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25 April 2011

European Poker Websites Sites Boom; Australian Looking Up, by Greg Tingle - 25th April 2011

Online poker websites traffic; Shares Boom - Players Triggered By UIGEA charges

European poker websites, pretty much immune to the issues in the United States, have reported a boom in player activity following the indictment by American authorities of the owners of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker.

American land based casino and resort tycoon Steve Wynn, a long time detractor of online casinos, had overseen a deal with PokerStars inked on approx 25th March, but only two weeks took the option to get out of the deal after PokerStars got named in what is now known in gambling circles as 'Black Friday'. Wynn's press release read:

LAS VEGAS, April 15, 2011—Wynn Resorts, Limited announced today thаt іt terminated іtѕ alliance wіth PokerStars, thе online poker company. Thе сhοісе wаѕ reached аѕ a result οf thе indictment unsealed bу thе U.S. Attorney fοr thе Southern District οf Nеw York.

Online casino websites such as bwin.party digital entertainment's PartyCasino are also understood to be up following the announcement.

Since the US Attorney's Office announced last Friday that it was pressing charges against 11 people over alleged fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling, PKR has seen a rise of around 21% in weekly traffic, while PartyPoker has risen 9%, 888Poker 5% and the iPoker network 4%. In contrast, Full Tilt dropped 48%. The data comes from our friends at Pokerscout.

Several business-savvy poker rooms have launched major promos to capitalize on the unique situation.

Shares in several British online gambling companies have soared in the last week. Bwin shares rose by 30%, 888 was up 18% and online gaming software provider Playtech saw its stocks climb by 8%.

Many media companies including Forbes, Reuters, Bloomberg, Gambling911 and EGR indicate that bwin.party digital entertainment may be the igaming company that ends up doing best out of the situation, given their recent successful merger, settlement with the US Department of Justice in April 2009, and government b2b dealings in a number of countries. Party is also looking to expand is b2b and news media deals with its World Poker Tour brand, currently broadcast in Australia on Rupert Murdoch's Fox Sports via Foxtel subscriber television.

Richard Branson's Virgin Games is watching the situation closely, however as of print Virgin Games are not available to Australians, New Zealanders or Canadians, whereas Party is.

Australian land based casino, Crown Casino in Melbourne, has accepted numerous PartyGaming - PartyPoker satellite poker players over the past few years, a trend that looks to continue. Party and NetGen Gaming are strongly rumoured to want to release a Kerry Packer, Underbelly and Andre The Giant online slot game, but have not publicly commented. Party has existing b2b deals with Marvel Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Infinity Ward, StudioCanal, Frank Sinatra Enterprises and Edgar Rice Burroughs, so don't bet against them.

Crown Limited top brass James Packer is yet to publicly comment specifically about online casino or online poker, but he did however sign off an investment deal with online retailing giant DealsDirect.

Ellerston Capital, a fund management company owned by the Packer family's Consolidated Press Holdings, took a “minority cornerstone” investment in the online retailing site DealsDirect yesterday.

“It signals a real coming of age for online retail, with businesses like Ellerston getting into the game, it is well and truly 'game on',” said DealsDirect's co-founder Paul Greenberg.

The transaction, estimated by the Australian Financial Review to be worth $10 million, underscores the deeper embrace of online retail by the media sector and the investment community.

A Media Man spokesperson said of the Packer - Deals Direct deal "James Packer's recent investment into the online retail space shows just how keen he is on the online business. Crown Limited have an impressive portfolio of websites for their properties, however that did not do the man or company justice. Crown Casino Aussie Millions also accepts poker players from a number of online poker brands. Packer also has the 50% investment in Betfair, and rumours persist of a Crown online casino, a venture with a strong possibility of Packer mate Shane Warne getting in on the action. Packer is also keen to see more interaction between Australian television broadcasts of poker on Fox Sports and his traditional media ventures. Mr Packer famously went on recent a few years ago with 'Internet is like electricity', something this very news reports proves correct".

*The writer owns shares in Crown Limited and has conducted b2b with a number of companies cited in this article.

*Greg Tingle is a regular contributor for Gambling911

*Media Man is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. They cover over a dozen different business sectors, including gaming

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