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Littlewoods Reviews IoM Online Gaming Operation

by Jason Gorringe, Tax-News.com, London

30 July 2003


In what has been interpreted as a further blow to the Isle of Man's online gaming industry, Littlewoods gaming has confirmed that it is undertaking a review of its operations in the jurisdiction, reports stated this week.

Littlewoods however, has sought to play down rumours that this is the precursor to a decision to close its doors in the Island. 'We are in the process of reviewing the casino after one year in operation," said spokewoman Suzanne Judge to the Isle of Man Online. 'We're pleased with how it has gone so far. This will be an assessment of how we will be moving the facility forward and how we will offer the best choice to our customers,' she added

In 2001, the Isle of Man opened its arms to online casinos with the creation of a new licence to regulate the industry and the island subsequently attracted some high profile names, including Littlewoods, MGM Mirage and SunOnline (whose Casino Atlantis online was later bought by Kerzner International). However, the five firms that were initially granted licences have now dwindled to just one, Littlewoods, after MGM Mirage closed last month, and Rank Interactive's Hard Rock Casino online moved its operations to Alderney. Earlier in the year, Casino Atlantis also closed, and Actionline's Club Fiore left the island for Canada.

A lack of access to the potentially large US market (where online gambling is technically illegal) has been one important factor that hampered the growth of the fledgling industry. Kerzner International has reportedly stated that 'without the potential for expansion into other markets, including the US, the outlook for new business has substantially decreased and achieving profitability is unlikely in the short to medium-term'. This was a view shared by MGM, who said the 'legal and political climate in the US and several countries around the world' made the operation an unviable proposition.

Will Greenhow, acting chief executive officer of the Department of Home Affairs, remains optimistic. 'The industry is still in its infancy; we must accept that we may face further setbacks as well as advances as it evolves over the next few years,' he said, adding 'the Gambling Control Commission (which regulates the industry in the Island] has seen a significant increase in the number of enquiries for online bookmaking licences.'

some observers have cited the Isle of Man's 'tier one' regulatory status as one of the most crucial factors behind the industry's decline in the jurisdiction, as a result of over-regulation.

A comprehensive report detailing the online gambling situation in the key offshore jurisdictions is available in the Tax News Reports Shop at http://www.tax-news.com/reportshop

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