Weekly Nambling Notes - Sept. 23-27, 2002

28 September 2002

Monday, Sept. 23

Bits from the US -- Park Place Entertainment is gearing up for a possible entry into the online gaming market, the company's CEO, Tom Gallagher, told CBS MarketWatch last week. Gallagher said that while the company is not convinced that "the business model is compelling," given the industry's legal issues, Park Place has "laid all the necessary groundwork to go into the business." ... On Thursday, an Allentown, Pa. man was convicted of running an illegal sports betting ring that used the Internet as part of its operations. George Atiyeh, 43, a former professional football player, was convicted in federal court on 15 counts of such charges as conspiracy, money laundering and operating an illegal gambling business. In an odd twist, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Sunday that an alternate juror in the case is alleging that some of the other jurors slept during the trial and were so eager to have the trial over with that they sped through their deliberations. "Their attitude was, let's get it over with so we don't have to come back tomorrow," said Beth Ashman, the alternate juror. Atiyeh could be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years on each of his money-laundering counts. However, it is more likely that he will receive several two-to-four year sentences, according to federal sentencing guidelines.

New Stuff -- Mobile phone service provider Verizon Wireless and wireless media company Mobliss announced that Verizon users will be able to play for-fun blackjack on their cell phones. The game, which was developed by Mobliss and is called Wild West Black Jack, is available with a one-time fee of US $4.99 and a monthly fee of $1.99. Verizon and Mobliss said they plan to release additional mobile phone games. ... Action Online Entertainment on Thursday announced the launch of www.clubfiore.com, an online casino licensed in the Isle of Man. Action Online is a venture capital-backed online gaming company that is financed by Crosspoint Ventures Partners. Its president and CEO, Jim McKennon, said the company is committed to regulatory compliance. "We are blazing the trial for the e-gaming industry with Clubfiore.com being the first and only start-up major online casino currently in operation," he said. "Given this fact, it is essential that every step we take, from the selection of our software to the establishment of our regulatory compliance system, is undertaken with the utmost consideration."

Bit from Asia -- The South China Morning Post reported that the Macau Jockey Club experienced a 17 percent fall in turnover on Saturday's 12-race meeting, which was the first meeting of the season. A club spokesman links the downturn with Hong Kong's Internet gambling ban.

Tuesday, Sept. 24

Bits from the US -- Frank Fahrenkopf, president of the American Gaming Association, told reporters recently that the AGA is polling its members to find out how they feel about HR 556, the new version of the anti-Internet gambling law proposed by Rep. James Leach, R-Iowa. Unlike the old version, the new version contains parts of a similar bill that was proposed by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. Fahrenkopf, speaking at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas last week, said that even though the AGA is officially against Internet gambling, it is necessary to "scrub" any bill before endorsing it to make sure it there are no anti-land based gaming provisions tucked into it. ... National Public Radio's "Justice Talking" radio show will focus on Internet gambling during a program to be taped Sept. 30 in Los Angeles. Those interested in attending as a member of the studio audience can sign up to reserve a spot at www.justicetalking.org. A recording of the one-hour program, "Off-track and Online: The New Rules of Gambling," will be available online at www.justicetalking.org starting on Oct. 21. It will also be dispatched to NPR affiliate stations that day.

New Zealand Tidbit -- An employee of New Zealand's Problem Gambling Foundation, Ralph Gerdelan, has made $30,000 worth of unauthorized withdrawals with company credit cards since last May, and now the foundation says he may have used some of the money for gambling. Gerdelan, the group's executive director, has been suspended without pay while the matter is investigated, the New Zealand Herald reported on Tuesday. Gerdelan later resigned.

Wednesday, Sept. 25

That Was Fast I -- betandwin.com is giving up on its use of betting terminals and will now focus on the Internet as its primary distribution channel, the company said. The betting terminals were a yearlong trial project during which the Austrian company observed that growth rates for online sports betting were substantially higher than those from the self-service terminals. betandwin's Vienna-based BAW Terminal Distribution GmbH will stop its operations at the end of 2002.

That Was Fast II -- The Greek Finance Ministry on Tuesday decided that electronic computer games are OK after all--so long as they don't allow players to win money. The decision comes after the country recently banned all computer games in an effort to rid itself of Internet gambling. The owners of Greek Internet cafes and other organizations roundly criticized the move. The ministry said it is now permissible for Greeks to play games such as computerized chess and Playstation. "The installation and use of games in homes and residential areas is allowed if there is no financial benefit involved," the agency said to the Reuters. "The same applies to public and private areas...if again there is no financial gain for the player or any third party."

New Stuff -- Sports Betting International is launching a new online wagering site, www.BetSBI.com, which will feature betting on football, basketball, hockey, horse racing, tennis and a variety of other sports. The site plans to add a casino within the year.

Thursday, Sept. 26

UK Bit -- Sportingbet said its sports book handle has grown to almost half of that of Nevada. Sports books in Nevada took in $2,007,152,347 during the time period, while Sportingbet took in $985,758,780. Sportingbet, which has been vocal about its desire to be regulated in the United States, says its annual growth rate is 25 percent per year, a figure that puts Nevada's yearly decline of 4.7 percent to shame.

Scandanavian Bit -- Sweden's Net Entertainment announced the launch of its newest online slot machine, Wild West Slot, which it claims has more interactive content "than ever seen on the Internet before." Bet limits are from 10 cents to $9, and players can choose to play with anywhere from one to nine lines. The game will be available at CherryCasino.com.

Bit from Down Under -- Gaming software developer Access Gaming Systems Ltd. is reporting an increase in use of its Games Development Kit among its lottery and casino clients in Europe and Australia. Paul Barnes, vice president of sales and marketing, said one of the company's European lottery clients is launching a new animated instant game that will join the 10 games already available on its site. "The work was designed and implemented by the lottery's in-house staff with only small input from AGS," he said. "Further games are under development and will be released soon."

Bit from Greece -- U.K. lawyer Steven Phillipsohn weighed in on a Greek law that had banned all computer gaming but was amended this week to only outlaw computer games resulting in monetary benefit to the player (i.e. gambling). Phillipsohn, a senior partner at Phillipsohn Crawfords Berwald, said the intention of the law was good, but the method it used to fight online betting was all wrong. "The Greeks are to be congratulated for recognizing that online fraudsters are setting up gaming sites that take your money but never pay out ... There needs to be coordinated action and the EU should take a lead to draw up a community-wide approach," he said. "By going it alone, Greece has made a mess of things, and we can only tackle the problem by coordinated international action."

Friday, Sept. 27

Bit from the UK -- Betfair, the largest person-to-person betting site on the Internet, is saying that it will try to limit the use of bots -- computer programs that automatically trade on its site. The volume of bets places by bots crashed the company's site and kept it unavailable for two hours on Tuesday. The Guardian reported today that about 12 Betfair customers are thought to use bots to place bets and scan the site for a chance to gain an advantage over other bettors. Betfair is expected to ask its clients not to use bots. "The result tends to be that there are lots and lots of very small bets going through, which are a pain for everybody concerned," said Mark Davies, the company's spokesman. "And when we have a problem like we did on Tuesday, the program just keeps on trying to trade, asking the database questions which it is not in a position to answer."

Congrats -- British Sky Broadcasting is a proud winner in the best design category of the European Call Centre of The Year Awards, which were announced Sept. 17. BSkyB shares the award with interdec working spaces, which designed the call center last year. The innovative call center serves Sky Digital's 6.1 million customers.