August 18, 2017

Japan start public hearings on Integrated Resorts

Japan has started month long open public hearings on the future of casino resorts in the country with comments accepted on how the government will shape how casinos with operate in the country.

Following the hearings the debate will move to lawmakers on what will be allowed and what will not, given that half of the nation is still opposed to the opening of casino resorts the coming month will be very interesting on how they will be restricted.

Some of the topics that will be covered in the hearings are the limit on casino space in resorts, tax rates on operators, a potential ban on ATM’s in casino resorts to limit impulsive gambling and a limit on the amount of visits local residents can make to a casino.

International operators who are eyeing the Japanese gaming market are concerned that their growth could be limited if the government make too many restrictions towards gaming.

During the hearings casino operators are also allowed to make observations and comments on the process which is held in Tokyo.

Many involved in the gaming industry application process to build integrated resorts fear the potential $25 billion a year revenues in Japan could be dramatically lower if too many restrictions are imposed.

Playtech BGT Sports momentum continues with BoyleSports extension

Playtech BGT Sports has agreed a deal to extend distribution of its self-service betting terminals (SSBTs) with BoyleSports.

As part of the agreement, another 325 of the terminals will be deployed within the Irish operator’s 225-strong estate, doubling the number to over 1,000 in the last 12 months.

Individual shop SSBT density will increase once the additional terminals have been installed, with many of the operator’s best performing shops hosting in excess of five SSBTs as they look to build upon their operating objective to offer their customers an all-encompassing service through a variety of modern mediums.

Dr. Armin Sageder, CEO of Playtech BGT Sports, said: “Our partnership with BoyleSports has been very successful since our initial deployment, and our second extension to the deal this year proves the strength of the product for the Irish customer base.

“Many shops will host more than four terminals, which illustrates that customers are seeing the tangible benefits of the machines, which have been shown to greatly add incremental revenue and increased margins, without the threat of cannibalisation to the over-the-counter product.”

Jenna Boyle, Head of Retail at BoyleSports, said: “Customer feedback for the increased offering provided by PBS’ SSBTs has required us to greatly increase the number of them across our estate to keep up with demand.

They have helped us generate record-breaking SSBT football betting turnover, and the significant incremental revenue each one generates has led to us making the decision to further increase the average density in our shop in order to further enhance our market leading retail offering.”

This agreement comes just four months after a similar deal extension, which saw PBS provide an additional 200 terminals to BoyleSports.

August 17, 2017

The National Lottery found out the hard way how moronic consumers can be

You would think marketers would have worked it out by now. But many appear still to live in a perfect rose-tinted bubble in which communications are seen as a clarion call, brands are something that people want to fall in love with, and consumers are positive, upbeat citizens of the world who can’t wait to get inspired by purpose and consumption and buying stuff.

That’s how things probably look in most marketers’ Powerpoint presentations. But a dose of market orientation would change everything. You remember market orientation? It’s the core concept of marketing and can be neatly summarised with the mantra: ‘You are not the consumer’.

I prefer to take it further with clients and point out that they are, quite literally, the least qualified people on the planet to see their product or service the way that their consumers do. If you make the product you can’t see it from the customer perspective. Similarly, if you work in an agency your view of campaigns and brands and customers is total bollocks. You work from the comfortable part of the spear – the pointy end is totally different.


Campaigns are not clarion calls that unite a nation and change attitudes. They are little nudges that play on existing attitudes and interests and just do enough to turn the dial in our favour. Sure, we have our case studies where a single ad changed the world: Wonderbra, Guinness, Marmite and so on. But for these epic moments of impact there are thousands of channel-changing, page-turning, screen-swiping failures.

What’s more, these ads – the ones that interrupt the morning music or absorbing late night movie or interesting news feed – are despised. People hate advertising. They tolerate it but, offered a red button, would exterminate it tomorrow.

Brands aren’t loved by anyone either, other than the marketers who manage them. Most of these marketers live a virtual reality existence of brand love and corporate purpose. These marketers have forgotten that the fact they spend their lives working on a brand does not make up for the brief seconds of time it takes up in the consumer’s life.

Most brands are totally ignored. A few have a tiny dollop of salience, which proves enough to win market share. Still fewer have genuine meaning for customers. But this vision of consumers establishing relationships and love for brands is over-wrought marketing horseshit – the wet dreams of marketers that never actually hang out in the supermarket aisle, or listen in to call centre staff, or stand in the rain while consumers trundle past their hot new visual merchandising in that shiny big window that no-one notices.

Consumers are not consumers – only marketers think of them that way. They are people; people who view consumption, for the most part, as a mundane and necessary part of a much more interesting existence.

They don’t think that toilet paper is innovative. They don’t think their toothpaste says something about their personality. They don’t give a fuck about the brand purpose of the lightbulb they try, swearingly, to screw into the socket of their bathroom ceiling. And despite all the bright, aspirational, stock-art faces that populate marketing Powerpoint slides with the title ‘target consumer’, most of them are cynical and unpleasant. Many are total dickheads.

Now don’t take any of this to be negative. It’s realistic. And don’t assume that means campaigns and brands cannot work on consumers. Of course they can. But marketing enjoys a much harder task and less likely success rate than most would have you believe. A lot of it depends on not taking a rose-tinted view of everything, but using market orientation to understand the real situation.

Of course, that rarely happens. Instead we continue to ride our pink unicorns through the candy-coated world of marketing, building ridiculous campaigns that push for unrealistic brand goals from target consumers who do not actually exist outside of Powerpoint decks projected on a screen above a Starbucks somewhere off Charlotte Street.

Take, for example, the wonderful new work of The National Lottery and British Athletics at the London World Championships. In an attempt to “unite athletes and fans as one” the new “digitally led” campaign created an official hashtag for the British Athletics team: #Represent.

If you live in marketing land then the whole idea provides an inspirational, beautiful vision of athletics bringing together a nation and uniting people of all interests and orientations. You probably think the ad will work. You believe it will connect people to British athletics. You can see consumers being inspired by the #Represent campaign.

That’s why you also create a social media campaign in which these suddenly excited consumers can share their inspiration with others and demonstrate just how much they have united with British Athletics, as The National Lottery did. What could be better than a digital tool that allows people to select their favourite athlete, the one they connect with most, and add a personal message of inspiration and support on a board held by the sportsperson in question? And then, best of all, they can share it with other equally engaged fans and unite with them too. All in one massive, positive, entirely unrealistic vision conjured up by marketers who don’t get it.

What you get instead is a sudden reality shot from the real, cynical and entirely moronic world of the consumer. They don’t care about athletics. Or uniting with athletes. They really only care about having a laugh and being a dickhead.

And so the #Represent campaign became, for a few brief hours, before it was swiftly yanked from the public consciousness, a window into the gap between how marketing sees the world and how it really is. Rarely does the juxtaposition present itself so clearly.

Collected at the top are some of the (less offensive) messages that the #Represent campaign generated. I will not comment on them. Feel free to feel shock, anger, humour, disgust or any other emotion. But also feel the distinct separation of marketing and reality.

The messages are not pleasant but I encourage you to navigate them and take a long, hard whiff of market reality. Use them as strategic smelling salts the next time someone puts up an image of a smiling clip-art consumer, or talks about engagement or brand love or any of the other horseshit that pervades our industry.

Everything else might be wrong about the #Represent campaign, but the word itself is perfect.

How gambling has replaced beer on Premier League shirts this season

The season began with Emirates Airlines against Thai duty free giant King Power. Saturday’s games included the clash of the Malta-based bookmakers, ManBetX against Ope Sports, and another all-gambling clash when Kenya’s SportPesa take on England’s very own Bet365.

Premier League shirt sponsorship has changed beyond recognition since the days when Queens Park Rangers promoted Classic FM and Blackburn Rovers McEwan’s Lager. Just as the league itself has modernised, globalised, a magnet to foreign interest and foreign money, the shirt sponsorship market has followed.

This season will see just four UK-based brands on Premier League shirts, the lowest number in history. And, not unconnected to that, it will see nine bookmakers as shirt sponsors, one down from last season’s record of 10.

Looking at the changes in shirt sponsorship over time shows how clearly the market has changed. When the Premier League started, in 1992-93, the biggest sectors for shirt sponsorship were consumer electronics, with six deals, and beer, with four, according for research for The Independent by Ken Berard. Electronics and beer remained a steady presence through the 1990s before dwindling in the 2000s. Last season there was just one beer sponsor, Chang Beer on Everton’s shirts. They have now been replaced too, and this year, for the first time in Premier League history, there will be none.

The story of the second half of the Premier League era has been the story of gambling replacing alcohol as the sector that dominates its shirts. When BetFair first appeared on Fulham’s shirts in 2002-03 it felt quirky but now it is utterly commonplace.

Alcohol was synonymous with the first decade of the Premier League, which had Carling as its title sponsor from 1993 to 2001. But while beer partnerships are still part of the fabric of English football, those brands do not take quite the same direct approach as they used to. “The market reflects a changing dynamic among alcohol brands,” explained Tim Crow, CEO of leading sports marketing firm Synergy, “as beer brands have moved away from shirt sponsorship.”

The Portman Group is made of Britain’s leading alcohol producers and three years ago they brought out a new sponsorship code advising brands to be responsible in their sponsorship of sports, in part because they do not want to be seen to be marketing to children. Of course all Premier League teams have their own alcohol partners, but those brands have now stepped back from shirt sponsorship itself.

Into that space, gambling firms have moved. It is easy enough to see why it is an attractive move for them. With global viewing figures higher than ever, a shirt sponsorship is a fairly cheap way to reach millions of people all over the world. “The Premier League is a global advertising platform because of its reach,” Crow explains. “As a global advertising campaign for a brand, shirt sponsorship can be a cost-effective media buy.”

The big six clubs are so famous now that their shirt sponsorship deals are appropriately expensive. Chevrolet pay an estimated £53million to sponsor Manchester United’s shirts, Yokohama Tyres pay £40m each year to Chelsea. But while the top clubs charge a premium, for the smaller 14 it is a buyers’ market. Their shirts will cost in the mid-single figures of millions for each year. Not a big price to pay to be seen all over the world.

Online gambling is becoming bigger and bigger business, as anyone who watches football on television knows. In 2014 football revenues exceeded those for horse racing for online bookmakers in the UK and the gap has continued to grow since.

While only Bet365, who sponsor Stoke City and BetWay, who sponsor West Ham United, target the UK betting market, there has been a recent rise in investment from foreign bookmakers. They are far less interested in the UK markets, and more in the global audience the Premier League provides. That is why Sport Pesa, ManBetX, Fun88, LeTou, M88, Dafabet and Ope Sports – brands not especially well-known in the UK – are now seen on our televisions every weekend, during the segments of football that break up the adverts for British bookmakers.

While there is some criticism from the marketing industry that shirt sponsorship is a very “blunt instrument” ill-suited to reaching a targeted audience, there is little doubt that the sponsors themselves are happy with their investment. A source close to one such deal said that the sponsor found it to be “incredibly effective”, not just through the shirts on the players themselves, but the LED exposure around the pitch and even fans wearing the shirt all over the world.

But there is also a concern that, not for the first time, English football has sold out to the highest bidder. There are times when a Premier League match, whether live or on television, can look like an advertising channel for the gambling industry.

In June this year the Football Association ended its sponsorship deal with Ladbrokes, deciding that it was not appropriate for a governing body to have a gambling partner, in the light of the Joey Barton ban. In doing so the FA gave up an estimated £12m. That moment could yet mark a change in English football’s relationship with gambling money. Or, as the tide of cash comes in, and the clubs keep saying yes, it may not.

August 12, 2017

England Bans Betting in Soccer, but Not for ‘The Lizard’

They call Tony Bloom “The Lizard” in poker circles. But the Lizard is more than just a gambler.

For the first time in more than three decades, the soccer club Mr. Bloom owns, Brighton & Hove Albion, has been elevated to the Premier League. That means one of the best-known leagues in soccer now counts one of the most prominent soccer gamblers among its owners.

Star Lizard Consulting, which was set up by Mr. Bloom’s associates to provide support for his betting syndicate, operates like a quantitative hedge fund. About 200 employees — traders, software engineers and analysts — focus on helping Mr. Bloom’s syndicate make data-driven bets on soccer and other sports. He did well enough to purchase a controlling stake in Brighton for nearly $130 million in 2009, back when the struggling club was in League One, two notches below the Premier League.

Betting is ostensibly banned by the Football Association, the governing body of soccer in England, which recently banished a Premier League player for 18 months for gambling.

But the association told The New York Times it also has a set of unpublished rules for Mr. Bloom and other owners involved in betting.

Louisa Fyans, an F.A. spokeswoman, said in an email that when the association updated its rules in 2014, it took into account that some owners had significant gambling interests.

“These clubs would be materially impaired by the F.A.’s position on betting,” she said, so the association created “provisions whereby those individuals could continue to have both an interest in football clubs and in betting companies/entities but subject to very stringent rules and reporting obligations.”

The association declined to share those provisions. The Premier League did not respond to requests for comment.

In the United States, a man like Mr. Bloom, a hybrid of high-rolling gambler and sports team owner, is unheard-of, and would run afoul of the typical sports league bylaws. The appetite for mixing sports and gambling waned nearly a century ago, after eight baseball players were accused of trying to fix the World Series. Even allowing a major sports team, the Oakland Raiders, to move to Las Vegas represents a cultural shift in America.

But the blending of gambling and sport is accepted practice in Britain, where winnings aren’t taxed. Mr. Bloom’s ascension has caused barely a ripple, even though his soccer gambling and poker playing career has been well chronicled.

Part of the reason is that Mr. Bloom is not alone. Dozens of clubs are sponsored by betting firms. The family that owns a betting platform called Bet365 also owns the Stoke City football club, which plays in the Premier League. Matthew Benham, who runs a similar operation to Star Lizard called Smartodds, owns the Brentford football club, which plays in a league between League One and the Premier League.

Both Mr. Bloom and Mr. Benham are known for bringing a data-driven approach to their pursuits.

“Tony is a hugely mathematical and analytical type of person, so clearly he looks at numbers as a means of gaining confidence in decision-making,” said Paul Barber, Brighton’s chief executive, adding that his team had its own data and scouts apart from Star Lizard.

While his team’s players “are aware that Tony is a professional gambler,” they are more interested in his poker skills, Mr. Barber said, adding, “Some of them like to play cards.”

Chris Bonett, an integrity officer at U.E.F.A., European soccer’s governing body, described Mr. Bloom as an ally.

“I know there is an ethical argument, should betting companies be in sports, but we are in a free market,” he said.

Star Lizard and other organizations have provided information to the European governing body for years to help it detect fixed matches, and have formal agreements in place to do so.

“I think they are on our side, because a fixed match defrauds the betting company first and foremost,” Mr. Bonett said. “With Star Lizard, we have a relationship that has been going on quite some time.”

In a statement, Star Lizard said, “Tony’s betting is beyond reproach in terms of integrity,” adding that their knowledge “of how the betting markets should play out before and during the match are incredibly valuable to the anti-match-fixing work carried out by numerous football authorities.”

A representative of Star Lizard also said that Mr. Bloom did not bet on Brighton.

Sam Tomlinson, a partner at the London office of PricewaterhouseCoopers, said the firm had audited Star Lizard “to confirm their compliance with the applicable F.A. regulation” and filed those audits with the association. “That’s probably as much as I can say.”

Mr. Bloom, 47, grew up with the team. His late grandfather Harry Bloom served as its vice chairman in the 1970s.

“He also had a big love of gambling and betting,” Mr. Bloom said last year, at the opening of a stadium restaurant he named in his grandfather’s honor, adding, “Through the blood it came into me, and I was fortunate enough to be successful at that.”

Mr. Bloom, who is known as the lizard “because ice-cold blood allegedly flows through his veins,” as one article about him put it, has thrown himself into the club, even drinking with merrily chanting fans on a train after a match.

His gambling business is far less visible. Star Lizard operates like a hedge fund, but is not based in a stately Mayfair townhouse. Instead, Star Lizard can be found in the Camden Locks, in a bohemian neighborhood known for drug raids, food hawkers, throngs of tourists and a devotion to Amy Winehouse.

Mr. Bloom’s name doesn’t even appear in Star Lizard’s business filings. It does show up on an affiliated company, Blue Lizard Consulting, which he gave a nearly $30 million interest-free loan last year, records show.

Inside Star Lizard’s headquarters, there is a cafeteria that provides three meals a day, a gym, pool tables, a dart board and a library. There are traders and analysts, but the real focus is on data. A recent posting by the company’s recruitment manager suggests how much Star Lizard outguns normal bettors: “We are currently expanding and need a number of software developers and support staff with skills in C# / F# / Java / Python / Full Stack Development / DevOps,” it read.

A more recent entry is Stratagem, a London-based firm that operates a sports hedge fund.

“We take in lots of data,” said Charles McGarraugh, Stratagem’s chief executive and an ex-Goldman Sachs trader, from the prices on various betting lines to data from games underway to “less structured data from sports journalism or social media.”

“It’s like a firehose, and at the other end what you want to get out is a one or a zero for a buy or a sell.”

Much of the action for such bettors comes as odds shift even after a game has begun.

Mr. Bloom speaks very little about his betting strategy. His soccer team is another matter. While he said he now had to “make some tough decisions” in his ownership role, watching the games is “the same as when I was watching 40 years ago.”

“In those 90 minutes,” he said, “I just love it like any other fan.”

August 02, 2017

Bulgaria’s National Lottery picks Kambi for ‘High Expectations’ 7777.bg sportsbook

Nordic Nasdaq-listed industry sports betting platform provider Kambi Group Plc has confirmed that it has entered a services agreement with Bulgarian licensed gaming group National Lottery AD.

The agreement will see Kambi become lead betting platform and technology provisions supplier for National Lottery AD’s digital gaming brand 7777.bg, which is considered Bulgaria’s most popular lottery and gaming destination.

Last year, 7777.bg added a sports betting product to its portfolio, however, in order to meet growth objectives, National Lottery AD had decided to upgrade to Kambi’s sports betting provisions.

Licensed by the Bulgaria’s State Commission on Gambling, 7777.bg has an established customer base in excess of 2 million registered players.

Kristian Nylén, CEO of Kambi, commented on the partnership: “We are delighted to be partnering with the National Lottery AD in Bulgaria. We share the same vision, which is to supply the best sports betting to 7777.bg’s customers; one that is engaging, entertaining and safe”.

Nylén further notes National Lottery AD’s high ambitions for 7777.bg’s sports betting product, which aims to quickly become the lead online destination for Bulgarian betting consumers

“The 7777.bg brand is at the very heart of gaming in Bulgaria and is widely respected and popular across the numerous verticals in which it operates. We are very excited by 7777.bg’s growth plans to gain the number one position in all its verticals in Bulgaria. With the power of the Kambi Sportsbook and 7777.bg’s impressive customer base, together we will build a sustainable market leading proposition.” Nylén added

“The signing of the National Lottery AD fits well with Kambi’s strategy of targeting Tier 1 operators and market leaders in regulated markets, which can bring us and our operators increased market share and strong revenue growth.”

The deal represents Kambi’s second major client win in as many months. In June, the company announced a partnership with Colombia’s Corredor Empresarial S.A., Latin America’s largest private ‘games of chance’ network. Kambi will provide its scalable sportsbook solution to the operator’s new BetPlay brand.

Looking forward to the start of the partnership Milen Ganev, Marketing Director of National Lottery AD commented: “We are known to work with only the highest quality providers and Kambi is just that. We do this clearly and purely to serve our end customers and to give them the ultimate experiences they deserve. Together, we believe this partnership will support our mission to become the country’s leading provider in sports betting experiences.”

July 27, 2017

How much does Philippines’ Online Gambling Contribute Towards PAGCOR’s Revenues?

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) is a government-owned agency established in Metro Manila, Philippines, for the operation of floating casinos and slot clubs in major cities across the country. The agency also supervises and regulates private casinos, bingo parlors, and e-gaming cafes in the region. PAGCOR, as a corporation, is registered under the Office of the President of the Philippines.

Ever since it was established, PAGCOR has been establishing gaming pools and conducting casino games across the country. PAGCOR is expecting an amount of P6 billion as tax revenue from online gaming parlors. Moreover, the corporation is considering a move to limit the number of operators to 50 owing to a probable oversupply of players in the market. This also shows that online gaming has immense potential, with gamblers operating right from their home.

The casino operators and gaming regulators in the Philippines reported a one-quarter increase in profits in the beginning of 2017. But figures released by PAGCR reveal its revenue from online gambling increasing by 8.4 percent every year to P28.3 billion in the half year ending June 30. However, PAGCOR’s profit rose by 24.9 percent to P3 billion. PAGCOR’s contribution to the government treasury amounted to P13.4 billion.

The year-over-year increase in revenue was slower in the second quarter due to the temporary shutdown of gaming operations after the gun attack at the Resorts World Manila in June. However, the agency is now considering a complete transition to a regulatory role. But the casinos reported a revenue of P5.2 billion and slot machines a revenue of P6.1 billion. Income from electronic bingo was P4.4 billion but its licensed private casinos added a revenue of less than P9.5 billion.

The Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) reported income of less than P1.1 billion in the first quarter. PAGCOR hopes that the POGO program would generate an income of $120 million eventually. The tax rate on revenues from RNG games remains pegged at 2% but operators would have to pay a sum of $150K as Monthly Minimum Guarantee Fee (MGF).

The POGO program was initiated as a part of the government’s efforts to foist tighter supervision over operations, which were overlooked by authorities in the Philippines’ special economic zones. PAGCOR would also be deploying monitoring teams to ensure that POGO licensees comply with regulatory requirements.

Aspiring Cop Caught Stealing $125,000 Worth of Chips in the CCTV of Melbourne’s Crown Casino

A man by the name Gunawan Akay had been recently caught by a CCTV camera, stealing over $125,000 in casino chips from the Crown Casino in Melbourne. Following trials in the local court, Akay was sentenced to community correction.

The 38-year-old guy was slapped with a sentence of two years for robbing the casino off $125,000 worth of gaming chips in December last year. Akay later pleaded guilty in the court of law for attempting to grab 25 chips of $5000 each while playing in the Maple Room, an exclusive gambling room featured at the Crown Casino.

The CCTV footage revealed that while the casino employee was busy dealing the hand, Akay dexterity reached out to a pile of casino chips and grabbed a handful before escaping from the room and trying to flee in a taxi.

Claire Quin, the County Judge, stated that Akay had been struggling with a grave financial crisis that might have been the motivation behind carrying out this unsophisticated crime. While sentencing Akay to the two-year community correction order, the judge announced that the former had grabbed the gambling chips from a table in the Maple Room and rushed out of the casino in a bid to flee.

Sources reveal that a terribly guilty Akay lost nearly all of his gambling chips in his attempt to run away and eventually tossed the remaining three chips into the Yarra River in a state of excessive panic. A member of the Gold Signature Crown Rewards, Akay was a regular at the Crown Casino and had been playing with his partner’s cash for over six hours when he planned the doomed attempt at stealing the gambling chips.

In a series of events that led him to commit the amateur crime, Akay had recently witnessed a bank foreclosure on a majority of his properties and was trying to make some money in order to ensure that he and his girlfriend did not have to leave their home due to eviction.

Following the completion of the trial proceedings, Judge Quin remarked that Akay had been terribly contrite and had acknowledged his accountability for the crime, showing that he might have great prospects at early rehabilitation. As per the order, Akay will have to perform supervised work for a total of 150 hours during his correctional stay.

El Gordo

IIn the early 2000s, Costis Mitsotakis of Greece met a Spanish girl named Sandra del Pozo. They fell in love, and not long after, bought a small RV, left Greece and headed to Spain. Their destination — Sodeto, a town in the northeast corner of the country, where Sandra’s grandmother lived.

Sodeto is one of about 300 little farming villages that the dictator Francisco Franco built in Spain in the 1950s, in an effort to bring people and agriculture to isolated places. All the towns built during this time look similar, and Sodeto is no exception — there’s a church in the center of town and one bar, which is also the one restaurant, which is also the one place to hang out. The houses are the color of sand, and each has a red-tiled roof. About 200 people live in the town.

Sodeto is not the kind of place that makes news. But all that changed in 2011 when almost everyone in this little village won a piece of the biggest lottery jackpot in Spain. By chance, Costis Mitsotakis had found himself in the luckiest town in the world.

In the United States, as far we know, an entire town has never won the lottery. Sometimes large groups do win together, but more often than not, lotteries jackpots in the U.S. are divided by just a few people.

In Spain, they do the lottery differently. First of all, it’s a country-wide obsession — about 75% of Spaniards buy a ticket. There’s more than one lottery in Spain, but the one that Spaniards are the most passionate about is “La Lotería de Navidad” (“The Christmas Lottery”). This lottery has taken place every year since 1812.

For better or worse, lotteries have long been considered by governments as useful ways to raise funds for public programs. But lotteries were, and still are, thought to be regressive taxes on the poor. Karl Marx called them a sinister instrument of the state, designed to dupe the poor into believing there was an easy way out of poverty. The church found lottery play to be blasphemous and superstitious. In 1826 the British outright banned the lottery for nearly a hundred years.

And in 1862, Spain responded to the criticisms as well: by re-designing their national lottery so that it wouldn’t take as much money from the poor. The government thought if the they set the price of tickets high, only rich people would buy them. But that’s not what happened. People began “syndicate” playing, or playing in groups. The lottery became more popular than ever.

In the Christmas Lottery, any number from 00000 to 99,999 can win. It’s very expensive to own an entire number, so organizations will buy a share of a number and then sell off even smaller shares to individuals — five euro shares, two euro shares, etc. Thousands of people may own small fractions of the same number. The smaller the share you have, the less you get of the total jackpot if your number should win.

Making it expensive to own a number outright has turned the lottery into a huge social event. Local organizations sell tickets at a markup for fundraisers. Most Spaniards end up with a stack of tickets — all different tiny shares of different numbers that they’ve been talked into buying.

The numbers go on sale in the summer for the drawing on December 22nd. It is held in Madrid, in the same theater and the same way every year. There’s a stage, holding two giant golden orbs, containing balls with the numbers and prize amounts. After the balls drop, two children sing the numbers and prize amounts in a kind of Gregorian chant. The whole event lasts for hours.

Everyone waits for the biggest prize of the day – “El Gordo” ( the fat one). The “El Gordo” prize is often worth close to a billion dollars. As soon as the El Gordo-winning number is announced, reporters scramble to find out in what part of Spain it was sold.

And on December 22, 2011, it was the people of Sodeto, Spain who held the winning number.

The winning tickets had been sold all over Sodeto by The Housewives Association — a group of women who host parties and activities in town. The association sold tickets, door to door, for six euros. Five euros for the lottery ticket, one euro for their fundraising.

Maria-Carmen Lambea from the Association had chosen the winning number. When she heard that they had won El Gordo, she started calling friends. No one could believe it. Soon everyone was gathered on the plaza. Each six euro ticket the house-wives had sold was worth 100,000 euros.

Ana, the bartender had won, Paco, the farmer, and his wife Marisol won. Rosa, the mayor of the town had won. It seemed that every single resident of the small town of Sodeto had won a piece of El Gordo. The people of Sodeto were not the only ones to win on the number 58,268 in 2011. A few thousand other people also had small shares of the number — mostly scattered around in towns nearby. The total jackpot that year for EL Gordo was about 750 million euros, but it was divided by thousands of people. In Sodeto – the people who bought more tickets got more money, and everyone got at least 100,000 euros.

Everyone, except one. Costis Miksotaksis. Somehow the housewives had missed him when they went knocking on doors.



Six years later, Costis still lives in Sodeto. He and Sandra have parted ways, but remain friends. When we asked if he felt any regret or jealousy, he laughs. “No, nothing,” he says — because Costis feels he got something that day too. He’s a filmmaker and he’s been documenting how the town has responded to this sudden wealth. He believes the town has become a little more insular since the win — more focused on the nuclear family and less on the community as a whole.

But Maria-Carmen doesn’t believe the town has changed that much. Sodeto is a town of farmers, and some of them installed new irrigation systems, or bought new tractors. Some people added modest additions to their homes, but nothing extravagant. It’s been a wonderful thing for everyone in this little working-class town, says Maria-Carmen, to live without the worry of debt.

And that’s the thing about this syndicate style lottery: unlike the Powerball Jackpot in the United States, which heaps hundreds of millions on one or two winners, the money from the Christmas Lottery gets divvied up among thousands of people.

The people who win El Gordo don’t generally win enough to buy mansions and yachts. They win enough to pay off their debts and buy a Honda civic. The lottery brings wealth to a whole geographic area, and distributes it relatively evenly, at least among those lucky enough to have a ticket.

Economists have long struggled to figure out why people play the lottery. It’s not a rational investment The odds of winning the big jackpots are terrible — worse than any other form of gambling. But in Spain, it’s pretty obvious why people play this lottery. It’s the social thing to do. You buy because you don’t want to be that one guy who doesn’t win. You don’t want to be Costis. The lottery organizers actually exploit this fear in their advertising each year.

The Housewives Association, now officially called the “Women’s Association,” continues to choose a number each year for the Christmas Lottery.

The women used to knock on doors for months to sell the tickets, but now the people come to them, and tickets sell out in a few days. “They were lucky once and they could be again,” people say, and no one wants to be left out.

July 26, 2017

UKGC launches new tool for customer complaints

The UK Gambling Commission announced the release of Resolver, a tool which will enable consumers to file gambling-related complaints.



From 1 August, gambling consumers will be able to use Resolver, the online support tool, to make complaints related to gambling.

Resolver is a free, independent tool for consumers. It provides information about the issue the consumer wants to complain about, and support to help the consumer write emails and letters of complaint.

Resolver is not an intermediary, and doesn’t act on the consumer’s behalf – but it does help the consumer to make their complaint in a structured way, and to make informed choices about what actions to take.

This can help businesses to deal with complaints more efficiently when they receive them, and manages customer expectations about their complaint issue.

Resolver also helps the consumer to store all the complaint information in one place, and acts as an email service. This means the consumer’s complaint will be sent from a Resolver email address, rather than the customer’s usual email address. We expect operators to accept complaints customers send via a Resolver email address just as they would from other email services.