Betting on Sammy

9 January 2002

At a time when American pop culture is clamoring for the days of the Rat Pack, the image and likeness of one of the 1950s' most popular entertainers will soon grace an Internet casino.

The estate of Sammy Davis Jr. announced an agreement today with Gaming & Entertainment Technology Inc. to help develop and brand both an online casino and the next generation of land-based slot machines.

Under the agreement, a Sammy Davis Jr. online casino is scheduled to launch in March. The site will be managed by GET through its Vanuatu gaming facilities. Due to legal issues, the site won't offer U.S. players real-money accounts, but there will be a play-for-free site for U.S. players and others for whom online gaming is illegal. The two sites will mirror each other, said officials from both sides.

The LaRoda Group Inc., which manages the estate of Sammy Davis Jr. and is the exclusive licensor of the Sammy Davis Jr. image and likeness, said the site will be designed with Sammy's fans as well as the growing community of interactive gamblers in mind.

Barrett LaRoda, CEO of the group, said the Sammy Davis Jr. brand goes hand-in-hand with online gaming.

"Sammy is synonymous with gaming and Las Vegas," he said. "It is a great marriage in that respect. What is really interesting is we are looking to be responsible with this venture."

LaRoda said the deal had been in the works since the Global Gaming Expo in October. He said both sides agreed they needed to be careful in the way they approached U.S. players.

"Because legislation is not passed yet here in America, we aren't looking to market the play-for-pay casino to the American public," he said. "We are going to wait until legislation passes, and we believe that it will."

A play-for-points site will be integrated into the casino and will allow users to play all the same games but for points instead of money. The points can be accumulated and then cashed in for various Sammy Davis Jr. memorabilia.

"We think that will appease Sammy's friends and fans that aren't necessarily gamblers," LaRoda said. "Altovise (Sammy's widow) feels this is a way to perpetuate and carry on his legacy."

LaRoda said there should be no problem in meeting the March launch deadline. He said the entire infrastructure for the site is complete and it is in the process of being tweaked.

LaRoda said if Davis Jr. were alive today, he wouldn't hesitate to explore the interactive gaming industry.

"Sammy was an innovator," he said. "He was a 'Yes I can' type of a guy. He opened up so many doors, and online gaming would have been a frontier that he would have reached out to."

All jurisdictions where online gaming is legal will be targets for marketing efforts form the casino, LaRoda said.

"That is what we will try to penetrate," he said. "And we will penetrate it with a strategy and the fun and flare of Sammy. He was Mr. Entertainment, so we can't do it with anything less."

There will be an online tie-in with the land-based Sammy Davis Jr. slot machines, which GET is also developing. LaRoda said that plan is still in the works but may include connecting a progressive jackpot between land-based and Internet slots.

Davis and his friends, entertainers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop and actor Peter Lawford formed a tight-knit group called the Rat Pack in the 1950s. The entertainers were often seen around Las Vegas at casinos and clubs. One of the Rat Pack's films, Ocean's 11, was recently remade starring Brad Pitt and George Clooney.

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