Online bookmaker claims US winning ticket - Tuesday 12th of July 2005

Trident Gaming, the privately-owned betting group, today announced the acquisition of Gamebookers, the European online bookmaker, in a deal the company claims makes it the only internet bookie that can operate legally in both Europe and the United States.

The Gamebookers acquisition was financed by £20 million of convertible debt and over 9.3 million shares in Trident Gaming, giving the deal an implied value of £25 million. Debt was arranged by Advicorp and Seymour Pierce.

The latest acquisition follows Tridents purchase of BetBug, a peer-to-peer sports betting exchange, last month. BetBug claims that because it markets software that allows punters to deal directly with each other it sidesteps the US Wire Act that has been used by the American authorities to pursue online gambling operations.

The US Justice Department has threatened to charge media outlets who take advertising dollars from gambling sites with aiding and abetting violations of the Act. In one case, an entrepreneur was imprisoned for running a website from the Caribbean that allowed American punters to bet.

Betbug has claimed that because it does not act as a middleman it is immune from prosecuation in the US. However, industry experts did ask why, if the company was sure of its legal standing, it was originally domiciled in Canada and not America. Trident is based on the Isle of Man.

There were concerns that legal uncertainties in the US market would limit the attractiveness of PartGamings float on the London Stock Exchange last month. However, the FTSE 100 gambling giant, now valued at more than £6.4 billion, has performed well so far. The shares have risen from 116p on their debut to trade at 160p this morning.

"BetBug is the only legal way to offer online sports betting in the US," said John O’Malia, chief executive of Trident Gaming.

"Now by adding Gamebookers and its hugely successful sports book and three active European gaming licenses, the directors believe that Trident is uniquely well positioned for global success.

"Trident will also license its sports betting platforms so that other top-tier global online casino and poker groups can legally offer sports betting across the US and in Europe," he added.

"Because we have designed a product that clears all legal hurdles, we expect to build on our current licensee base and rapidly expand our white label partnerships with major online gaming providers."

In a white label partnership Trident provides "back-end" technical assistance and maintenance, while the customer-facing front-end carries the licensee’s design and branding.

The company, which currently has around 180,00 registered users, says that its three licensing deals will give it access to a further 2.25 million registered punters.

Gamebookers offers a sports book service, including a combo-betting offering, free SMS bet alerts, and an online casino. The company claims annual growth of over 40 per cent since starting in 2000. It has annual sports betting turnover of over €180 million, customers from 123 countries, and says it enjoys "unmatched customer diversity across Western, Central, and Eastern Europe".

Gamebookers has just launched а version of its website in Romanian, and will be rolling out further Eastern European languages in the coming 2 months.

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