Online Gambling Series: The Good News of 2001
By Earl
Submitted with gratitude to Mark Balestra, Editor of Interactive Gaming News, for his January 16, 2002 editorial, ''The Best and Worst of 2001.''

The Good News For Business:

by Earl Williams

* The United Kingdom has long been established as a great place for terrestrial casino gambling but it''s now also in position to surpass even sunny Australia as the world''s most appealing country for interactive gambling. The 9% tax on all bets has been abolished. The incoming regulatory system also presents many advantages, in the opinion of the world''s elite gaming operators.

* The best recovery of the year belongs to Starnet Communications International. Since 1999 the company had suffered rumors that it had links with organized crime. It had a reputation for giving out too many software licenses, including to questionable parties. It had a legal battle with one its biggest licensees and a class action law suit was filed against it by its own investors. It had other legal debts and problems, including a raid on its offices by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Last year, though, the company relocated from Antigua to the UK and released its upgraded software. Under its new CEO, Michael Aymong, Starnet has settled all its lawsuits and begun building a new chain of licensees. It has also introduced a new wireless gaming platform. Last quarter revenues were down, but not due to any previous sort of difficulties. The company looks in good position to return to prominence.

* Although interactive gambling in Australia suffered due to prohibition, Access Gaming, which provides Internet lottery and casino technology, did well through diversification. Although its business shrunk by 70% last year in Australia, its European business grew by 70 percent. Access Gaming is now one of Europe''s biggest providers of elite interactive gaming technology. The company has both government and private clients, including Holland Casino, Lasseters Online, Austrian Lotteries, the French national lottery, Germany''s Westlotto and RAL Limited, and is set for great success in the online lottery and casino markets.

Good News in Politics and Government:

* In Australia ... Although the federal government has shunned Internet gambling, the state governments have set up a ''superb system for regulating online casinos,'' reports Mark Balestra.

Good News From the Media:

* Internet casino Golden Palace did what no other competitor managed to do: land a regular spot on Howard Stern''s radio show. The publicity is going to do them well.

* Even more prestigious brand names made an appearance in the Internet gambling business in 2001, as expected. King of the Hill introduced three online gambling services. And Playboy''s CEO and Chairperson, Christie Hefner, vowed to make Playboy the biggest name in online gambling. That will be something to see.

And as for Products:

* Person-to-person wagering came along in 2000. But in 2001, we noticed other competitive games that give out cash prizes, games of skill, not won just by chance. Internet sites have appeared offering chess and backgammon tournaments with cash prizes, the first ripple of a predicted new wave in Internet skill-based gaming. Balestra makes an important conclusion: '' ... when you consider that games of chance are clearly prohibited in the United States and games of skill stand a chance of escaping the ''gambling'' classification, [Internet skill-based gaming] could present a viable alternative to traditional Internet gambling.''

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