September 30, 2010

Malaga's new owner ends William Hill sponsorhip deal

Spanish football club Malaga, William Hill plc has agreed to end their shirt sponsorship deal after the new club owner raised objections on religious grounds.

The new owner of Malaga is Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Al-Thani (43), a member of the Qatari royal family who acquired the Spanish club in June for Euro 10.5 million.

On 27 August 2009, Málaga CF announced that they had signed a three year sponsorship agreement with gambling company William Hill, where the William Hill brand would be displayed on the front of the Málaga CF shirts

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Al-Thani raised religious concerns about a gambling company being involved with the club, claiming that this went against the tenets of his Islamic religion, and by mutual consent both club and gambling company have agreed to end the sponsorship.

September 24, 2010

William Hill turns up the heat on Betfair

UK bookmaker William Hill has given its support to the Horserace Betting Levy Board’s calls to tax certain users of betting exchanges as though they were bookmakers, claiming that exchanges such as Betfair cost the British horseracing industry £30m annually. But the company wants to see the authorities go further and launch a wider review into exchanges and how they are regulated and taxed.

According to William Hill, the UK government failed to realise the implications for tax yield when it legitimised betting exchanges, saying that had the government anticipated the volume of betting transactions that now flow through exchanges, it would not have been so keen to allow market entry.

In its response to the HBLB consultation, William Hill said that it agrees with the argument that people who conduct business on betting exchanges should be subject to levy. According to the company, if only 10 per cent of exchange users were business users, the overall tax and levy loss could be as much as £75m and £30m per annum respectively.

William Hill believes that the current economic climate, and even offshore migration by British bookmakers, are less of a factor in causing tax and levy leakage compared to the failure to collect tax and levy from business users of exchanges.

The company singles out Betfair in its consultation response, accusing it of conducting a well orchestrated public and government relations programme “which has sought to oversimplify, to its advantage, the complexities of how betting exchanges operate within the wider UK and global betting market”. William Hill suggests that politicians, officials and customers alike have been duped by clever advertising and positioning into seeing the company [Betfair] as a technology success story facilitating betting between ordinary punters.

“Whilst exchanges may be a technology success story, that has certainly been at the expense of racing who no longer receive levy from a significant proportion of the commercial betting market as required by the current levy legislation.”

“William Hill, which is the largest betting shop operator in the UK and therefore the largest payer of levy is confident that the HBLB’s consultation will concur with our belief that those who have decided to operate a business via betting exchanges are not appropriately levied, taxed or regulated in the same way as traditional bookmakers,” said William Hill chief executive Ralph Topping. “While this disparity exists an unfair competitive advantage remains which distorts the market, resulting in a falling tax yield and dwindling financial support for racing.’’

Betfair’s view is that the HBLB’s efforts to change the way exchange customers are treated is discriminatory, unjust and legally indefensible.

Betfair’s chief legal and regulatory affairs officer Martin Cruddace told Gaming Intelligence: “On Monday, we submitted a detailed and comprehensive response to the betting exchanges consultation exercise.

“The consultation paper covers ground which has been exhaustively examined by a number of public authorities over the past 8 years, including the Government through the DCMS, last year. Each review has correctly concluded that exchanges should be taxed and subject to the Levy no differently to any other bookmaker and that exchange customers, by simple virtue of betting on an exchange, should not be treated as bookmakers for either duty/tax, regulatory or Levy purposes. No reason exists now to change that view,” says Cruddace.

“The terms in which the consultation paper has been framed suggest that the Board is acting in a biased manner against betting exchanges. It is a Consultation that has a number of flaws that are incapable of being remedied. For example; it has been launched without any evidence provided to justify its existence; it targets exchange customers only, which is discriminatory; and when you consider that a full time team at the Treasury looked at the matter for 20 months, it is hard to see what a process of under 12 weeks hopes to achieve.

“It is our unequivocal view that any conclusion by the Levy Board that advocates change in the way that either exchanges or their customers are levied as a result of this Consultation, would inevitably be unjust and legally indefensible.”

“We will let our arguments speak for themselves in our submission,” concluded Cruddace.

The question for betting exchange operators and particularly Betfair is whether the issue can be dealt with objectively.

Betfair announced on Tuesday that it intends to list on the London Stock Exchange, a business decision which the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) felt inclined to comment on in its war of words with the operator.

“Today’s announcement is no real surprise to the markets. What will be of great interest is that it comes a day after the close of a major consultation process by the Horserace Betting Levy Board, that strikes at the heart of Betfair’s model, at a time when the figure of an underpayment to Racing of £30m has been stated by a leading betting industry figure, and during which the future relationship between exchange betting and Racing is under close scrutiny by the relevant authorities,” said BHA chairman Paul Roy following Betfair’s announcement.

“The markets will understand that we are in the midst of a new process which will decide the basis on which all parts of the betting industry, including Betfair, will contribute to the Levy. It is clear the contribution is going to have to be on a significantly different basis to what has gone before. We are ready for serious dialogue with the betting industry, which includes exchanges, through the Levy Board. We await the betting industry’s position. A failure to resolve issues by agreement will see it referred to Government and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport at the end of October.

“British Racing is the sport upon which Betfair was founded, and from which it continues to generate a substantial proportion of its business. There are many in British Racing who for a great many reasons would not have allowed exchange betting, had it been our choice as opposed to the Government’s. The history of the last few years has proved those sceptics to have been right. This was compounded significantly by the failure of a system based on database rights which was intended to replace the Levy. Under that system, Betfair would have had to enter into commercial arrangements with Racing, as well as any betting operators wanting to offer bets on the sport.

“There remain a number of fundamental questions around the business of exchange betting. We are confident that these will be resolved as part of the wider issue of the relationship between racing and betting. The new Government has signalled its policy commitment to ensuring a value transfer form betting to Racing as it sets policy to catch up with changes in technology and the way people bet.

“We would entirely agree that Betfair has been “disruptive” and “fundamentally changed the sports betting market”. Whether intended or not, it has certainly disrupted British Racing’s finances, and has created severe consequences. It has indeed, for its customers, “eliminated the need for a traditional bookmaker”, and markets itself as “cutting out the middle man”. At the same time Betfair has argued it should be treated as a traditional bookmaker for the purposes of its contribution to our sport. Betfair cannot have it both ways,” says Roy.

“Our response to the Levy Board consultation states that it seems certain that some customers of Betfair and other exchanges that carry on the business of receiving or negotiating bets, and that should therefore be paying Levy. This is entirely consistent with Betfair processing more transactions per day last year than all European stock exchanges combined, with some of their clients making many thousands of transactions and data requests on a daily basis.

“Any international racing jurisdiction considering permitting Betfair to operate in their territory has to give very careful consideration to the impact on their sport, and learn from the British experience,” warns Roy. “ In fact, we understand that they are offering far better terms to other Racing authorities, and we call on Betfair to now engage with us constructively and end the uncertainty.”

September 23, 2010

World Series of Poker Europe main event begins today

The fifth and final event of the fourth annual World Series of Poker Europe (WSOPE) – the celebrated £10,350 buy-in championship main event – kicks off later today in London as more than three hundred poker players and aficionados from across the world are expected to battle it out over the next six days to win the celebrated gold bracelet and a top prize of some £750,000.

The £10,350 buy-in no limit hold’em main event will begin at 12:00 BST today at the Casino at the Empire in London, with play on the final table taking place on Tuesday. A top prize of some £750,000 is expected to be awarded to the winner, from a total prize pool of more than £3m.

Past winners of the WSOPE main event include inaugural winner Annette Obrestad who made history as the youngest ever gold bracelet winner at the age of 18; U.S pro John Juanda who won after the longest finale in the 41-year history of the WSOP - 19 hours and 10 minutes; while last year’s event was won by another U.S pro Barry Shulman.

For the first time, a same-day internet stream with hole cards will be featured for the final two days of the WSOPE next Monday and Tuesday. Coverage will showcase the 27 players who start on Monday, with action continuing until nine players remain at the final table. Viewing of the final table will begin Tuesday at noon and continue until the event champion is crowned., ESPN’s 24/7 sports broadband network, will stream the event in the U.S, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America and Brazil.

The coverage will show players’ hole cards with a five-hour delay, also a first. As has been standard with WSOPE coverage, the event will also be carried on television globally, with broadcasts scheduled during the upcoming winter.

“ESPN is committed to delivering the best poker content to fans, and ESPN3 is the ideal format to showcase this great event as it happens,” said Doug White, senior director of programming and acquisitions for ESPN.

September 16, 2010

UK online gambling growing faster than Facebook

Online gambling grew faster in the UK last year than social networking sites such as Facebook, according to data released this week by market research company Nielsen.

An additional 3.2 million people visited online gambling sites last year, a 40% increase over the previous year, compared to the extra 2.2 million who accessed social networking sites such as Facebook.

UK lottery giant Camelot also topped Nielsen’s chart of the fastest-growing companies online, increasing unique visitors by 4.4m to 9.4m between July 2009 and July 2010, representing an 88% year-on-year increase. Nielsen credited its display ad campaign for National Lottery EuroMillions.

PartyGaming came in 8th on the list, increasing its customer base for PartyPoker and PartyCasino by 1.2m, or 186%, to 1.9m. yielded an extra 870,000 visitors last year, increasing its audience by 174%.

Nielsen said nearly half of all online gamblers earned more than £30,000 per annum from their day jobs.

While middle-aged men drove the spike in numbers, according to Nielsen, women represented 46% of online gamblers.

Neil Beston of Nielsen said: "While the phenomenal growth in gambling sites over the last two years has been driven by men and women of all ages, it appears to be powered particularly by middle-aged men, the well-educated and high-earning households."

French casino association launches 200%Poker brand

Spiral Solutions France has announced the launch of 200%Poker, the online gaming brand of France’s La Societe Francaise des Jeux sur Internet (SFJI), a leading association of forty French independent land-based casinos.

The new 200%Poker brand will be officially unveiled at a launch event and press conference in Paris today, and will signal a new interactive era for France’s La Societe Francaise des Jeux sur Internet.

SFJI is an association of forty French independent land-based casinos which collectively host more than forty million customers each year. Led by Luc Le Borgne, directeur general of Vikings-Casinos, the group will own and manage the 200%Poker brand, enabling the group to extend its land-based casino businesses online and achieve new revenue streams.

“Our customers are keen to experience the thrill of online poker. 200% Poker extends the trust and loyalty of our group's brand into the online world,” said Luc Le Borgne. “With world-class platform and the private service we get from Spiral Solutions France, we're confident that 200% Poker will be a great success."

SFJI received an online poker licence from French regulator ARJEL in July to cover its 200%poker brand –,,,, – and has launched on the French poker network jointly operated by 888 and Microgaming.

“France's online poker gaming market is set to experience massive growth, representing a tremendous opportunity for gaming and casino brands like SFJI,” said Christophe Santa Maria, president of Spiral Solutions France. “We're perfectly placed to help any organisation launch an online poker offering in France. Our experience and expertise was crucial in securing the ARJEL licence and launching 200% Poker. It is without doubt one of the most exciting players in the French market.”

Matti Zinder, managing partner and CEO of Spiral Solutions, added: “Gaining entry into newly regulated markets is not without its challenges. Our clients in France and in other newly regulated markets such as Italy, Denmark and others can capitalise on Spiral Solutions' bespoke, private and professional interactive gaming solutions that enhance their brand and maximise their revenues.”

Spiral Solutions France is a joint venture between Spiral Solutions and Santa Maria Group.

September 15, 2010

Illinois Lottery terminates SG contract following Intralot

Following a protest by rival Intralot, the Illinois Gaming Board has informed Scientific Games Corporation that it has terminated the six-year contract awarded to the company’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Scientific Games International, to provide a central communication system to manage every licensed video gaming terminal in the state.

Intralot had protested that its bid for the contract, said to be worth an estimated $90m, was substantially lower than the winning bid by Scientific Games after obtaining information on its rival’s bid by filing a Freedom of Information Act request last month.

As a result the Illinois Gaming Board admitted that it made miscalculations in evaluating the price portion of the contract proposals, due in part to the fact that the bid instructions resulted in both the board and applicants making assumptions that were not uniform.

Based upon these factors, the Illinois Gaming Board has now terminated Scientific Games' contract and remains committed to promptly rebidding the contract.

“We are disappointed by the decision of the Illinois Gaming Board; however we are confident going into the expedited rebid process,” said Michael Chambrello, president and CEO of Scientific Games. “We continue to believe that we offer the highest quality, service and value to the State.

“Furthermore, as we were in the initial stages of the implementation process, we are best positioned to promptly implement this important initiative and begin generating funds for the crucial capital construction that this program is to fund.”

With the Illinois Lottery also set to announce the winning bidder for the lottery’s ten-year private management contract this week, Intralot could yet be issuing a second formal protest against the lottery after being eliminated early from the bidding process. Just two bidders remain in the hunt for the ten-year lucrative contract – Camelot and Northstar Lottery Group.

Basketball Australia signs partnership with Centrebet

Australian online sports betting operator Centrebet has entered into a partnership agreement with Basketball Australia to serve as the official betting partner of the National Basketball League (NBL).

Centrebet is already associated with a number of Australian sports leagues including the NRL and AFL and this latest partnership, the financial details of which have not been disclosed, will see Centrebet partner with the NBL for the next two years.

Basketball Australia (BA) chief executive Larry Sengstock said the new partnership was further evidence that the NBL was continuing to enjoy a massive upswing in its commercial attractiveness.

“Centrebet are one of Australia’s leading sports betting providers and they have recognised that the NBL is making major strides commercially,” said Sengstock. “They have a history of being ahead of the curve and in 1996 were the first licensed bookmaker in the Southern Hemisphere to offer online sports betting. Clearly they see that the NBL is poised to move its business to a whole new level.

“As a sport we’ve undergone a massive structural transformation in the past two years in order to put ourselves in a position to reap commercial rewards, and we are now starting to see the tangible benefits of that hard work.”

Sengstock said that with Basketball now generating millions of dollars in betting revenue, this new partnership with Centrebet will enable the sport to reap the benefits of that expenditure by channelling some of that money back into Basketball.

Centrebet’s head of marketing and gaming, Luke Brill, added: “Centrebet are delighted to be the Official Sports Betting Partner of the NBL. This partnership includes full integration with all the broadcast media and branding throughout the competition. The opportunity to be part of the future of the NBL is very exciting for us at Centrebet and we truly buy into the vision for the sport.”

September 14, 2010

Chinese former FA officials hauled in over betting scandal

China said Sunday it had formally launched investigations of three more former football officials including the ex-head of the Chinese Football Association in a widening gambling and match-fixing probe.

Authorities were investigating former CFA chief Xie Yalong, the national team's ex-manager Wei Shaohui, and Li Dongsheng, the former director of Chinese soccer's referee committee, the police ministry said in a statement.

State media had previously reported the three men had been taken into custody for questioning, but there had been no official confirmation.

China's professional leagues have been plagued with allegations of gambling, match-fixing and crooked referees for years.

That, coupled with the national side's poor performances, have long made the "beautiful game" a source of disappointment for diehard fans.

The ministry statement gave no details on any specific allegations against the men.

Early this year, the scandal exploded when Xie's successor Nan Yong and two of his top lieutenants at the CFA were arrested on bribe-taking and match-fixing charges. Scores of officials and referees have been detained.

State press reports had said Xie was taken earlier this month to the northeastern city of Shenyang, where the investigation is based, to be interrogated on his ties with Nan and his top aides.

The trials of Nan, former CFA vice head Yang Yimin and one-time head of CFA refereeing Zhang Jianqiang could be imminent as prosecutors have already handed over investigation documents to the courts, state media have reported.

Numerous reports had said Xie was unlikely to be implicated in the scandal.
A CFA spokesman could not be reached for comment by AFP.

Xie, a football outsider, served as CFA head from 2005-2009, when Nan oversaw the national team and professional league.

Xie had been tasked with cleaning up the professional league and bringing the national side back to prominence – tasks that largely went unfulfilled. He was replaced in 2009 by Nan, to the applause of the sporting press.

Nan served as CFA head for less than a year before he was arrested, reportedly for crimes that began early in his tenure at the association.

September 11, 2010

ECJ rules against Austrian gaming laws

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that Austrian legislation requiring gaming operators to locate their seat in the country is not compliant with EU law.

In a judgement published yesterday, the ECJ found that “the obligation on persons holding concessions to operate gaming establishments to have their seat in Austria constitutes a restriction on freedom of establishment.”

Casinos Austria AG is currently the only company with permission from the Austrian Government to organise and operate gaming in the country, with 12 concessions granted and renewed without a public tender process.

The court said in its ruling that the absence of a competitive process allowing operators from other EU countries to apply for a casino license in the country “is contrary to the principle of equal treatment” and “constitutes indirect discrimination on grounds of nationality prohibited by EU law.”

Further, held the court, while restriction of operators located in other countries could be justified on the basis of “preventing those activities from being carried out for criminal or fraudulent purposes...the categorical exclusion of operators whose seat is in another Member State is disproportionate, as it goes beyond what is necessary to combat crime.”

The court was ruling on the questions raised by German national Ernst Engelmann on the compatibility of Austrian legislation on games of chance with freedom of establishment and freedom to provide services. This followed Engelmann appealing the decision of the Linz regional court of unlawfully organising games of chance after he operated two gaming establishments in Austria without having applied for a concession.

The ECJ judgement went on to say that in the absence of any transparency around the tender procedure, Austria’s grant of a concession to a local operator “constitutes difference in treatment to the detriment of operators located in other Member States, who have no real possibility of manifesting their interest in obtaining the concession in question.”

The court stated in its ruling that Austria had the choice of “various less restrictive measures” to monitor the activities and accounts of egaming operators located in other Member States.

Sigrid Ligné, secretary general of the European Gaming and Betting Association said: “Today’s ruling against the Austrian gambling laws confirms clearly that Member States cannot require EU licensed online operators to be physically present on their territory. In the Digital age there are obviously other and more efficient means available to monitor the activities of the operators.”

September 08, 2010

EU court strikes down German gambling monopoly

A German state monopoly on most forms of gambling is "unjustifiable" and must be ended at once because it is neither consistent nor systematically applied, the European Union`s top court said in a shock judgement Wednesday.

Under German rules, only the country's 16 federal states (Laender) or companies run by them can offer most gambling services, especially lotteries. Their monopoly has in the past brought billions of euros into state coffers and social, cultural and sporting projects.

A number of private betting firms challenged the German rule, arguing that it was inconsistent because the Laender kept a monopoly on most forms of gambling - but did not hold a monopoly on other forms, such as slot machines and casinos.

The Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice (ECJ) had been expected to throw out the challenge, as it has already ruled that gambling monopolies in a number of other EU states are legal because they are aimed at limiting the social impact of gambling.

But in a surprise move, the ECJ ruled that "the German rules do not limit games of chance in a consistent and systematic manner," and that therefore "the monopoly ceases to be justifiable."
The ruling confirms a similar judgement made by Germany's constitutional court in 2006.

Germany will have to end the monopoly immediately, since "national rules concerning that monopoly, held to be contrary to the fundamental freedoms of the Union, cannot continue to apply during the time necessary to bring it into conformity with Union law."

In the short term, the ruling is a victory for a number of internet-based betting companies registered in states such as Britain, Gibraltar and Malta which had challenged operating bans in German Laender imposed because of the monopoly rule.

German courts will still have to rule whether they can now carry out operations in Germany, but the authorities will not be able to cite the monopoly as a reason for blocking them.

"This is a landmark ruling which will have a decisive impact on the much-needed reform in Germany ... It signals the end of the German online gaming ban and will bring legal security to EU online gaming operators and German consumers alike," said Sigrid Ligne, head of the European Gaming and Betting Association, in a statement.

However, the longer-term implications remain unclear. The Laender make billions of euros a year from their monopolies, and an estimated 3 billion euros (3.9 billion dollars) annually are transferred to sporting, charity and cultural events.

If the monopoly is scrapped and not replaced in a modified form, state officials say that that funding could be greatly reduced.

However, the court's ruling stressed that a more consistent and systematic monopoly could be legal, if it were proven to be designed to limit the social impact of betting.

"With a view to channelling the desire to gamble and the operation of games into a controlled circuit, member states are free to establish public monopolies," a court statement pointed out.

Moreover, "the fact that some games of chance are subject to a public monopoly whilst others are subject to a system of authorisations ... cannot, in itself, call into question the consistency of the German system, as those games have different characteristics," the statement said.

Germany fell foul of the court's judges because public monopoly holders carry out "intensive advertising campaigns with a view to maximising profits from lotteries" and private casino operators are allowed to "encourage participation in those games.

"In such circumstances, the preventive objective of that monopoly can no longer be pursued," the court ruled.

It therefore falls to the Laender to decide whether they want to redraw their monopoly rules in a way which would fit the court's description.

"We will leave it up to the state and federal governments to take the measures necessary for the continued existence of the German model," said the head of Bavaria's lottery, Erwin Horak.

The ECJ ruling leaves it to member states to decide whether to license commercial betting or keep it in their own hands, he said.

September 07, 2010

Snai in takeover battle

Italian online sports betting leader Snai is the subject of a tussle between two private equity-backed gaming operators aiming to take over the indebted gaming group.

Snai, currently struggling with €250m of net debt, confirmed to the Financial Times on Friday that it was the subject of a takeover approach from rival Sisal, owned by UK private equity groups Permira and Apax Partners.

Italian private equity houses Clessidra and Investindustrial are also seeking to merge Snai with fellow land-based and online operator Cogetech, owned by Investindustrial, revealed the newspaper.

Snai was close to being bought last year by a consortium consisting of the UK’s Bridgepoint and France’s Axa Private Equity, but the investment groups are suing for damages after the Italian company rejected their bid and decided instead to refinance via a bond issue.

Snai, which also has over 900 shops and 2,500 smaller gambling stalls, or corners, boasted a market share of 34.3% of Italy's online sports betting market in the first quarter of 2010, according to gambling data provider Trust Partners.

Rival Sisal, which had a 10.2% market share in the first quarter, is also in talks to obtain sports book and poker room Betting 2000, according to reports earlier this year.