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The Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) Endorses Merlin’s, Wild Bull® Electronic Scoring Steel Dart Game

Date: 06/22/2006

United Kingdom/USA: The Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) has officially endorsed Merlin Technologies’ automatic electronic scoring, steel-tip dart game called the Wild Bull®.

Merlin’s Wild Bull game features automatic electronic scoring of steel-tip darts on a traditional bristle dartboard. This coin-operated game allows publicans (tavern and pub owners), operators and dart leagues to increase steel-tip dart participation, promotions and to begin generating additional revenues.

The PDC, whose mission is to promote televised professional darts world wide, hosts some of the most prestigious professional World darting competitions and represents the top professional darters in the world, most notably 13-time World Champion, Phil The Power Taylor. The PDC has built a reputation as the leading innovator of staged professional darts tournaments. Five ranking tournaments are staged live on Sky Sports each year, broadcasting to a global audience of more than 300 million viewers. The PDC’s commitment to spreading professional darts worldwide led to breaking professional darts in the United States with the first annual Las Vegas Desert Classic in 2002. This year, the PDC introduced a second professional tournament in the U.S., The World Series of Darts, which is scheduled to air on ESPN in prime time with 8 one-hour shows beginning July 18, 2006. The first professional PDC tournament in China was staged in 2004, and the PDC will continue developing new World professional televised events ensuring the sport receives the recognition and respect professional darts deserves.

What does the PDC see in the Wild Bull dart game?

The PDC has recognized the Wild Bull game as “The World’s only electronic dart game officially endorsed by the PDC,” states Steve Pope, Vice President of Merlin. “The PDC represents the pinnacle of talent for the sport of darts, or what I view as the top of the triangle.” But both the PDC and Merlin Technologies realize that the growth of the sport of steel-tip darts is with amateur players, the largest portion or base of that triangle, and with those who have yet to pick up a set of darts and be captured by the intrigue of the game. As the PDC represents the top of the triangle, and Merlin seeks to grow the base, their partnership is one based on a shared vision for the future.

Merlin Technologies’ target audience are those who frequent taverns and pubs who are not yet playing steel-tip darts either because they have yet to find a fun atmosphere and/or darting community for them to get started in or they haven’t been introduced to the games and scoring. While there are many great steel-tip organizations and clubs, there are still a few gaps in the network that leave future darters unattended. Merlin feels there are also those who currently play organized steel-tip darts, but have converted to soft-tip darts due to the strong promotion of the amateur ranks of that sport, the larger dart target and the convenience of electronic scoring.

On the topic of the Wild Bull benefiting soft-tip league operators, Scott Schroeder, Merlin’s new VP and General Manager is already working with several companies that see steel dart leagues as an extension of their other league promotions, including soft-tip darts. “Until recently, there hasn’t been a product to provide a coin-op business model to offset the costs of recruiting and managing steel dart leagues,” Schroeder stated. “After 20 years of well-coordinated soft-tip dart promotion by many locations, operators, distributors, manufacturers, and associations, there remain many pubs, regions of this country, and parts of the world where the traditional steel-tip game is preferred. That speaks to the convictions of the players and the market opportunity for amusement operators,” he added. “Today Merlin can offer these players and league operators with an automatic scoring, steel-tip dart machine combined with the endorsement of the PDC. Given the national television spotlight that the PDC is bringing to steel darts on ESPN starting in July, this is an extremely attractive time for operators to consider expanding their league promotions into steel darts,” Schroeder concluded.

Steel-tip leagues are also included in Merlin’s target market. “We have begun working with many steel leagues that are already successful without our game,” says Pope. “However, while they may be thriving, they still appreciate that many players are playing on electronic soft-tip games, due to the fun and convenience of electronic scoring. Our Wild Bull game, with electronic scoring, makes the transition of the soft-tip players to steel-tip leagues easy and familiar. For these reasons, steel leagues in the U.S. and overseas have begun adding the Wild Bull games for separate electronic steel-tip nights.” Merlin claims that this has helped steel-tip leagues attract new players and add more value for existing members. Pope concludes, “When it comes to steel-tip leagues, we are NOT trying to change what they do now, only to add to it.”

Roger Mahan, President of the Spanish Dart Federation (FEDE), adds, “Steel-tip darts has always been a free sport. While that is great for those steel-tip players, many leagues (with the exception of some European countries) have never had the membership numbers nor thrived like soft-tip dart leagues have. For example, in Spain, FEDE’s soft-tip league has 20,000 members while the largest steel-tip league in Spain has less than a thousand players!” Now with the Wild Bull, coin operated, electronic scoring steel-tip game, Mahan feels he can financially justify adding a steel-tip league to his Federation. Mahan concludes, “I can now have a Wild Bull steel-tip game in a location alongside a Loewen soft-tip game, and both darters are catered to. This is good for the players and the sport. I can see why the PDC would want to partner with Merlin and support an emerging technology.”

Merlin’s Distributors seem to agree that the key to growing the electronic side of the sport is by re-investing in promotion of the sport. Trevor Hughes, Director of Darts For Fun® and the Wild Bull distributor in Australia states, “None of the operators we work with in promoting the Wild Bull are simply going to take money out of the game and walk away. Instead, everyone involved is going to use some of that revenue to help fuel the future of steel-tip darting. To be successful in the long run, we must add ‘value’ for the players, through promotion. This mentality is passed down from Merlin to all of their distributors.”

As the PDC looks to emerging markets worldwide, to grow its professional base and the audience for it, they appreciate that some of their member countries may enjoy having an electronic scoring steel-tip game to get new players started in steel-tip darts. Tim Darby, Chief Executive of the PDC explains, “When I look at a countries like Japan or China; which are growth markets for the PDC, I believe their younger players love gadgets and are used to the convenience and pace that electronic scoring represents. Having a tool like the Wild Bull will help get these players throwing steel-tip darts.” Darby also envisions a select few of these younger players getting better and could someday move up to a competitive platform where they can compete alongside a Phil Taylor. “We’re looking long term for what is good for darts and the PDC,” concludes Darby.

For more information about the Wild Bull or the PDC’s endorsement, please contact:

Steve Pope
Merlin Technologies, Inc.
407 Stevens St.
Geneva, IL 60134
Phone 800-669-9597
International +773-342-9127
Tim Darby
Professional Darts Corporation Ltd.
Mascalls, Mascalls Lane, Brentwood, Essex, CM14 5LJ
Tel:  +44 (0) 8712 501180 
Fax: +44 (0) 1277 359935

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