Coming of Age

6 June 2003

BskyB's Sky Digital television network has had interactive capabilities since its release in 1998, but until the recent launch of Sky Bet Vegas, no I-gaming services had been available. Now a whole slew of games have emerged and more are expected to follow.

All Sky users have access to the new features. Pressing a button on the remote at any time during viewing brings up the interactive menu. From there the user navigates through a simple interface to the Sky Winzone, where the games are located.

Owned and operated by BskyB, Sky Bet Vegas includes three games: Juicy Jackpot, Top Spin, and Super Keno, where players can win up to £250,000. Not long after Sky Vegas became available, Betting Corp. Ltd unveiled its own gaming service, Play Monte Carlo, which offers a dice game, a slots game, a numbers/keno game, and a digitized horse racing game. It also features free-play and real-money options, real-time history, and loyalty programs.

The most recently launch was NDS's and Rank's interactive TV bingo game, Fancy a Flutter, which also offers free-play and real-money options. Its games are based on four games available on the Web site. Another service provider, Avago, provides features based on its popular interactive numbers game channel.

The new services are the result of the huge success of the digital television platform. BskyB's Sky Bet, a bookmaking service that enables players to bet on games while watching the action, saw its number of television wagers increase by 160 percent in the final six months of 2002 as compared to the previous year. Players can use the same accounts and PINs for Sky Bet that they use via Internet, mobile devices and telephone.

Ladbrokes, Littlewoods and Blue Square operate interactive TV services that function similarly to that of Sky Bet. Totopools, which includes a European-style football prediction game as well as other sports related pool competitions, is also similar.

Serving the United Kingdom and Ireland, the Sky Digital Network boasts 7 million subscribers and is growing.

Ed Pownall, a spokesman for bookmaker Blue Square and Fancy a Flutter, said interactive TV gaming services appear to be tapping into new markets.

"What we see on the Internet is a much higher stake compared to interactive TV," Pownall explained. "Betting stats suggest that the higher roller is playing on the Internet, and the more fun sort of punter is betting on their favorite player to score rather than having £200 on United to win."

Players register accounts for the real-money interactive gambling services by providing credit card or banking information, much like they would at an Internet gaming site. But they must register for each individual service. In other words, a Skybet Vegas account can not be used to play at Play Monte Carlo.

In addition to the services listed in the interactive menu, Sky Digital features several broadcast channels that feature unique gambling opportunities. The Sky Bet Live wagering service, for example, accommodates mid-game bets. Additional services include Go Barking Mad, which televises live dog races; attheraces, the horseracing service offered through BSkyB's partnership with Channel 4 and Arena Leisure; and Avago, a 24/7 numbers game that entails players purchasing digital game cards.

The options and capabilities in the I-TV gaming space are impressive, but Richard Flint, director of gaming and betting for BskyB, says the future holds much more.

"All of our providers are looking to roll out new games," Flint said. "At some point, we'll look to do proper gaming through the TV, probably when the laws change in the U.K."

Bradley Vallerius

Articles by Bradley P. Vallerius, JD manages For the Bettor Good, a comprehensive resource for information related to Internet gaming policy in the U.S. federal and state governments. For the Bettor Good provides official government documents, jurisdiction updates, policy analysis, and many other helpful research materials. Bradley has been researching and writing about the business and law of internet gaming since 2003. His work has covered all aspects of the industry, including technology, finance, advertising, taxation, poker, betting exchanges, and laws and regulations around the world.

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