Playtech ready for legalisation of French Interent gambling

Industry observers opined that something was in the air when the Playtech-powered Chili online poker room inked an agreement with the French telecomms powerhouse Iliad in February this (2009) year. This week Playtech plc made an announcement which showed what the endgame was.

The gambling software developer and provider revealed that it has signed an agreement with Chilipoker to become a direct licensee - marking the strengthening of Playtech's presence in the soon-to-be-regulated French market. Chilipoker, which had been running on the Playtech platform as a sub licensee through one of Playtech's licensees and will become a direct licensee following its significant growth in the last few years.

Chilipoker is a key strategic licensee given its knowledge and presence in the French gaming market, the statement informs. It's agreeement with Iliad's 'Free', the second largest internet service provider in France, to provide its gaming services and brands to its 12 million users gives the company a major edge in the region. The growth of the Chili Poker brand has also been cemented by a three year deal with World Poker Tour to set up televised events in Marrakech, and by its official sponsorship of the World Poker Congress in 2008.

The Playtech announcement says that the deal with Chili Poker "...reaffirms Playtech's ongoing strategy to diversify into newly regulated markets. France has recently published draft regulations on internet gambling which upon approval by Parliament, will take effect in January 2010."

Mor Weizer, Chief Executive Officer of Playtech, commented: "We are delighted to have consolidated our relationship with Chilipoker in reaching an agreement for it to become a direct licensee. The French gaming market offers huge potential for gaming operators, and we will be looking more closely at establishing our foothold here in advance of the gambling regulation coming into force next year."

Chili's deal with Iliad was something of a coup. The company boasts a subscriber base in excess of 4.2 million and a reach of 12 million users, and Chili has ambitions to leverage the agreement to gain entry to the French market once opened, initially with its online poker offering followed by betting and bingo facilities before the end of the year 2010.

Chilli CEO Alexandre Dreyfus, commented: “We have been looking to partner with a major group for some time in order to move onto the French market in the best conditions. We are not marketing our products in France at the moment out of respect for the regulatory situation there. But as soon as the market opens up, we will be able to make use of the marketing and technical firepower provided by Free."

Dreyfus stressed that Iliad has not taken a stake in Chili Gaming. “It will be a joint offer for poker and sports bets with Chilipoker- and Chilibet-branded products,” he said.

Iliad is also in the process of obtaining a 3G licence which multiplies business opportunities, especially for Playtech's mobile gambling interests. The telecomm group's turnover grew 29 percent in 2008 to Euro1.5 billion.

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