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Although poker will always be alluring, sometimes it’s nice to be able to bet on something a bit more unusual, like chess or solitaire. At Arkadium, gamers of all stripes can place their wagers.

Although the allure of poker, blackjack, and roulette endures through the decades, sometimes it’s nice to be able to bet on something a bit more unusual, like chess or solitaire. At New York City-based Arkadium, gamers of all stripes can place their wagers. Co-founder Jessica Rovello chats about Ms. Pac-Man, skill games, and getting a winning hand.

How did the company get started?

Arkadium was started two years ago over a bet. My friend, Kenny Rosenblatt, and I started arguing over who was the better Ms. Pac-Man player, and when we couldn’t find a place online to settle our bet, we thought, “Hey, that’s a great idea for a company!” We spent a few months after that working up the courage to quit our jobs and start Arkadium. Starting a business in a terrible economic climate wasn’t easy, but once we made the decision to move ahead we never looked back.

What got you personally interested in doing this work?

I’ve always been hyper-competitive and have always placed things in the context of a betting situation–for instance, if my elevator arrives in under 20 seconds then I’ll take a great vacation this year–so starting Arkadium was very natural to me. Kenny is a born entrepreneur and had been interested in going out on his own for some time. We both knew that the online game market was massive, and thought that there was a real opportunity to bring something interesting and new to online games.

The Justice Department is really cracking down on online gambling–how does the company circumvent legal challenges to your wagering strategy?

Well, we don’t actually circumvent legal challenges; we are very upfront with our users about who can and cannot use our system. Online gambling involves wagering on a game of chance or a game played by others. Because Arkadium offers only games of skill like chess and checkers, we can operate legally in the United States. There are some states, however, that do not allow skill game wagering. We block users from playing for money if they come from one of the 11 states on our block list.

What kind of reaction have you gotten from the gaming community?

To date, we have gotten tremendous feedback. There are a number of sites that offer cash tournaments, but Arkadium is the only site that allows users to choose their opponents in every game. Focusing on community and giving users great options like free play, cash play, public and private chatting, one-on-one games, multiplayer tournaments, avatars, emoticons, themed game rooms, user profiles, and live help are just some of the things that people are getting excited about.

What are the largest challenges that you see in implementing your technology?

Our biggest challenge was to ensure that the system delivered fair games to every player. To ensure fairness in every game we created a custom back-end that delivers the exact same game to each opponent. For example, if you and I are playing one-on-one solitaire and you are dealt a better hand, you have a distinct advantage over me. With Arkadium’s PowerPlay system, each player is delivered the exact same deal of cards. This is true of all our games.

Do you have anything in the works for the future?

Definitely. In the next two months we’ll be adding some great new features and announcing a partnership with a famous game application. We’re also moving into the mobile arena. We’re really looking forward to the year ahead.

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