PartyGaming defies US with ad campaign

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PartyGaming, the world's largest online gaming operator, is to launch a major advertising campaign for its PartyCasino site in the US despite the mounting threat of a clampdown by the US government on what it regards as an illegal activity.

The surprise arrest of the BetonSports chief executive David Carruthers in Dallas a week ago has thrown the online gambling industry into turmoil.

Although PartyGaming executives admitted they had "no imminent plans" to travel Stateside and would seek legal advice, they insisted they would not be driven out of the lucrative American market.

The new chief executive Mitch Garber said that unlike online poker, where big marketing campaigns have driven soaring revenues, the company's casino games have not been marketed before. The group intends to rectify this with a "strong branding campaign" across Europe and North America for its PartyCasino website, which was launched earlier this year and now offers 39 games including blackjack and slots.

Mr Garber said the action against BetonSports would not deter the group from "legally marketing in the US" through a variety of channels - internet, television, radio, newspapers and sponsorship deals.

PartyGaming runs poker and casino websites and gets 76 per cent of its revenues from the US, but does not take sports bets over the telephone, which is banned explicitly by the 1961 Wire Act and at the heart of the charges levelled against BetonSports.

But the US Department of Justice has said repeatedly that it views all internet gambling as illegal. On Friday, GalaCoral blocked US citizens from making bets on its website " in view of the current uncertainty over the US legal situation".

A PartyGaming spokesman said a lot of the advertising would be online. "We've had success with PartyCasino even before we've pumped up the advertising," he added. Blackjack was a huge hit when it was launched last October.

Casino games currently notch up net daily revenues of $800,000 while poker generates $2.7m. The group recently added backgammon and bingo to its offering.