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Sportingbet - the UK-listed internet betting outfit - is snapping up Paradise Poker for £169m ($297.5m) as part of its bid to become a monster online sports betting and gaming based entertainment business.

Sportingbet is shelling out £105m ($193m) in cash and the rest in shares for Paradise, which is one of the four largest internet poker sites around. Established in 1999, Paradise is thought to command a ten per cent market share of the online poker sector generating turnover of $37.2m (£20.3m) and an operating profit of and $21.3m (£11.6m) in the first seven months of 2004.

Nigel Payne, chief executive of Sportingbet, reckons the deal is a "significant step forward" in its strategy to become "the world's leading online sports betting and gaming based entertainment business".

It means that it can offer its punters even more ways to lose their money by offering sports betting, casino, bingo, gaming and poker under one virtual roof with a "shared purse" so that customers have a single user name, password and account.

Earlier this month the Government published its new gambling bill designed to shake up the betting industry. Although the legislation covers the whole of the industry, part of it also covers the explosion in internet gambling and casinos.

The Government insists the new measures would protect children (by including compulsory age checks for gambling websites for example) and the vulnerable. Critics claim the measures - which include a relaxation of some existing laws - would lead to a massive rise in gambling addiction and indebtedness. ®

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