Orbis and WagerWorks, who have long partnered to sell their respective sports book and casino software, each had announcements to make from their joint booth at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas last week.
WagerWorks, for its part, was eager to speak about MGM Mirage, for whom it has designed an online casino at www.playmgmmirage.com. The site, which is regulated in the Isle of Man, went live with a soft launch Thursday.
Andrew Pascal, the president and CEO of San Francisco-based WagerWorks, states that the MGM Mirage online gaming site, when fully functional, will offer "probably the broadest array of games" available on the Web. The online casino and sports book will feature multiple types of slots in addition to bingo, keno and a multitude of table games.
In its bid to make the MGM gaming site offer the best gambling experience possible, Pascal said, the development team spent time considering what makes each game exiting for the player. For roulette, as an example, that meant adding graphics of the ball dropping and bouncing until it settles on a number.
"What creates the sense of anticipation in the game is watching the ball drop and seeing where it will land," he said.
Pascal, who promises "an endless stream of new stuff" to hit the site, said WagerWorks has secured the Internet rights to the Wheel of Fortune slot game, which, has earned more than $1 billion in revenue at land-based casinos.
"Wheel of Fortune is probably without question the single most successful slot product in gaming machine history," he said.
The news from the Orbis camp is that the London-based company is launching two new pieces of software, a virtual horse racing game called I-Race, which will be released in October, and BetX, a person-to-person program that hit the market on Sept. 17.
Charles Malir, the marketing director of Orbis, said the P2P game is the result of demand from the company's clients, which include Ladbrokes, Macau SLOT, Tattersall's, Blue Square and Rank Interactive Gaming.
He cited Betfair's estimate that the P2P betting market will trade approximately £500 million in the next year and double that in 2003.
"At Orbis we believe that betting exchanges provide a huge opportunity for bookmakers," he said. "The development of BetX will allow our existing customer base to take advantage of this burgeoning, and increasingly lucrative, slice of the market."
The product will be available to operators as an add-on to OpenBet, Orbis' popular sports book software, or as a standalone offering.
Malir said the recent controversy in the United Kingdom, in which traditional bookmakers have criticized P2P sites for operating outside of the law, hasn't phased Orbis' interest in the sector. If, in the short term, the traditional bookmakers have their way in the courts, P2P betting will simply move offshore, he said.
"I think they've been caught unaware of the sudden rise of P2P," he said. "They can't make it go away."
The company's virtual horse racing product, Malir said, will enable people to "train" virtual horses and bet on their performance, or that of other horses, in any of the races that take place
every 10 minutes, around the clock.
The program, which features stunningly life-like graphics, is a joint venture between Telewest, England's second largest cable TV operator, and VIS Entertainment, a leading computer games developer. John Reilly, a project director at VIS iTV, said they choose Orbis to add the interactive gaming component because of its experience in the field.
"When considering suppliers for the unique I-Race architecture, our top priority was to acquire a proven, secure and robust back-end system," he said. "Market leader Orbis was an obvious choice--thanks to their extensive experience and success in interactive betting technology."
According to Orbis, the game will accept only pool bets to make sure the outcome of the race cannot be tampered with. The results are determined by a computer program that considers weather, track conditions and the horses' abilities.
For both Orbis and WagerWorks, a key part of the business plan is to operate in regulated jurisdictions only.
"We beat that drum as hard and fast as we can," Pascal said.
The MGM Mirage gaming site is situated in one of the strictest regulatory environments for online casinos--the Isle of Man. Pascal said the Isle of Man has as stringent and comprehensive regulations as he's ever seen in the land-based industry. Malir said Orbis refuses to work with companies that take bets from jurisdiction where Internet gambling is illegal, namely, the United States. Due to that policy, his company has turned down millions of dollars in revenue, he said.
To help ensure that no one from barred jurisdictions gambles for real money on the MGM Mirage site, WagerWorks integrated Quova's geo-location technology into the backend.
Additionally, the site has a "responsible gaming" button that is clearly visible and easily accessible on each and every page. The site enables players to set stake, deposit and loss limits on a daily, weekly or monthly basis; set the maximum amount of time they want to spend on the site; and self exclude for a period of seven days.
If a player self-excludes three times, MGM Mirage permanently bans him or her from the site.
The site also features a link to the U.K. problem gaming help-group GamCare and promotes that its player protection procedures complement GamCare's online gambling social responsibility guidelines.