(Reuters) - UK-based Probability Plc, a maker of gambling games for mobile phones, is in advanced talks with potential U.S. partners to break into the American online gaming market as several states relax betting restrictions.
The legalization of online gambling in New Jersey this year, following similar legislation by Nevada and Delaware last year is expected to persuade other states to change their laws.
"Within a couple of years, half the population of the United States will live either in a state or very close to somewhere they can gamble for real money through their mobile phone or desktop," Probability Chief Executive Charles Cohen told Reuters in an interview.
New Jersey, the largest of the states to have legalized online gambling, and Delaware have approved online gambling within their state borders. Nevada is the only state to allow interstate online gambling.
The U.S. government banned online gambling in 2006, but the Department of Justice clarified its stance in late 2011, paving the way for states to unilaterally legalize some forms of online gambling.
The global online gambling market, valued at 21.73 billion euros ($28.43 billion) in 2012, is forecast to grow almost 30 percent over the next three years, according to gambling research group H2 Gambling Capital.(http://r.reuters.com/xum47t)
"We are getting a lot of interest from U.S. companies," said Cohen, an Oxford University graduate and former speechwriter for a UK member of parliament who co-founded Probability in 2004.
He did not identify the companies involved.
Probability's European partners include Paddy Power Plc and William Hill Plc. Probability, which designs, distributes and operates mobile betting games, also plans to enter Sweden, Denmark, France and Spain, Cohen said.
"I would hope to get into at least one other territory during this year, if not two," he said.
In the United States, casino owners MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Corp are getting closer to