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Does Playtech have a leg up in the US poker market?

It's early days in the Californian online poker legalisation initiative, with two proposals vying for the approval of lawmakers, but it appears that Playtech plc has already achieved an inside track in the intrastate drive. One of the key groupings backing the initiative, the California Online Poker Association (COPA), announced this week that it has selected the Isle of Man-based Playtech to provide online poker services in the event of its proposal achieving success.

COPA, a coalition of 31 Californian land poker rooms and 29 tribal groups that include the influential Morongo Band of Mission Indians, is a key supporter of Sen. Lou Correa's Senate Bill 40 proposal to legalise online poker in California.

In addition to its selection of the publicly traded firm Sciplay, COPA revealed it has signed a software licensing pact with Playtech for online poker technology and software. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Sciplay is a joint venture between the publicly traded Scientific Games Corp. and Playtech Limited, which is listed on the London exchange. Scientific Games was founded 40 years ago, and has contracts to operate 11 lottery systems in the United States, along with systems in China, Germany, France, Spain, Norway and Switzerland.

Referring to the Black Friday's shutdowns of major online poker operators in the United States, Morongo spokesman Robert Martin said the timing couldn’t be better because the federal indictments removed the largest offshore Internet poker operators from the California market.

That showed the urgency for regulated, intrastate online poker in California, Martin said in a statement, adding that now that the operating agreements are in place, COPA is getting in position to launch live Internet poker as soon as it is legalised in the state.

Until the Californian legislative decision is reached, Sciplay and Playtech plan to offer free poker in "play for fun" mode, building awareness and brand recognition for the venture. This aspect of the initiative is expected to launch before the end of 2011.

Playtech has extensive experience in the operation of online poker networks in regulated environments, providing its operators with dedicated facilities in Italy and France, and the more international iPoker network for its licensees.

A new study by former California State Finance Director Tim Gage found that by authorising online poker, California will generate more than $1.4 billion in new state revenue over the next decade -- or 47% more than previously estimated -- as a result of the recent shutdown of three of the largest illegal online poker sites from which the State received no revenue.

A poll by Tulchin Research found 66% of California voters favor the legalisation of online poker, and, by a wider margin, 76% of Californians prefer that online poker in the state be operated by existing tribes and card clubs.

Source: InfoPowa News

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