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May 6 (Bloomberg) -- digital entertainment Plc, formed this year by the merger of PartyGaming Plc and Bwin Interactive Entertainment AG, said first-quarter net revenue gained 2 percent, led by sports betting and casino games.

Net revenue was 217.8 million euros ($317 million) with the sports wagering and casino gains offsetting declines in poker, the Gibraltar-based online gambling company said in a statement.

On April 15, the founders of Bwin rivals PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker were charged with bank fraud, after they didn’t stop offering poker to Americans following a 2006 transactions ban. Bwin’s shares soared on the news, as investors banked on it gaining as PokerStars’ and Full Tilt’s marketing edge waned.

“We think it represents a meaningful, albeit small, step toward returning to growth in poker,” Co-Chief Executive Jim Ryan told reporters on a conference call.

He said it was too early to assess the full impact, as the pair, the world’s largest online poker companies, still have a “formidable presence” in Europe. dropped less than 1 percent to 150 pence at the 4:30 p.m. close in London. The shares have declined 27 percent so far this year, giving it a market value of 1.28 billion pounds ($2.1 billion).

Average daily poker signups gained 33 percent in the two weeks after the announcement, compared with the previous two weeks, Bwin said today.

First-quarter poker revenue dropped 14 percent to 54 million euros, the company said. Sports betting revenue gained 11 percent to 71.6 million euros, while casino and other games increased 8 percent to 64.8 million euros, the company said.

Ryan said is considering options including the sale of its Ongame poker network, to focus on its PartyPoker brand. The company has been approached about selling the unit, yet it’s made no decisions, he said. Bwin, as a separate Austrian company, acquired Ongame for 510 million euros in 2006.

Bwin will announce a dividend and share buyback policy, probably at the company’s June 29 annual meeting, Chief Financial Officer Martin Weigold said.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Altaner in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Colin Keatinge in London at

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