Gaming chief logs on - Thursday 12th of May 2005

One of the leading figures in the traditional gaming industry, Lord Leonard Steinberg, is to embrace the internet side of the business by becoming chairman of Tradal, an online poker group that is planning a £550m flotation. Steinberg, 68, founder and chairman of Stanley Leisure, the casino operator, will become non-executive chairman of Tradal.

Last month, The Sunday Times revealed that Tradal, which runs Empire Poker, had appointed Numis, the stockbroker, to work on a London stock-market listing. The flotation is expected to take place next month. Steinberg, a working peer and fundraiser for the Conservative party, is one of the most respected figures in the gambling industry. He started out in the 1950s taking bets in his family’s Belfast milk bar and expanded Stanley into one of the industry’s biggest players with a chain of betting shops and casinos. Last week, Stanley sold its bookmaking arm to rival William Hill for £504m, leaving it to focus on its upmarket Mayfair casinos, which include Crockfords, and a chain of regional casinos.

Tradal is likely to be valued at a discount to existing quoted online gambling stocks such as Sportingbet when it makes its market debut. One source with knowledge of the float plans said it would be valued competitively. “It is being priced to go,? said the source. Although it runs the heavily promoted Empire Poker, Tradal’s main business is marketing and directing traffic to other gambling sites. It is known to be a big provider of customers to Party Poker, the world’s leading poker site, which is planning its own flotation this year. Several online gambling businesses are hoping to float on the London stock market. Numis is known to be working with at least one other.

It has been appointed to advise Fireone, which runs an online payment service for betting sites

www.timesonline.co.uk

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