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Playtech Signs US Poker Deal

By: Joan Peppin, Wednesday June 22nd 2011
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Playtech had left the United States when the UIGEA was passed in 2006. It has just announced signing a new deal that it describes as a "return to American operations". This deal to supply online poker software comes three months after Black Friday, and this demonstrates the bullishness prevailing in the American online gambling market despite the actions of the Department of Justice.

The deal has been signed through Sciplay, which is the joint venture between Playtech and US partner Scientific Games. Sciplay has secured an online poker contract with the California Online Poker Association (COPA). Till online poker is legalized in California, either through state legislation or federal legislation, Sciplay will provide play-for-fun intrastate online poker services. When legal online poker becomes a reality, Playtech will license its poker software and IMS operator management system to COPA allowing for real money online gambling. At that time Playtech would decide whether to set up a poker network or focus on a "mega brand" on behalf of COPA. The exact terms of the deal are unknown.

This deal gives Playtech a very strong entry to the US online gambling market. It is anticipated that California will be one of the first states to legalize and regulate online poker. With an estimated 2 million poker players, California is the largest poker playing state in America. The play-for-fun set up will allow players to become acquainted with the new system and hone their skills ahead of real money play. In the long run this deal has the potential to become a very substantial revenue source for Playtech. The Playtech statement clarified that the timing of revenues would depend on when regulation actually takes place, but Playtech will build franchise through the play-for-fun operations starting this year. Playtech is a quoted company and its shares rose approximately 6% on this news.

Mor Weizer, CEO of Playtech and Rick Weil, CEO of Sciplay, both released a statement that said, "COPA is supremely well positioned to become a licensed operator should Internet poker become legal in the state of California." The statement added that both companies were delighted to have the opportunity to work with COPA. COPA is California's largest group of regulated land-based casino and poker operators, made up of 29 official tribal governments and 31 card clubs. It includes Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, one of the largest poker rooms in the world. COPA generates around 60% of poker revenue in California.

There are currently two bills that have been introduced the state senate. One is SB 40, which is a poker only bill. The other is SB 45, which seeks to legalize all online gambling. Whether other forms of online gambling like online casinos, come together with online poker or come later, this deal with COPA will give Playtech a base to cater to all online gambling verticals in all of the United States in due course.

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