Playtech signs deal with COPA

21 June 2011
PASADENA, California -- (PRESS RELEASE) -- On the heels of 'Black Friday' and other recent shutdowns of illegal Internet poker operators, the California Online Poker Association (COPA) today announced it has selected Sciplay, a joint venture between Scientific Games Corporation (NASDAQ - SGMS) and Playtech Limited (AIM -- PTEC), to be its provider of intrastate online poker services. COPA has also signed a software licensing agreement with Playtech to provide online poker software and related technology.

Scientific Games is a world leader in delivering gaming products and services to government-regulated lotteries and gaming entities. It has contracts to operate the lottery systems for eleven U.S. lotteries, as well as others in China, Germany, Spain, Norway and Switzerland. Founded nearly 40 years ago, Scientific Games also supports over 120,000 terminals globally in its wide area gaming business, including video lottery systems in Delaware, South Dakota, New Mexico, Maine, West Virginia and Australia.

Playtech is an acclaimed international designer and developer of market-leading online gaming software and technology. Founded in 1999, Playtech's technology powers over 80 operators worldwide, including the world's largest independent online poker network, Playtech clients include William Hill, Sportech and Bet365 in the U.K. and includes operators in newly regulated jurisdictions such as Italy, Finland and France.

The agreements were the result of more than five months of due diligence, in-depth analysis and discussions to create a platform through which Californians can legally participate in intrastate online poker.

"Although we've been working on these agreements for months, the timing really couldn't be better as the federal indictments have removed the largest offshore Internet poker operators from the California market and further created the urgency for regulated online poker within the state of California," said Robert Martin, Chairman of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and a member of COPA's Board of Managers. "COPA will be ready to launch live online Internet poker just as soon as the legislature acts to authorize online poker in California."

In April, federal authorities indicted three of the world's largest online poker sites -- PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker -- on charges of money-laundering, bank fraud and violating anti-gambling statutes. Prosecutors shut down the offshore operators' Web sites in the U.S., and banned them from the U.S., creating a void in California. Last month, federal authorities shut down 10 more illegal online gaming sites in the U.S.

"Combining the world-class talents and technological expertise of Playtech and Scientific Games with the collective experience of California's tribes and card clubs will ensure online poker players in California are safe and protected once the state acts to authorize online poker," said Haig Papaian, President and CEO of Commerce Casino and a member of COPA's Board of Managers. "This partnership allows COPA to deliver a top-notch online poker playing experience and capitalize on years of regulated online gaming intelligence that the teams at Playtech and Sciplay bring with them."

California is home to 60% of the nation's online poker players. Every week, more than 2 million Californians play online poker on illegal offshore Web sites, leaving them vulnerable to fraud and theft.

COPA supports Senate Bill 40, introduced by California State Senator Lou Correa in December of 2010 to authorize the state's tribes and card clubs to operate online poker. By requiring that all operations be located in California, SB 40 maximizes both the potential economic benefit to the State of California and safeguards for players and the public.

In advance of such legislation, the agreements with Sciplay and Playtech will enable COPA to offer internet poker in a free, "play for fun" mode, which provides players with the opportunity to improve their strategies and hone their skills for free. This is planned for launch in 2011.

A new study by former California State Finance Director Tim Gage found that by authorizing online poker, California will generate more than $1.4 billion in new state revenue over the next decade -- or 47% more than previously estimated -- as a result of the recent shutdown of three of the largest illegal online poker sites from which the State received no revenue.

A poll by Tulchin Research found 66% of California voters favor the legalization of online poker, and, by a wider margin, 76% to 3%, Californians prefer that online poker in the state be operated by tribes and card clubs.

SB 40 will protect California's online poker players by enacting rigorous protections that prevent the fraud and theft that currently plagues illegal offshore sites. SB 40 also mandates strict log-in, location and age verification programs to prevent underage or out-of-state players from playing online poker.

The California Online Poker Association (COPA) is a California LLC consisting of 29 California tribal governments and 31 California-licensed card clubs operating more than 65% of the poker tables authorized in California. COPA is dedicated to the development of a safe and secure option for Californians to play poker online. As California's gaming partners, the tribes and card rooms of COPA have proven to be responsible gaming operators, providing thousands of jobs and billions in state revenues.