from it."
 
Kapica's ministry is apparently drafting legislation to introduce a regulatory regime, and this will be sent to the European Commission to ensure that it meets EU requirements for the free passage of goods and services between EU member states as required in the trading bloc's treaty.
 
 
STUDY ON INTERNET POKER BILL PROGRESSES
 
California legislative proposal moves forward to Assembly Appropriations Committee.
 
California legislators appeared to be taking a sensible and pragmatic view of online poker in the state this week as the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee (AGOC) unanimously forwarded a proposal to study the issue thoroughly to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
 
AB 2026 calls for the California Gambling Control Commission and the Department of Justice to initiate and carry out a study into factors surrounding the authorisation of online poker in California, reports Cardplayer magazine. The results of the study would be presented to the California Legislature by June 30, 2009 if it is approved.
 
The Cardplayer report revealed that Democrat Assemblyman Lloyd Levine is the bill’s author (see previous InfoPowa report).
 
The AGOC hearing took testimony from bill proponents Poker Voters of America President Jim Tabilio and Rod Blonien, who represented the card rooms of Commerce Club, Hollywood Park, the Lucky Derby, the Lucky Lady, Garden City and Lucky Chances.
 
“Many of the clubs that I mentioned are maxed out on Friday and Saturday nights. We have more players than we have seats available,” Blonien said. “Many of those people go home and play online.” 
 
He had some strong opinions on Internet poker, characterising the industry as an unregulated and dangerous place for American consumers.  “There’s no place that a law abiding Californian can go (online) and play a level game,” he claimed. “What Californians really need is a government regulated and fair website where they could go to play Internet poker.” 
 
Concerns regarding conflict with anti-online gambling federal law were addressed by the state’s Legislative Counsel on Levine's request, which concluded that California would be allowed to operate an intrastate card room even with the rules of the UIGEA and the decades-old Wire Act in place.
 
One group opposed to the AB 2026 was the California Coalition Against Gambling Expansion, a group that wants to decrease the number of gambling options California residents have.
 

POKERSTARS VIDEO BETA TESTING GOING WELL
 
Good public response to Pokerstars.tv
 
The new Poker Stars public video initiative (see previous InfoPowa report) appears to have been well received in its beta testing phase at Pokerstars.tv.
 
Still in the test phase, the video site provides live webcasts of major events and a unique collection of high quality poker footage. Understandably, there is a marked promotional element that includes current Stars-sponsored events and the latest happenings from the growing Team PokerStars.
 
A popular element is the tutorial on how to use the facility, which is narrated and presented by ace player Daniel Negreanu and gives an overview of the site content and how to make best use of it. Visitors are encouraged to try the various tabs, which reveal a wealth of interesting and diverse content. There's a searchable database of filters, so videos sorted by player, event, type of hand, or many other topics can be easily found.
 
Content is available only in the English language at present, although Poker Stars has plans to introduce its video libraries in other languages, too.  PokerStars.tv allows registered users to e-mail video links to other players, or to embed the code for a given video on other websites. Registered users can also 'customise' their faves by creating personal video "channels" and selecting their preferences.
 

BWIN CHALLENGE TO GERMAN BAN HAS A GOOD CHANCE OF SUCCESS
 
Schleswig-Holstein law adviser says German bans won't stand the test of ECJ
 
Bwin Interactive Entertainment AG, probably Europe's biggest private online sports-gambling company, may win a legal fight that threatens Euro 118 million in annual revenues, or a third of its take, reports the Bloombergs business news service this week.
 
The service quotes Johannes Caspar, a law professor at Hamburg University and legal adviser to the Schleswig-Holstein state legislature, who says that Vienna-based Bwin may succeed with lawsuits challenging the January 2008 ban in Germany on Internet sports wagering.
 
Bwin argues the prohibition, approved in all 16 German states, violates European Union law.
 
"It won't stand the test at the European Court of Justice," Caspar said.
 
The EU's executive arm the European Commission started "infringement proceedings" against Germany on January 31 this year over the state laws, a process that may lead to an appearance before the European Court of Justice on claims that the ban flies in the face of EU requirements for the free movement of goods and services between EU member states.
 
The professor's views come on the heels of the decision earlier this week by Spielbanken Niedersachsen GmbH (SNG) the exclusive Lower Saxony state licensed and regulated casino operator, to enter online gambling using a Chartwell Technology technology package (see previous InfoPowa report) 
 

BETSSON STEPS UP FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING
 
Swedish online gambling firm offers research scholarships
 
Kudos to Swedish online betting group Betsson, which has stepped up to contribute to the real need for research into the impact and consequences of problem gambling in the industry.
 
The company has launched a scholarship for problem gambling research in its native Sweden. The scholarships, each amounting to 15 000 SEK, will be awarded twice a year by a panel of experts knowledgeable in the field of gambling, from a list of candidates pre-selected by the respective student faculty. Betsson has previously used the services of the G4 for responsible gambling guidance.
 
Formerly known as Cherryforetagen AB, Betsson AB is a publicly listed company, active within the gaming industry. The company is engaged primarily in the provision of casino, automated betting, maritime games, Internet games, lotteries and competitions, and  is active though three main business areas: Betsson.com, a betting exchange which offers sport, casino and poker games with 300,000 members mainly from Scandinavia; CasinoEuro.com, an Internet casino which offers casino and poker games in 16 languages for the European market, and CherryCasino.com, an Internet casino for the global market. The company operates through two subsidiaries: Betsson Ltd. and Betsson Malta Ltd.
 

ANOTHER USE FOR BLACKBERRIES
 
'Bet on the Move' service now available
 
If you have a Pearl, Curve, 8700 or 8820 Blackberry handset, you'll now be able to use Sporting Index's 'Bet on the Move' sports services following an announcement from the company this week.
 
The move comes as new reports show that mobile betting revenues have increased by 29 percent over the last year.
 
Blackberry betting fans will be able to access in-play markets instantly via Live Now; check account balances and open bets  and deposit and withdraw funds after following some basic setup steps.  
 
LADDIES GETS MADRID LICENCE
 
Joint venture with Cirsa set to pay off under liberalised regional betting policies
 
Sportium, the 50-50 sportsbetting venture between Cirsa Slot and Ladbrokes has been awarded a license for the Madrid region, opening up strong possibilities for the new company, which is headed by CEO Alberto Eljarrat.
 
The group plans to open up to 70 outlets by the end of the year, and in 2007 announced an investment in the venture of Euro 30 million, forecasting more than 150 betting points employing 150 people in the first year.
 
Initially the activity will be focused on sporting bets, covering a broad range of sports that will include soccer, golf, tennis, basketball and flat racing, among others. Turnover is expected to reach Euro 80 million for the first year of operation.
 

ECONOMIC DOWNTURN IMPACTS GAMBLING
 
Analysts take a pessimistic view in the short term
 
Reports from the Las Vegas Gaming Wire and mainstream business news outlets are suggesting that times are already tough, and could become tougher, in the gambling industry due to weakening economic conditions.
 
The LVGJ reports that gaming revenues on the Las Vegas Strip fell 3 percent in February, with the sinking economy, high gasoline prices, airline troubles and other downbeat financial news causing casino customers to stay at home or hang on to discretionary income.
 
Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Andrew Zarnett painted a bleak picture for investors should Las Vegas visitation and gaming spending continue to suffer, when he opined: "Looking specifically to an individual property on the Strip, we believe a 10 percent decline in revenues, linear across the board, including room rates as well as casino play, will likely lead to an approximate 20 percent reduction in EBITDA."
 
Las Vegas casino operators, Zarnett said, have reduced labour hours. What follows will be a reduction in staffing levels to reduce costs, and this has already manifested itself in the 440 lay-offs announced by MGM Mirage this week (see previous InfoPowa report)
 
Investment firms downgraded gaming stocks recently. Quarterly earnings for the period ended March 31 are forthcoming, but analysts, are not predicting good news. "We see both regional trends and destination markets like Las Vegas and Macau below previous estimates," Wachovia analyst Brian McGill said.
 
Goldman Sachs gaming analyst Steven Kent said stock prices are weak and operating results over the next few quarters will be challenged.
 
In Connecticut, the Connecticut Day newspaper reported: "Slot revenues continued to decline at both the state's casinos during the month of March, but while the losses at Foxwoods Resort Casino continued to grow, Mohegan Sun experienced its smallest decline in recent months.
 
Foxwoods saw their revenues slip 12 percent from March 2007 to $60.8 million, while Mohegan Sun's numbers dropped 1.4 percent to $76.8 million compared to last year.
 
Both casinos continue to blame the economy for declines in slot revenues and pointed out that casinos in other markets, like Atlantic City, are also struggling with sliding revenues.
 
Due to the decline in slot revenues, the state of Connecticut will also see lower contributions this year as compared to last year.
 
Mohegan Sun sent $19.2 million to state coffers, about $264,000 less than last year, and Foxwoods sent $15.2 million to the state, about $2 million less than in March 2007.
 
Patrons at Foxwoods appear to have cut back on their spending at the casino as the amount of money they spent at the slots, or handle, decreased by 12 percent to $694 million.
 

MATT SAVAGE WILL HEAD UP APT MILAN
 
Quality all the way for Asian poker epic
 
The Asian Poker Tour (APT) has announced that Matt Savage has signed on as tournament director for the APT’s Manila Main Event next month.
 
Few men are as qualified for the position. Savage was appointed tournament director for the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in 2002 after working his way up the poker ladder. On his watch a boom in prize money at the tournament from £6 million to £25 million developed, and he has worked on more than 300 televised poker shows, in 2003 being awarded the inaugural Benny Binion award for outstanding service to the poker industry.
 
As tournament director for the Asian Poker Tour Manila leg, Savage will oversee six days of all-out poker action which is expected to attract around 400 players from all over the world. A third of the participants are expected to come from the Philippines, which has seen poker’s popularity surge in recent years.
 
The ultra modern Dusit Thani Manila Hotel has been announced as the luxury venue that will stage the first leg of the 2008 APT. The exclusive venue in the Philippines’ central business district will provide a fitting backdrop and is the perfect venue for the event as it gives easy access to accommodations, shopping malls, tourist spots and transport services.
 
After the Philippine leg, the tour moves on to events in Macau, South Korea and Singapore. The buy-in at all four events is $2 500 and the prize pool will be a guaranteed $1 million.
 
Alongside some of the world’s best players will be a host of internet qualifiers competing for the money at all the venues. These qualifiers will be making their way to the main event by way of online satellite tournaments. The prize packages awarded from these satellites, which are worth $6 000 and cover hotel and travel expenses, wil appeal to many internet players.
 
The first leg of the APT 2008 runs from May 27 to June 1.
 

GAMING VC TAKEOVER PLANNED?
 
Mystery approach to acquire online gambling group
 
Piqueing the interest of online gambling analysts and observers this week was a curt regulatory notice from the non-executive chairman of Gaming VC Holdings SA, Adrian Smith.
 
In a brief statement, Smith advised that the firm, which includes Casino Club, Casino Club Poker, Betaland and Poker Kings among its online gambling interests, has received a preliminary approach which may or may not lead to an offer being made for the entire issued and to be issued share capital of the Company.
 
The Board of Directors of Gami


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UIGEA – A BURDEN WITHOUT BENEFIT
Competitive Enterprise Institute critical of attempt to use financial institutions to cripple online gambling
The Competitive Enterprise Institute in the United States has come out strongly against the use of financial institutions to cripple online gambling in the United States following a study of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.  The act remains mired in a lack of clear regulations following widespread criticism of its impractcality.
Following a study of the implications of requiring the US financial industry to police unclear government enforcement policy on Internet gambling, the Institute claimed this week that the current laws have had damaging if unintended consequences far beyond their original target.
The report explains that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), passed in October of 2006, has little to do with gambling itself, but is actually a wide-ranging regulatory mandate on banks, credit unions, credit card companies, wire transfer services, and even brokerages. The law forces financial institutions to cut off business with any entity that could possibly be engaged in online gambling transactions.
“The Act is unlikely to stop Internet gambling and could even threaten the stable, smooth operation of America’s banking system,” said Senior Fellow Eli Lehrer and author of the study Time to Fold the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act .
“UIGEA and its currently proposed enabling regulations will undermine the financial privacy of all Americans and reduce the security of their bank accounts. In short, it makes almost no financial, social, or economic sense.”
Some members of Congress are at least aware of the problems with the gambling ban. On April 2nd, the House Committee on Financial Services is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Proposed UIGEA Regulations: Burden without Benefit?” to detail what has gone wrong with its implementation and how to fix it. Ideally, however, they would go much further.
“Even before it considers proposals for the regulation of online gambling, Congress should consider an outright repeal of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act,” said Lehrer. “The law has very little to do with gambling and serves as a poorly thought-out banking regulation fraught with potentially perverse incentives. Quite simply, it is a bad law. Repealing it makes sense.”
UIGEA LAW TOO AMBIGUOUS TO WORK SAY HEARING WTINESSES
Widespread media coverage for Congressional hearings on Washington's problem law
The US and international media gave extensive coverage to April 2nd's Congressional hearings on the hopelessly bogged down Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act regulations, with the consensus across a wide cross section of witnesses appearing to be that the law was just too ambiguous to work, and could have a serious adverse impact on e-commerce.
In opening the discussions, “Proposed UIGEA Regulations: Burden without Benefit?” Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Trade and Technology, said: "The focus of today's Subcommittee hearing is the proposed regulations to implement the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.
Gutierrez went on to summarise the status of the regulations, long delayed but finally submitted for discussion in October 2007 and the subject of over 200 formal critiques that mainly complained of the ambiguity of the regulations and the impracticalities and cost of implementing same.
"One of the most common complaints is that the proposed rules fail to sufficiently define key terms, leaving financial institutions with significant compliance difficulties," Gutierrez said. "For example, the regulation fails to adequately define what constitutes “unlawful Internet gambling” or a "restricted transaction," yet requires the financial institutions to make a determination on their own about what is lawful or unlawful.
"Consumers will be placed at risk of having lawful transactions blocked. It is easy to see how these regulations, if implemented in their current form, could wreak havoc on electronic commerce in the U.S."
The Congressman went on to give examples of the disruption the law could cause in areas of the economy such as general international remittances, and the heavy burden compliance would place on a financial services industry already labouring under overload during a time of economic and financial turmoil.
"Finally, I believe it is inappropriate to have financial institutions essentially acting as the final arbiter in determining which transactions are legal or illegal; especially when the result could be closing a consumer’s account," he said.
Feds admit to difficulties in crafting the regulations
Federal Reserve and Treasury officials gave evidence that they were struggling to craft the UIGEA rules because federal law is unclear about what type of gambling is illegal online.
"That is something we're really struggling with," Louise Roseman, the Fed's director of reserve bank operations and payment systems, said.
"The challenge we have is interpreting … federal laws that Congress itself isn't sure what they mean," Roseman said, adding that one company that processes illegal Internet gambling transactions may also transact legitimate transfers which should not be blocked, thus making it almost impossible, or at least very difficult, to determine how to block illegal online gambling transactions.
"It will be very difficult to shut off payment systems for use of Internet gambling transactions. The implementing statute will not be iron clad at all," she concluded.
 
Director Roseman reiterated her comments in an interview with Talk Radio News, an service that provides information through its Washington branch to the White House, Capitol Hill and Pentagon staffed bureaus, and a New York office with a United Nations staffed bureau.
Congress passed the UIGEA late in 2006, in a rushed, late night session as the then Republican-controlled Congress was about to recess for electioneering, and after the legislation was tacked on to a totally unrelated "must pass" bill. The legislation seeks to cripple the online gambling industry in the US, conservatively estimated to be worth $8 billion annually, by prohibiting financial transactions with online gambling companies.
Congress instructed the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department, in consultation with the Justice Department, to come up with rules to enforce the newly passed act, and government drafters have been struggling with the task ever since.
Associated Press commented on the hearings, reporting that federal officials gave evidence that Congress' ban on Internet gambling is so vague that figuring out how to enforce it is a struggle.
Whilst the Congressional ban sought to explicitly outlaw Internet gambling, it didn't offer a clear definition that everyone could agree on, instead referring to existing federal and state laws which themselves are ambiguous and provoke differing interpretations. It places the burden on financial institutions by prohibiting them from accepting payments from credit cards, checks or electronic fund transfers to settle online wagers. The regulation doesn't attempt a definition of illegal online gambling, since Congress didn't give one.
Bankers protest at the burden
Wayne Abernathy of the American Bankers Association told the committee that the law "makes financial institutions the police, prosecutors and judges in place of real law enforcement officers."
"The UIGEA and the Proposed Rule do not provide a rational path towards halting unlawful Internet gambling," Abernathy said. "The path leads to an increased cost and administrative burden to the banks and an erosion in the performance of the payments system, but it will not result in stopping illegal Internet gambling transactions.
"Imposing this enormous unfunded law enforcement mandate on banks in place of the government's law enforcement agencies is not likely to be a successful public policy."
Given that financial institutions process nearly 100 billion payments a year, according to Federal Reserve data, and given that other governments won't necessarily be cooperating, identifying which payments are gambling-related is no trivial task, said Leigh Williams, who spoke on behalf of the Financial Services Roundtable, which counts Visa, Mastercard, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and other banks as members.
The U.S. government's "decision not to fully define unlawful Internet gambling places our members in a very difficult position," he said. "They cannot know if a transaction is restricted unless they have in hand specifics of the transaction that in almost all instances they will not have."
Williams expressed concerns that enforcement of the proposed rules "…could impose significant compliance burdens on financial institutions by increasing their role in policing illegal activities, determining whether a transaction is illegal, or by imposing ambiguous compliance requirements that could be subject to wide variations in interpretation by regulators and law enforcement agencies. We believe these functions are more appropriate for law enforcement agencies."
At the very least, Williams said, the U.S. government should provide a list of names of Internet gambling businesses that can be identified and blocked – something that the authorities are unwilling to do.  Federal regulators have said it would be too expensive for them to create a list themselves, arguing that "the government must engage in an extensive legal analysis to determine whether the gambling Web site is used, at least in part, to place, receive or otherwise knowingly transmit unlawful bets or wagers" and that due process safeguards "would result in considerable added costs."
Clearly with that Federal position in mind, Williams pointed out that 'monitoring of websites' was "…inappropriate to include in a financial institution's monitoring activity."

Other groups protested that the law does not apply to them. Poker players contend they're not covered because poker is a game of skill and not chance. Horse-racing was exempted by Congress in a notorious carve-out that has created expensive World Trade Organisation hassles for the USA, yet without settling definitively whether online wagering on races breaks the law.
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, who has introduced a bill to overturn UIGEA that is steadily gaining co-sponsors in Washington, described the UIGEA as "…a rather bizarre piece of legislation."
The committee heard that the law has caused international disputes, including an investigation launched earlier this month by the European Union after European betting companies complained that Washington's actions against them were protectionist and infringing world trade rules.
Nevada's casino industry is reportedly neutral on the regulations, instead supporting a bill written by Nevada Democrat Shelley Berkley, that calls for a full and independent study of online gambling in its entirety.
Closing the first part of the hearings, chairman Gutierrez advised Ms. Louise Roseman from the Federal Reserve Bank, and Ms. Valerie Abend from the Department of Treasury, to tread very carefully in proceeding with the proposed regulations. He remarked that there was more heated discussion, debate, and criticism of this topic than on any other his committee has seen in the year he has presided over it; "So be careful," he said.
Anti-online gambling politician Spencer Bachus – a Republican Congressman from Alabama, was almost alone in defending the UIGEA, again presenting a letter signed by 45 Attorneys General supporting the law, and again recounting the now ageing story of a high school student who robbed a bank to pay off an online gambling debt.
“Illegal Internet gambling is a scourge on our society that leads to addiction and gambling addicts then turn to crime to support their habit,” Bachus said, adding that in his opinion US banks have no problem working with law enforcement in ferreting out money-laundering and terrorist financing.
Addressing the letter from the Attorneys General, Congressman Frank pointed out that in his new law, the Internet Gambling Enforcement and Regulation Act (IGREA), there is a stipulation that allows individual states to opt out of allowing Internet gambling anyway.
Privacy concerns
Frank later made a telling point to the committee – that in the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve's 52-page draft regulations for the UIGEA, the word "identify" appears 61 times and "monitor" 18 times, yet the important word "Privacy" appears not once. Frank told financial industry witnesses that there was "…a conflict between the obligation imposed on you by the act…and the privacy expectations of your customers."
Several witnesses voiced concern at the apparent hypocrisy of a law that allegedly existed for moral reasons, yet permitted and even encouraged extensive gambling via the Internet on horse racing, fantasy sports and lotteries through legislative carve-outs.
Congressman Ron Paul, the libertarian-minded Republican presidential candidate, criticised the UIGEA, saying "..people should make their own decisions" regarding the use of their disposable income in the privacy of their own homes.
"Though I do not endorse gambling per se, people should make their own decisions. It's a personal choice. I've always been concerned about this type of regulation and legislation – it's likely to open the door (to control and regulation) of the Internet itself," he said.
The Hill, a Washington DC publication widely read by politicians, reported on the hearings, saying that Congressman Frank and his IGREA were betting on exposing the UIGEA's "…murky language" to help overturn it altogether.  The publication went on to cover the testimony of the many witnesses, most of whom were critical of the UIGEA and its impracticalities and difficulty in implementation.
Lobbyist groups such as the Poker Players’ Alliance and the American Bankers Association have spent millions of dollars fighting to repeal the law, The Hill observed.
Economic hard times, the restructuring of the Federal Reserve and the country’s monetary policy are only adding fuel to opponents’ fire, the report commented, quoting Congressman Frank, who said the Financial Services Committee as well as the banks and the Federal Reserve should be more focused on predatory lending right now instead of trying to crack down on people’s personal habits.
“Almost every sector affected by the (UIGEA) law complains about it,” said Frank, who argued the law turns banks into “gambling cops.”
Frank also said the law’s arbitrary exclusion for horse racing didn’t make any sense to him. “I thought it was gambling; perhaps it’s animal husbandry,” the politician quipped.
Ted Kitada from Wells Fargo said that his company is involved in 30 million transactions a day. Figuring out which of those could be related to Internet gambling is not only cumbersome, but it could lead to mistakes that annoy customers, especially because Internet gambling sites could disguise themselves, he opined.
Jeffrey Sandman, a spokesman for the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative, said that, "U.S. banks and credit card companies, along with every other type of U.S. company involved in payment systems, would be forced to spend substantial resources to comply with a ban on Internet gambling that can be easily circumvented by anyone in the U.S. that wants to continue to gamble online.
"Testimony from the federal regulators and representatives of the financial services community made clear today that the prohibition on Internet gambling isn't working now and will not work in the future," he added.
In summary, the Congressional hearings this week gave an opportunity for expert testimony to be heard and widely reported, providing further evidence that the ban on Internet gambling intended through the UIGEA simply won't work. Witnesses almost unanimously agreed that U.S. financial service companies would face serious regulatory burdens in attempting to enforce the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA), a law that is not likely to stop millions of Americans from gambling online.
 
Testimony provided at the hearing can be found at http://www.house.gov/apps/list/hearing/financialsvcs_dem/hr040208.shtml.
 
KNOW YOUR ENEMY
Prime Table Games active in run-up to Congressional hearings on Internet gambling
Timed to precede Wednesday's Congressional hearings on Internet gambling and the implications of the problematical Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), a land casino supplier has come out strongly against the online industry in an expensive, full page statement in the global edition of the respected Wall Street Journal.
Derek Webb, founder of Las Vegas-based Prime Table Games which placed the advert has featured in previous in anti-online gambling attacks.
Headlined "Who Will Face the Issues," the WSJ statement outlines the perceived regulatory problems associated with international Internet gaming, citing gaming fraud, consumer protection and protection of intellectual property rights as major concerns.
"It is well known that there are off-shore based Internet gaming operators who are engaged in deceptive practices with American consumers and international players, and there is no adequate system in place to ensure full and appropriate regulation. Congress needs to take action soon, or these practices will only get worse," the statement asserts.
Prime Table Games urges Congress to adopt specific regulatory strategies for online gambling consumer protection, including:
Limitations on solicitations and incentives to gamble, such as bonuses and cash back
Prohibition of affiliate relationships
Standard player verification procedures
Giving players the ability to self-exclude and have it automatically apply to all online gambling sites
Site operators assume responsibility for identity verification
Internet gambling sites be required to verify that players can afford to gamble at their chosen level.
Internet gambling debts shouldn't be legally recoverable, and players who don't pay gambling debts should automatically be placed on an exclusion list.
"Internet gaming, by its very nature, has great potential for abuse," Webb said in a supporting press release. "Site operators also should pay fees towards problem gambling treatment and research."
On Wednesday, the House Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Trade and Technology will meet to discuss the proposed and much criticised UIGEA regulations.
CASINO ACTION LATEST – LIQUIDATOR'S WEBSITE
Poker players now have a destination for their claims in Tusk debacle
Players at Casino Action poker websites, which were not taken over in the rescue operation by Casino Rewards (see previous InfoPowa reports) now have an online venue where claims against the Tusk Corporation which owned Casino Action can be lodged.
Tusk has gone into liquidation, with the Brisbane based liquidator Sims Partners overseeing the process according to an update press release from Microgaming this week.
Sims has apparently added Tusk Corporation to the ‘companies currently in administration’ section of its website, along with contact details for any claim. The page can be found at http://www.simspartners.com.au/creditors_current-administrations.php and appears under the heading “Tusk Investment Corporation (In Liquidation)”
Microgaming recommends that any player impacted by the Casino Action/Tusk shutdown submit their claim directly to Sims Partners via the web page. 
The Australians behind Tusk Corporation remained in the shadows this week, apparently eschewing any obligation to communicate with the public or their former players on the failure of their company.

GTECH ACQUIRES MAJORITY HOLDING IN ST MINVER PARENT
Euro 28 million paid for successful white label company in show of confidence in the industry
GTECH Corporation, a subsidiary of Lottomatica S.p.A. has agreed to acquire 90 percent of Gibraltar-based St Enodoc Holdings Limited and its subsidiaries, including St Minver Limited, a highly successful provider of end-to-end white label gaming services.
GTECH will pay Euro 28 million for the 90 percent equity stake on a cash and debt free basis at closing, and up to an additional Euro 13.6 million based on the performance of the business in 2008 and 2009. The acquisition, which is expected to be completed within the current quarter, is subject to regulatory and other closing conditions.
Ten percent of St Enodoc will remain with Gary Shaw, founder and Chairman, until at least 2012, at which point both Shaw and GTECH have the right to cause GTECH to acquire Shaw's remaining shares.
GTECH expects to fund the transaction from existing cash balances. In its last reported fiscal year ended June 30, 2007, St Enodoc Group had total revenues of approximately Euro 13.7 million.
"As we continue to expand our presence in regulated Internet-based gaming, St Enodoc is a logical fit," said Jaymin B. Patel, GTECH President and CEO.
"The St Enodoc group has provided white label management services to some of the most recognised brands in Europe operating interactive bingo, poker, and casino games including specialised support for peer-to-peer networks around managing fraud, collusion, and various tournaments.
"For companies in both gaming and non-gaming industries that want to offer Internet-based gaming, St Enodoc provides solutions to afford these organisations the ability to maintain their brand and customers while essentially outsourcing the gaming operation to St Enodoc."
"With more gaming markets around the globe approving and regulating interactive gaming channels, GTECH will be well positioned to provide a full- service solution or part thereof," Patel added.
"As the market enters a new phase of development, industrial scale on a global basis will determine which businesses succeed," said Gary Shaw, founder and Chairman of St Enodoc. "The St Enodoc management team is delighted that it can leverage its Internet gaming capability to be part of one of the companies that will shape the future of the gaming market."
The regulated Internet-based gaming market generates an estimated Gross Gaming Yield of $15.1 billion annually, claims GTECH. Lottomatica Group believes this market is poised for continued growth, and there will be an increasing demand for Internet-based gaming services and technology in regulated markets in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.
"Given that St Enodoc's strategy has always been to operate in markets where its offerings are legal and regulated, joining a truly global, highly- regulated business like GTECH, made the most sense," said Jim Ryan, CEO of St Enodoc. "We can now leverage GTECH's unrivalled international footprint to further the reach and scale of our games and services."
Founded in September 2003, St Enodoc currently employs approximately 165 people in Europe including London and Gibraltar as well as Hyderabad, India. GTECH intends to maintain St Enodoc as a separate operation and the St Minver brand identity.
The founder and entire senior management will remain with the organisation to continue to help grow and develop the business. Currently, St Minver has 98 gaming sites and 76 media, lifestyle, and other branded partners using its white label services.
The company does not accept wagers from the United States.
GTech has been buying into online gambling bigtime recently. The company has already bought its way into Boss Media and betting technology firm Finsoft and is building an impressive portfolio, apparently developing a strategy based on the Lottomatica contacts and clients in lottery operations across the world, giving significant access to state monopolies. This has the potential to provide considerable momentum in any future online gambling ventures.  
St Minver operates one of the largest bingo networks in the world and offers pooled bingo rooms by currency, each with uniquely managed and optimised schedules. In addition, St Minver supports Boss Media's International Poker Network, the fifth largest European poker network hosting more than 12 000 players concurrently at peak times.
Lottomatica is majority owned by De Agostini, which belongs to a century-old publishing, media, and financial services group. Lottomatica is publicly traded on the Italian Stock Exchange (LTO), and in 2007, had approximately Euro 1.7 billion in revenues and 5 900 employees in over 45 countries when combined with GTECH.
SMART MOBILE MOVE BY LADBROKES
Brit betting group will temporarily take over mobile portal
The UK gambling group Ladbrokes has a bold addition to its marketing plan for the Grand National horse race taking place this weekend – it is taking over the busy home page of the Planet 3 mobile portal for 24 hours.
The bookmaking giant is reportedly keen to extend its cross-platform presence for the UK's largest single sports betting event.
The campaign, booked by the mobile agency Inside, comes hot on the heels of Ladbrokes' first bout of mobile display advertising, which took place last week in the run-up to the Cheltenham Festival.
Launched in 2005, Planet 3 is owned by Hutchison Whampoa of Hong Kong, and claims it is "not a telco, not a media company, not a technology company, but all three,” according to CEO Bob Fuller.
Fuller claimed that 3 was the embodiment of convergence, the long-anticipated coming together of the entertainment and telecom industries. As Britain’s first “third generation” or 3G mobile company, 3 had more experience, and more understanding of what customers want, than its larger rivals, he said. ITV and Sky believe that mobile is the future of media, and the BBC is moving in that direction, he opined.
The device that will put all this entertainment into the hands of consumers “…won’t be the iPod, it won’t be a portable games console . . . in time it will be the mobile phone”.
DUTCH SETBACK FOR UNIBET

Netherlands appeal court supports prior local ruling
The dispute between Dutch gambling monopoly De Lotto and London-based online betting firm Unibet over access to Dutch gamblers could escalate to a higher European court following an appeals court decision against Unibet in the Netherlands last week.
The appeal was launched by Unibet following a decision by a court in Utrecht last October to impose punitive fines on Unibet for its continued advertising and attempts to facilitate Dutch wagering on football games. De Lotto laid the charges which resulted in the court ruling against Unibet, ordering it to stop taking bets from Dutch citizens and imposing a non-compliance penalty of Euro 100 000 per day up to a maximum of Euro 3 million.
Unibet contended that in terms of European Union treaty obligations it was entitled to access the Dutch market.
Earlier this month a judge in Utrecht provisionally ordered Unibet to immediately cease its Dutch activities in interim proceedings that the Dutch Lotto company again instigated.
This week a De Lotto spokesman claimed the monopoly has prevailed in the appeal, although confirmation on this was not yet available from Unibet. Media reports from the Netherlands indicate that the appeal ruling is the 17th occasion on which Dutch judges have ruled against EU companies seeking to access the Dutch online gambling market.
The appeal court ruling is of particular interest in that it noted that its interpretation of the law differed from the European Union treaty calling for free movement of goods and services between European Union member nations.
The Dutch appeal court is reported to have acknowledged that the European Union did not share its opinion on the issue and that proceedings against the Netherlands over access to the Dutch online gambling market are likely to occur.
Going back as far as 2006 the European Commission has urged Dutch compliance with the EU trade accords, and it has recently increased the pressure. Continued non-compliance could result in the issue being escalated to the European Court of Justice.
Commenting on the appeal finding, De Lotto director Tjeerd Veenstra remained adamant that his company would not back down: "Illegal gambling threatens both the integrity of the sport as well as donations to the sport and other good aims. That is the reason why [De Lotto] fights rock hard for the conservation of these interests."
Since its establishment in 1961, De Lotto has made substantial donations to Dutch sport totalling Euro 1.1 billion, the company has repeatedly asserted.
PRESSURE BUILDS ON USTR REGARDING WTO SETTLEMENT
National security is not an acceptable response, say leading politicians
The US Trade Representative at the World Trade Organisation was faced with some pointed questions on witholding information by two influential Congressmen this week.
Barney Frank, chairman of the powerful House Financial Services Committee, and Ron Paul, the ranking member of the House Sub-committee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Trade and Technology were following up on media reports that Susan C Schwab's office had declined to release details of a trade deal with the EU, Japan and Canada on grounds of "national security" when this information was requested by freelance journo Ed Brayton (see previous InfoPowa report)
The settlement concerned compensation for the unilateral withdrawal by the USTR of American WTO obligations on gambling.
In a letter dated March 14 to Schwab the two Congressmen not only requested details of the settlement, but asked for a justification of the use of the "national security" classification to withold this information.
“We find this (citation of national security) unacceptable," the Congressmen wrote. "If, in fact, there were some additional trade concessions that were made that do have national security implications, we request a secure briefing on those issues.”
However, the letter adds: “If this is merely an attempt to avoid revealing the cost of these trade concessions, either because they would be viewed too costly by the United States or not costly enough by the negotiating countries, this Freedom of Information Act denial on the grounds of ‘national security’ would appear to be a misuse of the FOIA process.”
The letter concludes: "Ultimately, we believe that this withdrawal (by the USTR of gambling obligations at the WTO) was a mistake, because it is in furtherance of a policy – the UIGEA – which is an inappropriate interference with the personal freedoms of American citizens that we are working to undo."
The letter ends with the expectation that the USTR will furnish a prompt response.
USTR MISSES ANOTHER WTO DEADLINE
Online gambling dispute with Antigua and Barbuda rolls on
As March faded into April this week it appeared that the US Trade Representative at the World Trade Organisation had once again missed a crucial deadline in its dispute with the government of Antigua and Barbuda over online gambling.
The Antigua Sun newspaper, which has been diligently following the many twists and turns in this long-running saga, reported that no word on the issue had been received by the Caribbean islanders. Neither Antigua and Barbuda’s attorney in the matter Mark Mendel nor the local Directorate of Gaming has received any communication from US officials.
In a process that has seen many delays and missed deadlines, the apparent failure of the US to put forward a settlement proposal by the end of the month was apparently met with an air of resignation in Antigua and Barbuda, with officials continuing to adopt a “wait and see” approach to the protracted negotiations process.
The settlement proposal has the potential to end the trade battle over Internet gaming which has dragged on for more than five years.
Mendel has made it clear that any settlement would be expected to address the United States’ failure to comply with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling on non-discriminatory US access for Internet gaming operators as well as Antigua and Barbuda’s claim for compensation following the unilateral US withdrawal of its commitment to provide market access to the sector under the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services.
The former issue was the subject of a US$21 million sanction award against the US by a WTO Dispute Settlement Body arbitrator last December.
On the latter issue Antigua and Barbuda filed a notice in January requesting arbitration by the WTO.

ANOTHER 60 MINUTES SHOW ON INTERNET GAMBLING IN  PROSPECT
Popular investigative television program asking questions regarding the Absolute Poker scandal
Top online poker bloggers, posters and writers are predicting that the popular US television investigative program "60 Minutes" could be about to launch an expose on the Absolute Poker cheating scandal (see previous InfoPowa reports). The program, which has a viewership in the millions, has previously covered online gambling in 2001, 2005 and 2006…and not always in the most positive terms.
Top blogger and 2+2 contributor Nat Arem, who made a major contribution in investigating and exposing the Absolute Poker.com affair which resulted in the company paying a $500 000 fine to the Kahnawake Gaming Commission that regulates the company, wrote on his blog Nat Arem.com that he has known about the new story for some weeks but had respected the confidentiality requested by the 60 Minutes producer.  However, as several other poker information websites had picked up on approaches to industry personalities made by the producers, he would reveal what he knew.
"A few weeks ago, I was contacted by 60 Minutes in conjunction with a reporter from the Washington Post regarding a story about the Absolute Poker scandal from last fall," Arem wrote. "I was told that they wanted Adanthar (another 2+2 investigator) and myself for on-camera interviews with Steve Kroft. I later found out they were also interested in interviewing Michael Josem and Marco Johnson.
"Basically, I spent a little while on the phone with the producer and the Washington Post reporter and recapped the whole story as well as I could from memory. I talked about my involvement and contribution, along with all the other people who were involved.
"After that conversation, I found out that 60 Minutes plans on going to a number of different locations. I’ve heard that Canada, Costa Rica and Las Vegas are all possible travel locations. I may or may not be meeting up with 60 Minutes in Costa Rica, if and when they come down. There’s also the possibility that I will end up on-camera in Atlanta.
"In terms of agenda, I’ve been told that the goal is to “tell the story from soup to nuts.” I don’t really know if that means a negative agenda for online poker, but I get the feeling that it might.
"That means that this story is unlikely to be a good thing for online poker on the whole. I wish that programs like 60 Minutes would always tell the whole story (ie, get PokerStars involved, explain why some sites are secure and clean, etc), but I can’t really be sure that will happen.
"If I do end up on-camera, I will be sure to explain that this scandal was online poker’s “Enron” — ie, the biggest and worst scandal in the history of the industry. It is not a commonplace occurrence and people should not take it as such.
"In terms of the “certainty” that this will get on the air… I’m not sure. I’ve been told that it’s definitely happening. But, considering that it has not been shot yet, anything is possible. And if it does end up on the air, I have no idea when that will be or what the 60 Minutes airing schedule looks like."
Several other poker writers have been approached by 60 Minutes, Tom Somach reported, observing that with another online poker cheating scandal breaking – this time the allegations against Absolute's sister poker website Ultimate Bet – it’s a sure bet the “60 Minutes” piece won’t just address the Absolute Poker situation.
Infopowa has covered the Ultimate Bet story, which appears to have gone very quiet in recent weeks.
The story about the Absolute Poker debacle, initially denied and then confirmed as an "insider issue" involving a "consultant" alleged by other sources to be one Alan John Grimaud, a Canadian citizen who disappeared from public view in the wake of the issue, is likely to make fascinating television.  It has all the elements for a penetrating expose; big money, high technology, Internet gambling, mysterious figures in the background, unresolved questions and some expert detective work by the poker-playing community.
CASINO-MATRON KEEPS 'EM GUESSING
An unexpected takeover on a suspicious date….
The notorious advent of April had members of the Casinomeister online gambling information portal on the hop this week.
When they clicked through to the popular website, owned by occasional prankster Bryan Bailey, they found a brand new lurid purple corporate identity "Casino.Matron" and the information: "I am woman – I am proud – I am in charge now."
The mission of the "new" owners was listed as "No more macho Casinomeister chauvinistic subjection. No more sexist robot – he was fired ( a reference to the webmaster's robotic alter-ego Vortran).
In previous years Bailey has amused and at times alarmed the unwary with April pranks such as pasting official-looking warnings across his website notifying online gamblers that they may be under investigation by (fake) US authorities.
CYBERSQUATTERS ARE GETTING SMARTER
Brand pirates focusing more on less visible directory tactics
The "Catchusifyoucan.com" cyber crooks have devised new techniques to avoid brand defence actions, reports the Las Vegas Business Press in an interesting article on brand piracy this week.
Intellectual property lawyer David LeGrand summed up the state of online disputes by saying that cybersquatters were getting smarter and more difficult to detect. But lawsuits over domain names are increasing, he said, although like the Internet itself, the infringers are evolving and becoming more sophisticated.
Another specialist in the field, Greenberg Traurig attorney Ron Green has been busy pursuing typosquatters, companies that own domain names that are misspellings of famous websites.
He revealed that deliberate misspellings, or name variations, are becoming more common as available domain names vanish. And while many cybersquatters are still setting up typical online casino web sites, an increasing number are now using their controversial domain names for less-visible "directories."
Money, not public service, is driving these information-driven sites, plaintiff's lawyers charge. The revenue stream for directory sites is harder to trace, and the site's purpose is not so blatantly commercial, explained John Krieger, a lawyer with the Las Vegas office of Lewis and Roca.
A directory site usually derives "click-through revenue," which is based on users clicking on linked sites and ads. "There are a lot of them," he said of directory site cases.
The passage in 1999 of the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act stemmed the tide of overall domain name infringements for a short time, lawyers say. However, "….it seems like in the past two years, it has been picking up again," Krieger said.
Directory websites are likely to be the next big thing in domain name disputes, said Andy Mayfield, a St. Louis-based intellectual property attorney with the law firm Armstrong Teasdale. "That really is a developing area," Mayfield said. Key to the popularity of directories is the difficulty of proving such sites are profitable, which is a needed element in proving bad faith intent.
"Is it a commercial (use) case or not?" he said. "I think it is because the revenue is based on the number of hits placed through the site."
Plaintiffs' lawyers' opinions don't always carry the day in court, however, Mayfield added. "Is it harder to prove cut-and-dried competition? Yes."
David LeGrand, a director with the Fennemore Craig law firm in Las Vegas, said he now sees fewer domain-name disputes involving pornographic and online gambling websites. "There are some of those left … but that kind of case has been chewed through," he said.
The stragglers are more unfinished business, usually involving a plaintiff selling their business or finally obtaining the financial resources to sue, the lawyer explained. "The directory sites are a lot more challenging," LeGrand added.
Constitutional issues also come into play with directory sites, explained Mark Tratos, an intellectual property lawyer and instructor at UNLV's William S. Boyd School of Law.
"The ability to get any relief under the law is reduced because of the First Amendment, freedom of speech," he admitted.
An emerging trend in cyberlegal battles is "typosquatting," which is also generating lawsuits.
The practice of diverting traffic to websites by slightly changing the spelling of a more famous domain name has mostly gone under the radar, LV Business Press reports. Typosquatting is typically a civil matter, but was made a crime under the Protect Act in 2000, which is more commonly known as the "Amber Alert" legislation. Typosquatting was included in that law because pornographers often changed the spelling of common domain names to divert traffic to their sites.
Tracking down all the typosquatters isn't easy, said Ron Green, an attorney with Greenberg Traurig.
"With as many domain names (as) there are registered daily, it is hard to police all of them," he said. "I think typosquatting is a big problem for anybody who has been in business for a number of years."
Domain name fights don't show any sign of going away, he said. "As long as there is money to be made on the Internet, people will take the risk."
$2.5 MILLION ONLINE MAHJONG INVESTMENT BY CRYPTOLOGIC
Another step in Internet gambling provider's move into Asia
CryptoLogic Limited continued its advance into the Asian market this week by making a strategic investment in Mahjong Time, an innovative provider of online Mahjong software and turnkey solutions.
"Mahjong is a game with an ancient history in China, and a following of well over 600 million worldwide," said Brian Hadfield, CryptoLogic's President and CEO, adding that his company is skilled in taking popular pastimes and turning them into online entertainment, and intends to continue working in Asia with partners who share that vision.
In a deal that is expected to close within the next 30 days, CryptoLogic has agreed to invest up to $2.5 million for a significant minority equity stake in Mahjong Time, subject to certain performance thresholds and milestones.
The Asian company has a patented platform created and managed by a team with in-depth Mahjong experience, and earns revenue by licensing its software to gaming operators, who attract business through tournaments, subscriptions, "pay-for-play" models and in-game advertising. Mahjong Time also earns revenue from its own site, MahjongTime.com.
Mahjong Time has a number of unique advantages for operators, claims Hadfield, including more rulesets than any other provider, multiple language versions of its software and advanced gaming features (such as play, watch and archive modes). Players benefit from a secure and robust environment featuring no-download software that supports both subscription and tournament play, as well as a practice mode that teaches the game to newcomers.
Players from 136 countries enjoy social networking through advanced community features at Mahjong Time such as an advanced avatar shop, personalisation engine, friends list, rated competitions and a patented visual "belt" rating and ranking system – all of which are keys to Web 2.0 success in gaming.
Mahjong Time is the official online partner of the North American Mahjong Federation, the European Mahjong Association and national associations in ten European countries, and has developed a unique, officially-certified rating system (MORSE) for use in online tournaments.
The company is also the exclusive online software and platform provider for the World Series of Mahjong, the biggest prize money tournament in the history of the game. Global TV coverage of the WSOM over the next three years will provide a platform to reach millions of enthusiasts across Asia and beyond.
"As a game, Mahjong is about both strategy and community, and that's the approach we have taken to building our software and our business," said William Sutjiadi, CEO of Mahjong Time. "CryptoLogic knows great innovation and great software, and together we will build a business with huge global potential."
PPA REGIONAL DIRECTOR ABANDONS GOVERNSHIP QUEST
But feisty Rousso vows to continue the fight against Washington state's draconian online gambling laws
Lee Rousso, the feisty Seattle lawyer and Poker Players Alliance regional director has abandoned his campaign to unseat Washington state governor Christine Gregoire but says he will continue his fight to overturn the state's draconian laws against online gamblers.
Rousso cites a US Supreme Court decision upholding the state's "top two" electoral system as his reason for withdrawing from the gubernatorial race.
Writing on his website at http://leeroussoforgovernor.org/ the pro-poker campaigner announced his withdrawal 'with a heavy heart and great reluctance' but emphasised that what he isn’t giving up on his legal challenge to Washington’s Internet gambling ban, which was approved by the Legislature and signed by Gregoire in 2006.
“Even though I am dropping out of the political arena, I will continue to work to change the laws so that Internet poker players can enjoy the Great American Game from the privacy of their own home,” Rousso wrote. "My constitutional challenge to the law is set for a hearing on April 25, 2008. Assuming I get my day in court (something the State is desperate to avoid), I think I have a good chance at winning.
"Meanwhile, I encourage all my supporters to continue to fight the good fight. We are going to win this battle. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday soon."

iMEGA APPEALS IN U.S. ONLINE GAMBLING LAW CASE
Notice of appeal filed in 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia
Having achieved legal standing to litigate in its case against the US government's UIGEA earlier this year (see previous InfoPowa report) the Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association (iMEGA) online gambling trade group has now filed a Notice of Appeal in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals (Philadelphia) to progress its challenge against "policy enforcement" of the UIGEA.
In a press announcement this week the organisation recapped on previous litigation, commenting that the prior ruling by the Honorable Mary L. Cooper contained a great deal of good and yet some bad aspects for iMEGA – and for the rights, the people and the medium it seeks to defend.
"First and foremost, the Court established, with crystal clarity, the standing (and associational standing) of iMEGA to challenge this (UIGEA) law in court," explains the statement. "This is no small thing. Judge Cooper herself spent 15 pages of her 29-page decision establishing iMEGA’s standing, in the process knocking down the US government’s primary challenge to our suit. iMEGA flat-out beat the government on that point.
"Many legal commentators—both supporters and naysayers—from the beginning viewed the question of iMEGA’s standing as an insurmountable barrier to moving forward. Well, we’ve crossed over that barrier, and now the government has to contend with iMEGA as fully and unquestionably empowered by the Court to assert our rights in the courts of the United States. The fact that the Federal courts have now recognized iMEGA as the champion of the Internet Gambling industry cannot be overstated," the statement adds.
iMEGA recognises that it failed to obtain a definitive ruling on the "groundbreaking questions we presented, namely, that those fundamental rights we all enjoy – of privacy, speech, expression, and conduct – should not be lessened in any way when we are using the Internet."  Judge Cooper simply affirmed that Congress had the right to pass the law in a constitutional manner – a point iMEGA never challenged.
"As a result, the Court is in essence standing aside and reserving these issues to be decided by a “higher authority,” the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and, potentially, the United States Supreme Court," iMEGA claims, before emphasising that Judge Cooper acknowledged the failings of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and, in Footnote 12 on Page 27 of her decision, stated categorically that the “criminal penalties” provided for under the UIGEA do not apply to “financial businesses,” such as “financial transaction providers.”
The statement clarifies that the next step for iMEGA is to continue the battle for the overthrow of the UIGEA in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, an appellate court that has been traditionally protective of the fundamental rights of speech and expression.
"One need only look to that Court’s striking down (multiple times) of the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) – another well intentioned but over-reaching Federal law – for an example of how favorable that Court can be to iMEGA’s challenge," it avers.
A positive result for iMEGA in the Third Circuit, affirming its “digital civil rights”, would represent a landmark victory with historic consequences.
iMEGA is under no illusions about the magnitude of its next battle, saying that in light of political pressures, it anticipates that the US Justice Department will bring all of its vast resources to the fight. "(But) with the possible exception of the American Banking Association, no one has more precisely and effectively portrayed how faulty the proposed UIGEA regulations are, in the hope of preventing them from being promulgated or weakened to such an extent that they become meaningless," the statement claims.
"While we were disappointed that Judge Cooper dismissed our (original) lawsuit, this case is far from over. We always knew that this would be the first round in a serious fight, as most important legal battles are. Many legal challenges that lost their first round make up many of the rights Americans now take for granted," the organisation claims, giving as examples:
Brown v. Board of Education (”Separate but Equal” school systems) – Originally lost in U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas
Miranda v. Arizona (Illegal Interrogations) – Originally lost in the Arizona Supreme Court
Gideon v. Wainwright (Right to Counsel) – Originally lost in the Florida Supreme Court and Fourteenth Judicial Circuit of Florida
Tinker v. Des Moines (Freedom of Speech) – Originally lost in U.S. District Court and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
iMEGA is also currently active on the lobbying front, and president Edward Leyden will provide detailed verbal and written testimony for the Congressional hearing on UIGEA on April 2, 2008 by the House Financial Services Committee, Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Trade, and Technology.
The hearing will begin at 10 a.m. and will include testimony from representatives from the Federal Reserve System and the U.S. Department of Treasury.
Several representatives of financial institutions are also listed on the witness list, including Harriet May, who will be speaking on behalf of the Credit Union National Association; Wayne Abernathy, representing the American Bankers Association; Leigh Williams, from the Financial Services Roundtable; and Ted Teruo Kitada, on behalf of Wells Fargo & Co.
 
DUTCH SENATE TAKES A MORE CAUTIOUS APPROACH
Proposal to give state-owned Holland Casino an exclusive three year run is rejected
Dutch media reports indicate that a controversial proposal before the Dutch Senate to give an exclusive and protectionist three year online gambling license for the Netherlands to the state-owned Holland Casino.com has been rejected, suggesting a more cautious approach by Dutch legislators acutely aware of the scrutiny of the European Commission (see previous InfoPowa reports)
It is not yet known how this will impact the Internet operations of the casino, which has recently been in the throes of an extensive revamp, working with turnkey provider Cryptologic.
 
The Netherlands has been at the centre of many disputes in which gambling companies in other European Union nations sought to claim their right to the free movement of goods and services between the 27 nations in the trade bloc. State monopoly De Lotto has fought and locally won determined legal actions to exclude competition for its lucrative exclusivity and the country has been warned by the EU enforcement agency that its practices are not compliant with EU requirements.
Earlier this year a vote on the subject scheduled for the Senate was postponed by Minister of Justice Ernst Hirsch Ballin, who reasoned he was concerned that the measure would be rejected. And there have been reports that the government was also mulling the introduction of plans to prosecute Dutch banks and financial institutions that processed payments headed to online gambling sites.
The European Commission has been increasing the pressure on EU member nations with gaming monopolies to bring them into compliance with EU directives that guarantee fellow members free movement of goods and services in terms of Article 49 of the EU Treaty.
CRYPTO SAYS DUTCH VOTE WILL HAVE NO MATERIAL IMPACT (Update)
Holland Casino bid for three year online monopoly dislocated
This week's 35 – 37 vote Dutch Senate defeat of an attempt to grant the state-owned Holland Casino.com an exclusive three year license for the Netherlands will have no material affect on the casino's new software provider, Cryptologic has advised.
The bill failed to pass the upper house of the Dutch parliament after being approved by the lower house in 2006. It would have given a Holland Casino revamped by Cryptologic exclusive online gambling rights in the Netherlands.

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