Online Casino BTDino

The blog for the online casino btdino contest

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Late night online

Although the company refused to comment last night, Vikrant Bhargava, PartyGaming’s marketing director, recently told The Times: “If we were to float in London there is a good chance we would be a FTSE 100 company.”

An IPO would crystallise huge paper profits for the handful of private investors who control PartyGaming.

They include Ruth Parasol, a colourful Californian lawyer who made her first fortune a decade ago through pornographic websites, and Anurag Dikshit, a computer services graduate from India. Mr Bhargava is also a small shareholder.

PartyGaming also has casino and bingo websites, although more than three-quarters of its business is derived from online poker, the fastest growing part of the gambling industry.

PartyPoker accounts for more than 50 per cent of the global online poker market. Launched in 2001, it now claims that 12,000 people are playing its online games at any one time.

Revenue casinos

The company, which recently changed its name from iGlobalmedia, is understood to favour an initial public offering (IPO) some time this year, although its advisers will also consider alternative ways of taking the company forward, including raising debt or seeking a merger partner.

Last summer PartyGaming appointed Richard Segal, the former Odeon Cinemas boss, as its chief executive and it recently hired Martin Weigold as finance director. Mr Weigold was previously chief financial officer at Jetix Europe, the children’s entertainment network formerly called Fox Kids Europe.

Last year the company reported earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of about $350 million (£186 million). However its IPO valuation is likely to be based on projected 2005 earnings of as much as $600 million, implying a valuation of perhaps $5 billion to $6 billion.

Bang the Dino

THE world’s biggest internet poker company will today announce the appointment of advisers to a possible flotation on the London Stock Exchange that could value the business at about £3 billion, The Times has learnt.

It is understood that PartyGaming, the Gibraltar-based group that launched the PartyPoker website in 1997, will reveal that it has appointed Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein and Investec Securities to advise the company on its “strategic options”.

Despite the likelihood of a place in the FTSE 100, the big banks such as Merrill Lynch, UBS, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank declined the opportunity to be involved, eschewing fees of an estimated £20 million.

The difficulty is that PartyGaming’s biggest market is America, where the legality of internet gambling remains in doubt.

Although poker, where players are pitched against each other rather than against the house, is less of a grey area, the big banks are still wary of upsetting regulators such as Eliot Spitzer, New York’s attorney-general.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Yahoo opens online casino

Yahoo has announced a joint venture with UK betting exchange company Betfair to launch a gambling site aimed at the mass market.

Yahoo Betting, as the site will be known, is due to launch in March and is designed to take the advanced features available on Betfair's main site and make them accessible to a Yahoo's user base. The exchange will be accessible through the sports and finance sections of Yahoo as well as from other areas across the portal.

"By creating a customised Betfair exchange for the Yahoo platform, we are offering the revolutionary dynamics of an exchange to a wider audience in a more traditional and customer-friendly way," said Betfair's chief executive Stephen Hill.

Betfair casino

Betfair was set up in 2000 by former professional gambler Andrew Black and ex-city trader Edward Wray.

Betfair's model applies the collaborative power of the Internet to the traditional bookmaking model by allowing punters to bet at odds set by other gamblers rather than a bookmaker.

The model was slow to take off at first, with the fledgling site matching less than £50,000 of bets a week in its first month. A year later that figure had grown to over £1m a week and it now stands at some £50m.

Betfair's vulnerability to down-time has not gone unnoticed by the criminal fraternity. Earlier this year, Betfair, along with several other online betting companies, was targeted by cybercriminals threatening distributed-denial-of-service attacks unless a ransom was paid.

BTDino deep in depth

Gambling bill clears Commons
The government's controversial gambling bill cleared the Commons despite a backbench rebellion by 22 Labour MPs. In a vote forced by disgruntled backbenchers, the bill was given a third reading by 236 votes to 38, government majority 198, and now goes to the Lords.

Backbench unrest centred on moves to set up a series of super-casinos and reserve powers which could be used in future to stop youngsters playing seaside slot machines. The government has already backed down over the number of regional super-casinos in the face of opposition from Labour MPs and churches - cutting them to eight. A Tory bid to halve that number failed.

Article continues
The culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, said the bill would give Britain "the toughest, most comprehensive regulatory framework in the world, to protect the public interest, to prevent the exploitation of children". But Labour MP Win Griffiths said he would not support the bill and he hoped the Lords would amend it. He thought the pilot of mega-casinos was a mistake because "once the genie's out of the bottle it is difficult to put it back".

Amusement arcade owners were offered a concession by the government over concerns about how the gambling bill will affect their businesses. Culture minister Richard Caborn agreed to look again at reserve powers, which could prevent youngsters playing arcade slot machines. He announced a review which will report in time for Lords consideration of the bill. But the move failed to mollify critics on both the Tory and Labour backbenches.

Government over online casinos

Extending right to buy
Up to 300,000 council and housing association tenants will be given the chance to buy a share in their home under plans unveiled by the deputy prime minister, John Prescott. He also announced that a further 80,000 families would be helped to get a foot on the property ladder by 2010. Under the "first-time buyer initiative," thousands of new "affordable" homes - possibly costing as little as £60,000 - will be built, initially on land owned by the government and its agencies. The plans are at the heart of the government's new five-year housing strategy aimed at enabling more people to get a home of their own. For the opposition, Caroline Spelman accused the government of presiding over a housing crisis spiralling out of control and of putting home ownership out of the reach of a whole generation of young people.

Canning case
The government insisted that solicitor Angela Cannings, whose conviction over the deaths of two of her children was quashed on appeal, should not get financial compensation. But Home Office minister Lady Scotland conceded that this had been "a very difficult decision". Her murder conviction was quashed when medical evidence against her from paediatrician Professor Sir Roy Meadow was discredited.

Incapacity benefit
A pilot scheme to help people on incapacity benefit return to work by placing employment advisers at GPs' surgeries was defended by the government. The work and pensions secretary, Alan Johnson, in a light-hearted question time response to criticism from Tory Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, insisted they would not interfere with doctors' work.

Online gambling bills

Victims of failed pension schemes
A financial rescue package for victims of failed company pension schemes should be extended to employees of a firm which wound up its fund while still solvent, MPs urged. The pensions minister, Malcolm Wicks, said the government was considering the case of APW Electronics, but warned it was wary of helping when the employer remained solvent.

Steve Webb, for the Liberal Democrats asked when APW employees would be "put out of their misery" and learn whether they were eligible for the government's financial assistance scheme (FAS).

Cost of the firefighters' strikes
Using the military to provide emergency cover during recent firefighters' strikes cost more than £75m, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister said. The sum has now been paid back to the Ministry of Defence as part of the deal struck to ensure fires were put out when firefighters walked out in 2002 and 2003.

In parliament today
The foreign secretary, Jack Straw, and his ministers face MPs at question time. There are then two Tory-initiated debates on implementation of the Licensing Act and renegotiation of the Food Supplements Directive. Backbench debates in Westminster Hall include opening hours and the Licensing Act. In the Lords, peers debate the committee stage of the mental capacity bill.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Casino tables

The Isle of Man, a British crown dependency in the Irish Sea, is reversing a four-year-old policy that has deterred Internet casinos based there from accepting bets from United States residents.

The policy change, while affecting only a handful of Internet casinos, adds a wrinkle to an emerging trade battle between the United States and many other countries over Internet gambling.

American prosecutors maintain that federal laws prohibit online gambling. And they have tried to curb the growing popularity of such gambling in the United States by threatening legal action against American companies that do business with overseas Internet casinos, whose operations fall outside their jurisdiction. A number of American banks do not allow the use of their credit cards for Internet gambling.

But despite the restrictions, Americans still place more wagers online annually than residents of any other country. Internet casinos around the world and the jurisdictions that license them are eager for this business.

The decision by the Isle of Man--which makes its own domestic laws and relies on Britain for defense and foreign policy--to allow its licensed Internet casinos to take bets from Americans went into effect on Jan. 1. The change is significant because the island, which began licensing such casinos in 2001, initially sought to attract blue-chip gambling operations by defining itself as a place with rigorous regulation.

Gambling policies

That policy seemed to pay off at first as some of the world's largest gambling operations, including MGM Mirage, purchased expensive licenses to operate there. But business did not become as brisk as expected, and six major casinos, including MGM, have relocated or closed their Internet operations altogether.

In December, the island's Council of Ministers, roughly equivalent to a cabinet, voted to reverse the policy against accepting bets from the United States. Tim Craine, the head of electronic business for the Isle of Man, said officials felt that the change would help attract new casinos--and the licensing and tax revenue they provide.

"There's a lot of business looking to relocate to a reputable, regulated jurisdiction," he said, noting that there were many online poker sites looking for a new jurisdiction. "We're hoping to capitalize on that business" by changing our policy, he said.

Craine also said that the policy change affected bets only on casino games and poker. The island still bars casinos from accepting sports bets placed from the United States. He said it made that distinction on the basis that United States law prohibited sports betting online, but not casino wagering.

Federal prosecutors have said they believe that casino games are also prohibited under American law. And numerous state laws expressly prohibit gambling, even that conducted on the Web, if the activity is not expressly authorized.

Isle of man contest

The decision by the Isle of Man comes amid a trade dispute over Internet gambling between the United States and Antigua. The Antiguans have complained to the World Trade Organization that Washington is violating its trade obligations by prohibiting Internet gambling.
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In November, the WTO issued a preliminary ruling in favor of Antigua. Last Friday, the office of the United States trade representative filed a notice of appeal, asserting that long-standing American trade policy and social mores were consistent with a prohibition of online gambling.

The deadline for the United States to file its first brief in the appeal is tomorrow, according to lawyers involved in the case.

The WTO has 90 days from last Friday's notice of appeal to issue a decision.

Last year, some $7.6 billion was lost in wagers over the Internet, an analyst said, about half of that by United States residents.

Many countries, including Britain, license and regulate online casinos. The level of regulation differs widely, with some countries enforcing more rigorous regulations as a way of helping the casinos there establish themselves as reputable.

The policies also differ as to whether they accept bets from Americans. What they have in common is a desire to attract more Internet casinos, the analysts said.

Casino robbers wanted

Las Vegas police have identified two suspects in the attempted robbery of World Series of Poker champion Greg "Fossilman" Raymer.

Robbery detectives were searching for Kevin R. Joy, 35, and Deem Cassim, 31, who they believe ambushed Raymer on Dec. 20 outside his Bellagio hotel room and tried to rob him of $150,000.

One of the men had a gun, but the 330-pound, 40-year-old Raymer fought off the duo.

The Stonington, Conn., resident won $5 million earlier this year at the World Series of Poker at Binion's Horseshoe. He since has quit his job as a patent lawyer to become a full-time poker player.

Joy is 6 feet 2 inches tall and 240 pounds with a bald head and green eyes. Cassim is 5 feet 8 inches tall and 150 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.

Police said they were seen in a late-model silver Nissan with Nevada plates that might include the digits 135. Anyone with information can call robbery detectives at 229-3591 or Crime Stoppers at 385-5555.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Rolling of the dice

With a deal to bring Major League Baseball to Washington apparently cratering last week, a civic-minded and no doubt extremely respectable Internet gambling company has stepped forward to try to save the day. Empire Poker, which describes itself as "North America's leading online poker site," said late last week that it would provide up to $500 million to prevent the would-be Washington Nationals from becoming the Lame Ducks. The company would finance the team's move from Montreal to a new District stadium.

All the company wants in return is naming rights to the team's new field. And the exclusive right to all the signs inside the stadium. And, um, one other little thing: It wants to put Internet kiosks throughout the stadium so fans can play electronic poker before, during and after the game.

So, Washington would get baseball and hot dogs and box seats . . . and Texas Hold 'Em?

Bedroom casino

Bingo, says Ron Burke, the company's top marketing executive: "If you turn on the TV, you'll see poker being played more and more. It's become a lot more mainstream. It's like the national pastime." He adds, "The exposure [of the stadium name] would be good for us, and the city would have baseball."

Not to pull a Linda Cropp here, but there might be a few flaws in this plan.

For starters, Empire isn't exactly forthcoming about the sources of its money ("We're private," says Burke). And while we're not lawyers or anything, we do recall that it's against the law to set up an online gambling business in the United States. That would explain why "North America's leading online poker site" is not actually headquartered anywhere near North America. Empire is based in Cyprus.

Empire hasn't heard back from baseball or city officials yet. But it's questionable whether Major League Baseball or the District government will want to get into business with a gambling company, let alone one headquartered somewhere in the Mediterranean (besides, the District has a lottery, so it already has its own gambling business, thank you).

Btdino laws

Last Sunday, Dennis and Donna Jackson of Casper made their way up to Sidelines Sports Bar to play a game they, like many other Americans, have grown to enjoy immensely in the past year -- Texas Hold 'Em.

They headed to Sidelines, as they have an many recent Sunday afternoons, to play in Clear Channel Radio's weekly Texas Hold 'Em tournament against about 60 other card sharks.

Neither Jackson came out on top on Sunday, although Donna finished second at her table and Dennis has won his table before, they said.

Despite the fact they didn't come out on top, they did have fun, they said. And their enjoyment only cost them $25 apiece.

The Jacksons didn't risk any money playing in the tournament, so they didn't think what they did at Sidelines was gambling, they said.

However, there is some debate that, legally speaking, the Jacksons' take on Sidelines' tournament, and other Texas Hold 'Em tournaments that have popped up at bars around the state, is wrong.

Texas Hold 'Em is a style of poker made popular by such televised events as the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour.

State law makes it clear that professional gambling is illegal in Wyoming. What is not so clear is whether Texas Hold 'Em tournaments are professional gambling.

Local Clear Channel General Manager Bob Price said neither his company nor Sidelines engages in illegal professional gambling by holding the tournament.

Professional gambling is first defined by Wyoming law as "aiding or inducing another to engage in gambling, with the intent to derive a profit therefrom."

Casino chips

Neither Sidelines nor Clear Channel intends to profit from the poker tournament, said Price and Bobbi Gerlock, general manager of Sidelines.

At the Sidelines tournament, players pay $25 to enter and are given a certain number of chips, Price said. They are then seated at a table with seven other players, and the eight play Texas Hold 'Em until the winner controls all eight players' chips, Clear Channel's Staci Ownes said.

The chips used in the games have no monetary value, and the winner of the table is given no monetary reward, Price said. Instead, the winners advance to later rounds in the tournament.

The tournament's eventual champion will win a trip to Reno, Nev., and the opportunity to play in a World Poker Tour event there, Owens said.

Revenue from the $25 entry fees is used to pay for the administrative costs of the tournament, to pay for prizes, and a portion is donated to St. Jude's Children's Hospital, Owens said.

While the hosts and sponsors of the tournaments may be careful not to take direct revenue from the games, there are still some questions regarding the legality of poker tournaments at bars, because the hosting establishment may earn indirect revenue via food and beverage sales, Wyoming Attorney General Pat Crank said.

Gerlock, however, said most poker players are not the type of people who run up big bar tabs, as they tend to remain sober while playing.

"Do we see an increase in business" on Sunday afternoons when poker is being played? "Not really," she said.

Online holden

While Natrona County officials haven't stopped the tournaments at Sidelines, Laramie County and Albany County officials have taken aim at some poker tournaments in Cheyenne and Laramie. Cheyenne police, for example, asked bars to voluntarily shut down their poker tournaments after police consulted with state, county and local attorneys to determine that the games are banned under state law.

Skill or luck?

Wyoming law further defines professional gambling as "participating in gambling and having, other than by virtue of skill or luck, a lesser chance of losing or a greater chance of winning than one or more of the other participants."

Texas Hold 'Em tournaments do not fit this definition of professional gambling either because poker, unlike blackjack, is not a broken game which intrinsically favors one player over others, the Jacksons said. The only way a player has an advantage in poker is if that player has more skill.

"Poker's a game of skill where you play your cards and you play off other people," Donna Jackson said. "It requires reading people."

Neither Jackson considers the way they spend their Sunday afternoons gambling, they said. It is totally different from playing games like blackjack in Deadwood, S.D.

Players in Clear Channel's tournament know how much money they are going to spend on playing, $25, and know they will not win any money for their efforts, Dennis Jackson said.

A Texas Hold 'Em tournament such as Clear Channel's is no different than a billiard tournament or a dart tournament in which players pay an entry fee and the winners end up winning prizes, Price said. Poker, pool and darts all take skill and some luck to win, he added.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Casino art online

Nyla Wells, 44, is a mother of four. But when her daughters are in school, she puts her motherly duties aside and heads to a different kind of table.

From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on many days, she can be found at one of the local Indian casinos, partaking in one of the fastest-growing leisure activities — poker.

"I do good," said Wells, of Mira Loma, as she sat at a table at San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in Highland. She learned to play poker in her grandmother's poker house. "I win about 85 percent of the time."

Two centuries ago, poker was considered a game of cheats and hustlers, found only in Old West saloons or on Mississippi riverboats. Today, the face of poker has changed and poker players are emerging from all walks of life.

"Poker is clearly shedding its back room, rough and tough image, as more people find out how intrinsically interesting it can be," said Steven Lipscomb, creator and co-producer of the Travel Channel's "World Poker Tour." "Influentials in Hollywood and the business world have embraced poker as a charismatic game of strategy, psychology and showmanship."

BTDino in progress

Within the last two years, poker has become increasingly popular, dealing its way into family living rooms across the nation. Poker connoisseurs credit its revived popularity to the advancement in technology, but agree that its fan base has always existed.

Jill Philbrook, marketing director for San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in Highland, said television shows, especially with celebrities playing, have drawn a lot more people to the game of poker, who regularly don't play.

"It" s the last two to three years that we've seen a surge in popularity," Philbrook said. "We" re certainly seeing more customers wanting to come in to play poker and a lot of customers waiting to play."

She said the casino, which has seen an increase in business, will be opening a new gaming facility in January with a poker room twice as big as the one they have now.

"There" s certainly a rise in popularity and customers playing the game," Philbrook said. "We have certainly seen an increase in interest in poker."

Andrew Hill Newman, one of the executive producers of Bravo's "Celebrity Poker Showdown," said people have been playing poker "for a long time, and now people get to see how fun it is because of the massive media coverage."

Each of that show's episodes features five celebrities competing against each other for $250,000 that is donated to a charity.

Poker hands on

"I think for our show, people come for the celebrities and stay for the poker," Newman said.

The producers came up with the idea while actually participating in private games where they found themselves sitting next to celebrities, he said.

"One of the things that is extremely entertaining at our show is that you" re seeing a side of these celebrities that you don't get to see anywhere else," Newman said. "I think if you want to get to know someone, sit across a poker table and you" ll see what they're really like."

The popularity in poker isn't confined to state lines. Nevada casinos have seen an increase in players, said Keith Copher, chief of enforcement for the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Copher said although poker revenue is combined with other games because it's not that substantial, there are other indicators of its popularity.

"Several casinos have increased the size and remodeled their poker rooms," Copher said. "It has been very beneficial."

Philbrook said Internet gaming has also contributed to poker's popularity.

"I think the Internet is a way where people can check out poker," Philbrook said. "It gives people an opportunity to try it before they come down to San Manuel."

Newman said the Internet has capitalized on the trend as well as added to the popularity of the game.

"I personally prefer playing real poker with real people, but it certainly has helped keep the expansion of poker alive," he said.

Casino chips

Newman said what players like about Internet poker sites is that they can log on at any time and play with people all over the world.

However, this convenience has led to another problem. Copher said the U.S. Attorney views any type of Internet wagering in the United States as illegal and a violation of the Wire Act.

"The Web site itself, the operators are functioning legally, but once they are crossing to the U.S., they are functioning illegally," Copher said about many of the Internet poker sites that are operated out of the Caribbean.

Internet sites also offer many variations on traditional casino favorites, like Texas Hold 'Em, Omaha and Stud.

Colton resident Tyler Huisken, 24, said he began playing poker two years ago after a trip to Las Vegas, and he now plays about twice a week either at home or at local casinos.

"It" s just entertainment," he said. "I" m not going expecting to win. … I'm not hoping to win the big jackpot, but it would be nice."

Huisken has played Five-Card Draw, Seven-Card Stud and Omaha, but he recently began playing Texas Hold 'Em after seeing it on TV.

"When you" re at a table, you can tell who knows how to play and who doesn't," he said.

Huisken said he enjoys playing because it really is a game of wits.

"There" s so much involved that you have to think," he said. "Some of the (casino) games, you don" t have to think; you just throw your money out there and they play it for you."

Ontario resident Russell Rubio, 31, said he learned to play poker from his dad when he was 15 years old and now he has his own poker nights, which can bring crowds of up to 40 people.

"It" s not just a bunch of guys sitting around either," Rubio said. "They bring their girlfriends, or their wives and their friends."

One big game

He occasionally watches poker shows like "World Series of Poker' and "World Poker Tour' to study what moves the players make.

"It" s not just the chips and the cards, but how you read somebody," Rubio said.

Gary Thompson, spokesman for Harrah's Entertainment, which owns "World Series of Poker on ESPN, agreed.

"It" s a very simple game to understand and a very complex game to play," Thompson said. "It" s easy to read the cards and know hands are out there, but it's very hard to read the player."

Thompson said it's a very complicated and psychological game because of this human element.

"You see what a player" s character is like when they are in a situation where there is a big amount of money or prestige at risk," he said.

Thompson said one of the things that adds to the popularity of poker is that it is a game everybody can play because it is based on skill as well as luck.

"I can" t beat Tiger Woods on a golf course, but I can sit at a table and play the same hand that a guy just played and win $5 million," Thompson said.

Lipscomb said poker is a psychological game based on outmaneuvering or outwitting other players.

"I think people love it and keep coming back not just for the high stakes and the money — it" s for the rush of putting all of your senses on the line in a contest against other people," Lipscomb said.

Lipscomb said the poker industry was actually in a decline before "World Poker Tour' was created.

"It" s just increasing the number of people who are finding the great American card game and finding a way to incorporate it into their homes," Lipscomb said.

Ceasar casino poker online

Caesars Palace will open its first poker room in at least 12 years in response to the burgeoning popularity of poker, while Bellagio and Bally's Las Vegas are considering expanding their poker areas.

Many properties on the Las Vegas Strip still do not have poker rooms or closed their poker rooms years ago, preferring to install more profitable slot machines. But a proliferation of television coverage on poker has changed that, operators say.

"(Poker) has become immensely popular," Caesars Palace President Mark Juliano said.

The poker room, at around 15,000 square feet, will open by about March or April adjacent to the sports book as well as a nightclub now under construction. Pure, the first nightclub at Caesars Palace and one of the largest yet on the Strip, is expected to open on New Year's Eve.

MGM Grand, which closed its poker room in the late 1990s, will reopen its room near the sports book by the end of March. The room will contain 25 tables compared with 31 tables at The Mirage and 30 tables at Bellagio, other MGM Mirage properties.

Bellagio, which opened with a high-end poker room in 1998, is considering expanding its poker room based on increased casino traffic at Bellagio and The Mirage, MGM Mirage Director of Sports and Promotions Scott Ghertner said.

Ghertner said he wasn't aware of any plans to add poker rooms at the company's New York-New York and Treasure Island resorts.

Is your btdino online?

Caesars Entertainment Inc. has no plans to add a poker room at its Paris Las Vegas property but is considering expanding its existing poker area at neighboring Bally's Las Vegas.

Bally's has seven poker tables and may add three more to meet customer demand, spokeswoman Stacy Solovey said.

Poker games still don't make much money for casinos but have become a mainstream attraction that can't be ignored, said Max Rubin, author of "Comp City" and a casino consultant.

"Poker rooms were dying until the recent popularity of poker on television," Rubin said. "It's a really low margin business. It will only make like $60 to $70 an hour for a table that's taking up a lot of square footage."

Poker has become such a draw that players now have to wait for a seat at the table and are gambling while they wait, he said.

"They tend to attract people who want to play against the (pros)," Rubin said. "The (amateurs) like to play other games," he said.

Poker can also help casinos attract the younger customers they covet, he said. Caesars' nearby nightclub will also draw young people who could be lured to other games in the casino via poker, he said.

Playing online

"I was losing to guys who, a couple of years before, I was able to beat with only my left hand. That's when I realised my time was gone."

Kafelnikov won the 1996 French Open, the 1999 Australian Open, a gold medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, the 2002 Davis Cup and 26 ATP titles.

"The most important thing was not to disappoint my fans," he said.

"It is very hard to earn a good image in Russia. So when people on the street in Moscow ask why I stopped playing, I say 'because I don't want to see you people crying when I lose'. They understand that."

Kafelnikov, known for his love of roulette while on the tennis circuit, is competing in a poker tournament in Maidstone, south of London.

"I find it very exciting," he said.

"Because you win not with the cards but with your skills. With body language you can win a game, but also you can lose a game.

"You need guts in poker, as in tennis. And if you don't believe in your ability, you don't win. In tennis I believed in myself, that's why I had so much success."

Leaving tennis for poker

FORMER world No.1 Yevgeny Kafelnikov says he's given up tennis to become a professional poker player.

"I have retired," the Russian told the Independent newspaper today.

"But I have not officially announced it yet. Some people still think I am just taking a break, but I believe that my time in tennis has gone by. Even if I came back, I would have no chance to play at the level I was."

Kafelnikov, 30, hasn't played since losing in the second round of the St Petersburg Open in October 2003.

"I began at 19, and now it is impossible to compete with guys 10 years younger," he said.

"They are more hungry. I played five or six matches indoors, at the end of 2003, and I thought, 'I can't do this any more.'

Monday, October 10, 2005

Online poker firm

THE world’s largest internet betting group, Sportingbet, is in talks to acquire Paradisepoker, an online poker firm, for more than £170m.

The acquisition would almost double the size of Sportingbet, whose shares are traded on the Alternative Investment Market. It has a market value of £229m.

The news comes as it emerged that Richard Segal, the former boss of Odeon Cinemas, has joined the owner of the world’s biggest online poker business as chief executive. His appointment to the board of iGlobalmedia will fuel speculation that the firm could be grooming itself for a flotation.

Sportingbet announced last week that it was in “advanced discussions” about a “potential substantial acquisition of an online poker business”.

It did not name the company it is buying, but The Sunday Times has learnt that the target is Tropical Paradise, which operates the Paradisepoker website from Costa Rica. The site has been on a publicity drive in Britain this year and launched a series of advertisements featuring the model Caprice.

Tropical casino for sale

Industry sources said that the founders of Tropical Paradise had been trying to sell the business for several months.

Last week, Sportingbet, founded in 1998 by bookmaker Mark Blandford, said its acquisition would be “significantly earnings enhancing” although it warned it was not certain a deal would be agreed.

Sportingbet was recently named the world’s leading online gambling operator by the industry bible eGaming Review, which put it ahead of Ladbrokes and William Hill. The purchase of Partypoker would give it an even greater lead.

Last week, a report on the interactive gaming industry by the stockbroker Arbuthnot Securities gave a “buy” recommendation for Sportingbet and said the company had “an opportunity to accelerate progress”.

However, some investors have remained wary of the company because it does a large part of its business in America, where online sports betting is banned.

Btdino online partypoker

Partypoker has been discussing a flotation with a small number of investment banks, as revealed by The Sunday Times last month, and Segal’s appointment will be seen as a another step towards this goal.

Segal, 41, left Odeon in August last year after seven years at the cinema chain. He said last night how excited he was to be joining: “The growth rates both in terms of this market and this business are something that are fairly unequalled.”

Segal had been considering a number of opportunities with private-equity groups before deciding to join iGlobalmedia during the summer.

Meanwhile, Betfair, the online betting exchange, will this week announce plans to launch a legal challenge to the Dutch government over its decision to award an exclusive betting licence to De Lotto, the monopoly betting and gaming firm in Holland.

Long online casino

While the popularity of televised poker tournaments has helped drive business to casino poker rooms, online poker sites may be equally, if not more responsible, for the surge in casino traffic.

"There are people who would not be in a poker room (in a casino) if not for the Internet," said Jennifer Harman, a professional poker player who participated in one of several panel discussions about poker at last week's Global Gaming Expo.

Online poker exists in a legal gray area. Certain states such as Nevada explicitly prohibit Internet betting or some forms of gambling while others don't. Some legal experts say poker is exempted from state gambling laws because it's a game of skill while others disagree. The Justice Department maintains that all Internet wagers are illegal because they involve transactions that cross state lines.

Meanwhile federal prosecutors have threatened legal action against several major media companies, claiming the companies are "aiding and abetting" illegal gambling sites by hosting advertising for the sites and providing other services.

Americans, meanwhile, are paying little attention to such legal maneuvering and are joining Internet poker games in record numbers for a shot at winning a seat in televised poker tournaments in casinos worldwide. Others have less lofty goals of playing poker in a Las Vegas casino and are practicing in the privacy of their own homes to avoid making rookie mistakes.

"Everyone wants to be on TV," said Anthony Curtis, publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor gambler newsletter.

Curtis said many Internet sites that are concerned about legal restrictions will find a way to make money by selling ads to sites that offer free games and prizes for winners, he said.

Online sites are engaging in subtle advertising and sly marketing campaigns as standing outside casinos to sign up customers on mailing lists, said Debee Silverman, marketing manager of, an online portal that caters to Internet casinos.

The lure of the game is enough to attract others to the Internet, Silverman said.

Risks in online gambling

"It's all word of mouth," she said. "People are winning big money online."

About half of the roughly 2,600 people who played in the World Series of Poker at Binion's Horseshoe this year likely came from "satellite" poker tournaments online, said Doug Dalton, director of poker operations at the Bellagio.

Jack Binion, former chief executive of Horseshoe Gaming and former owner and manager of Binion's Horsehoe, estimates that some 60,000 people are playing online poker during peak hours nationwide.

Online poker jackpots have risen from the hundreds of thousands of dollars to the millions of dollars, Harman said.

Many people are now making a living largely by playing poker online, experts said.

Some pros are playing online "thirteen to fifteen hours a day" in two or three poker rooms and then supplementing that with playing a few casino tournaments a year, said Peter Marcus, marketing director of adsdotcom, a U.K.-based marketer of Internet gambling sites.

While some forms of gambling like sports betting will always be male-dominated, poker has witnessed a steady increase of female players, Silverman said.

Casinos make millions

About 72 percent of members who play poker online are men, down from 84 percent last year, she said.

For the typical customer, poker has become an expected part of their gambling vacation, said Lyle Berman, chief executive officer of Lakes Entertainment Inc., which owns the televised World Poker Tour.

"The average player wants a poker experience," Berman said. "If you don't have a poker room they're going to go somewhere else. They see it on TV and they expect to be able to play."

Seeing people play poker on television also gives players an excuse to go to Las Vegas or elsewhere to gamble, Curtis said.

"It entitles them to go back because they think they can beat the casino," he said.

Dalton said many casinos are making the mistake of slapping up a poker room in the back of their casino without spending the time and money to promote it or make it an important part of the casino floor.

They're saying, "We'll put it in and make a lot of money off it, too,' " Dalton said. "But you have to support it and make it high profile."

Tricking casinos online

Filmmaker Zak Penn is lining up some poker buddies for his next directing outing. Penn, who recently made his helming debut on Incident at Loch Ness, will be sitting around the table with Ben Affleck, David Schwimmer, William H. Macy, Richard Kind and German helmer Werner Herzog for a comedy feature set during an international poker tournament. The project will start filming early next year at the Golden Nugget casino.

The untitled feature will be in the style of Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm and the Christopher Guest mockumentaries with each actor knowing their character and then working with Penn and the other actors to create mostly improvised scenes. Penn, who has long played cards including rounds with each of the actors save Macy (who doesn't gamble), hopes to secure a few more poker-playing actors to star in the film.

The ante, which will be kept under $10 million, is being provided by Insomnia Entertainment, a young company created to promote casino gaming. Golden Nugget owners Tim Poster and Tom Breitling and Station Casino's Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta are partners in the company with Trent Othick, who runs the company and will produce the film. Matt Bierman and Gary Marcus will also produce, with Lance Stockton serving as co-producer.

Online hands on casino

NEW YORK - You could call it the new American pastime. From Las Vegas to Atlantic City, N.J., and from card parlors to cyberspace, poker is the game. You might go so far as to say poker is the game of the globe--if you don't count football (soccer).

In the past few years, the game has attracted millions of new players. Tournaments such as the World Series of Poker--a six-week marathon that kicked off June 2--and around-the-clock play on the Internet have helped fuel the frenzy. So has a group of young Hollywood stars, including Ben Affleck and Leonardo DiCaprio. To be sure, promoters have also managed to exploit the game's Everyman image, and casinos have used the game to attract new customers.

BTDino alliance

Poker mania has produced TV shows, best-selling books, magazines and a host of celebrities. Even the venerable New York Times has hired a poker columnist for the first time in its history. Nearly 2 million play online poker each month. In New Jersey and Nevada alone--the only two states that track data--revenue hit $152 million in 2004, up 45% from 2003.

Fun aside, the headlines and the big money comes down to the tournaments. Two major brands dominate.

The older, more established (36 years in the running) is the World Series of Poker, which is owned and operated by Harrah's Entertainment (nyse: HET - news - people ), now in the process of merging with Caesars Entertainment (nyse: CZR - news - people ).

Cable-TV channel ESPN, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Co. (nyse: DIS - news - people ), broadcasts the tournament. The series consists of several tournaments offering smaller prize money, in addition to the main tournament, which decides the world champion. This year, some 6,600 will compete in the main tournament July 7-15. Many of the competitors paid $10,000 to enter, with the hope of winning a jackpot of some $8 million.

poker mania

The other major brand is the World Poker Tour, now four years old and run by WPT Enterprises (nasdaq: WPTE - news - people ), a majority-owned subsidiary of Lakes Entertainment (nasdaq: LACO - news - people ). A TV show based on a series of high-stakes poker tournaments airs on the Travel Channel in the U.S. and 50 other global markets.

The tournaments are held in various casinos and on cruise ships throughout the world. The WPT is credited with making the game more accessible and exciting with its innovative camera shots that allow viewers to see players' hands, or hole cards.

Click on the links below to view several poker mania videos.