Cirsa Looking to Break through in Late '02

21 February 2002

One of the most widely recognized manufacturing names in the land-based gaming industry for the last 20 years is hoping to leverage its reputation in the online gaming world.

In January the Cirsa Group spun off a division to focus solely on interactive gaming. The new company is developing software platforms that it hopes to roll out by the end of this year. The technology should provide new options for operating interactive TV- and Internet- based casinos, sports books, lotteries and bingo games.

The Cirsa Group, a gaming and leisure company is made up of over 180 companies located in four continents. The group creates, manufactures, markets and manages products and centers which offer an extensive range of gaming, interactive and family leisure activities. Cirsagames is the newest division of the Spain-based parent company and a subdivision of Cirsa Interactive, which develops games and value-added software for the Internet, interactive TV and mobile phones.

In developing the new software, Cirsagames utilized the latest Java J2EE y XML technology to make the games easily accessible from any Internet browser.

The new games--the company's latest work with interconnected online bingo--were given a sneak preview at the International Casino Exhibition held last month in London. Because of the group's numerous relationships with land-based gaming companies, business manager Rais Busom explained, no risks will be taken in dealing with unregulated Internet gaming.

"While there is no specific regulation relating to betting over the Internet, we will limit our activity to providing services and software applications," she said. "We must wait until the different government administrations first legislate and establish the necessary legal frameworks in order for Internet gambling to guarantee fairness and security for online gamblers as well as set industry standards and determine the rates for corresponding taxes to be applied."

During this initial phase, the "for fun" software application will include different versions of popular casino games such as blackjack, roulette, Caribbean Stud, craps, video poker, pull-tabs and slot machines. Future versions are expected to include keno, video slots and baccarat.

The new division for Cirsa Interactive marks the first move toward the Internet. The division's main focus has been developing software for the Interactive TV market.

Being located in Spain gives Cirsa an immediate edge over competitors trying to work their way into the Spanish-speaking market. Many industry experts feel that Spanish-speaking players could represent a large piece of the global gaming market once it's fully penetrated.

Busom reiterated, though, that Cirsa has no intention of opening up shop anywhere until the proper regulatory processes are in place, making it hard, she said, for the company to immediately use its leverage in Spanish market places.

The casino suite is scheduled for completion by the end of this year. The software for sports books, lotteries and skill games will be released after that.

The launch of Cirsagames comes after more than two years of development and research into various aspects of online gaming. Busom said a great deal of time was spent studying the relationship between online and offline lotteries across Europe as the company looked at ways to integrate those services for interactive TV. The Cirsa Group has experience in developing systems and terminals for both online and offline terminals, Busom said, so it was easy to bring that relationship to casino-style games.

Through its vast work in all aspects of gaming, Busom said, Cirsa learned right away who to target as potential clients.

"We are not focused on the end consumer," she said. We are focused on the operators in regulated jurisdictions and local governments who operate public gaming."

The preview of the platform at the London show was well received by operators, according to Busom, maybe even a little too well received. She said many operators wanted to have the software in the first or second quarter of this year. The software presentation, she said, was designed more to let industry insiders know what Cirsa was working on and not necessarily to sell the package.

"Cirsagames is a long term project, a challenge for the future," she said.