The giant US land-based casino and gaming operator, Las Vegas Sands Corp, has signed a deal with Cantor Gaming to launch an online poker and gaming operation specifically targeting the UK market.
Cantor Gaming is a business interest of the giant Cantor Fitzgerald investment bank and bond brokerage financial group with a large presence in the London financial sector. That group also runs the highly sophisticated spread betting and contracts for differences (CFD) markets for share traders so has access to a huge pool of potential clients with funds available for use in the gambling arena.
When Cantor Gaming was first launched in 2005, its Chief Operating Officer, Tom Kenny, said:
"Historically, the Cantor Index group has successfully white labelled a number of services including CFD's, spread betting, and most recently a financial fixed odds service through Ladbrokes. Cantor Gaming is in discussion with a number of companies who want to develop relationships with their customer base by taking advantage of the current popularity of online casinos."
The proposed online gaming platform with Las Vegas Sands is to include the usual casino attractions of blackjack, roulette, video poker, slots, Pai Gow and Baccarat, plus an online poker room. Las Vegas Sands has ready-made branding in the pipeline in the form of The Venetian, Sands and Paiza, amongst others.
Launch is anticipated to be at some point in the second quarter of 2007. Given the massive resources of the US giant, the effect on the UK market could be considerable, and responses from industry and analysts has been swift and mixed.
Some financial analysts are suggesting that this move may be positive from a US regulatory perspective. They say that if Las Vegas Sands can demonstrate that operating an online gaming business can be achieved with a rigorous customer identification procedure and socially responsible values, this may in time soften the US stance on its current internet gambling "ban".
Of course, any such reversal of attitudes in the US would be of little consolation to those non-US businesses and their investors seriously harmed to a collective tune of billions of dollars by the recent US law changes and most likely would see American businesses filling the vacuum. This would do little to placate those who have argued that the US measures were motivated by protectionism.
European operators are also sceptical with suggestions that this latest move by Sands is verging on the hypocritical. In a Daily Telegraph report, Torbjorn Ihre, the head of public affairs at the European Betting Association, is quoted as saying:
"It's hypocrisy and discrimination. These two words fit. This proves that the US being open to competition is a false claim."
Meanwhile, Andrew McIver, Chief Executive Officer of Sportingbet said:
"They've put a stick in the wasp nest to see what comes out. They want to see what happens – who comes to them and whether others will follow."
McIver stated he was not worried about the threat posed by Las Vegas Sands:
"Not at all. I wish them all the best. They are a very good company, but their strength is offline gambling, not the internet. It will take them a few years to get going."
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