August 31, 2010

888 cuts costs as World Cup hits online poker

888 Holdings, the online gambling company, has announced the launch of a cost-cutting programme to help arrest a slump in pre-tax profits that has forced the online gambling company to forgo an interim dividend payment.

Gig Levy, chief executive, blamed the decline on weakness in the online poker market, currency exchange movements and the distraction of the soccer World Cup on regular poker and casino activity.

Revenues of $130m for the six months to June 30, although 10.5 per cent higher than the same period last year, were lower than expected, the company said.

Bingo overtook poker, generating $23.5m in revenues, while poker fell from $26.2m to $19.6m. Casino revenues rose from $55.9m to $59.3m.

The search for business forced spending on marketing to rise from $35m in the first half of 2009 to $48m. The upshot was a 39 per cent drop in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation to £12.6m.

Pre-tax profit, including $2.2m of restructuring costs and share benefit charges of $1.9m, fell 56 per cent to $4.3m. Earnings per share dropped from 2.3 cents in the 2009 period to 0.8 cents.

The cost-cutting programme will reduce overheads by $5m-$6m in the second half, said 888, without specifying where the economies would be made. Mr Levy said the dividend was being scrapped “in order to continue investing for future growth, and to support potential acquisitions”.

With rivals PartyGaming and Bwin announcing a merger in July, 888 is seen as vulnerable to consolidation in the online gambling sector.

Mr Levy said: “We look at consolidation as one of the possible routes to realising our full value and feel that longer term this is the direction the industry will take. We have always stated that we will look into all relevant deals and expect the recent merger news to accelerate such discussions in the industry.”

Mr Levy added that early signs of second-half trading suggested a return to historical patterns, with daily revenues falling due to seasonality. Innovations in its business-to-customer products, including a 3D casino offering, is helping to stimulate a rise in first-time depositors, compared with the previous quarter.

“Trading in August has been significantly stronger than in July, with a double-digit daily revenue increase especially in casino and poker,” 888 said. Poker revenues in August were up more than 15 per cent.

888 welcomed movements of varying degrees in regulating online gambling in France, Italy and the US, although it said they would take time and investment to come to fruition.

UEFA approves resolution against match-fixing

UEFA reports that at its meeting in Monaco the Professional Football Strategy Council (PFSC) agreed to increase the fight against match-fixing in European football and approved a resolution to that effect.

The PFSC includes elected representatives from the European Club Association (ECA), the European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL), FIFPro Division Europe and UEFA. This makes it a good representation of clubs, leagues, players and the governing body of European football. The PFSC advises the UEFA Executive Committee based on its discussions on matters regarding professional football.

The PFSC has acknowledged that it:

• recognises and understands the gravity of the match-fixing threat,
• welcomes the steps undertaken by UEFA, FIFA and other football bodies so far to fight match-fixing,
• believes that fighting match-fixing needs education, prevention and deterrents,
• invites UEFA to intensify and extend its education programme in co-operation with associations, clubs, leagues and players' unions on both European and national level,
• urges the political authorities to engage with UEFA and national football bodies to adopt legislation, which must be enforced by the law enforcement authorities, to protect the integrity of football competitions and recognise the rights and responsibilities of competition organisers on betting activities, and
• demands a policy of zero tolerance towards all those involved in match-fixing.

Pierluigi Collina, UEFA's Chief Refereeing Officer, gave the PFSC an update on steps being taken to improve refereeing. He also discussed players' agents, UEFA club competitions and reviewed the changes made in 2009-2010. He analysed the matter of social dialogue and sees it as an area of progress.

August 29, 2010

Bulgaria promises prison for unlicensed internet gambling operators

A draft proposal for changes to Bulgarian gambling laws provides a regime for the legalization, licensing and regulation of online gambling in the country, but at a price. The proposal, which lawmakers hope to have put into place by the end of the year, promises that any person operating an online gambling site operating in the country without a license can face up to five years in jail and fines between 20,000 to 50,000 leva (€10,000 to €25,000).

It would seem the simple way to avoid imprisonment would be to simply apply for a license, but the requirements are strict. Any gambling operator wishing to obtain a gambling license in Bulgaria must invest at least €500,000 in its online gambling site in Bulgaria in order to be eligible. The group must also have a physical presence in the country in the form of “payment shops” where players can go to make deposits and cash out their winnings. The justification for this is that in Bulgaria cash is still the primary payment method, so the lawmakers who drafted the bill felt it necessary to include this requirement.

The proposed law also includes a clause that will require Bulgarian ISPs to filter the internet, blocking unlicensed gambling sites. Local ISPs are already complaining about the requirement, stating the same arguments being made across Europe where similar internet filters are being implemented. Trying to censor the internet in this way, they argue, is not only technically difficult, it is also very ineffective. Players who want to find a way around the filters will have little trouble doing so.

Current gambling law in country is not very clear, and these changes are being made in hopes of solidifying the government’s tough stance on internet gambling in Bulgaria.

August 28, 2010

Greeks reveal gaming proposals ahead of parliamentary debate

The Greek government has published draft legislation for an opening up of the country’s slots and VLT market, and for the partial liberalisation of the country’s online gaming market.

A first glimpse of the legislation has been posted on the Greek government website and details specific proposals for opening up Greece’s markets for sports betting and for poker.

The regulative framework produced by the Finance Ministry aims to ensure that most of the €5bn worth of illegal gambling estimated in a recent Reuters report will be added to the present €9bn annual spend generated by OPAP, and produce substantial tax revenues for the hard-pressed treasury.

In the introduction to the proposals the authors admit that “Greece has been ordered by a decision of the ECJ because of its ban on gaming machines to pay a daily fine of €32.000 i.e. € 11.5m a year” and “absence of any market regulation of online gambling within Greek territory progressively resulted in the regime being de facto illegal.”

The report suggests that the government has no choice but to open up its slots and VLT market following the ECJ decision from October 26, 2006 that states that “by inserting ... a prohibition on the installation and operation of all electrical, electromechanical and electronic games, including technical recreational games and all computer games, on all public or private premises apart from casinos, the Hellenic Republic has failed to fulfil its obligations under Articles 28 EC, 43 EC and 49 EC and Article 8 of Directive 98/34/EC of the European Parliament.”

The document, which will be open for consultation until midnight on September 12 gives, in Chapter IV Article 11, details of the online products to be made available to Greek gamblers.

Initially sports betting and poker would be offered online, via mobile or interactive TV.

According to the proposals betting on horse racing and casino type games may be subject to future consultation.

The framework also includes mechanisms for blocking of access to overseas gaming sites and for preventing Greek customers having financial transactions with overseas operators.

Operators would be required to have servers inside the country and use websites. Licences would be available for a period of five years.

However the document suggests a number of options are to be debated on how the licences would be allocated. In section 4 of Article 11, three possibilities for granting of online licences are mooted.

The first possibility would involve a competitive market with an unlimited number of licences available. The selection would be made based on the operator satisfying specific requirements set out by the government rather than via a tender. This would be similar to the model introduced in France and in Italy.

The second option would involve a public tender for a limited number of online licences, again with operators being required to satisfy specific requirements while licences would be allocated to the highest bidder. In previous comments from government representatives there has been suggestion that there would be five licences available.

The final option would involve OPAP maintaining its current monopoly status in some online gaming spheres until 2019, with again a limited number of additional licences available for operators, but in this case they could act as subcontractors and pay royalties to OPAP.

The Greek media is reporting that OPAP is already negotiating with online systems provider Intralot to develop online casinos and possibly poker rooms for Greek players in advance of legalisation coming into force during 2011.

There has already been discussion related to the introduction of slots and VLTs in the Greek market, with OPAP almost certainly to be allocated one of the licences available, although again there appears to have been no decision on how many licences would be up for grabs.

Any suggestion that OPAP would be allowed to maintain any form of monopoly going forward is certain to be the subject of a legal challenge.

In France both Stanleybet and Zeturf are awaiting developments from their legal actions against the monopoly status of Francaise des Jeux and the PMU with regard to retail betting.

More concrete plans for opening up the Greek market will now be awaited once the consultation period has been completed.

August 27, 2010

Tokwiro sells Absolute Poker & UB

he Cereus online poker network, formed by Absolute Poker and UltimateBet in 2008, has been sold to Antigua based Blanca Games for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition includes the Cereus network, operating software and the AbsolutePoker and UB brands.

Blanca Games is headed by Stuart Gordon, founder and operator of online bingo site bingomania.

Commenting on the acquisition, Gordon stated that security will continue to be a key area of focus for the network going forward. Both Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet have in the past been mired in cheating and security scandals.

“The acquisition of Cereus is a significant opportunity for us,” says Blanca Games CEO Stuart Gordon. “Cereus is a major platform of well-managed assets. Over the past few years, it has created new brands, like, that are extremely well-positioned in the most desirable demographic in our market: players in the 20s and 30s age brackets. From our perspective, we have acquired a large, sophisticated online gaming operation with state-of-the art capabilities, ranging from compliance to business intelligence to online marketing to customer service. We see a tremendous growth opportunity in this deal and beyond, as Blanca seeks additional acquisitions in the market.

“We intend to leverage the existing strengths of the Cereus Poker Network, particularly in the areas of security and customer service. Although we are impressed with many of the new security features on the Network today, security is and will remain our top priority.”

Cereus is the third largest US facing online poker network according to, behind PokerStars and Full Tilt, albeit with a fraction of their liquidity.

The network’s former owner, Tokwiro, is yet to comment on the sale, although a statement is expected to be released next week.

August 21, 2010

Betfair devises Dutch and Danish licence plans

Betfair is preparing to re-apply for a Dutch licence only two months after losing a five-year long court battle against the country’s monopoly De Lotto this summer.

Director of European public affairs Tim Phillips: “We are certainly planning to, but we are waiting for the impact of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling to filter down to the local courts before we get the opportunity. There is an ongoing review process taking place in the Netherlands and we are yet to see the results of that,”

Betfair and Ladbrokes’ long-running dispute against the Dutch authorities began in 2005 when they ruled that both operators should stop taking bets from Dutch citizens due to concerns about fraud. It ended in the authorities’ favour in June this year, when the European Court of Justice outlined that any online offering other than the incumbent monopoly can be restricted, even if operators are licensed in other EU countries.

At the time Betfair declared it would re-apply for a licence in the Netherlands “at the first opportunity”, after the court confirmed its long-stated view that sports betting licences in the EU should be allocated in a transparent and equal manner, to allow Dutch consumers to benefit from competitive bids for the Dutch market.

Betfair is also currently working with a French consultancy and will start talking to the French authorities in September to put its views across on the country’s high tax and protectionist regulations, Phillips said. Betfair has not applied for a licence with French regulator ARJEL as it considers the system to be unprofitable for foreign operators.

As it continues to ramp up its expansion in Europe, Phillips said the British betting exchange would apply for a licence in Denmark “as soon as we can” when the market opens at the beginning of 2011. He called Denmark a “good level playing field” compared to the French system and that the Scandinavian country is politically “much more open to new ideas”.

Phillips said Betfair has its product offering ready and is planning to enter the Danish market early next year once the market opens up.

Betfair is also in talks with the Greek government to discuss legislation there. This follows the chief of Greek monopoly OPAP revealing in June that such discussions were underway. “We will have to see if it works commercially, but we intend to apply [for a Greek licence]”, said Phillips. “Greece is more important size-wise than Denmark, but Denmark is good strategically because of the location and proper regulation”.

Betfair intends to apply for a licence in Spain later this year and in Germany, although Phillips said that the devolved governments in both countries could be obstacles. Part of the operator’s core strategy is emerging markets, currently in Europe and increasingly in the rest of the world: “South Africa, Asia and even Latin America”, he added.

August 19, 2010

PokerStars and Full Tilt are “operating illegally” says Bwin CEO

Online poker giants PokerStars And Full Tilt are both “operating illegally” in the US, according to Bwin CEOs Norbert Teufelberger and Manfred Bodner, in an interview given by them to

Bwin has the world’s third strongest poker offering behind PokerStars And Full Tilt, and believe the only reason they are not in pole position themselves was their decision to pull out of the US market in 2006.

Teufelberger believes that the two sites haven’t any particular advantages over other poker sites, and that without their virtual monopoly on US players they would have no chance of maintaining their colossal statures in the industry. As Teufelberger explains to EGRMagazine:
“It’s not because they have premier marketing skills or premier technology, what they have is hundreds of millions of dollars from what we see as an illegal market. We would expect that once the US regulates, these two companies will not have access to the market, and once that happens we’ll then see who the leader will be. They say they’re not operating illegally but I think they are.”

Teufelberger seems to believe strongly that before long the US will deregulate online poker and that PokerStars And Full Tilt will be firmly left out of any future licence considerations in the new market. In fact, he seems to think that the only question remaining would be whether they find themselves prosecuted or not for their so-called illegal activities.

He further dismissed any possibility of PokerStars or Full Tilt being bought out by investors, as nobody bought PartyPoker’s customer database when they pulled out of the US gaming market.
However, in business as in poker, few things are certain and Teufelberger did strike a more cautious note when he mentioned that if PokerStars And Full Tilt were granted licences, then it would have been “the biggest mistake Manfred and I ever made”.

August 11, 2010

Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. to bring online gambling to Ontario in 2012

Ontario will start offering online gambling in 2012, with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. promising a secure environment that will protect young people and problem gamblers.

"OLG needs to be current and to keep in tune with the changing needs of our customers," OLG chair Paul Godfrey told a news conference on Tuesday.

Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said the move was meant to ensure "the competitiveness of OLG going forward."

"We know that we're losing about $400 million per year to offshore websites," Duncan said.

Godfrey added: "If we're going to retain Ontarians' money in Ontario, we've got to start doing it now."

In the 2010 budget, documents showed that OLG revenue dropped by $83 million, mainly due to lower revenue from slot machines.

The returns from the online gambling expansion will be modest, Duncan admitted. Government officials have estimated Ontario will make about $100 million per year within five years of startup. Last year, the OLG generated $1.7 billion in revenue for the province.

Robert Murray, manager of the problem gambling project at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, said while online gamblers represent only a small portion -- about 2.1 per cent -- of total gamblers, the Internet is one of the fastest-growing methods of gambling.

Murray said he is concerned that more people will want to try online gambling if they know it is government-sanctioned.

"The trick is to balance the need to generate revenue with the social consequences that this expansion of gambling may result in," Murray told CTV News Channel Tuesday afternoon. "There's going to be a social impact here because people are going to have a variety of different ways of now accessing gambling…and this is going to bring gambling in your home."

Duncan said there will be safeguards to ensure responsible gambling.

"Although Ontario is following many other jurisdictions, we feel that by the time OLG launches its site, it will benefit from best practices and policies in use worldwide," he said.

British Columbia launched an online casino last month -- Quebec is expected to soon follow. The Atlantic Lottery Corp. offers five interactive games through its website, including Hold'em Poker.

The U.S. is expected to end its Internet gambling ban this fall.

Godfrey said Ontarians currently gambling online are doing so in unlicensed, unregulated environments.

Ontario's online gaming channel will be safe and secure, he said.

There will be strong age-verification procedures to keep underage gamblers from playing, Godfrey said.

"It will implement the gold standard in responsible gaming controls and tools," he said. "Best-in-class security will be utilized to ensure the safety and security of customers' accounts and personal information."

B.C.'s website is having problems. The financial information of some players was compromised, and the B.C. Lottery Corp. had to take offline and it remains unavailable at this time.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called OLG's move "a big mistake."

"If the government really wanted to show some leadership here, they would be working with the federal government to figure out how we can prevent online gambling in Canada and in Ontario," Horwath told reporters.

Godfrey said players won't be able to participate on the Ontario website anonymously.

"This provides a controlled gaming environment," he said. "It allows us to identify each player, allow for play limits and warning flags around extensive play."

If necessary, free treatment services will be made available, he said.

August 10, 2010

Women a growing force online

A new study from Comscore on the internet behaviour of women could be of interest to online gambling marketers.

The study showed that although women are still slightly in the minority among global Web users, they are closing the gap with men and, once connected, spend about two more hours online a month on average.

Women users aged 55 and over spend an average 214 minutes a month in online gaming, whilst male players aged between 15 and 24 – a key group – spend only an average of 92 minutes a month.

According to Comscore, females exceed males particularly in communications, devoting about one-third of their online time to social networking, instant messaging and e-mail messages compared with about one-quarter for men. Women 45 and older exhibited the greatest growth in social networking.

Women also outpace men in photo sharing and shopping, and in gaming, favouring casual puzzle, card and board games. Female gamers over 55 spend the most time online gaming of any demographic by far and are nearly as common as the most represented group, males 15 to 24.

Women are also being found in increasing numbers on gambling and sexually oriented websites, where they are almost as likely to be found on gambling sites as men, and over a third of women users visit sex-content websites.

“Unlike the earlier days of the Internet, women today exhibit many behaviours that are perhaps surprisingly similar to their male counterparts,” said Andrew Lipsman, senior director of industry analysis at Comscore.

August 09, 2010

Spoiling tactics will not delay entry to Danish market for PartyGaming

PartyGaming chief executive Jim Ryan addressed a number of questions on operational issues facing PartyGaming during his post-results press conference Friday, and one of these concerned the disruption of the PartyGaming – Danske Spil agreement to partner going into a newly liberalised Danish gambling market.

Licensing in Denmark comes into full effect in January 2011, and the b2b partnership would have seen state monopoly Danske Spil provided with online poker and casino products by Ryan’s company. The wheels temporarily came off the project two months ago when rival software producer Playtech launched a successful spoiler complaint in which it claimed that mandatory tender procedures had not been adhered to.

Whilst not making any direct commitments in regard to the Danish market, Ryan stressed that the PartyGaming platform is fully geared up and ready for a Danish launch, and that it may not necessarily include Danske Spil.

“We positioned ourselves hopefully to do business with Danske Spil in future,” Ryan revealed. “At this point in time, we have nothing to announce, but what I can tell you is that we are readying the PartyGaming platform, to launch in Denmark on January 1 2011.”

He added that the trend for European governments to start regulating online gambling represented a good opportunity for his company to grow and compete more effectively with online poker majors like Pokerstars and Full Tilt, which had been taking advantage of PartyGaming’s withdrawal from the US market to build their businesses.

Describing online poker as an intensely competitive market, Ryan said: “However, as we move into regulated markets, particularly ring fenced regulated markets, where competitors can’t bring worldwide liquidity into the equation to compete, we have a level playing field, an opportunity to invest freely in advertising and these factors equal growth.”

August 07, 2010

PartyGaming ready for US re-entry

Last week’s probity agreement with major shareholders Russ De Leon and Ruth Parasol means nothing is preventing PartyGaming from being licensed and re-entering the US, its chief executive has admitted.

De Leon and Parasol’s decision not to follow PartyGaming and the other company founder Anurag Dikshit and settle with US authorities for activities prior to passage of UIGEA had led to questions from the markets surrounding Party's ability to get licensed at federal or state level in the US.

Jim Ryan, however, highlighted that last week’s merger agreement had included a provision that if “perhaps a shareholder is going to be in the way of us getting a licence or completing a suitability review”, the company could obligate the shareholder to liquidate their position.

Ryan said: “There’s always been questions about PartyGaming and our position to do that, but we have now closed the loop and I think we are very well positioned for re-entering. Now all we need is regulation.”

On regulation, Ryan said that there were now three catalysts “driving our enthusiasm about re-entering into this market and regulation.”

“If we were sitting here a year ago, we would be talking about the efforts of lobbyists at various European online gaming organisations had hired to try and move regulation forward. Today, we are talking about in-country catalysts, organisations that are going to benefit from the addition of online gaming products,” Ryan said.

The first of these catalysts, according to Ryan was “new sources of revenue, and not just at a government level, but also at a land-based operator level in that country.”

“Another interesting catalyst are the efforts of Harrah’s and the WSOP, that they’ve announced they are actively pursuing a strategy has moved a lot of their competitors into looking at and exploring and wanting to partner up with other operators in the sector. Then we’ve got the catalyst of GTech acquiring various online gaming assets and talking to state-run lotteries about what online businesses can do for their revenue streams.”

Ryan, however, admitted that although he felt Party’s US settlement, subscription poker and WPT brand would serve the company well as it moves into the regulated environment, he still “didn’t know” if it would be licensed as a B2C operator.

“It is also equally possible, if not more likely, that we would have to offer our services to existing operators or existing licence holders. That’s why developing our B2B and B2G model was fundamental not just for European regulation but equally so for US regulation.”

The company’s negotiations with 12 land-based operators in the US over running events under its WPT Brand had given Party “a chance to talk to them about possibly leveraging that into the online world,” Ryan also revealed.

August 06, 2010

Players face court in Belgian match-fixing probe

A total of 31 people, including nine players, are to appear in court as part of a match-fixing probe in Belgium.

The players, connected to Lierse, newly promoted to the top flight, will appear at a pre-trial hearing on Nov. 30, a spokeswoman for Belgium's federal prosecutor said on Thursday. She declined to name the players involved, saying some may not end up being prosecuted.

Nobody at Lierse was immediately available to comment. The prosecutor's office said in a statement that St Truiden, FC Brussels and La Louviere, who merged with Couillet in June 2009 to form FCLL, were also involved.

St Truiden are in the top flight while FC Brussels play in the second division and FCLL feature in the fourth tier.

Belgian police launched an investigation after Internet betting exchange Betfair logged heavy betting patterns relating to La Louviere's 3-1 win over St Truiden in a first division match in Oct. 2005.

In a statement on Thursday, the prosecutor's office said Ye Zheyun, a Chinese businessman suspected of being the lynchpin of the scandal, will also be asked to appear in court.

Ye has previously denied any involvement in the affair.

A total of nine matches were manipulated during the 2004/05 season, the statement said. Sums of 5,000 to 40,000 euros ($6,562-$52,490) were paid per match and per player, it added.

August 05, 2010

Novibet gets Isle of Man internet gambling licence

Novibet the latest to meet island jurisdiction's standards

The Isle of Man government has revealed that its latest online gambling licensee is e-sports betting company Novigroup Limited, which owns the domain The company has been awarded an e-gaming licence by the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission (GSC), allowing it to operate on the Isle of Man, a white-listed jurisdiction.

Novibet is a fully licensed online sportsbook which provides customers with on-screen betting offers on screen in a choice of eight different languages, with highlights and live score updates.

The site promises the most competitive odds on select teams, and offers live chat rooms so that punters can interact with each other. Wagering is accepted on a range of sports including all European football events, basketball, tennis, cricket, darts, boxing, ice hockey and motor sports.

Garth Kimber, Head of e-Gaming Development, Isle of Man Government’s Department of Economic Development commented: “The addition of Novibet to the Isle of Man showcases the Island’s success as a leading platform for gaming companies. The high level of regulation and support in the Isle of Man offers an ideal environment for Novibet to develop its business.”

August 04, 2010

California senator joins fight to legalise sports betting

California poker bill author Senator Rod Wright has said the US’ most populous state could join New Jersey’s legal challenge to the 18-year-old federal ban on sports betting.

Wright confirmed to ESPN Radio Los Angeles yesterday he had joined New Jersey officials in their fight to legalise sports betting: “You’re talking about an industry that’s already a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States.

“We allow three states – Oregon, Delaware and Nevada – to have sports betting. In addition, if you take the internet that is kinda-sorta now going – internet poker in particular but some of the other online gaming that takes place – you’re talking about an industry, in the United States, that’s probably close to US$15 to US$20bn a year already.”

New Jersey’s lawsuit, filed last March by New Jersey Senator Lesniak, iMEGA and two groups representing horse racing interests in the state, argues the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 is unconstitutional, as it discriminates against the people of New Jersey by allowing four states exempted under the law to reap tax revenue from sports betting while the Garden State cannot.

Wright added that he may ask the California legislature to join the fight: “We’re looking at it. When you talk about gaming or alcohol or prostitution, there’s kind of a push-back from people. … But particularly in this lawsuit, we’re talking about sports betting.

“I’m not a lawyer, but the lawyers to whom I’ve spoken, it’s kind of an equal-protection portion of the federal constitution. How am I able to do something in Oregon that I can’t do in California. What is it about Oregon that gives them a privilege that a guy in San Francisco can’t have?”

Despite being in “general support” of sports betting, recently installed New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie announced last month that he will not be joining Lesniak’s legal battle to bring sports betting to the US state.

August 03, 2010

OPAP calls tender, grants Intralot interim extension

Greek gaming monopoly operator OPAP has renewed its agreement with existing gaming supplier Intralot by one year while it carries out an international tender for the provision of new gaming systems and respective support services.

OPAP has already started the process of selecting technical and legal advisors who will assist the company in organising the evaluation process and publishing the relevant Request for Proposal (RFP) documents.

The international tender concerns the provision of new gaming systems, infrastructure, gaming operation, and respective support services as well as the installation and transition from its current system to the new system.

While the company awaits bids under the tender, OPAP has agreed to extend its existing contract with Intralot for one additional year, with Intralot tasked with a number of objectives including uninterrupted operations, growth of modern services to clients, expansion of content and games offered, as well as upgrading agency functionality and reducing operating costs.

Intralot will upgrade the existing technology infrastructure of OPAP and provide technical support services, maintenance and operation of the infrastructure, whilst proceeding with the expansion of the LOTOS Horizon audiovisual system that will require the installation of 20,000 TV sets in OPAP’s retail network, which will broadcast information content regarding OPAP games.

Intralot will also develop, install and operate the OPAP/TV system which will broadcast OPAP-specific sports and betting content via satellite and internet exclusively to OPAP agencies.

In addition Intralot will develop and operate new games which will be operated on LOTOS Horizon and on OPAP's self-service terminals, and will provide support services for OPAP’s game ‘Pame Stihima’ and undertake the introduction of new forms of betting content as well as live betting.

Intralot will receive an annual fixed fee of €57m under the contract extension from OPAP, together with an additional fee representing 8 per cent of the gross proceeds of the new games carried out by TAX (autonomous terminals) and Monitor Games, the installation of which will be entirely at Intralot’s expense.

OPAP added that should a new supplier be awarded the tender, the company has the option to extend the contract with Intralot for one further year, in order to secure the transition from the current system to a new system.

888 on radar as takeover fever grips gaming sector

Online gaming firm 888 said it had been contacted by rivals looking for takeover opportunities in the wake of last week's tie-up between Austria's bwin and PartyGaming.

The merger between bwin and PartyGaming will create the world's biggest Internet gambling firm, worth $4 billion at current share prices, and puts pressure on other companies in the sector to strike deals or risk losing out as online gambling laws are relaxed across the world.

"This puts us in a position in which we are one of the best assets in the field -- we got a few phone calls immediately from various people. Everybody in the industry is looking and saying 'who is the best one to merge with if we need to?'," Chief Executive Gigi Levy said in an interview with Reuters.

"Party and bwin took almost a year to close the deal so we don't see anything happening imminently but there's definitely expressions of interest," he said.

KBC Peel Hunt analyst Nick Bartram said 888 must strike a deal in order to fully realise value in its business, especially in light of its weak trading performance in recent quarters.

"The pressure is now on for others to pursue consolidation or risk being left further behind. For 888 consolidation looks imperative and, given the bottom line performance, the group could be pursuing this from a sole position of weakness," he said.

888, which runs online casino, bingo and poker websites, said on Tuesday it made second quarter operating income of $61 million, unchanged on the previous year, after growth in bingo and emerging markets offset weak trading in its poker division.

Poker has been hit by competition from websites continuing to take bets from U.S.-based gamblers illegally.

888 said average daily revenues in July were down 6 percent on the previous quarter, with summer holidays and the soccer World Cup providing alternative attractions for gamblers.

In May, 888 warned full-year earnings would be significantly lower than market expectations.

Shares in 888, which have lost over half their value since the start of the year, were trading down 1.5 percent at 49.25 pence at 0915 GMT.

888 also said it had formed a partnership with Microgame to provide online casino products to the Italian market.