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Last Updated: Friday, 11 November 2005, 14:21 GMT
Partygaming takes care of 'skins'
Poker chips and playing cards
Poker is one of the most popular games played online
Internet gaming firm Partygaming is buying out two of its sister websites, known as "skins", while shedding a third ahead of a relaunch next year.

Partygaming will pay $14.5m (8.34m) for Multipoker and, it is believed, $4m for almost all of IntertopsPoker.

The third of its skin operators, Coral Eurobet, is set to leave Partygaming's online poker platform, migrating its players to a new platform instead.

Partygaming is already in buy-out talks with its fourth partner, Empire Online.

Next year it will consolidate its online betting network into a single system.

"We now look forward to the launch of the Party-branded integrated platform in the first half of 2006, when we will expand the number of games available to our customers," said chief executive Richard Segal.

Isolated Empire

Skins are websites that make money by directing gambling traffic to Partygaming's website.

Partygaming is using this to further squeeze down the price it pays for Empire
Robin Chhabra, analyst

Players on its four partner websites have been able to compete with each other in the online poker room.

But the loss of players from Multipoker, IntertopsPoker and Coral Eurobet means those from Empire Online will be left on their own, raising the risk that Empire will lose its own players.

"Partygaming is using this to further squeeze down the price it pays for Empire," said Robin Chhabra at Evolution Securities.

Partygaming listed on the London stock market in June to a great fanfare, sweeping in with a market value of 4.6bn, which was soon raised to more than 6bn.

But, in September, 2bn was wiped off Partygaming's value after it issued a cautious statement on the state of online gambling. Its shares have yet to recover the lost ground.

On Friday they were trading at 93.5 pence per share, up 1.91% on the day.

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