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Howard Stutz

Online gaming operator Paddy Power passes regulators' first test

12 July 2012

Online gaming operator Paddy Power plc, which is considered the top legal bookmaker in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, was granted a preliminary finding of suitability to operate in Nevada by state gaming regulators Wednesday.

The company, which is based in Ireland, does yet not have any business interests in Nevada.

However, Paddy Power Chief Executive Officer Patrick Kennedy told the Gaming Control Board during an hourlong hearing it was actively exploring gaming opportunities in Nevada and other American markets.

"The U.S. is a key potential new market for us," Kennedy said.

Paddy Power operates online casino gaming and sports wagering in legal jurisdictions. In the United Kingdom, the company operates traditional wagering locations where customers can bet on sports and other activities.

Following the meeting with state gaming officials, Kennedy said Paddy Power's interest in the U.S. was in the potential legalization of online wagering. The company, which is publicly traded on both the London and Irish stock exchanges since 2000 and has a market capitalization of roughly $6 billion, collects 80 percent of its revenues from online gaming activities.

"We're looking at all opportunities in the U.S., but our expertise is in online gaming," Kennedy said. "That's obviously what we're looking at doing in Nevada and in other states."

Kennedy and other company officials told gaming regulators that Paddy Power is debt-free.

The only concern control board members expressed with Paddy Power was that the company meet with Nevada gaming compliance committee standards.

Because Paddy Power was seeking just a finding of suitability and not an official gaming license, the control board did not place any stipulations on the company.

"This is the first one of its kind," control board member A.G. Burnett said of the suitability finding, which is change in gaming regulations and allows gaming companies to go through the investigative process prior to actually buying a casino and ancillary licensed business.

"We welcome you to Nevada and we hope you find a way to come here soon," Burnett said.

Paddy Power officials said as its Internet sports wagering business grew, the company made a decision not to accept wagers from American customers, even before the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act became law.

Paddy Power is the number-one online bookmaker by revenue in the British and Irish markets and the number-one fixed-odds online bookmaker in Australia.

In addition to its British, Irish and online betting activities, Paddy Power launched a gaming site in Italy last month and provides online wagering technology to wagering sites in France and the British Columbia Lottery Corp. in Canada.

Kennedy said Paddy Power's largest growing business segment are applications provided to mobile devices for legal wagering and social wagering.

"We have the largest number of fans of any international bookmaker on Facebook," Kennedy said.

The Nevada Gaming Commission will rule on the control board's recommendation on July 26.