Online Casino BTDino

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Trumps addictions

Donald Trump, Steve Wynn, Sol Kerzner, eat your hearts out. This is what a gambling tycoon of the internet age looks like. Vikrant Bhargava is a 32-year-old electrical engineer from Rajasthan who confesses he has never played a hand of poker in a real casino.

Poker, though, may be about to make him a fortune: Bhargava's 15% stake in PartyGaming, the company behind the world's most popular poker website, is worth roughly £450m, according to some City calculations.

Whatever Bhargava is worth, Anurag Dikshit, his old chum from the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi, is worth more. Dikshit was a founder of PartyGaming in 1998 and owns about 40% of it. That equates to roughly £1.25bn on the same unofficial City valuations. Dikshit (pronounced Dixit) is a mere 33.

He is also, for the time being, shy of the media, which is why it falls to Bhargava, as marketing director, to conduct PartyGaming's first proper press interview. This tentative shuffle towards the public glare is prompted by the fact that PartyGaming, owner of the extraordinarily successful Party Poker website, is in the middle of a strategic review that may lead to a flotation in London.

Investment bankers have been appointed and the outside world is getting a glimpse of the scale of profits being made by internet gambling companies. PartyGaming, according to the insiders, made profits of about $350m (£183m) last year and is on course to reach $500m to $600m this year. That might make the business worth $6bn, or a little over £3bn, enough to qualify for the FTSE 100 index. Four years ago it hadn't even launched Party Poker.