As part of a £100 million pound investment in new media, Ladbrokes, the gambling division of the Hilton Group, has announced the launch of two online betting sites.

The company also announced plans to link-up with a number of telecom and new-media companies.

The first betting Web site, bet.co.uk, was launched yesterday with an introductory tax-free offer, and focuses on professional soccer matches in the UK. Ladbrokes.com, meanwhile, will launch next week as a global tax-free gambling site, offering betting in a variety of currencies and languages for numerous sporting events.

Whereas the tax-free offer is limited on the bet.co.uk site, the Ladbrokes.com site will remain tax-free, the company said. The Web site will be launched in English, Chinese (Cantonese), Italian and Spanish, with more languages to be added this year, Ladbrokes said.

Ladbrokes has also signed partnership agreements Cable & Wireless (C&W), Open Interactive, Telewest Communications and Ericsson, the company said in the statement. Financial details of the agreements were not disclosed.

Open the bets Beginning in August, Ladbrokes will offer interactive betting over Open Interactive's digital, satellite-based interactive television service, the company said. Open Interactive is owned by British Telecommunications, British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB), HSBC Holdings and Matsushita.

The betting service over Open, which is aired by BSkyB, is scheduled to launch in time for the start of the 2000/2001 football season, Ladbrokes said. From there, Open and Ladbrokes will expand on the sporting events available to bet on, the company said.

Ladbrokes has also signed digital TV betting agreements with C&W and Telewest. Betting services with C&W will begin in the second quarter of this year. Starting in March, Telewest's digital cable customers will also be able to use the "Active Digital" TV, Internet and phone services for interactive betting, the company said.

Both the C&W and Telewest agreements offer users fixed betting odds on a range of sporting events, Ladbrokes said.

Ladbrokes also plans to add gambling services over WAP (wireless application protocol)-enabled mobile phones. The company said it is working with Ericsson to bring the WAP service to gamblers, with trials to begin in the next few weeks.

Furthermore, Ladbrokes is in discussions to bring betting to the upcoming, third-generation UMTS (universal mobile telecommunications system) mobile handsets, the company said.