October 28, 2009

Offsidebet targets Spain bingo via Virtue Fusion network

Romanian operator Offsidebet has launched a Spain-facing bingo site using the Virtue Fusion Alderney network.

The new site will initially target the Spanish market, but Offsidebet also plans to offer bingo products to its core eastern European markets in future.

Offsidebet is headed by chief executive Matt Jellicoe, former marketing director for Sportingbet, and chief operating officer Leonid Ponktrantenko, who has previously worked at at Sportingbet and PartyGaming.

Its product suite already includes Playtech for poker and Net Entertainment for casino.

October 27, 2009

Lifting of Oz egaming ban set to spur further growth

The Australian market looks set for significant expansion after the government’s independent advisory body on gambling policy recommended lifting the country’s eight-year-old online gaming ban.

The Productivity Commission last week recommended the Australian government repeal the 2001 Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) to allow operators to offer poker and casino products to Australian residents, subject to a strict regime of consumer protection.

The report reached its recommendation after concluding of the current ban under the IGA: “The long-run consequence of prohibition may be higher problem gambling risks and a loss of commercial opportunities and tax revenue in Australia.”

The IGA made it an offence to provide poker and casino to Australian residents, leading to an estimated total of AU$790m being spent on offshore sites last year.

Australian corporate bookmaker Centrebet’s deputy managing director, Michael McRitchie, said the proposed switch from unregulated online gaming to regulated gaming represented “a win-win” for stakeholders in the Australian market.

“The draft report demonstrates that prohibition doesn’t work, and isn’t working. Its proposals, if adopted, would increase customer protection and harm minimisation procedures, allowing the government to generate funding to assist with problem gaming,” McRitchie told EGRMagazine.com.

As well as allowing Australian wagering operators to increase revenues through cross-selling existing customer bases into gaming, the lifting of the IGA would also operators to increase in-running betting volumes, as the Act currently only allows in-play bets to be placed by telephone.

The Productivity Commission arrived at its draft conclusions after receiving detailed submissions from 264 organisations, including corporate bookmakers, sporting clubs, sports representative bodies and totaliser monopolies.

October 23, 2009

California poker bill introduced next year, promises new PVA chief

The viability of US intrastate poker systems may hinge on preventing offshore sites such as PokerStars and Full Tilt from taking US bets, according to two leading data providers to the online poker industry.

California and Florida are currently looking at legislation to establish intrastate online poker systems and regulations as permitted by an exemp tion under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). This explicitly declares that online intrastate wagers do not constitute “unlawful internet gambling” if expressly allowed by the laws of a state.

But according to Poker Players Research (PPR), which provides the poker industry with regular reports and analyses, with almost everyone who is playing online poker for money now doing so in online poker rooms with over a million registered money players, a US intrastate poker site or network would need to get close to this number before it could offer an equal choice of games and size of tournaments as the offshore sites.

“Any site in California [which according to PPR has around 1.5 million online money play ers, compared to New York’s one million and Florida’s 500,000] would need to get what seems to be an unrealistically high percent age of that state’s players to create a viable alternative to the established online poker rooms US players are currently using. This does not seem realistically achievable in a competitive environment,” said director Glenn Flackett.

“Unless the ability of players to play on the sites they currently choose is substantially changed, liquidity advantages of the existing rooms will outweigh any safer, more legiti mate benefits and few existing players will switch,” argued Flackett, who thinks that attracting new players will not only be difficult for intrastate sites, “they will not build liquidity levels that are high enough.”

However, Simon Holliday, director of gam bling data business H2 Gambling Capital, cites Swedish national monopoly Svenska Spel’s 2006 example of how a platform can be built on leisure-oriented players who are comfortable only playing on state-licensed sites. This was achieved in a country with a popu lation of 9.3 million, just over a quarter of California’s and half Florida’s, with nothing done regarding offshore sites.

That said, H2 has calculated its intrastate poker numbers assuming that offshore poker site activity is eradicated.

“Governments have never moved to regulate an industry without offering it some protection. Who would be willing to pay millions of dollars in licence fees and taxation while others were allowed to carry on tax-free?”, explained Holliday.

Thus H2’s baseline for the number of players needed for sustainable, regulated intrastate gambling in the US is lower than PPR’s, for example, citing the need for approximately 500,000 unique active players in Year 1 in California, rising to one million by Year 10, while for Florida, the corresponding numbers are 200,000, rising to 650,000.

But with the federal government having its own tax-raising aims for egaming, it remains to be seen just how supportive it will be in the longer term of individual states’ drive to monopolise the gaming revenues generated within their respective borders.

October 22, 2009

UEFA concerned about match-fixing in Russian football

UEFA is worried about match-fixing in the top two tiers of Russian football, local media revealed Wednesday. In a confidential letter sent to the Russian football federation (RFS), European football's ruling body expressed "serious concern" at the results of at least six first and second division matches, the Vremya Novostei newspaper reported.

"We have reason to be suspicious of these matches because of their possible links to illegal betting," the letter reportedly stated.

The games took place between June 13 and August 17 of this year. So far there has been no reaction from the RFS or the clubs but if the fears are substantiated it could have serious repercussions for Russia's bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

October 21, 2009

PartyGaming stockholder and billionaire gives $350 million to charity

Anurag Dikshit (pronounced Dix-it) has an unusually unkind name but has an extremely kind heart. The online gambling company stockholder has sold over half of his PartyGaming stocks.

The world’s largest online gambling company announced Tuesday that Dikshit is preparing to sell 66% of his shares in the company for 350 million dollars. The sale will reduce his stake in the company from 28% to 9.5%.

A spokesperson also stated that Anurag plans to sell the rest of his shares in the company in the near future. He wants to give all of his money from the sale of his stock to the Kusuma Trust.

The Kusuma Trust charity was founded by Anurag to provide welfare and educational services to the communities and children in Gibraltar, India and in the United Kingdom. The trust already holds about $80 million.

Anurag spends his days living a modest lifestyle in Gibraltar where he has resided for eight years with his wife. He prefers to walk and although his wife does have a car, he does not have one of his own.

Premier League concern at gambling on junior matches may lead to regulation

The Premier League has pledged to ensure football's relationship with the betting industry is properly regulated after it emerged junior matches can now be gambled on.

SBObet and 188bet, who are both licensed on the Isle of Man, offer live betting on matches at Premier League under-18 level and similar matches across Europe including the German Bundesliga under-17 league. Both betting firms have a presence in the Premier League through tie-ups with several leading clubs.

SBObet are shirt sponsors of West Ham, while 188bet sponsor Bolton and Wigan and are the official gaming partner of Chelsea and official betting partner of Aston Villa.

Betting on junior matches does not contravene any rules, however the Premier League will examine the issue. A Premier League spokesman told the Sunday Telegraph: "We are alarmed at these developments and are currently discussing this matter with our clubs and the government. What is clear is that this further highlights the need for the relationship between sport and the gambling industry to be properly regulated in order to protect the integrity of sport."

The Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor said: "It is making our youngsters vulnerable, without a shadow of a doubt. Youngsters and gambling is a bad mix, and an unhealthy one."

A spokesman for 188bet said that the company is committed to protecting "betting integrity" and stressed they were unaware of any concerns from the Premier League or PFA. The spokesman said: "A key element of our betting governance includes setting lower bet limits on smaller markets, such as Premier League Academy games, to ensure that maximum individual bets and total bet volume is not of a size that would influence any sporting outcome."

October 20, 2009

Betfair considering Tasmania move

British online betting exchange operator Betfair is considering abandoning its Australian base in Tasmania in favour of a mainland location after being excluded from recent state tax concessions.

Betfair was granted permission to operate from the island state jurisdiction four years ago and its current license is due to expire at end of next year. However, it was recently excluded from legislation that eliminated tax for online bookmakers operating in the jurisdiction in exchange for an annual fee of approximately $231,000.

“One of the things that the board has asked the management team to do is to explore other options,” said Andrew Twaits, Chief Executive Officer for Betfair Australia.

“As you would expect, the environment in Australia is very different now than it was four years or so ago when we were trying to get a licence here in Australia, so we'll just see how it goes. Everything is open for consideration at this stage; some jurisdictions have advantages over others.”

Twaits stated that the tax concession now being offered by Tasmania would stir considerable interest from online bookmakers from around the world.

“Most of the online gambling operators are based around Europe,” Twaits told Australian broadcaster ABC.

“Tax rates around the world are only going one way and that's down. Look at jurisdictions like Malta and Gibraltar. Tasmania becomes all of a sudden competitive with all of those jurisdictions. And one of the advantages that Tasmania has over any other jurisdiction in Australia is that, once you are licensed in Tasmania, you are able to advertise into the UK.”

Betfair currently employs 115 people at its Hobart headquarters and Michael Aird, Treasurer for Tasmania, revealed that the Government would be doing all it could to keep the UK-owned firm on the island while also attracting other corporate bookmakers.

“We have to ensure that we provide opportunities for people to be employed,” said Aird.

“These corporate bookmakers, if they decide to relocate to Tasmania or be established in Tasmania, would be bringing with them very large teams of people and in terms of employment opportunities could start another industry in Tasmania.”

Ladbrokes to buy Tote?

Despite Ladbrokes being reported as struggling on the London Stock Exchange in recent weeks, there is hope on the horizon for worried investors. The bookmakers are reportedly looking into buying the Government owned bookmakers, Tote.

There have been many previous attempts to sell the tote in the past, however further attempts to sell the business were put on the back burner in October 2008 due to the declining economic environment.

Recently talks of selling the tote have rekindled once again with Ladbrokes being just one of the big named gambling companies looking into buying the currently nationalized company.

William Hill who has regained their stock price lead above Ladbrokes is another company looking into a deal. William Hill has already moved their online operations out of the UK along with Ladbrokes. More companies looking into buying tote include Paddy Power and the Gala Coral group.
The consolidation of the online gaming industry has been a priority in the last few months for some companies as many of the larger players are buying out smaller competitors.

German gambling ban could be overturned

Germany’s online gambling ban could be under threat after one of the German states which originally approved the treaty demanded a cancellation over the weekend.
The agreement between the current ruling coalition Christian-Democratic Party (CDU) and the Liberal Party (FDP) in Schleswig-Holstein was published last Saturday; it called for an end to the interstate gambling treaty and asked for a new regulation to replace it.
The FDP and coalition in Schleswig-Holstein leader, Jürgen Koppelin, said that if German states fail to agree on a new regulation to replace the treaty, the coalition would introduce an intrastate licensing system.

Martin Arendts of Arendts Anwalte, a German gaming lawyer said, “The argument that only a monopoly can protect customers, prevent problem gambling and guard against fraud would not hold any more,”

The coalition is only reported to have spoken about the potential impacts of such a move, such as privatizing state owned casinos. Arendts continued that any new licensing system could apply to online gaming and betting as currently all forms of online gambling except horse racing is banned.

EGBA has consistently argued that the protectionist monopoly position of the German Interstate treaty on gambling violates EU law under article 49 of the treaty of Rome as it restricts the rights of its members to provide online gaming services.

Arendts continued to highlight that Schleswig-Holstein only approved the treaty in December 2007 for fiscal reasons as it had previously favoured a different interstate treaty on sports betting which would result in providing licenses for private bookmakers.

If all of the German states fail to ratify a new regulation by 2012 when the current treaty expires it would make the current state gambling monopoly unenforceable.

Gaming founder Dikshit to sell two-thirds of stake

Anurag Dikshit is to sell two thirds of his 28% stake in the company.

The egaming billionaire will sell 75 million shares through his vehicle Crystal Holdings, cutting his stake to 39 million shares, or 9.5% of the issued share capital in the company.

The shares will be sold by Goldman Sachs through an accelerated offering to institutional investors.

The sale price is yet to be announced, but the shares would be worth circa £213m based on yesterday’s closing price of 284.5p.

Dikshit’s spokesman Shimon Cohen told Bloomberg: “He wants to move on with his life, sell his shares, endow them in his charitable foundation, and move away from the whole issue and industry of PartyGaming.”

Cohen added that Dikshit may go on to sell his entire stake.

Dikshit pleaded guilty to illegal internet gambling last December and agreed to forfeit US$300m to US authorities for his role in the company’s activities in the US prior to the passage of America’s Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006.

In April, PartyGaming settled with the US authorities for its pre-UIGEA activities for $105m, becoming the only major online gambling business to do so. With Dikshit having pleaded guilty to internet gambling charges under the Wire Act, the reduction of his shareholding below the 15% threshold required to nominate to the board is likely to improve the company’s potential for receiving a licence in the US should America legalise online gambling.

However Dikshit’s fellow founders and principal shareholders Russ DeLeon and Ruth Parasol, who each own 58 million shares, have shown no sign of moving towards settlement.

PartyGaming shares initially fell up to 12% upon Dikshit’s announcement this morning, the biggest drop in 11 months of London trading in the equities.

However analysts predict the sale will increase the liquidity of Party’s stock, with ‘free float’ shares, i.e. those that are traded often rather than tied up with individuals, potentially rising from 177m to 290m shares, or 70%, if the entire stake is sold.

However Morgan Stanley analyst Vaughan Lewis argued that the move does not reflect on PartyGaming, but rather on Dikshit’s own desire to devote more time and money towards charitable projects.

Lewis said: “We do not think this reflects any ‘edge’ Dikshit might have on regulatory, trading or other developments, as he is not involved in these areas - he is not on the board – [he is] devoting his time and money to philanthropy.”

October 17, 2009

Mike Sexton Only Pro to be inducted to the Hall of Fame for 2009

Harrah’s and the World Series of Poker announced this morning that Mike Sexton will be the one and only person inducted into this year’s Poker Hall of Fame. Sexton will become the 38th member of the Poker Hall of Fame and will be inducted this November.

Sexton’s poker career spans almost thirty years and he has earned more than $3.7 million in career poker winnings. Sexton is one of the most recognizable figures in poker and is known by many as the Ambassador of Poker.

Sexton is the main figure for the televised events for the World Poker Tour and he also serves as a consultant and host of Party Poker, the online poker room. Sexton also has his hand in charity work. He has formed the PokerGives organization which provides the poker community a way to give back to charitable causes. Sexton also donated half of this 2006 WSOP Tournament of Champions prize, which amounted to $500,000 to several charities.

Sexton will be inducted officially into the Poker Hall of Fame on November 7th. The Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas will be the site of the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event Final Table and Sexton will be inducted during a break in the competition.

Poker pros have been sending their congratulations to Mike Sexton and some have taken to their Twitter pages to comment. Annie Duke tweeted: “Congratulations on the HALL OF FAME Induction Mr. Sexton!” and Joe Sebok tweeted: “congrats Mike Sexton…going into the poker hall of fame. Well deserved, sir…”.

October 16, 2009

Full Tilt Poker Issues Statement re: Robot Case

Call it arrogance on the part of the world's second largest online poker room. Full Tilt Poker typically does not comment on any type of complaints lodged against it from lawsuits to player complaints about software upgrades to nasty public relations people who are yet to properly utilize their star player and representative at next month's World Series of Poker final table.

In an unusual - and some might say BOLD - move by the online poker company, Full Tilt has responded to a recent lawsuit alleging it uses "bots" to play against real customers.

As first reported by the TMZ.com website two weeks ago, Lary Kennedy and Greg Omotoy claim they won $80,000 and that the funds were confiscated by FTP.

Full Tilt Poker, which has among its equity partners Phil Ivey and Chris Ferguson, claims that plaintiffs used an automated play functions called "robots" instead of playing the game themselves. Since using robots violates Full Tilt's rules, the site's owners confiscated more than $80,000. Omotoy and Kennedy, in turn, claim that Full Tilt Poker also use their own bots on the website.

Full Tilt Poker issued this statement:

"Full Tilt Poker has been made aware of the recent filing of a baseless lawsuit by former Full Tilt Poker customers - Ms. Lary Kennedy and Mr. Greg Omotoy. Both of these player accounts were appropriately terminated for multiple violations of the express terms and conditions governing fair and lawful play in the Full Tilt Poker online virtual cardroom, including their own admissions of using multiple accounts.

"The usage of multiple accounts not only violates the clear terms and agreements governing fair and lawful play, it creates an unequal and unfair advantage that Full Tilt Poker does not and will not permit. We aim to protect our players at all cost, thus we terminated these two claimants' accounts.

"The claims of these former customers have no merit, their complaint is frivolous, especially given the lack of candor during extensive investigation and the unequivocal and unambiguous admissions of using multiple accounts.

"With respect to alleged use of prohibited automated systems, the claimants' false assertions will be revealed as such in due course. Full Tilt Poker has never knowingly allowed "bots" to play on its site. To the extent either of these claimants indeed used such prohibited "bots" in violation of all applicable rules, such impermissible use by the claimants was without the knowledge of Full Tilt Poker. When fraud, collusion, and cheating of any kind is uncovered, Full Tilt Poker investigates extensively, and then acts accordingly and appropriately, as was the case involving these claimants.

"As always, Full Tilt Poker remains committed to protecting their players from anything that might compromise the integrity of its games. Full Tilt Poker expects that this erroneous lawsuit and its spurious claims will be dealt with accordingly by proper courts of law and other appropriate tribunals. Full Tilt Poker expects that these claimants will be obliged to compensate the aggrieved defendants for any harm that may arise out of their false allegations, and for the wrongful institution of these bad faith legal proceedings."

This is not the first time Full Tilt Poker has been thrust into the spotlight over alleged bots playing on their website.

In September 2007, the company was forced to respond to concerns that "bots" were playing on the site.

The website at that time issued several players affected by the "online poker bot play" refunds, according to Kelli Smithgall of 4Flush.com. Smithgall went on to suggest that suspect "bot" accounts had been froze and were "under investigation".

"The bots reportedly played on Full Tilt at the Texas Hold'em Limit cash tables and possibly, however not confirmed, at some no limit style tables.

"A poker bot is a type of malware, since the bot player is not human, they don't express fear or shame, they also can't recognize a bluff, they play the math, playing correct poker, not emotional poker, which has both it's ups and downs. Humans on the other hand might back off against extremely aggressive players.

"For example, a poker bot will raise any two cards if they think there is even the slightest advantage based on a real player's history.

"Although bots have been a common theme in online gambling and poker playing for several years now, it has been almost impossible to catch them. Like slimy snakes, they seek out unassuming new poker players that are still naive about the online gambling world."

Not all "bots" are bad. For example, the Google Bot is a "good bot" that scans websites for content than lists news stories to be part of the Google listings.

October 14, 2009

China online game investor-ban adds new hurdle for operators

China has banned foreign investment in its online gaming industry in a tightening of its censorship regime and an effort to protect local gaming companies.

Foreigners would be banned from operating online gaming within China through wholly foreign-owned investments, joint ventures or any other forms of co-operation with local companies, the country’s publishing regulator said.

The notice put up on the website of the General Administration of Press and Publication on Saturday is the latest of Beijing’s steps this year to tighten control over China’s booming virtual worlds.

Earlier this year, GAPP announced that online games could only be launched after it had approved them, adding to the risk in marketing products that can take years to develop.

When Netease, one of the country’s leading internet portals, won the licence formerly held by The9, a smaller gaming operator, to operate Blizzard’s World of Warcraft in China, the government delayed approval for the company’s co-operation with Blizzard.

Revenues in China’s online gaming market are expected to grow by up to half this year to Rmb27bn according to GAPP. The industry is dominated by domestic companies such as Tencent, Changyou, Shanda – which launched its shares on Nasdaq in September – Netease and The9.

However, many of them still make a large part of their revenues from foreign-developed games, for which they have to pay royalties. World of Warcraft is China’s most popular game on the web.

“The cost for developing new games is rising exponentially, and many Chinese online gaming companies face the threat that they can no longer afford to develop games and will see themselves forced into agreements to distribute foreign games,” said Edward Yu, head of Analysys, a Beijing-based research firm. “Partly, this new policy is an attempt to protect local gaming companies.”

Analysts said the move was unlikely to lock foreign online gaming companies out of the market because GAPP is only one of several regulators. The Ministry of Culture and the Ministry for Industry and Information Technology also have a stake in regulating online industries and could take different views, especially as GAPP’s move increases the publishing agency’s powers versus the other regulators.

“But things are getting ever more difficult,” Mr Yu said.

GAPP said updates and new versions of already-approved games would need additional approval. It also said games that were already on the market in China would need new approval if they changed distributors.

Poker Channel signs Neufbox TV French distribution deal

In parallel to France's National Assembly preparing to vote Tuesday on enacting a bill to liberalize and regulate the country's online gaming market, the Poker Channel has just announced a new distribution agreement with Neufbox TV, the popular TV service of French telecommunications company SFR.

The launch on telco SFR's TV platform follows deals with IPTV operator Free and cabler Numericable in France. Now Europe's largest dedicated gaming TV network is available 24 hours a day to all SFR TV subscribers on Channel 199.

SFR is currently 56% owned by French media group Vivendi and 44% by mobile phone giant Vodafone.

After the agreement, the Poker Channel will air to more than 18 million cable and satellite homes in twenty different countries. It attracts over 1 million unique TV viewers per month, with 65% of viewers playing online every day.

Highlights for the launch in France include seven episodes of the PokerHeaven European Cash Game, a high stakes cash game featuring celebrated poker pros, as well as events from the World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour, and the World Poker Tour.

October 13, 2009

Football sponsor sought to replace Coke

The English Football League (EFL) is in talks with a number of potential sponsors as it looks to find a replacement for Coca-Cola which decided not to renew its title sponsorship once the current six-year deal runs out at the end of the current season.

Coke’s support for the three divisions since 2004 was put at £36 million. They refused to say how much it had offered the EFL to extend the deal and denied it was shifting funds to support next year’s World Cup in South Africa and London 2012.

The EFL believed that Coke undervalued the league’s position as title sponsor, with ten matches and a highlights package on the BBC and wider coverage on Sky Sports. Crowds at league matches are at their highest level for 50 years.

October 12, 2009

Full Tilt taken to court over poker bot accusations

Full Tilt online poker has been taken to court following accusations concerning poker bots.

Poker bots are computer programmes that play poker. In terms of playing ability, online they can perform just about as well as an average player. This is because the online game is quite different from the face to face version.

It is well known that live poker is as much, or even more, about playing people than playing cards; psychology reigns supreme. In the online version, this being much more impersonal, it is perfect card play, calculation of pot odds, and general poker statistics that will mostly win the day; poker tells are far less important than in the live game.

As a result, by connecting a poker bot to an online poker table and pretending that it is a human playing, it is often possible to win a considerable amount of money over the long term. Poker site owners are well aware of this threat, and have developed many defences against it. For instance they are able to detect playing patterns that are consistent with poker bots and if their suspicions are aroused they can even interrogate the player’s computer to find whether or not a bot is being employed.

Full Tilt believed they had discovered two players who were using bots in this manner. As a result, and in compliance with the legal agreement made between Full Tilt and the players, they closed the players’ accounts and confiscated their account balances which amounted to $80,000. These players are now suing Full Tilt in an attempt to get their money back. They are also claiming that Full Tilt itself uses poker bots to fill empty seats at poker tables, a claim that Full Tilt vigorously denies.

A date for the hearing, which will take place in California, USA has not yet been set.

Bill forcing operators to re-register players passes France's National Assembly

An amendment to force operators to shut down the accounts of their French players when the bill regulating online gaming in France is voted through early next year has been passed by France's National Assembly.

The development is a severe blow for operators with a large market share in France such as Betclick, Bwin and Unibet, who will only be able to open new French player accounts once they are licensed five to six months later in May or June 2010 if the bill is passed by the Senate, France’s other legislative chamber.

However the two French monopolies, Française des Jeux (FDJ) and Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU), will not be subject to the amendment, and will be allowed to continue to accept new accounts during that time.

The amendment to the egaming law was proposed earlier this week, and was passed yesterday night by France’s National Assembly, which is currently debating the wider draft bill regulating online gaming.

The regulation is expected to become law by January 2010.

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), the trade group that represents European operators including Bwin, Expekt, PartyGaming and Unibet and that hit out at the draft laws earlier this week, said that the measure was designed to protect the French monopolies.

EGBA secretary general Sigrid Ligné: “The measure is clearly anti-competitive and can be added to other similar elements of the regulation. The Senate still has to debate the text but if the amendment is confirmed, it will only serve to highlight the real intention behind the draft regulation, which is to prevent EU-licensed operators from being profitable in France and to reinforce the position of the historic operators there.”

The impact of the measure on private operators would be compounded if, as some industry sources expect, FDJ and PMU were to launch new online sports betting and poker solutions in the first half of next year, in an effort to build up their player base while non-monopoly competitors are unable to operate in the French market.

The French government’s plans to hand out licences by June 2010 are timed to coincide with the football World Cup in South Africa, which begins that month.

October 09, 2009

Unibet launches iPhone Sportsbook with Mobenga

We see the mobile channel as an extremely exciting and important growth area, and we are committed to provide our customers with the best possible solutions to enjoy our market leading offer via their mobile phones! Petter Nylander, CEO at Unibet comments.

The iPhone Sportsbook has been designed to embrace as much as possible of Unibet's look & feel. Among the many functions, it supports Unibet’s market specific approach, where navigational paths, offers, highlighted matches and leagues vary according to market and customer segment.

“Apple has done a great job in focusing on superior user experience with the iPhone and Unibet really wanted to focus on this, where localization and ease of use have been key factors.” Christian Rajter, Mobenga CEO, comments.

October 08, 2009

Ladbrokes’ raiser deal

Ladbrokes is raising money to pay down debts and the bankers are cashing in as usual but chief executive Chris Bell reckons he managed to push the fees down.

The bookie is asking investors to stump up £287 million, of which £12 million will go to UBS, Deutsche Bank, Greenhill and others.

Amid growing irritation from corporations at the price banks are charging to underwrite rights issues, Bell says he drove a hard bargain. “As a board we pushed back hard on this. At 3% of the amount raised, the fees are towards the lower end,” he said.

All the proceeds will be used to reduce debt of £962 million, following a similar move by arch-rival William Hill.

“We are not dressing this up as a war chest. William Hill lowered the bar for what the debt-to-profit ratio could be so we knew we had to do it. The last tipping point was recent trading,” said Bell.

That trading has been tough. Profit for the three months to end-September fell 58% to £22 million. Ladbrokes is blaming fewer draws in Premier League matches for its bad run.

The one-for-two rights issue is priced at 95p a share.

Sportingbet rises on boost from in-game betting

Sportingbet Plc rose the most since June after it posted a full- year profit and added live sports Webcasts with more betting during sports such as soccer and tennis.

Net income was 12.4 million pounds ($19.7 million), or 2.4 pence per share, in the year ended July 31, compared with a loss of 4.3 million pounds, or 0.9 pence per share, in the same period a year earlier, the London-based company said today in a statement.

Sportingbet is attracting more sports gamblers in Europe as it adds more betting during games and introduced live streaming of matches in November. Sports is now responsible for 64 percent of its net gambling revenue, up from 52 percent two years ago, as income from its poker sites declined due to competition, the company said.

“Sports betting is a more hardy, recession-resilient product offer,” Chief Executive Officer Andrew McIver said in a telephone interview. “We grow up with a sports heritage, where you don’t necessarily play poker in your youth.”

Sportingbet rose 5 pence, or 7.4 percent, to 73 pence in London. The shares have more than doubled this year, giving the company a market value of 353 million pounds.

Sportingbet said it will resume paying dividends, which were stopped after it was forced to close its U.S. operations in 2006 following a crackdown on Internet gambling in that country. The company will pay 1 penny per share for the fiscal year.

Sportingbet also said it will move to the London Stock Exchange’s Official List from the Alternative Investment Market over the next six months.

Net gambling revenue rose 13 percent to 163.6 million pounds in the fiscal year.

McIver said the company now offers 8,000 different bets on a typical day, up from about 1,000 a year ago. The during-game betting option allows Sportingbet to offer 35 different wagers per game per side for an average match, he said.

Soccer’s World Cup next June and July is riskier for betting companies such as Sportingbet than ordinary matches because all the action focuses on one or two games, rather than hundreds during an ordinary week, he said.

“You can win a lot as a bookmaker, or you can lose a lot,” he said.

In Greece, the company’s largest market, gambling revenue was up 56 percent, and in Spain, 11 percent, the company said.

U.K. revenue declined 21 percent because the market is so competitive, the company said. That revenue is up 10 percent so far this fiscal year as the company increased marketing spending, McIver said.

Sportingbet said it is involved in “constructive” talks with the U.S. Justice Department over the company’s U.S. operations prior to the country’s online ban. Its board said the company is optimistic of a settlement, yet couldn’t say how big or when it might come.

October 07, 2009

French MPs to decide over viability of French law

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) re-iterates its concerns over some of the key provisions of the French draft law to be debated on 7, 8 and 9 October in the French National Assembly. Seven months after its notification to the European Commission, EGBA considers that the French proposal still conflicts with the EC Treaty.

“Several key restrictions in the draft do not serve any general interest purpose, whether consumer or public order protection” says Sigrid Ligne, Secretary General of the EGBA.
The opening of the horserace betting market limited to pool betting only: this restriction based on the sole justification that it is a “French tradition” will force incumbents to align their offer with the one of PMU. It will prevent them from offering fixed odds bets on horse races to French players, while this type of popular bets will be authorized for all other sports.
EU operators forced to cap their payback ratio to players, allegedly for the sake of limiting problem gaming: this will again force new entrants to erase one of their most competitive arguments. To date there is no evidence whatsoever of such allegation as confirmed by the European Commission. The average ratio (percentage of stakes paid back to players) is currently 75% for FDJ and 78% for PMU while online EU operators usually pay back 95% to players.
EU operators forced to establish an IT platform in France in order to provide data which could, in full transparency, be provided cross-border from their existing IT platforms. Such obligation would lead to duplications and create a clear operational and financial disadvantage for non-French operators.

The introduction of a “sports betting right” creates a worrying precedent in many ways. First, it grants sports entities ownership of information currently in the public domain (name and results of events or fixture lists) and also used by other professions such as journalists. Second, it will favour the most attractive competitions and sports federations at the expense of less visible sports. Third, most EU regulated operators already enforce early detection systems (such as the one of ESSA) at their own cost which allows them to block suspicious bets and alert in real time the relevant sports authorities.

These concerns also beg the question as to whether the French model will be workable and economically viable. “Ring fencing the French market goes against the cross-border nature of the Internet and would lead to the emergence of an underground and uncontrolled market where consumers would be deprived from any protection” added Sigrid Ligné.

Ladbrokes deny 888.com bid, amid share price fluctuations

British bookmaker Ladbrokes has no current plans to bid for online rival 888 sources familiar with the situation told Reuters.

A report in the Daily Mail newspaper on Tuesday cited market speculation of an imminent bid by Ladbrokes of 139 pence a share, valuing 888 at around 480 million pounds ($764 million). However, sources told Reuters no approach had been made and there was no prospect of one in the immediate future.

"It's rubbish. These are old rumours doing the rounds again," said one of the sources.
KBC Peel Hunt analyst Nick Batram agreed that a deal is unlikely at the current time.
"Whilst I think Ladbrokes does have to do something strategic online, I think a bid for 888 at this point is highly unlikely. One reason is they haven't got the cash and, secondly, 888 wouldn't want the Ladbrokes paper," he said.

Ladbrokes and 888 declined comment on the speculation.

Shares in 888, which had gained as much as 6 percent, fell back to trade 1.2 percent up, before recovering to stand 2.9 percent higher at 93.15 pence at 1049 GMT. Ladbrokes was down 0.4 percent at 183.3 pence.

Ladbrokes held talks with 888 over a possible takeover in 2007 but the talks were terminated as complications relating to 888's past activities in the United States proved a stumbling block. ($1=.6279 Pound)

October 06, 2009

Latvian side kicked out over betting, match-fixing

Latvia's soccer association has expelled premier league side Dinaburg from the top flight and banned its club president and trainer for life for betting on games and fixing results, the ruling body said on Monday.

The association said in a statement that the decision, the first of its kind in the Latvian premier league, was made after proofs of match-fixing and betting against the team based in the eastern town of Daugavpils.

"The idea was that they either lost the game or arranged a particular result," association spokesman Martins Hartmanis said, explaining how the betting had worked.

He said Dinaburg club president Oleg Gavrilov and trainer Tamaz Pertia were banned for life, while Dinaburg were expelled from this season's premier league.

Dinaburg had previously been disqualified in 2007 from the Baltic League pan-Baltic soccer tournament on similar charges.

Hartmanis said UEFA fully supported the Latvian league's decision.

October 02, 2009

Harry Redknapp betting surge mystifies bookmakers

The flurry of activity has surprised bookmakers Paddy Power, who said that punters are still laying down large sums despite odds being cut severely.

On Thursday night Redknapp was 50/1 with the bookmaker to be the next Premier League manager to leave his job. They have since slashed the odds to just 2/1, and this despite Tottenham currently lying in fourth place.

Darren Haines, a spokesman for Paddy Power, said: "There seems to be no rhyme or reason to this one and frankly its left us baffled.

"But no matter what price we cut Redknapp to punters keep backing him. Surely they don’t think he’s going to go back to save Portsmouth for a third time?"

William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe added: "It is probably a bandwagon effect as ususal, based on unsubstantiated gossip, but in volatile markets of this nature you can't afford to take a chance and we are being inundated with calls from punters wanting to bet that Harry will be the first to go."

Hills make Paul Hart 11/10 to be the first out, with Phil Brown at 5/4 and Redknapp 5/1 third favourite.

Redknapp is due to give a scheduled press conference this afternoon ahead of the weekend game against Bolton.

Metro newspaper to launch mobile betting site

Capitalising on its widespread reach across sixteen major cities in the UK, Metro, the free daily newspaper from Associated Newspapers Ltd, has partnered with mobile specialist mkodo to launch a new mobile sports betting service, MEbet.

Building on Metro’s MEbet online betting service which is powered by Rank's Blue Square, the mobile version will be optimised for all mobile handsets offering customers an easy-to-use, fast and secure betting experience via their mobile phones.

Metro will promote MEbet Mobile along with its other Metro Mobile interactivity using in-paper, online and SMS channels.

Since its launch in 1999 when it was only distributed to morning commuters in London, the Metro newspaper is now available in sixteen of the UK's major cities including Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

According to Metro, approximately 1.3 million copies of its free colour newspaper are distributed across the UK every weekday morning, making it the world's largest free newspaper and the fourth biggest newspaper in the UK. Its online service also attracts an estimated 3.2 million unique visitors each month.

Mkodo said earlier this year that is now sees nearly two million interactions per month through the mobile internet betting sites it provides for clients including Blue Square and SkyBet, with further strong growth expected in the future.

October 01, 2009

Cardiff City announce SBOBet Sponsor deal

Following the collapse of its shirt sponsorship deal with Asian online gaming operator 777ball.com for regulatory reasons, Cardiff City Football Club and SBOBET.com are delighted to announce a two season shirt sponsorship deal.

SBOBET, a major company of international standing, are a Isle of Man licensed and regulated online sportsbook and casino operator. They are already well known in the football world as principal sponsors of Barclays Premier League Club West Ham United.

Under the terms of their deal with Cardiff City, the SBOBET logo will appear on players' shirts, replica shirts and players' training kit, as well as being represented on all club media platforms. The sponsorship deal is for remainder of the current 2009/10 Season and the 2010/11 Season.

Cardiff City chairman and chief executive Peter Ridsdale said: "In these challenging times, it is very pleasing that the Club has secured a sponsorship contract with such a significant partner as SBOBET.

"We look forward to working with SBOBET, who are making a most meaningful contribution to enabling Cardiff City to realise our considerable potential."

"Our new relationship with SBOBET also underlines the fact that Cardiff City, which has grown massively as a club in recent years, is in a position to attract major sponsors."

Bill Mummery executive director of SBOBET said "We are extremely pleased to join with Cardiff City Football Club as principal sponsor. This is a logical development for us since our core strength lies in football where we offer value, depth of content and exceptional service to a global audience"

"I am confident that the experience we have already gained in football sponsorship will help in developing our strategic relationship with Cardiff City Football Club and we very much look forward to working with the club, its fans, and their community"

Cardiff City also announced that they have joined forces with new shirt sponsors SBOBET.com to promote the good work of Ty Hafan children's hospice.

The club's under-16 and under-18 academy team shirts will carry the Ty Hafan logo as a result of the club's newly-announced link-up with SBOBET.com

The logo will also be on all junior sizes of replica shirts to publicise Ty Hafan's vital role in caring for ill children and supporting their families.

Frank Ady, head of corporate partnerships at Ty Hafan, said: "Everyone here is absolutely delighted that Cardiff City have chosen our logo to be on the under-16, under-18 and replica Bluebird shirts.

"Many of the life-limited children, young people and families who use our services are huge fans of the club and the exposure will help enormously to raise the much-needed awareness and support for the charity, particularly amongst the younger generation.

"On behalf of everyone at Ty Hafan I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to the club and its chairman and their sponsors for giving us for this fantastic opportunity."

Bill Mummery executive director of SBOBET said: "We are delighted to give visibility to the valuable work done by Ty Hafan through the children's replica shirts and the club's academy under-16 and under-18 Teams. This is exactly the sort of opportunity to support community initiatives that we welcome"

SBOBET will also make a donation to Ty Hafan to mark the launch of their association with Cardiff City.

Cardiff City chairman and chief executive Peter Ridsdale said: "We are delighted that in conjunction with our sponsors SBOBET we are able to carry the TY Hafan children's hospice logo on all of our children's replica shirts as well as our under-16 and under-18 academy team shirts. This demonstrates the community awareness and responsibilities that both companies share."

Guinness Record Broken by PokerStars

If there’s one thing I love in this world, it’s that there is a world record for everything. And they’re all in Guinness’s book. Guinness judges have determined the fastest time to pluck a turkey, the most books typed backwards (67 books, by the way), the youngest person to wear a full set of dentures, and the largest gathering of Santa Claus’. I have also proposed some world records that have yet to be confirmed by the nice folks at Guinness, such as Robert Altman’s record for the most consecutive minutes of pointless boredom in film, Barack Obama’s record for most times talking about himself in public, Jack Johnson’s record for the most songs that sound exactly the same, and Paris Hilton’s record for spreading STD’s to the most people.

Now there is another record. Popular online casino PokerStars has set a new record for hosting the most players at an internet poker room at the same time. PokerStars’ new record of 307,016 players playing online poker simultaneously on 42,814 tables shatters the record previously held by…PokerStars. Okay, so breaking a record is never as cool when it’s your own record, but it’s still a great achievement. The record-breaking moment occurred on September 6, 2009 and has been certified by the Guinness Book of World Records, which means it must truly be a record.

I’m not sure how Guinness decides if something is a record, but I imagine it involves them saying, “Well, gosh, that’s a pretty big number. That’s gotta be a record. Have you ever heard of anyone with more than that? No, me neither. Let’s just put that down as a record and we’ll see if anyone challenges it.” I could be wrong. Maybe their judges do a lot of research. In any case, I haven’t seen that many people gathered in one room since the homeowner’s association meeting after I proposed making everyone trade in their grass for AstroTurf. I still think it’s a good idea, just for the record.