December 27, 2008

William Hill has taken a decision to withdraw from Bulgaria

Today i receive bad news. William Hill want to ban bulgarian users. This was my first online bookmaker, where i place my first online bet and my first bet from my phone. Bye, bye i will miss you.

“We regret to inform you that William Hill has taken a decision to withdraw all of our online betting and gaming services for all residents of Bulgaria and will be unable to offer them to residents of Bulgaria for the foreseeable future.

We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience this may cause you; however this decision has been taken for legal reasons beyond our control.

We will be suspending all accounts of all residents of Bulgaria from 30th December 2008. After this date, you will not be able to use your account to access our online sportsbook or gaming rooms.”

December 22, 2008

PartyGaming co-founder pleads guilty to Wire Act charges, sentencing set for 2010

PartyGaming co-founder Anurag Dikshit pleaded guilty in New York yesterday to charges under the Wire Act and to operating an “internet gambling business which offered casino and poker games, among other games of chance, to customers” in the US from around 1997 to October 2006 and to using communications “wires to transmit bets and wagering information in interstate commerce”.

Dikshit posted bail on a US$15m personal recognisance bond, his travel will be limited to his main residence of Gibraltar and New York but he may also be able to travel to India and the European Union.

He has agreed to forfeit US$300m to the US authorities and has already paid US$100m of the amount, with another US$100m to be paid in three months and the final US$100m prior to his sentencing on 16 December 2010 or on September 30 2009.

According to the Financial Times, the two-year gap between his hearing and sentencing means he will be able to show he is co-operating with the US authorities and will be unlikely to face a jail term of up to two years.

December 21, 2008

888 to launch three new bingo networks and six white label partners

888 is to further expand its bingo operations, signing agreements to launch three new bingo networks for third party companies. Two of these will be focused on the UK, the third will be a localised Spanish offering.

The additional networks will bolster 888’s already considerable presence in the online bingo space. The operator already runs seven networks in addition to its own branded offering, including Mirror Bingo, Foxy Bingo, and Wink Bingo.

888 also hosts a number of bingo skins via its Globalcom network, and 888 also revealed agreements have been signed to add six new partners to this network.

888 has increasingly turned to the rapidly growing bingo vertical as a means of developing and diversifying its revenue lines.

888 chief executive Gigi Levy said: “These agreements and new initiatives represent acceleration in 888's bingo activity, the fastest growing segment in the online gaming industry. They are set to make a significant addition to our bingo business not only in revenues but also in geographic presence.”

The new networks are set to launch in the first quarter of 2009, subject to final regulatory sign-off.

December 20, 2008

WorldSpreads Signs White Label Deal with Victor Chandler

Following the launch of its new online casino last week, Victor Chandler International (VCI) is further expanding its online offering with the addition of financial spread betting through an exclusive agreement with WorldSpreads Group plc.

Scheduled for launch in January 2009, will provide VCI's customers with access to more than 4,000 financial market instruments such as stock indices, currencies, commodities and individual shares.

“I personally have a great passion for the financial markets and am delighted that we are able to add this product to our offering,” said Victor Chandler. “We feel that we share with WorldSpreads much of our culture of committed customer support and creative marketing and I am excited by the prospects for our joint venture together.”

Michael Carlton, Chief Executive of Victor Chandler International, added: “Our agreement with WorldSpreads enables us to offer what we believe will be a very popular additional product for our customers to enable them to access the exciting world of the financial markets. Further, we believe that the very high levels of media attention currently afforded to the volatility in the prices of financial products support the timing of our entry into this market.”

What price peace of mind for Party?

The news of a possible settlement between PartyGaming founder Anurag Dikshit and the US authorities in relation to the poker operator’s activities in the US prior to the US internet gambling ban of 2006 will come as a relief for investors and those looking at the possibility of some major merger and acquisition activity next year.

It is understood that Dikshit found the pressure too much to bear over the past two years and wanted to be able to carry out his business and charity work in India with a clear mind.

But what of PartyGaming, how much will the company end up paying as settlement to the US authorities? The US authorities are looking to get between 50% and 100% of the profits retained by the company now. Party currently has US$150m on its balance sheet and industry observers estimate that the amount of the financial penalty will be between U$50m and US$100m.

Analysts at Deutsche Bank said the latest “developments should be taken positively for PartyGaming (and other operators in discussions with the DoJ)”, as it showed the DoJ was willing to reach settlements while investors now had a clear idea of the financial implications [“‘significantly lower’ than $300m =c.48p/share”] of dealing with the firm.

Analysts at Daniel Stewart said: “Critically, the independence of talks should ensure that a settlement can be made.” Certainly, the tone of the firm’s statement this morning was much clearer as to the likelihood of a settlement with the US authorities. It said: “The Company's discussions with the DoJ have made good progress and it is currently negotiating the final terms of a possible settlement with the DoJ.”

Adding the usual caveat that “no guarantee that an agreement will be reached between the Company and the DoJ”, such a statement will be viewed optimistically by the online gaming sector and a settlement announcement in the first quarter of 2009 may well be on the cards.

With potential regulation of online gaming in the US in the offing, there is a possibility that the first half of next year will mark the start of the long-awaited consolidation investors and the industry have been waiting for for so long.

December 19, 2008

Moore bets, Muscat fined, Brebner banned

Former Socceroo captains Kevin Muscat and Craig Moore, both A-League captains, and recovering gambling addict Grant Brebner — Muscat's Melbourne Victory teammate — were yesterday hit with a combination of match bans and fines after being implicated in the league's first betting scandal.

Muscat and Moore bet trifling amounts and not against their own team — unlike Brebner, who had a small bet in an Asian Champions League game this year and stood to win a paltry amount if Victory drew or lost to Thai opponent Chonburi. Melbourne lost 3-1 in the match played in Bangkok.

For all three, the punishment will hurt less than the shame that their transgression has produced. Brebner copped a four-match ban, with two games suspended, and a $5000 fine, with $2000 suspended, while Muscat and Moore were hit with the same monetary fines.

Victory football operations manager Gary Cole last night said the club would stand by the two players and would take no further action against Muscat or Brebner.

"He (Muscat) won't be sacked from his role as assistant coach or captain," said Cole, who said Brebner would receive ongoing counselling for his gambling problems.

"Kevin Muscat has been and continues to be a fantastic leader for Melbourne Victory Football Club on and off the field.

"He has made a mistake and he has apologised and he's extremely remorseful. He's a tough man and this is going to make him stronger. Whilst this is very uncomfortable we will all be stronger."

After the Victory lost to Newcastle Jets 4-2 last night, Muscat said: "I have made an error, stuck my hand up and I will take it on the chin. It's certainly not something I will walk away from. I addressed the team last night in a brief meeting and expressed what was going on. The first I heard was yesterday. I thought it was important they heard it from me not in the paper.

"I have had one betting account ever, that was two weeks ago, and I have made one bet, to the stake of $100. Whether that was $100 or $100,000 … I realise it was a mistake."

Earlier, Muscat and Brebner issued public apologies.

"I accept and apologise for my actions," Muscat said. "I have clearly done the wrong thing and accept the sanction that has been handed down by Football Federation Australia.

"I am captain of our club and realise I have a responsibility to the club, my teammates and our fans. I apologise profusely and can assure you all that I have seen the error of my ways. It was a momentary lapse and a clear error in judgement."

Brebner said: "I apologise to my club, teammates, our fans, my family and FFA (Football Federation Australia) for my actions. I want to make sure everyone is aware that I haven't involved anyone else. I understand and accept the consequences that come with my actions."

Melbourne Victory chief executive Geoff Miles said the players were "very remorseful and regretful" for their actions.

"While the club is disappointed, we will support our players 100 per cent through this situation. Kevin is an outstanding leader of our club, however … he has made an error, which he realises was totally unacceptable.

"In Grant's case, it has been well documented that he has had an ongoing issue with gambling.

"The club has always supported Grant in addressing this issue, and it is unfortunate that this breach of the code of conduct has occurred."

For all three players, experienced professionals in their 30s, the placing of the bets, for relatively trivial amounts, can at best be described as thoughtless, at worst stupid.

It calls into question their judgement and brings unwelcome publicity to their sport.

Muscat made one bet and lost $100 on a match not involving Melbourne, while Moore bet a total of $600, winning $72, on two matches not involving the Roar.

Brebner's case was viewed more seriously, and not just because he has a long track record of gambling problems in his native Britain.

He placed bets on two matches, including the Victory's loss to Chonburi.

From the bets placed on that match, Brebner collected $540 for picking the number of goals scored in the game. He also had $2.48 on Chonburi either beating or drawing with Melbourne. The Scotsman was not in the squad for the match, nor was he in Thailand with the team.

The wagers came to light after betting agency Betfair supplied information to FFA under an "integrity management agreement".

The chief executive of the Professional Footballers Association, Brendan Schwab, said it was important for FFA to "send a clear message that betting on any form of football is unacceptable".

FFA chief executive Ben Buckley said Brebner's case was deemed serious enough to warrant a suspension.

"For Kevin and Craig, we felt the financial penalty was warranted and appropriate, but we think there is a difference when a player wagers on their own team, and hence (Grant) was issued a suspension," he said.

Buckley said the suspensions and fines should serve as a warning to players.

"It's a very clear and a very strong message that betting on any form of football is unacceptable," he said.

"(It) has no place in the game. It won't be tolerated."

Buckley said he did not believe that betting was a widespread problem in the A-League.

Queensland Roar said its star defender had made an honest mistake and there were no sinister implications from the bets.

Brebner, who began his career at Manchester United after leaving his native Edinburgh, came to Australia in 2006 to try to relaunch his personal and professional life after succumbing to gambling demons.

He was a crucial member of Victory's title-winning team and this week signed a one-year contract extension.

At one stage he developed a $6200-a-week gambling addiction and in 2004 spent a month in a rehabilitation clinic run by Sporting Chance, the charity founded by recovered alcoholic and former England and Arsenal captain Tony Adams.

December 12, 2008

Unibet Signs Sponsorship Deal with Valencia CF

Unibet and Spain’s Valencia football club will today unveil a title sponsorship deal for the remainder of the 2008/09 season at the Estadio Mestalla, with a view towards extending the deal into 2011.

Under the agreement, Unibet's logo will be branded on Valencia's official team shirt for all games in La Liga, the Spanish premier division, as well as Copa del Rey games and friendly matches. Unibet will also increase its brand exposure with a logo presence on the team's practice clothing and second team official shirts.

Additionally, Unibet will have a brand presence on LED displays around the stadium, as well as on Valencia CF's club website and through the official club magazine. Unibet will also run promotional events with Valencia players which will be focused specifically on the supporters and fan clubs.

Unibet and Valencia CF expect the deal to become part of a longer sponsorship deal over the next two seasons until 2011. An agreement for next season is expected to be reached in Q1 2009.

Recent winners of the Copa del Rey in 2008 and La Liga champions in 2002 and 2004, Valencia is one of the biggest football teams in Spain and the third most supported after Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Next year the club plan to move from its 55,000 seat Estadio Mestalla stadium to a new 75,000 seat stadium, Nou Mestalla, in the north-west of the city.

Unibet spokesman, Juan Barrachina said the company was "very satisfied" with the agreement and said it was an excellent opportunity for the Unibet brand and business to achieve growth in Spain and Europe through this deal.

With this agreement, Unibet becomes the sixth online gaming brand to sponsor a Spanish football team alongside 888 (Sevilla FC), bwin (Real Madrid), Finland's Paf (Atlético de Madrid), Interapuestas (RCD Espanyol) and Sportingbet's Miapuesta (Unió Esportiva Miapuesta Castelldefels).

December 11, 2008

Polish referee tied to corruption

Top Polish international football referee Grzegorz G. and official Tomasz S. were taken into custody by the Central Anticorruption Bureau (CAB) in relation to the domestic football corruption investigation, Polskie Radio reports.

The public prosecutor's office, located in Wroclaw, of southwest Poland, is investigating the case. Grzegorz G. and official Tomasz S. will stand before this agency.

The referee as been working in the Champions League for three years, and is regarded as one of the top three referees in Poland. The Polish Football Association was considering Grzegorz G. to referee in the 2010 World Cup.

About 170 people from The Polish Football Association have been charged with corruption since there was a lawsuit presented in Wroclaw court December of last year. The corruption investigation has been going on since May of 2005.

December 09, 2008

FA closed match-fixing inquiry

The English Football Association (FA) has closed its inquiry into allegations related to unusual online-betting patterns in Asia at a Championship match between Derby County and Norwich City dated 4 October.

According to the FA, there was no evidence to suggest any irregularities around the progress or result of the game.

"Both clubs said from the start that they were totally innocent of any wrongdoing," Derby County spokesman Matt McCann told the BBC.

December 05, 2008

Betfair Furthers Involvement in UK Horse Racing with Ascot

Betfair has been announced as the new sponsor of the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes following a seven-figure five year agreement with Ascot, part of a wide-reaching commercial partnership between the two parties. It is the first time in three years that the showpiece event has carried a sponsor and continues Betfair's recent investment in the horseracing industry worldwide.

Ascot’s late July meeting will now be presented as the ‘Betfair Weekend featuring The King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes' and will be run for £1 million for the first time ever in 2009, compared to £850,000 in this year's event.

Charles Barnett, Ascot Chief Executive said: “We are delighted to be partnering with Betfair in this exciting agreement primarily, of course, through their sponsorship of our premier race, the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, the highlight of what will now be Betfair Weekend at Ascot. The King George will be worth £1,000,000 for the first time in 2009, something which we have aspired to for some time and are now able to deliver as a direct result of this partnership.”

As part of the commercial partnership between the two parties, Betfair will also be sponsoring Ascot's most valuable steeplechase, the Betfair Ascot Chase in February, and will provide annual branding around the site including stalls branding on the Friday of Royal Ascot.

The Betfair Ascot Chase, run this year as the Commercial First Ascot Chase and won by Kauto Star, will complement the Betfair Chase, run at Haydock in November, and is likely to form part of the Betfair Million bonus in future seasons. The Betfair Million pound bonus is offered to any horse finishing first, second, or third in the Betfair Chase, who then places first or second in any race at the Cheltenham Festival, and finally wins the Grand National at Aintree.

Stephen Burn, Betfair’s Director of Horseracing said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with Ascot on this ground-breaking agreement, especially as it will take us up to and beyond the course's historic tercentenary in 2011."

“The King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes is one of the world's great races and, while its sponsorship is the cornerstone of this initiative, there are considerable further elements to our partnership and we are looking forward to working with Ascot, and its other partners, to find new ways of integrating our cutting-edge technology. We also have the opportunity to create a ‘Betfair Lounge’ on site at Ascot.

“Across the world, Betfair is working with racing industries to help attract new customers and revenue streams to the sport. We are confident that this Ascot partnership will be a blueprint for how racecourses and Betfair can work together for the benefit of each other and our customers," he added.

December 03, 2008

LFP is concerned with new claims of corruption

New claims of corruption have surfaced within the Spanish Football League, following the release of a transcripted conversation that took place between a club official and player last season.

The discussion, which was revealed by Spanish newspaper El Mundo and reported by PA Sport, indicates that the player in question was bribed to fix a match.

In a recent statement, Liga de Futbol Profesional (LFP) Chief Press Officer Juan Carlos Santamaria confirmed that the league is “very concerned” about the events at hand, indicating that it would be pursuing a series of investigations about this and other incidents in order to preserve the reputation of La Liga.

Although the LFP is permitted to explore the issues, disciplinary action will be left in the hands of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), sparking Santamaria to express his concerns about the lack of power behind the body. He went on to note that LFP has been discussing the issue with the Ministry of Sport in an attempt to bring more control to the league.

The LFP is now pushing for laws to be implemented against all forms of dishonesty in the league, including corruption and bribery.