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Friday, October 07, 2005

Intergrating casinos

The company is remarkable not only for its Midas touch, but also for its rootlessness. It belongs nowhere. It began life in the Caribbean and is now headquartered in Gibraltar. The great majority of its customers are Americans. Its employees are mostly Indians - based at a call-centre in Hyderabad. Its computer systems are in Canada - on a Mohawk reservation. Its marketing people and stock-market listing are in London.

PartyGaming is a virtual company. Selling a service over the internet, it can locate bits of itself wherever conditions are most favourable: Gibraltar and Canada's Kahnawake Reservation for their gaming regulators' friendliness; India for its low wages; Gibraltar for its low taxes (PartyGaming is paying just 6 per cent of its profits in tax, which compares to corporation tax in the UK of 30 per cent); London for its advertising nous and stock-market respectability.

This versatility and lack of accountability is not without tensions. The big story of the imminent flotation is that almost 90 per cent of the company's customers are in the US, where online gambling is of questionable legality and in some states plain illegal.