LONDON - PokerStars, the world's second-biggest online poker company after PartyGaming, has shelved plans for a £1.6 billion ($4.6 billion) London flotation early next year.

The decision last week by Congress to outlaw internet gaming across the US has decimated likely revenues across the industry, wiped billions off the share prices of companies, and thrown the future independence of smaller players into doubt.

Bankers at HSBC and Dresdner Kleinwort had been working towards bringing PokerStars, which is 75 per cent owned by the Israeli Scheinberg family, to investors in the spring. A flotation is not now expected until 2008, if at all.

One sector analyst said: "In many industries, if income was halved overnight they would be sunk. But in this business, where overheads are so low, they are merely badly hurt rather than crucified."

Meanwhile smaller players, such as WorldGaming, Absolute Poker and Gaming VC, were now thought more likely to favour consolidation.

- INDEPENDENT