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PartyGaming links up with Spanish casino group, By Lucy Killgren - 6th Feb 2009
(Credit: Financial Times)

PartyGaming on Friday said it hoped to strengthen its position in the Hispanic market through the launch of a three year alliance with Spain’s leading gaming group, as it reported a steep fall in fourth quarter revenues from its traditional online gambling activities.

PartyGaming, which operates online gaming websites like PartyPoker.com and PartyCasino.com, said its alliance with Cirsa Gaming Corporation would enable it to “explore and develop internet gaming opportunities in Spanish-speaking countries.”

The 29-year-old Cirsa is based in Barcelona and began as a manufacturer of slot machines. It owns and operates bingo halls, casinos and amusement arcades and operates in 70 countries. In Spain, where it is the market leader, it runs 57 bingo clubs, four casinos and 139 amusement arcades.

A spokesman for PartyGaming said: “Cirsa is a pretty well-known and trusted name. this is about us leveraging these brands, like we have done with ITV.”

ITV Play runs a series of games such as Emmerdale Bingo, powered by PartyGaming.

PartyGaming said it was in discussion with other well-known - but unnamed - operators about forming similar alliances.

Jim Ryan, chief executive, said: “”We believe the combination of Cirsa’s assets with our online gaming expertise will create a major opportunity for both companies, especially throughout the Spanish speaking world.”

The news of the partnership with Cirsa came as PartyGaming reported an 18 per cent fall in fourth quarter revenues. US dollar currency movements, promotions, tough competition and a delay in the launch of a loyalty scheme launched in December, had all taken their toll on revenues

Revenues for the three months December 31 fell from $122.4m to $100.4m. Foreign exchange movements had adversely impacted revenues in the fourth quarter by about $15m.

It said on Friday that trading conditions “remained tough”, but said that while currency movement had affected revenues, they had had a corresponding benefit on costs and as a result it expected clean earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation to be slightly ahead of market expectations.

Bwin Interactive Entertainment, the Austrian Internet bookmaker has reiterated forecasts for this and last year’s core earnings despite a slight slowdown in growth in the final quarter.

Analysts have predicted strong growth for leisure companies operating in the online space, even in the face of increased competition as broadband becomes more widely available across Europe and around the world.

PartyGaming, which is in talks with the US Department of Justice with the aim of settling its US liabilities in the wake of the crackdown on internet gambling in 2006, said discussions with the DOJ “continue to progress in line with our expectations.”

In December Anurag Dikshit, co-founder of PartyGaming pleaded guilty to a single charge of online gambling and forfeited $300m, an outcome that in effects ended the liability hanging over him.

Shares slipped 3 per cent in early trade to 163¾p by mid morning in London.

 

Spain plans to build casino city, Danny Wood - 27th April 2009
(Credit: BBC)


The parliament in the Spanish region of Aragon is due to approve a law that would allow the biggest entertainment and leisure complex in Europe to go ahead.

The Gran Scala project proposes building casino-hotels, theme parks and a racecourse in countryside near the village of Ontinena.

The thirteenth century Church of Saint Mary sits on a hill in the centre of Ontinena, like a beacon for moral guidance.

Many Roman Catholics would associate casinos with deadly sins, so the response of Father Lorenzo, the 80-year-old, bespectacled priest, to plans to build a city of casinos and theme parks next to his village, is surprising.

"In general I think it's a good idea," he says.

"I suppose it could bring economic development. But moral development, that depends on the individual."

Desert climate

The plans by a company called International Leisure Development (ILD) to build Spain's answer to Las Vegas in countryside near Ontinena are strongly supported by the locals.

One survey found that more than 80% of the people who live in the region favour the scheme that would see more than 30 casino hotels, a convention centre, theme parks, golf courses, a racecourse and a dog track, constructed on an area of countryside the size of 1,500 football pitches.

Ontinena, in the Spanish region of Aragon, is about two hours drive from Barcelona and has a population of 600.

It is bordered by the Monegros Desert and farmland dedicated to cereal crops.
As he gestures across the countryside where he hopes this leisure city will rise, Jaime Riera, an ILD spokesperson, says the owners of the land are willing to sell and that finding the estimated $20bn (£14bn) to fund the scheme, even in the economic crisis, is no problem.

"We have never had problems regarding financing," he says.

"I am so confident because you can have the land, you can have the institutional support and you can have the money, but in this case I think we have everything to make the cocktail wonderful."

'Spain's future'

He also has the confidence of the Mayor of Ontinena, Angel Torres, who does not see the irony when commenting on the beauty of the countryside, much of which will be covered in cement if the leisure city plans go ahead.

The mayor has dozens of CVs sent in by people who hope to be employed if this casino city starts construction later this year.

"It's a great project and it represents the future of Ontinena, the region and all Spain, so the town council is strongly behind it to make sure it happens as quickly as possible," says Mr Torres.

ILD estimates that 200,000 people will be employed directly or indirectly by its leisure city.

The socialist regional government of Aragon also supports the project and is backing a law to approve the project, which is expected to be passed by the end of June with the support of the opposition conservatives.

The government says the law would enforce all the necessary legal guarantees and environmental controls on the scheme.

There is some opposition to the Gran Scala scheme. News reports suggest Spain's ombudsman is looking into the scheme after complaints from Stop Gran Scala, a collection of community organisations who say environmental impact studies have been insufficient.

If the Leisure City goes ahead it will be sitting alongside the Monegros Desert, a region that suffers chronic drought.

But ILD says its casino city will be a model for sustainable development and claims there is plenty of water.

Saving water

An hour away from Ontinena, in the middle of another parched Spanish plain, lies the city of Zaragoza.

Last year, the city hosted the World Water Expo that was all about conserving water resources and promoting sustainable development. It is unlikely a casino city like Gran Scala is what they had in mind as a model.

But if you walk around Ontinena, you will find many houses in ruins. The population of the village was 2,000 a century ago; now it is only 600.

Spain's unemployment rate is the highest in Europe and this isolated region in particular is badly in need of investment and jobs. Many people see the proposed leisure city as their best hope for a brighter future.

In Ontinena's local bar, the elderly men of the village often pass the time playing cards.

In these humble, smoky surroundings, it is difficult, but not impossible, to imagine them playing their game in the halls of one of Gran Scala's hotel-casinos.

 

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Spain or the Kingdom of Spain is a country located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. The Spanish mainland is bordered to the south and east almost entirely by the Mediterranean Sea (except for a tiny land boundary with Gibraltar); to the north by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west by the Atlantic Ocean and Portugal. Spanish territory also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the African coast, and two autonomous cities in North Africa, Ceuta and Melilla, that border Morocco. With an area of 504,030 km², Spain is the second largest country in Western Europe (behind France) and with an average altitude of 650 m, the second highest country in Europe (behind Switzerland).

Spain is a constitutional monarchy organised as a parliamentary democracy, and has been a member of the European Union since 1986. It is a developed country with the eighth largest economy in the world and fifth largest in the EU, based on nominal GDP. (Credit: Wikipedia)

 

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