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Anne Lindner

The Next Stage of the Skills Game?

5 March 2002

If CYOP Systems International has its way, pay-for-play skill-based games won't just be a niche product for online gambling sites--they'll be everyday features of sites ranging from celebrity URLs to radio station homepages.

The core of CYOP's business is CrediPlay, a payment system that enables people to win real money from online tournaments of games you wouldn't normally expect to win money from, like skill-based bingo and Pac Man.

"It's completely legal because it's skill-based."
- Benny Doro

Benny Doro, CEO of CYOP, said the concept hinges on making the games into a contest requiring skill. Bingo can turn into a race to see who in a group of four, all with the same card, can recognize a bingo first; with PacMan, it becomes a contest about who can eat the most dots in the least amount of time. For other games that can be adapted to the system, like chess, the skill involved is inherent in the game. The skill element makes the system legal in North America, Doro said.

"It's completely legal because it's skill-based," he said. "There's no chance involved. If you've got a fast hand-eye coordination, you'll come in first, before anybody else, and that allows you to win a higher percentage of the prize pool."

Players must register with CrediPlay to participate in the games; to sign up they must deposit $20 in their CrediPlay accounts. Each game has an entrance fee plus a network maintenance fee that varies depending on the cost of the game. A $1 game of bingo would carry a network maintenance fee of 25 cents, making the overall cost to the player $1.25. If four players participated in that game of bingo, the pot would be $4, and the winner would take the largest slice of it.

The network maintenance fee is the sweet candy center of the deal, as well as the reason why the system could end up in use by such a diverse collection of Web sites. For no cost, Doro said, sites can display a link that directs traffic to the CrediPlay games. The host site ends up keeping 32 percent of the maintenance fees generated by any player that registers off of its site, no matter what site the player plays off of in the future.

"There's no risk involved," Doro said. "They're just directing traffic. It's an added value of content for their Web site, and it's a revenue generator, and it's a way to have more people coming through the door."

" We're appealing to the average user. They're not gambling people."
- Doro

Doro said CrediPlay is in use by, the Vancouver-based, all-encompassing bingo site that launched its skill-based bingo game in October. Deals with radio stations and celebrity Web sites--including those of Kiss, Madonna and Van Halen--are also in the works, he said. He also pointed out that the system is a no-hassle way for a site to add branded content.

"We can skin the games accordingly," he said, "so it looks like it belongs to that site, but it's using the CrediPlay back engine. It also allows the owner of the Web site to check the backend stats at any time so they can see how many people have played and how much money they've made."

Doro said CYOP isn't specifically targeting gambling portals to host the service--rather, the company is looking at content-based portals. While the concept might be attractive to gambling sites that want to offer something different, skill-based games aren't what online gamblers are looking for, he said, because the prizes aren't very large.

"We'll bring in as many people as we can who want to have fun and maybe win a little bit of money," he said. "It's not gambling sites at all, in fact, gamblers aren't really interested in the games. Gambling sites--there's a different mentality. We're appealing to the average user. They're not gambling people."

Although Doro makes a distinction between gamblers and those who would play CrediPlay games, CYOP does have heritage in the online gambling industry. The chairman of the board, Mitch White, was formerly of Starnet Communications. Doro explained that White wanted to come up with a way to offer a legal form of real-play gaming.

"He has a vision for this, being a gamer himself," Doro said. "His idea was, 'How do we make this legal so there are no more gray areas?'"

Indeed, the skill-based games appear to be a way for online gambling sites to offer a legal alternative to North American players. Doro said CYOP's model for real-play skill games is similar to the skilled-gaming concept Disney is working on right now.

"We're the first on the block to have this system, and everybody else is probably a year or two away from developing it right now, which really gives us a jump-start on the industry," he said. "Word is spreading fast."

The Next Stage of the Skills Game? is republished from
Anne Lindner
Anne Lindner