We've been hearing a few rumours around the traps this week regarding gaming industry heavyweight Sega launching their own branded online casino and poker sites. Initially we chalked this one up to baseless speculation but after digging a little deeper and being contacted by Sega themselves it turns out that there is indeed truth to the rumour.
First we checked various obvious domains and interestingly enough, both segacasino.com and segapoker.com pop up authentication boxes when you navigate to them, suggesting that the websites are already live for people with the right credentials. Checking the google cache of these domains shows that they weren't always under the protection of authentication and the cache is revealing. It looks as if Sega will be running off the Playtech platform, and appears to be regulated by the Alderney Gambling Control Commmission. There is also information regarding sign-up bonuses and promotions. And as this screenshot we saved reveals, it looks like they did not seal off all access to the websites because we were able to access the Sega cashier.
The segacasino.com domain was registered several years ago. Our guess is that it probably previously served as a promotional site for their Sega Casino game on the Nintendo DS.
Sonic the hedge-slot?
It remains to be seen what Sega has up their sleeve with regards to tying in their extensive catalogue of gaming brands which include Sonic the Hedgehog, Virtua Fighter, Golden Axe, Super Monkey Ball, and Shenmue. The obvious thing to do would be follow Cryptologic's lead in their licensing deal with Marvel which has brought Spiderman, Silver Surfer, the Fantastic Four and more to the slot machines. However perhaps more interesting to Sega's core audience would be skill based gaming for real money using Sega's well known and loved gaming franchises. As for poker, we're guessing that Sega sees an opportunity to cross market to their massive customer-base, a large portion of which would be now well over the minimum gambling age.
Bold new direction or back to the roots?
Sega has undergone something of a transformation as a gaming company over the past decade. 2002 saw the company abandon the hardware manufacturing business when it discontinued production of the critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful Dreamcast console. Since then it has concentrated on producing software for its former rivals' Nintendo and Sony consoles, as well as the Xbox and PC platforms more recently. So to most casual observers it may appear to be an odd move from a company many think of as family-oriented and largely uncontroversial. That is unless you know a little more about Sega's history.
Sega began life as a Hawaiian company called Standard Games (later becoming known as Service Games) that manufactured coin operated machines for the entertainment of American service personnel. These games included classic styled coin-op slot machines. It later merged with Japan-based Rosen Enterprises to form Sega Enterprises and continued to produce gambling machines. In fact here is an article from December 1992 warning casino patrons to be wary of non-random Sega-programmed video blackjack machines which were set to fixed payout rates. Needless to say we hope this mistake is not repeated in its modern incarnation! All in all, although unexpected, perhaps Sega's move is not such a surprise after all.
Ed's note: We were contacted by Sega shortly before publishing this article, all but confirming our analysis. Expect Sega's online casino and poker room to go live in October.