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2006 Year-In-Review
by Karl Yu

When people take stock of the year past, many emotions are usually evoked, after all a lot can happen in 365 days.

There was some good, some bad and definitely some ugly things that took place in 2006 as the face of the online gambling sector was weathered and worn by another turbulent year.

It all began back in January when David Carruthers began voicing support for online gambling.

First, Carruthers appeared on a CNBC show where he preached of the virtues of legalization and regulation. He then announced that he would be spearheading an Advisory Council that would deal with many different issues pertaining to online gaming in the United States, including legal issues and youth gambling. This may have had an influence on events later on in the year.

Early January also saw the beginnings of what many consider to be the next step in the online gambling evolutionary ladder. Insiders expected that by March, casinos in Nevada would get approval to offer wireless gambling within public and designated areas in casinos. The move was made to stay competitive with casinos on Indian Reserves, resort casinos and online gambling. decided to add a poker wing to its online betting house and announced a deal with the Prima Network.

The UK’s Hilton Group sold 400 of its hotels back to the US’ Hilton Hotel Group. What was the significance of the move? The sale allowed the Hilton Group to officially become known as Ladbrokes, after their gambling business, which not coincidentally bears the same name.

Always one of the more progressive nations, when it comes to online gambling, The United Kingdom announced plans for an Online Gambling Summit before the end of the year. The aim of the summit was to set standards for consumer protection and business promotion.

The Sporting News’ earlier decision to run ads from online gambling companies backfired after they were forced to pay a $7.2 million settlement to the U.S. Department of Justice.

As January became February, word on the street had it that Excapsa, the company behind UltimateBet and UltimatePoker, would once again attempt to go public. The company would look to raise as much as £75 million for flotation on the Alternative Investment’s Market. The company had intentions of listing the previous summer but decided to hold off based on mixed results.

32Red added someone formerly of Victor Chandler when they named Ed Andrewes as their new Developmental Director.

In mid-February, U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte tried rekindling an old fire when he announced plans to introduce another version of anti-online gambling legislation.

A month later Senator Jon Kyl attempted to attach an amendment that would ban online gambling to a Lobbying Reform Act but was sidelined when the bill was sidelined by a proposed amendment concerning control of U.S. ports.

But all was not lost for anti-online gambling proponents as Rep. James Leach put forth The U.S. House Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (HR 4411) for mark up by the Committee on Financial Services which was subsequently referred to the House Judiciary Committee. The proposed legislation aimed to make the use of credit cards and money transfers for the use of online gambling illegal. This would not be the last we would see of this bill.

Late in 2005, Empire filed a lawsuit against PartyGaming citing losses due to a Party software upgrade and assignment of its related so-called skin activities. In March of 2006 a settlement was reached between the two that saw Party paying Empire $200 million.

Everyone knows that Calvin Ayre likes publicity and 2006 was a banner year as he made both People magazine and the cover of the March edition of Forbes magazine.

Ayre felt the ire of Costa Rican authorities after his estate was raided on suspicion of an illegal poker game. Fox was filming a poker reality show featuring Ayre, which probably prompted the visit from the police, but Ayre was not taken into custody.

Similar to the American’s, the Italian government restricted access to many non-authorized online gaming sites and was served with a lawsuit from a number of European facing sportsbooks, including William Hill and Betfair.

Italy and other countries restricting online betting access, including Germany, were then put on notice by the European Commission to ease restrictions or risk legal action for failing to do so.

As expected the Nevada Gaming Commission did indeed approve of wireless gambling in authorized areas of hotel casinos.

In May, it was the state of Washington and not Washington, D.C. that would be the first to introduce an online gambling ban. Bill SB 6613 essentially made the penalty for online gambling equivalent to that of a sexual predator or an armed robber.

It should be noted that the bill was introduced by Senator Margarita Prentice, a tribal gaming advocate.

But that was only the tip of the anti-online gambling iceberg as online gambling enthusiasts would see later in the year.

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