April 30, 2008

Party on track and confident for 2008

PartyGaming’s first quarter and key performance indicators published this morning revealed group revenue rose 21% to US$128.9mm, compared with US$106.2m on the same period last year, poker revenue was up 13% to US$80.7m, compared with US$71.6m last year, casino revenue was up 45% to US$43.5m, compared with US$30m last year. Sports betting revenue grew 4% to US$4.7m on US$4.5m in 2007.

Yield per active player day was up 19% to US$17.3, compared with US$14.5m in 2007, thanks to the group’s casino performing strongly, but real money sign ups dropped 30% to 171,800, compared with 244,600 in 2007. This was because of Party’s aggressive marketing strategy to boost player liquidity after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, the company said. Party also paid the final consideration of €21m to Trident Gaming with regard to the acquisition of Gamebookers on 1 February 2008.

Mitch Garber, chief executive of PartyGaming, said: “As we enter the seasonally quiet period of the year, the business is performing well and there are a number of exciting developments in prospect. Over the next few months we will open our licensed Italian business, introduce a number of new branded online slot machines, and launch a completely new product vertical. The regulatory environment in Europe appears to be improving and the search for my successor is progressing and advancing positively. We remain confident about the group’s prospects for the full year.”

April 24, 2008

Operators Have Gambling Ads Pulled

In the UK, online casino operators Paddy Power and InterCasino have become the first gaming companies to fall foul of Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rules since televised commercials for gambling products and services were legalised last year.

The independent regulator stated that a series of four advertisements from InterCasino featuring two people of restricted growth dressed in various gambling-related costumes with a voiceover mocking a Japanese games show contravened rules because they appealed to children and young people. The ASA concluded that the whole run should not be shown again even though the industry body that approves adverts for transmission, Clearcast, maintained that the commercials had not been designed to appeal towards juveniles or adolescents.

The ASA also took issue with a commercial from bookmaker Paddy Power, which featured a short man in the back of a stretch limousine flanked by two glamorous looking women. The regulator stated that the on-screen message ‘Who says you can't make money being short?’ had irresponsibly linked gambling to seduction, sexual success and enhanced attractiveness. Paddy Power voluntarily withdrew the advert from all UK media outlets even though London Capital Group, the firm’s owner, maintained that it was only a play on words.

'It's a shame that some people can't see humour when it's put in front of them,” said Peter Marcus, Spokesperson for InterCasino.

“We'll continue, through advertising and other marketing channels, to try to entertain our customers in a way that our competitors don't. This is a very unusual and surprising ruling from the ASA given that it has not received any public complaints regarding the advertisements, which have been on air since September of 2007.'

Bwin Could Win In Germany

Bwin Interactive Entertainment, Germany’s largest private online sportsbetting and gambling company, may win a legal fight that threatens to obliterate a third of its take.

According to the Bloomberg news service, the Vienna-based company could succeed with lawsuits challenging a January ban in Germany on online sportsbetting on the basis that the prohibition, approved in all 16 German states, violates European Union (EU) law.

“It won't stand the test at the European Court of Justice,'' said Johannes Caspar, law professor at Hamburg University and a legal adviser to the Schleswig-Holstein State Legislature.

Bloomberg quoted the professor as stating that the EU's executive arm started ‘infringement proceedings’ against Germany in January over the new laws, a process that may lead to its own lawsuit.

The new prohibitions were the latest effort by the states to preserve their sportsbetting and lottery monopolies but Bwin has kept its German sites open as have competitors led by Sportingbet, 888 Holdings and PartyGaming. Although the firm lost an interim ruling last month in a case brought by one state, it has filed several lawsuits against the ban with some states counter-suing.

“One day a high court will clear up this mess,'' said Clemens Weidemann, attorney for Stuttgart-based Gleiss Lutz, who is representing Bwin in some of the cases.

Like Germany's constitutional court, the European Court of Justice has ruled in previous cases that the Government can regulate gaming markets if rules are ‘consistent and systematic’. However, Germany may not pass this test according to a January warning from the European Commission, the EU's executive arm.

The Commission cited Bwin's argument that the states’ rules are inconsistent, as they don't apply to horse betting, slot machines or electronic devices in gambling halls.

“You can't explain that you need a monopoly for dog-race betting but don't need it when horses are running,” said Weidemann.

April 22, 2008

Ayre retires as Bodog looks to new territories

Calvin Ayre, founder and chief executive of Bodog, has announced that he will be retiring from his “largely ceremonial” role as the face of the betting and gaming operator.

Ayre will not be involved at an operational level with Bodog anymore. This follows on from his transfer of the ownership of the firm to the Morris Mohawk Gaming Group in mid-2007. Recently, Bodog has been setting up its UK and European operations, with hopes of expanding into South America in the near future.

Ayre said: “While it has been great fun to live my life in front of the world’s cameras, I am looking forward to a more private and meaningful period of giving back and working to support the Calvin Ayre foundation.”

The Morris Mohawk Group is headed up by Alwyn Morris, the company is located just outside the Kahnawake territory in Canada and is licensed by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission.

April 17, 2008

Poland to regulate online gaming in the second half of 2008

Reports coming from Poland suggest the country will look to set up the framework to regulate online gaming and betting in the second part of this year.

Marek Kapica, Deputy Minister of Finance, stated publicly yesterday that Poland will have to legalise online gambling. "We cannot control this process anyway and it is better that the budget at least derives some revenues from it," he said.

Poland’s Finance Ministry is reportedly preparing the suitable legislative changes for the second half of this year and will send them “to the European Commission within the required notification procedure".

April 15, 2008

Playtech adds Betsson to list of licencees

Online casino and poker software developer Playtech has signed an agreement with Malta-based gaming and betting operator Betsson to supply it with its full range of casino products for the European market.

Playtech will provide Betsson with over 110 download games in 11 languages and customise them to the demands of Betsson’s European player base. The agreement will include Betsson’s CherryCasino.com and CasinoEuro.com brands.

Mor Weizer, chief executive of Playtech, said: "The agreement is further evidence of Playtech's ability to add high profile licensees to its client base whilst it also extends the Group's customer reach and appeal in the valuable European gaming market."

Thomas Kalita, chief executive of Betsson Malta, said: "We are delighted to be able to add yet another quality product to our broad offering. Playtech's proven track record as a software supplier, supported by its wide range of languages is of great essence to Betsson especially when expanding into new territories."

PartyGaming hires lawyer to save on fees

PartyGaming is taking its commercial work in-house to save money after hiring Victoria Allison from IWC Media to join the team at the online gambling company's Gibraltar HQ.

The company intends to expand its legal team with two more lawyers - one of whom will exclusively handle IP matters.

PartyGaming assistant general counsel James Elliot: "The aim is to bring in some new commercially minded assistants who'll be able to share some of the everyday workload so that we can limit our outsourcing only to where there's a requirement for specialist knowledge that it does not make sense to retain in-house."

The move will mean that PartyGaming's existing law firms will receive less day-to-day commercial work. They include Berwin Leighton Paisner, Olswang, Squire Sanders & Dempsey and Taylor Wessing. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is PartyGaming's chief corporate counsel.

Elliot added: "Our panel law firms have always done a great job of offering excellent value for money. But when you compare the annual cost of an in-house two to four-year PQE with what that amount buys you in hours from a London law firm, it makes a lot of sense to go for the in-house hire."

The new hires will take PartyGaming's in-house team to 16 lawyers in total.

April 14, 2008

PKR Unveils Giant Helicopter Stunt

PKR.com, the next-gen 3-D online poker room has unveiled its latest ad campaign — a giant banner three-quarters the size of a soccer pitch which, when trailed through the skies behind a helicopter, can be seen by one million people.

The company worked with Helibanners and their system Helicopter Overcity Banner Systems to produce the 25,000 square foot banner which will be used in and around London during major sporting events.

The banner is visible for over 10 miles and with three flights already undertaken, Simon Prodger, marketing director of PKR, said, “It’s a pretty awe-inspiring spectacle, and one that no one expects to see. We’ve gotten reports of sightings from all over London, and people have even been sending in their own camera phone images.”

The banner will next be seen on Apr. 26 in central London and will fly over Stamford Bridge during the Chelsea v Manchester United Premiership football match.

France to open up by late '2009 or early 2010'

According to reports published in the French daily newspaper Aujourd’hui en France this week, “everything is ready” for France to set out its framework for online gaming and betting.

According to the paper, former MP Bruno Durieux handed in the results of a study he carried out on online gambling for the French finance inspectorate at the end of last week, and President Nicolas Sarkozy should approve it shortly.

The timeframe for “a new era in online gaming and betting” is thought to be towards the end of “2009 or early in 2010”, according to French budget minister Eric Woerth. Horse racing bets would only be allowed through tote betting (pari mutuel), to conform with the current monopoly operated by Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU). Fixed-odds bookmaking on football or tennis would be allowed under strict guidelines.

France is also set to work out a new “system” for online gaming and betting in partnership with other EU states such as Belgium, Germany and Holland, rather than adopt existing models such as those in the UK or Italy. An initial steering committee will meet up at the end of April.

At a national level, operators will have to be licensed to offer their services in France and conform to the system, with strict guidelines relating to money laundering and player protection.

Eric Woerth told the newspaper that France was not acting under threat from the European Commission but to address the changes brought in by technological developments and the internet. He added that horse racing betting had to evolve, but he would not allow fixed-odds betting products to be offered on the sport.

For other sports such as football, fixed-odds bets would be offered, but Woerth added: “A sports bet is not betting on the colour of a tennis player’s jersey. The bet must be linked to the sporting performance, if not it can be the source of all kinds of dubious activity.” The French government would also expect to see a slice of betting revenues, he added.

On the gaming front, casino games and poker will be licensed, although they need to be studied by the relevant bodies, Woerth said. Slot machines however would not be allowed, as they are “the most addictive” type of casino games, the minister said.

April 03, 2008

Sarkozy to announce online gaming regulation?

According to French press reports, President Nicolas Sarkozy will announce in the coming weeks that France is set to adopt regulations and a legislative framework to enable online betting operators to offer their services in the country.

However, no official comment or confirmation of the story was available from the European Commission. The rumours are likely to have come about further to a recent meeting a French government delegation was due to have with European Commission representatives to set out a timetable for legislation of online gaming in France.

The new rules would also be relevant for online casinos and Patrick Partouche, head of the Partouche casino group, welcomed the news. Partouche added that the legislation could take some time to be enacted, with delaying tactics adopted by the French Ministry of Finance which will be responsible for the brief, under pressure from French monopoly Francaise des Jeux.

William Hill optimistic about Spain

William Hill yesterday announced that the Madrid Autonomous Region had awarded the company a sports betting licence to Victoria Apuestas, the joint venture it has set up in Spain with Codere.

The first Victoria betting outlet will open in the Canoe, the largest bingo hall in Madrid, in the next few days and the group hopes to open close to 70 points of sale by the end of 20008.

Ian Spearing, group director for corporate strategy and business development at William Hill, told eGaming Review that the company was “cautiously optimistic” about developing market share in Spain in the coming months.

Spearing said: “We have been waiting in the starting blocks for some time and have around 25 stand-alone locations ready to be fitted out and another 30 third party-licensed outlets also ready.

Spearing added that William Hill had also obtained one of three gambling licences issued for the Basque Region through its Victoria Garaipen Apustas subsidiary and had between 50 and 60 locations earmarked for development.

“We feel confident that we will be able to open up to 70 outlets by the end of 2008.”

With many betting shops being presented as meeting and social points in the form of caf├ęs and bars in Spain, the atmosphere and environment for betting is very different to that of the UK, Spearing said.

April 02, 2008

FA Cup Results Prove Football is 'A Funny Old Game'

The football betting world has been turned upside down by a whole raft of giant killing results in this year’s FA Cup, writes Michael Maerz.

While the Premiership’s ‘Big 4’ of Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea have progressed to the quarter finals of the Champions League, the FA Cup will not be won by any of them for the first time since Everton, currently fifth in the Premiership, took home the famous trophy in 1995.

This year's FA Cup final will also be the first to be played between two teams outside the ‘Big 4’ since Tottenham beat Nottingham Forest in 1991.

The FA Cup is the oldest and most prestigious football competition in the world. The knock-out competition, which was established in 1871, involves 731 teams from all over England and Wales.

The FA Cup quarter finals were played on 8th and 9th of March, a weekend that will surely go down as one of the most extraordinary chapters in the competition’s history.

Barnsley, a team that is struggling to stay in the Football League Championship, the division below the Premiership, turned in another giant killing performance. Having knocked out Liverpool in the previous round, they knocked out Chelsea to reach the semi-finals.

Barnsley’s wins against two of the Big Four were good news for the bookies. So too was Portsmouth’s 0-1 away win against the mighty and FA Cup favourites Manchester United.

At least Arsenal were spared the ignominy of this slaying of the mighty ‘Big 4’ clubs by lesser teams, having been knocked out in the previous round by rival Premiership title contenders Manchester United.

History is certainly in the making for this year’s FA Cup. West Bromwich Albion, who will play Portsmouth, the only Premiership club left in the competition, in one of the semi-finals this weekend, last won the FA Cup in the 1968 final against Everton.

And you have to go back 81 years to 1927 when Cardiff from South Wales made history by becoming the first and only non-English club to win the trophy with a 1-0 defeat of Arsenal. Standing in Cardiff's way of reaching another FA Cup Final is the giant-killing team from Barnsley.

The last time that three non-top flight teams reached the semi-finals was exactly 100 years ago! If Portsmouth are slayed by West Brom then we are guaranteed to see a team from outside England’s top division lift the famous trophy for the first time since 1980 when West Ham United beat Arsenal.

The bookies have naturally made Portsmouth the clear odds-on favourites, followed by WBA at 3/1, Cardiff at 4/1 and Barnsley bring up the rear at 15/2.

However, given the giant killing in this season’s FA Cup, the bookies should perhaps take note of Jimmy Greaves, one of the best forwards to grace the game in England, who once said: “Football is a funny old game!”

Ten other quotes by footballers and football managers you may not have heard before, include:

1. “I spent a lot of my money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered,"
George Best

2. "I've told the players we need to win so that I can have the cash to buy some new ones"
Chris Turner, Peterborough manager

3. "I can see the carrot at the end of the tunnel"
Stuart Pearce

4. "It has been suggested that we'll squander the sponsors' money on wine, women and song. That is not true. We don't do a lot of singing here at Portman Road."
John Cobbold, Legendary Ipswich Town FC owner at the unveiling of a major sponsorship deal

5. “Sometimes in football you have to score goals.”
Thierry Henry

6. “I couldn't settle in Italy - it was like living in a foreign country.”
Ian Rush

7. “I'd like to play for an Italian club, like Barcelona.”
Mark Draper

8. “My parents have been there for me, ever since I was about 7.”
-David Beckham

9. “We just ran out of legs.”
David Pleat

10. “I like to think it's a case of crossing the i's and dotting the t's.”
Dave Bassett