Gaming guru bets on courts - Monday 28th of November 2005

Michael Corfman believes he knows when to hold em and when to fold em.

Corfmans website and assorted directories and almanacs make his business something of a Dun & Bradstreet of the gambling industry. Casinocity.com provides gaming-related statistics, news, and links of interest to gaming operators and their customers. It also features ads for online gambling sites -- something that may be of interest to the federal government, which has declared that such advertising is illegal.

Corfman has taken a high-stakes gamble: He decided to sue the government before it prosecuted him.

This is an important First Amendment case," Corfman said last week. The government can say, We might prosecute you, and it chills free speech."

Corfmans business is based in Newton, where he and his wife and business partner, Sylvia, also live.

We always joke about Newton being the center of the gaming industry," said Corfman, who has made casinocity.com an industry leader, with annual revenues of almost $5 million.

A 1975 graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology in computer science, Corfman worked as a software engineer at several companies, including Digital Equipment Corp. In 1990, he started a traditional consulting business, Information Technology Systems. He then turned to building websites.

He created casinocity.com primarily as a demonstration site to show off his computer skills at Internet World 95, a trade show in Boston.

That was a fabulous show for us," Corfman said. People loved what wed done. In those days, the Web was just getting started. It was all static pages. There was nothing like that around."

Within five years, Corfmans consulting firm had 45 employees, but then business vanished," he said.

He rode out the economic downturn by investing more heavily in casinocity.com. Today, the business has recovered, has 30 employees, and is advertising for six more.

Corfman does not gamble for fun. He jokes that the only time he tried his hand at it was when he was awarded a dollars worth of nickels at a casino in Colorado, played the slots with them, and won $6 or $7. I ended up deciding I could never ever again in my life be up 600 to 700 percent on money I got for free," he said.

Still, he enjoys his business immensely, he said.

For me, its an issue of gathering information and finding all sorts of ways to use it," he said.

Corfman hedges his bets, working to curb gambling as well as to encourage it. He said he was developing programs for online gaming sites that would enable gamblers to set limits for themselves. And until recently, he hosted a website for the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling.C

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