Online gaming company keeps it clean, cashes in

It wasn’t easy for CyberArts founder Chris Derossi to watch rival Internet gaming technology companies provide products to websites that accepted wagers from American gamblers.

Derossi concluded in 2003 his Oakland, Calif.-based online poker software development company would not get into any predicaments that could jeopardize its future.

At the time, there was still question about the legality of Internet gaming in the U.S.

“It wasn’t a tough decision to stay 100 percent clean, but it was tough watching competitors operate illegally and be so successful,” Derossi said.

That business move paid off last year.

Derossi sold CyberArts to Fertitta Interactive in October 2011 for an undisclosed price.

The company, an Internet gaming startup controlled by Station Casinos owners Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta and former Golden Nugget owners Tom Breitling and Tim Poster, is close to launching an online poker website in Nevada.

Fertitta Interactive was licensed by the Nevada Gaming Commission on Oct. 18 to operate Ultimate Gaming, which is themed on the Fertitta-owned Ultimate Fighting Championship.

The technology and software created by Derossi and his team are awaiting approval by independent testing laboratories and the Gaming Control Board.

Derossi said Ultimate Gaming is far ahead of the competition in the Nevada market. The CyberArts’ technology has been used in a dozen European Internet gaming markets and already addresses concerns of age and location verification, problem gambling protection and other issues that worry state gaming regulators.

“These issues are not new,” Derossi said. “They are new for us in Nevada but we have addressed them for years.”

Derossi, who worked as a software designer and technology architect for Apple Computer, created CyberArts to be an online casino.

That changed when he received mixed signals about Internet gaming and the United States.

Instead, CyberArts began licensing the software to companies licensed in legal European gaming jurisdictions that didn’t accept wagers from American gamblers.

His decision was solidified in 2006 following the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which made it illegal for U.S. businesses to process financial transactions associated with online wagering.

CyberArts also became attractive to Nevada’s casino industry, which was looking at the possibility of Congress legalizing Internet poker. The company, with its clean record, grew more appealing following the April 15, 2011, federal government crackdown on unlawful Internet gaming, otherwise known as “Black Friday.”

Following sales discussions with several casino companies, Derossi reached a deal with Fertitta Interactive.

Derossi stayed on as chief technology officer and his team of some 20 employees based in Oakland remained in place. He is now seeing his original idea come close to being a reality.

“Our road map is laid out for us,” Derossi said. “You can sense my excitement that we’re finally going to be able to do what this company was born to do.”

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