Internet providers lining up

May 15, 2001 8:54 PM
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With the steady advance of an online gaming bill in the Nevada Legislature, a host of high-tech companies are descending on Las Vegas.

"There’s a lot of interest," says Richard Fitzpatrick, president of the Internet Business Alliance of Nevada, a non-profit professional association formed less than a year ago with headquarters in Las Vegas. "I think it’s just starting to creep up on people that this is going to happen."

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold hearings today on a bill that passed the Assembly late last month authorizing the Nevada Gaming Commission to draw up regulations and safeguards for online casinos. The Senate may do some tinkering with the bill, but with less than three weeks left in the legislative session, the upper house is expected to endorse it in some form and forward it to Gov. Kenny Guinn for his signature.

Looking to beat the rush, IBAN has formed a special arm called the Interactive Gaming Institute of Nevada with a view toward getting the techies in the same room with the casino operators and state regulators to share ideas and hawk wares.

Given the potential dollars at stake - the handle at online casinos is estimated at more than $1 billion worldwide and growing - and the magnitude of the legal and regulatory issues, the inside track would have to belong to companies with experience and connections.

Gaming Entertainment Technology would qualify for that short list. GET has an Australian pedigree, meaning it’s one of the few gaming software providers in the world operating in a licensed, regulated market. Three Australian sites use its software. The company has come to the attention of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, which has sought it out for technical assistance. Plus, management has U.S. casino experience. CEO Pat Rogers used to be general manager of Players Island in Mesquite, Nev., and GET’s sales and marketing departments are staffed with several former casino operatives. The company opened a Las Vegas office in March.

Virtgame, a software provider founded five years ago in Antigua and based now in Southern California, was also invited to demonstrate its know-how to the Gaming Control Board. Virtgame was responsible for setting up Coast Casino’s remote sports betting site. COO Bruce Merati says he’s had contact with other operators, too, but he won’t name them. Virtgame has also set up a satellite office in Las Vegas.

Online Gaming Systems supplies software to 16 online casinos worldwide and is developing a play-for-fun site based in Las Vegas. Last fall, the company moved its headquarters to Las Vegas from Florida. "We’re concentrating our efforts with land-based casinos," says President and CEO Gary Ramos. It’s where "we see our future as suppliers," he says.

A company drumming up a lot of publicity lately is Las Vegas-based i2Corp. It owns a patent for live-game streaming through a subsidiary called Home Gambling Network. The company says it’s had contact with the Gaming Control Board and Australian regulators going back to 1996 as it continues to look for a software and systems provider to team up with.

"We’ve been involved from the beginning," says company President Chris Almida.