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Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Shuffle Master recommended for interactive operations

12 July 2012

Gaming equipment supplier Shuffle Master, Inc. was given preliminary approval Wednesday by the state Gaming Control Board to manufacture and provide interactive gaming systems.

If approved by the Nevada Gaming Commission later this month, Shuffle Master would become the third company licensed for online gaming in the state, following June's regulatory approvals for slot machine makers Bally Technologies and International Game Technology.

Shuffle Master Chief Strategy Officer Louis Castle told the control board the company was considering its options for providing companies that become licensed to operate an intrastate Internet casino in Nevada with a business-to-business online poker product.

The company currently offers its nontraditional table game products, such as Three Card Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold'em and Caribbean Stud Poker, to legal Internet gaming markets, through social media, and on free-to-play mobile gaming applications.

Castle said Shuffle Master's initial strategy is to place versions of the company's table games on free-to-play social gaming websites. Eventually, the idea is to convert people who play the games for free into casino customers who will play the games in live settings.

"Social gaming exposes the games to the consumer," Castle said. "From there we want to drive those free-play customers into for-pay customers."

As with Bally and IGT, Shuffle Master will need have the technology to operate an online gaming system approved by the independent testing laboratories now performing that task for the Gaming Control Board.

"I'm comfortable with Shuffle Master," said control board Chairman Mark Lipparelli. "They are a long-standing licensee and a known entity."

Last month, Shuffle Master canceled its $28.5 million acquisition of European-based online gaming provider Ongame Network Ltd., and expressed concern about the slow pace for legalizing Internet poker in the United States.

Shuffle Master officials said a decline in business conditions in Europe since February, lessened the earnings potential from Ongame and might have required a larger investment. Ongame is a subsidiary of Services of Austria and is one of the world's largest poker service providers to online gaming operators.