Gioco Digitale Leading Italy's I-Poker Race for Now

2 December 2008

As the Italian online gambling operator Gioco Digitale S.A. pauses briefly for a platform update Wednesday morning, the company has emerged Italy’s real-money I-poker leader -- though it is sure to be challenged by Playtech Ltd.’s stable of high-profile licensees, Bwin Interactive Entertainment A.G. and Lottomatica S.p.A., among others.

Gioco Digitale received approval from Italy’s regulatory authority, Amministrazione Autonoma dei Monopoli di Stato, in mid August to launch real-money, tournament-style poker play and did so in early September.

It said in late September that during its first weekend of operation, 150,000 players registered and played across 10,000 tournaments -- a response the company called “enthusiastic.”

In October, the company -- whose poker platform was developed by CyberArts Ltd. -- said it gave away 12 million euro in prizes and processed 1.3 million subscriptions to 110,000 tournaments in which 30,000 players competed.

The company generated poker turnover of 33.8 million euro in October -- 64 percent of the country’s market share – and nearly 46 million euro in November, or 61 percent.

Playtech, which went live earlier this year in play-for-fun format, is working to bring Sisal S.p.A., Snai S.p.A., Gala Coral’s Eurobet and Cogetech S.p.A. online for real money.

Richard Carter, an analyst with Numis Securities in London, indicated that once Playtech’s licensees launch, the company’s network could control as much as 60 percent of the market. Playtech has projected a fourth-quarter launch.

Bwin, meanwhile, went live for real money in the third quarter of the calendar year and said recently that in 12-hour segments, its operation is generating gross gaming revenue of 15,000 euro.

Lottomatica, which recently released results for the nine months to Sept. 30, said it had begun offering cash play in early November.

“Although in its early stages, the Internet poker networks in Italy are enjoying great success,” it said without qualifying further.

Its network, which was launched in conjunction with its subsidiary Boss Media A.B., went live in July in free-to-play format.

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