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Jackpot! 2 NRIs set to be billionaires
June 04, 2005 16:26 IST
Last Updated: June 04, 2005 18:55 IST
Two Indian Institute of Technology graduates -- Anurag Dikshit and Vikrant Bhargava -- are among the four business brains who have struck it rich to the tune of billions of pounds, thanks to the phenomenal growth in online poker, especially their company PartyGaming.
Besides Dikshit and Bhargava, the other two, a former Internet porn baron and her husband took the age-old game, once the preserve of card sharks in smoke-filled backrooms of bars, on to the Internet and in to the homes of millions of people around the world.
Apart from these four, about 1,100 call centre workers in India and Gibraltar are set to reap a bonanza in share options after the owners of the world's largest Internet poker site announced a £5 billion London Stock Exchange flotation.
PartyGaming, which runs PartyPoker.com, has announced that it will be listed on the FTSE (Financial Times Stock Exchange) and said their 1,100 staff -- most of them at a call centre in Hyderabad and the rest at the head office in Gibraltar (Spain) and the United Kingdom -- would be given £309 million in share options.
Staff will each be given a package of free shares depending on their position and length of time with the company. Even those at a basic level in PartyGaming's Hyderabad call centre could earn more than three times their annual salary from the windfall.
33-year-old Anurag Dikshit, a computer whizkid, created the technology behind online poker. He is a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi and he was working as a software developer in the United States for various companies when he hooked up with Ruth Parasol in 1998.
He owns 40 per cent of the company, which is said to be worth about £2.2 billion.
Vikrant Bhargava, 32, originally from Rajasthan, pursued a career in banking before joining the poker party in 2000. He was asked to come on board as marketing director of PartyGaming by his old college friend Anurag Dikshit.
So spectacular has been the rise in Internet poker that, after only seven years in operation, the four owners of the world's largest Internet poker company, PartyGaming, have a business worth £5.5 billion today, media reports said.
They now plan to float it on the London stock market and it is set to become one of the biggest companies in Britain by value, overtaking household names such as Boots, Sainsbury's, British Airways ad Cable and Wireless, The Independent, said.
Ruth Parasol, a Californian lawyer who made her original fortune in online pornography, her husband, Russ de Leon, and the two Non-Resident Indians are cashing in £1.26 billion between them by selling part of their stakes to outside shareholders.
They are holding on to the rest of the shares themselves - giving each of them a worth of between £750 million and £2 billion.
Companies like PartyGaming have brought the glamorous image of poker -- a macho game of nerve, wit, tactics and luck -- to millions of ordinary punters. Rather than having to venture in to a casino, punters can play from their computer screen without having to leave home at any time of the day or night.
Richard Segal, the chief executive of PartyGaming, said: "What we have done using the technology of the Internet is give people the chance to play whenever they want, in their own homes, without the intimidating prospect of having to look their opponents in the eye if they were in a real-life game."
But this is fuelling fears of an explosion in gambling addiction. The online poker market grew by a staggering 466 per cent in 12 months to reach £770 million last year.