Youbet.com Tries Rallying Investors

Building investors' confidence seemed to be the goal of an Internet conference held Thursday afternoon by Youbet.com chairman Robert Fell.

He did not offer much new information about his embattled online pari-mutuel wagering company, which lost 45% of its stock value in four days last week. Instead, he repeatedly stressed that Youbet.com has the cash necessary to accomplish its goals, its products will be successful because of superior technology, and that the company has the resources and talent to stay competitive.

Confidence in the market place is an important commodity to Youbet.com. Last week the company's stock dropped 45% in four days after the company announced the layoff of 29% of its workforce and the resignation of its president. The stock flirted with its 52-week low of 37 cents on Thursday before rising slightly to close at 50 cents.

"The market will do what it does," Fell said, dismissing the drop in stock price as out of his control. "We have a platform that is second to none, and we have the capital to execute our plans."

Fell said Youbet.com has about $26.5 million in cash, more than enough to launch next year a new Web-based horse racing site and a separate sports wagering and information site.

"With the Web-based system, we believe we can double our subscribers and double our revenue," he said.

Youbet.com currently issues its own software on a CD, and a customer must load the software in order to gain access to the online system. Fell said the Web-based site will make it easier for people to become customers.

Youbet.com has spent $2.5 million developing its sports site. The site will provide sports wagering for Nevada residents, and for everyone else offer contests for points and prizes.

"We have technology that works, and we're staying ahead," Fell said during the 24-minute conference. "And whatever platform dominates in the future -- whether it is PCs or Play Stations -- we will have the technology to address that platform."

Besides its stock woes, state officials have created trouble for Youbet.com. The New Jersey Racing Commission last week announced that it was illegal for residents to place bets over the Internet or with out-of-state account wagering providers. The commission's decision immediately reduced Youbet.com's number of betting subscribers by 11%, or 1,650 people. Youbet.com says it has 15,000 subscribers. Fell said he will not sue the commission even though he believes the suit would be successsful.

"It is a decision of not fighting a battle without national clarification on the issues," he said.

Youbet.com also took a hit from California Gov. Gray Davis who vetoed an account-wagering bill passed by legislators. Fell said he expects the legislation will be reintroduced next year and will become law.

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