Virgin Games may take a gamble

Virgin is considering a move into the high street casino business following the deregulation of the gambling industry should its online gaming venture prove successful when it launches this summer.

Virgin Games, which is a wholly owned gaming subsidiary of Virgin, is also considering launching gaming services via mobile phones and interactive tele-vision, using partnerships with other parts of the Virgin Group.

The company’s first foray into gambling will be an interactive gaming portal that will offer a range of games and services. The website, which is accessible through the main Virgin.com portal, will host an online casino.

The launch has been overseen by Oscar Nieboer, who was appointed managing director for Virgin Games earlier this year, and former People’s Lottery bid chief Simon Burridge as executive chairman.

Nieboer was previously vice-president for marketing for the online business of casino group MGM Mirage.

Nieboer says Virgin Games will be positioned as an entertainment brand rather than a gambling service. He says that the gambling deregulation will allow a “democratisation” of gaming, with more people encouraged to take part outside the core gambling audience as it becomes mainstream entertainment.

Advertising for the website will begin later this month. Proximity handles advertising for the company, while media is dealt with by Manning Gottlieb OMD.

The Government has said that it expects to loosen restrictions on the gambling industry by 2006, which is likely to allow a greater proliferation of casinos on the high street as well as a relaxation on advertising.

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