Friday, March 19, 2004 | 11:18 a.m.
SUN STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS
LONDON -- Entrepreneur Richard Branson's Virgin Group PLC will this summer launch an Internet gambling portal in partnership with WagerWorks UK, a developer of online gambling, Virgin said in a statement Thursday. Virgin has named Simon Burridge as executive chairman of the partnership.
"First and foremost Virgin Games is about fun -- it is about demystifying the world of gaming and making it accessible to the mainstream," Burridge said in the statement.
Virgin and WagerWorks are building the portal to appeal to a wide range of Internet users, rather than just to the casino player.
"So whilst we will be seeking to build on Virgin Atlantic's status as the U.K.'s only direct (airline) carrier to Las Vegas by bringing lots of Vegas content to the site, we will be also appealing to the wider leisure market," said Oscar Nieboer, managing director of the partnership.
Nieboer was formerly vice president of marketing at MGM MIRAGE Online. The Las Vegas casino giant launched an Internet gambling site in fall 2002 for British and European bettors. The site and the company's online division were dissolved about nine months later on concerns about long term profit potential. The company was concerned that other jurisdictions, such as the United States, would not legalize Internet gambling in the near term.
WagerWorks UK is a subsidiary of WagerWorks Inc., a San Francisco-based company that develops Internet gambling sites for non-U.S. bettors.
Besides Virgin's airline serving Las Vegas, the company has a Virgin Records Megastore in the Forum Shops at Caesars.