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Will a million dollars save backgammon or destroy it?
The 1st Portuguese open backgammon championship has just ended in Estoril Portugal; the prize money was Euros 15,000. A reasonable amount of money for an event that reflects the growing influence that backgammon is developing in the mainstream gambling arena.

In January 2007 that mainstream respectability is set to disappear forever with the launch of the first Million Dollar backgammon prize, sponsored by Party Gammon. Some champions have already booked their seats for this backgammon extravaganza, including reigning world Champion Philip Vischjager and backgammon supremo Nack Ballard.

The event will be televised and then beamed across the world, and will be held at the famous Atlantis Resort on the sumptuous Paradise Island in The Bahamas, from the 21st-25th January, 2007. One hundred and twenty players from around the globe will compete for this prize, including online qualifiers and players who have bought directly into the tournament.

The $500,000 minimum guaranteed first prize of the PartyGammon.com Million is likely to exceed this year's World Championship top prize five times over, with the rest of the $500,000 being distributed to other winning participants.

Qualification to this event costs as little as $2.50 online at www.partygammon.com and in qualifying for the 'big one' players also win a superb package worth $12,500. This includes a $10,000 buy-in for the main event, a 5-night stay in the luxurious Atlantis resort, as well as $800 to cover travel expenses, all for just$ 2.50. The one million dollar event is set to become backgammon's most glamorous event ever, surpassing all other events by miles.

Whatever the hype Party Gammon's One Million Dollar tournament takes backgammon out of the realms of parochial gaming into the super game.

And this is why I believe careful thought is needed. In introducing this event Party Gammon has shattered the image that backgammon has within its own fraternity. Backgammon has over the past few years changed out of all proportions its board game identity to a much more visual concept due mainly to the introduction of backgammon online, bringing together an audience of potentially millions of new players to the game.

Purists will still prefer to play the age old board game to the web based technologies, but who can stop progress?. The problem is with the one million dollar prize, is that this is not progress per se, it is commercialization on a grand scale, that includes lavish advertising, promotions marketing and PR all good tools of the ad men and marketeers.

Whilst the objective is not wrong, the purpose being to promote the game to a wider audience the way Party Gammon has squeezed all other backgammon providers out of the game by offering this prize smacks of a single monopoly, as no other online companies are involved.

It gives the impression rightly or wrongl, that Party Gammon is backgammon.

In creating the one million dollar tournament has Party Gammon created a precedent that all other companies now have to respond too, to stay in the race By offering a prize of one million dollars will this diminish the validity of other prizes and competitions such as the Portuguese Open and the World Championships?. Or will the one million dollar event backfire on Party Gammon with little follow up, is this for Party Gammon a gamble too far.

In January we will find out.

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