LONDON, MAY 8 - Bwin.party digital, the world's largest listed online gaming company, said it had prepared the ground for a possible relaxation of U.S. internet betting laws by signing a deal with a Native American tribe which operates gambling in California.
The company said it had entered into a ten-year agreement with the United Auburn Indian Community ('UAIC'), which operates the Thunder Valley Casino Resort near Sacramento, to provide the technology to run online poker services should state laws allow.
"Combining our own significant assets and resources with those of UAIC will create a strong partnership that is well-placed to seize the opportunities that will arise if appropriate online poker legislation is enacted in the Golden State," said Jim Ryan and Norbert Teufelberger, the co-CEOs of bwin.party.
There have been indications that a U.S. internet betting ban could be relaxed and several European businesses have been looking at ways to enter what they predict will be a highly lucrative market.
Bwin.party said UAIC would secure the necessary license to operate online poker services in California while the London-listed business would provide technology and operational expertise.
"We see the legalization of Internet poker and other Internet gaming as being inevitable," said UAIC's Tribal Chairman David Keyser.
Shares in Bwin.party, which was formed by the merger of Austria's Bwin and PartyGaming last year, were down 0.25 percent to 158 pence at the open on Tuesday, in-line with the FTSE-250 midcap index.
(Reporting By Drazen Jorgic, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)