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Monday, January 30, 2012

Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment CEO Sees Legal Online Gaming In US Soon

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Legalized online gambling in the U.S. is now a case of 'when', not 'if', Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment PLC (BPTY.LN) Co-CEO Jim Ryan said Wednesday, adding that he expects the foundations to be laid this year.

But speaking at the ICE online gambling conference in London, the co-chief executive advised that establishing it up will take time.

The process of passing legislation, drawing up regulation, vetting and licensing operators will likely last through 2012, he said, and he speculates that actual operations likely won't happen before next year.

Partygaming, which last year merged with Austrian peer Bwin to form Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment, along with other European operators withdrew from the U.S. market in 2006 shortly after then-President George W. Bush signed a bill designed to prohibit U.S. banks and credit card companies from processing payments to gambling websites.

Partygaming paid a $105 million fine as part of a non-prosecution deal with the DOJ (Department Of Justice) in 2009, for admitting indirect contravention of US law, but in anticipation of a relaxation of the rules, Bwin.Party last year inked a joint venture with U.S. casino operators MGM and Boyd to operate online gaming if and when it became legal in the U.S.

Ryan's confidence comes after a recent ruling by the U.S. Department of Justice, which clarifies the scope of the Wire Act, a law that in the past has been used stop online gambling sites. The ruling essentially gives U.S. states the green light to allow gambling within their borders, according to online gambling experts.

Still, Ryan said this doesn't mean the company is in line to recoup any of the $105 million fine.

Bwin.Party and its joint venture partners have already applied for a preliminary suitability review in Nevada which will lay the groundwork for gaining a license there once regulation is agreed.

Ryan also told the press the sale process for its Ongame poker network is very advanced and he expects to be able to announce further news in the not too distant future.

He confirmed recent reports that the company is looking for an executive to head up its payments processing division CQR with a view to ultimately taking it public, but said this was several years away.

He said the company wants to expand its online payments operations outside of the gambling sector to build an online merchant market place, increasing the value of this asset and ultimately realising shareholder value by listing it on the stock market.

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