From the Editor's Chair | v. 23

21 July 2008

I sneezed a few times beating the dust out of the chair -- as you can probably imagine, it wasn't pretty.

With Mark having moved to the publisher's role in February, I've been working quietly behind the scenes as the new editor of IGamingNews. These have been a very exciting few months for me, and I look forward to keeping our service atop the list of trusted information sources for this industry.

As other announcements go, in early August Brad will be moving on to pastures new. We're proud to send one of our own to walk the hallowed halls of the St. Louis University School of Law, and we wish him all the best. Well-wishers can write to Brad at

We've also brought on Holly Rauch, our publications sales specialist. Holly hails from Dogtown, holds a world record in the 100-meter dash and will this summer participate in the Olympic Games. Just kidding. But really, we did hire her.

During the seasonally slow period for news, last week was certainly an exception. Stocks rose (dilute those drinks a little), another United States bill was introduced (nevermind, stiffen them up), Antigua and the States pushed back their settlement deadline yet again (hit snooze), Playtech continued its bout of incendiary growth (ibid.) and the BetonSports defendants received a bit of sour news in the agonizingly slow pretrial phase (ouch).

The gaming gods favored William Hill and Ladbrokes last week as shares in the latter rose on rumors of stake building by the well-to-do Irish trio of Dermot Desmond, J.P. McManus and John Magnier. As analysts continue to insist the big boys are undervalued, buying finally picked up, and share value with it -- 24.4 percent for Hills, 21.9 percent for Ladbrokes.

The Sunday Times of London revealed yesterday that William Hill will be seeking a new boss to oversee its Internet operations. Chief Executive Ralph J. Topping told me in June that he was spending quite a bit of time interviewing marketing and business development prospects for the online division -- that the company is seeking a new Internet boss, therefore, seemingly comes as little surprise and was neutral on shares Monday, which were up 1.46 percent. Going by his comments, Hills has taken quite a bit away from the Next Gen debacle and is certain to go with a candidate who has considerable experience in Internet.

On the United States front, Jim A. McDermott, Democrat of Washington, introduced a federal bill last week that seeks to fund social assistance programs with Internet gambling revenue. On the one hand, this is exciting -- I believe, perhaps naively, that as long as politicians continue to press on the federal level, something positive will get done. On the other, lawyers with whom we consult for news stories often suggest that state-level reform will be where regulated Internet gambling gets going in America.

A glaring weakness of Mr. McDermott's new bill is that it depends largely on the fate of Barney Frank's Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act, which hasn't moved since it was introduced more than a year ago. A quick look at the Web site of the Library of Congress shows that the bill still has 48 cosponsors and has been idle since April 30, 2007, when it was referred to the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection. Naiveté aside, my fingers aren't crossed on this one. Neither are Mr. McDermott's during this congressional session, as he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal last week that he didn't expect the bill to pass in 2008.

The saga between the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda and the United States continues, as the two parties agreed for the umpteenth time to delay the settlement deadline. One thing we can learn from this is that the term "deadline," with regard to the present settlement, is indeed dead, or, at the very least, has been significantly revised. While on the surface, no settlement has been reached, the deadline extensions are effectively keeping the parties at the negotiating table. Undoubtedly delegates for the two nations are by now pounding their heads against it -- all in an earnest effort to settle this one once and for all. The new deadline is Aug. 1, but I'm fully expecting another extension.

I write about Playtech a lot, and for good reason: The company is growing, and mightily. It has surpassed PartyGaming by market capitalization (not to say that won't change once Party settles with the United States), has recorded very intriguing year-on-year revenue growth and has garnered quite a few licensees this fiscal year. Analysts were mixed on quarter-over-quarter growth in poker -- unchanged -- but casino did well. It will be interesting to see what acquisition the company's $320 million in cash will bring (my guess: Inspired Gaming), and how its slowly developing bingo arm will fare against the likes of 888 Holdings, which is expected to announce quite a few bingo licensing agreements during the remainder of this calendar year.

And finally, to BetonSports. As I wrote last week, the pretrial stage is moving at a snail's pace, and Judge Medler's recommendation to deny the World Trade Organization dismissal motion no doubt came as a blow to the defendants. People ask often when this case will go to trial, and the simple answer is: We don't know. With more of Mr. Kaplan's motions still to be addressed, and judging by the current pace of things, it's conceivable that the trial phase won't get going until late 2009.

Chris Krafcik is the editor of IGamingNews. He lives in St. Louis, Mo.