At one time, the word “casino” was exclusively associated with Las Vegas in the USA and Monte Carlo, Monaco. Today, this is far from the case as gambling truly has gone global. If ever proof were required of the widespread development and growth of the industry, we need look no further than small Baltic nation of Estonia, who recently issued its first ever license for online gambling in the country’s history.

Olympic Entertainment Group are the beneficiaries of the license, which allows Estonian players access to regulated and licensed online gaming for the first time ever. Olympic Entertainment are already big players in Central and Eastern Europe, employing over 3,000 people and operating bricks and mortar casinos in Estonia, Poland, Ukraine and Latvia, amongst other countries. This venture however, is their first foray into the online market.

In conjunction with casino software developers Playtech, Olympic Entertainment are now able to offer clients from Tallinn to Tartu over 150 different casino games, as well as online poker through Playtech’s iPoker network.

The area is certainly up and coming, its potential being recognised by online poker giants PokerStars, who recently held the “PokerStars Baltic Festival” in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital city. Thomas Larsson of PokerStars.com said back in September 2009 that there are “hundreds of thousands of poker players in the Nordic countries, the Baltic States and Russia” but there is a shortage of “attractive live tournaments”. He commented on Tallinn’s potential as a host for such events, with its “outstanding facilities” and how PokerStars were aiming to create an event of similar prestige to that of the EPT’s Grand Final or the Carribean Adventure, only in the Baltic region.

The Baltic Festival proved something of a triumph when it eventually took place at the end of October 2009, causing Larsson to describe it as a “massive success”. He added that players had been “drawn here by the promise of a beautiful city and world-class poker action – and they have not been disappointed”.

Pulling players in from all over Europe, the showpiece event was a €1,000 + €100 No Limit Hold’em tournament which attracted 307 players, a record for that part of the world. The €76,750 first prize was won by Thomas Partridge from Devon in England, who beat his friend and fellow countryman James Keys when Heads Up. The event featured some big names too, such as Peter Eastgate, winner of the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event and Team PokerStars Pros Katja Thater, Johnny Lodden and JC Alvarado.