The Isle of Man issued two new online casino licenses on Tuesday, bringing the total number a few steps closer to fulfilling Tynwald's promise of an eventual 12 Internet casinos calling the island home.
Rank Group plc and Action Online Entertainment are the newest recipients of Internet gambling licenses from the Manx government. In October 2001, the island's legislature said it would issue nine more online gaming licenses in addition to those given to Sun International, Littlewoods Leisure and MGM Mirage in September.
Will Greenhow, director of finance and research at the Department of Home Affairs, said the island has a new chief minister, Richard Corkill, who was elected in November. Corkill has not indicated when the remaining seven licensees will be awarded, Greenhow said.
"He wants to take stock of the five we've now got in place, one of which has gone live," the finance and research director said.
Likewise, Greenhow said, launch dates for the online casinos, with the exception of Sun's Casino Atlantis Online, which debuted at the first of the year, have not been set.
"We haven't got any firm dates from any of the license holders," he said. "They are working with the department and also the gambling commission staff here, actually meeting the requirements of both the license and the conditions of the regulations that have been put in place. They're working towards meeting our requirements before they will go live, and we've no further dates--firm dates--of when that's planned for the other license holders."
Action Online's chief executive, Jim McKennon, said his company's Internet betting site is quite close to going live and that it is going through the auditing and testing process now.
"At the conclusion of that process and with the government's approval, we'll be prepared to go live," he said. We had hoped and would anticipate it will be within the next month to six weeks, if everything goes well."
Action Online will be using GET (Gaming and Entertainment Technology) Systems software to power its Internet games. McKennon said the Australian company's technology will be well suited to the strict regulatory environment of the Isle of Man.
"It's fully certified and has gone through the rigors of the Australian testing, and actually had two customers that were licensed and in operation in Australia, so it's very secure, robust and very legal," he said.
Both new gaming licensees were on the short list for the licenses that were awarded in September, said R.P. Braidwood, the island's minister for home affairs. All five present licensees, in addition to any further licensees, will be expected to comply with the jurisdiction's strict regulations. Braidwood said he is committed to maintaining a rigid regulatory framework to protect the island's reputation.
"The department and the gambling control commissioners are working very closely with all the current license holders, ensuring that each continues to successfully demonstrate that they are fully complying with the established regulations and license conditions," he said.
McKennon said Action Online is unique among the licensees because it is a non-public, non land-based operator. Its goal is to create a sophisticated Internet gaming business. Part of that, he said, is refusing to accept bets from residents of jurisdictions where the practice is illegal.
"This company was founded on the very basic premise that, one, Internet gaming will continue to grow over time and that if you operate in the highest legal fashion, with the greatest legal and regulatory regime, which is the Isle of Man, that you can operate the business in a very sophisticated way," McKennon said. "We've spent a great deal of time and energy making sure that we are operating our business in an appropriate fashion and are receiving wagers from those countries where it's appropriate to receive them from."
A Rank Group spokeswoman said Wednesday that her company is not yet ready to comment on the license beyond the statement it released yesterday, which announced that its site will launch later this year.