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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz
 

Shuffle Master turns focus to the Internet

3 October 2011

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The importance of Internet gaming at this year's Global Gaming Expo will quickly be noticed in the exhibition booth for Shuffle Master Inc.

On display will be Shuffle Interactive, the Las Vegas-based company's newest division, which is creating Internet versions of Shuffle Master's proprietary table games such as Ultimate Texas Hold'em and Three Card Poker, for licensed use by online gaming websites outside of the United States.

For Americans, Shuffle Master is creating free versions of the table games for social media and applications that can be downloaded and played on interactive platforms, such as tablets, smartphones and other devices.

"It's about building brand awareness for those games," Shuffle Master Chief Executive Officer Gavin Isaacs said.

For now, at least.

Eventually, Isaacs hopes American gamblers will be able to play those games and other Shuffle Master products on Internet gambling websites in the U.S.

Internet gaming and the potential for its federally approved legalization and regulation overshadows much of this year's G2E, which runs Tuesday through Thursday at the Sands Expo and Convention Center. The convention, the gaming industry's largest annual meeting and trade show, is closed to the general public.

On Sept. 20, the American Gaming Association, the industry's Washington D.C.-based lobbying arm, called on the federal government to legalize and regulate Internet poker as a way of protecting American consumers.

Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., the president of the American Gaming Association, which produces G2E with Reed Expositions, said the show is giving Internet gaming, particularly Internet poker, a large platform. More than half of the space in European gaming trade shows is now dedicated to Internet gambling, he said.

"It's growing and you get the sense there is a large amount of interest out there," said Fahrenkopf, whose organization had opposed Internet gaming until last year, when it took a neutral stance on Internet poker. The American Gaming Association released a report at the time saying that the group believes there's sufficient technology to properly regulate the activity.

"It's become a grass-roots education process," Fahrenkopf said of the association's lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill. "There are over 100 new members of Congress. Many times, it's not just educating someone on Internet gaming, but gaming in general."

It's unclear whether Congress will take up the issue before the current session ends in 2012. Some observers believe the subject could be part of the discussion over revenue-generating legislation that might be embraced by members of the Joint Select Deficit Reduction Committee.

"We're now living in a digital world," Fahrenkopf said. "Many nations have legalized Internet gaming and are effectively regulating it. We know that we have states, such as Nevada and New Jersey, that have a long history of successfully regulating gaming."

Many of the 440 exhibitors taking up G2E's 250,000 square feet of trade show space will dedicate all or part of their displays to Internet gaming.

G2E has set aside a series of breakout sessions focused on Internet gaming, with emphasis on Internet poker.

Shuffle Master, meanwhile, already knows its popular game titles translate well over the Internet.

Isaacs said there are many Internet sites illegally using versions of the games without paying a licensing fee. The company's legal department is working to resolve those trademark issues.

By December, Shuffle Interactive plans to formally launch as a division by licensing Ultimate Texas Hold'em and Three Card Poker to Internet sites that will pay a fee for using the trademarked products.

None of those websites can accept wagers from American citizens until Congress acts, however.

James Probst, the general manager of Shuffle Interactive, said Web versions of the games will offer 3-D graphics and various on-screen views.

In addition to the Internet versions, the table games will be produced for free play through social media websites and interactive platforms. The idea is to introduce Shuffle Master's specialty games to new audiences and educate both casino customers and online players on the rules.

"Players will build trust in the Shuffle Master name and exhibit more willingness to try new games under the Shuffle Master umbrella," Probst said.

Shuffle Master's game titles, such as Let It Ride, are variations of poker. But the games are player-versus-dealer as opposed to player-versus-player. Isaacs said he doesn't believe they would be allowed online in the United States initially even if Internet poker is legalized.

"We're looking at stage two of this Internet gaming process in the U.S.," Isaacs said.
Shuffle Master turns focus to the Internet is republished from GamingMeets.com.