Gambling magnate proffers $1 billion for peace agreement

Avi Shaked, an Israeli Internet tycoon behind gambling conglomerate 888 Holdings, made an unprecedented declaration to Reuters this week. He said he has arranged for $1 billion to be contributed if the leaders of Israel and Palestine sit down and reach a peace agreement.

The billionaire Shaked, 53, and his brother Aaron are the major shareholders in 888 Holdings, the parent company of notable gambling Web sites and Pacific Poker.

In an interview with Reuters last Wednesday, Shaked said he has an international consortium of financiers ready and willing to contribute the money immediately if a deal can be reached.

An initial payment of $100 million will go to the Palestinians if their prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, and Israel's Ehud Olmert begin talks.

"My initiative is to both leaders," Shaked said in the interview. "Please sit down, start negotiations and try to reach an agreement."

"The moment that both sides will reach an agreement, this private equity that I am offering will immediately invest $1 billion. The first 10% will be invested immediately when the negotiations start."

The offer comes in the midst of recent reports of a takeover of 888 Holdings by U.K. bookmaker Ladbrokes, Plc.

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