Online gambling operators cheer U.K. commission - Tuesday 12th of April 2005

Canadian online gambling companies applauded Friday after the British government moved to regulate the industry and allow it to operate within Britain for the first time.

The decision makes Britain the first G-7 country to establish a framework of rules aimed at securing a safe, regulated environment for online players, said Lee Richardson, chief executive of Calgary-based gambling software maker Chartwell Technology Inc.

"We also think that this important legislation, the Gaming Bill, expected to become operational in the U.K. during 2006, may provide the necessary impetus for similar regulatory advancements in other jurisdictions, including elsewhere in Europe," Richardson stated.

Chartwell (TSX:CWH) has already invested significantly in Europe and opened an office in London in anticipation of the decision.

CryptoLogic Inc. of Toronto (TSX:CRY), which has major U.K. gambling brands as customers, also hailed the announcement.

"This new law marks a key milestone for online gaming and we welcome the decision of the U.K. government to shine the light on the industry to allow it to thrive in a regulated and licensed environment," said CEO Lewis Rose.

The Gambling Bill, passed late Thursday, will set up the new commission and a body of 100 investigators in coming months to regulate gambling, including bets made on the Internet.

A major focus of the legislative overhaul of Britain's outdated gambling regulations was to regulate online gambling, which has become a multibillion-dollar industry.

Although the new commission will not have authority over online casinos operating outside Britain, it could bar them from advertising in the United Kingdom, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said.

"The commission will regulate all forms of gambling," said department spokesman Anthony Wright.

"It will have the power to carry out investigations, bring about prosecutions, levy fines and void bets they consider unfair. Online casino operators can operate out of the United Kingdom for the first time. We believe that is a pragmatic response to what is an increasingly popular activity."

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