March 29, 2012

Openbet to overhaul Ladbrokes gaming software

Ladbrokes has signed a new software supply agreement with Openbet which it says will enable it pursue revenue growth opportunities and increase the range of games it offers.

The new agreement is Ladbrokes’ latest renegotiated contract with its technology suppliers as the company acts to rejuvenate its underperforming online gaming business.

In addition to the supply of support and games services, OpenBet will also undertake a re-architecture of the company’s existing software, which Ladbrokes says will enable it to provide a reliable, scalable and efficient yet differentiated service to OpenBet's standard offering.

Ladbrokes added the new terms will enable it to provide customers with a premium range of content and product from OpenBet, other existing suppliers and new suppliers.

“We are pleased to extend our long-standing relationship with OpenBet through a more flexible agreement which offers revenue opportunities to both parties and increases the range of games we offer,” said Ladbrokes CEO Richard Glynn. “This is another step on the road to developing a unique Ladbrokes customer experience.”

Openbet chief executive David Loveday added: “Today's announcement is confirmation that OpenBet not only delivers what our customers need but that we develop the necessary products that enable them to continue to grow while offering their customers the very best content and gaming experience available.” to launch social gaming products in 2012 digital entertainment says it will deliver a number of operational and product developments this year as it looks to refocus its efforts on growth opportunities. said that the company continues to invest in its technology, products and brands in order to attract and retain real money players.

In 2011, the company’s live betting offering improved significantly with a new interface and increased coverage by live-betting traders through greater automation, allowing to redeploy bookmakers to cover additional events.

In casino, the company launched into Italy and added 21 new casino games, of which 14 were developed in-house, while also launching a no-download casino onto the existing bwin technology platform. In poker, the company changed to a weighted rake calculation that benefited more recreational players, while in bingo the company consolidated its UK bingo networks into a single liquidity pool with bigger prizes and higher jackpots.

The company said that while completing the integration of its products and platforms remains a key priority, it will also continue to deliver a number of operational and product developments in 2012.

These include expanding the number of live events covered by its sports betting product, repositioning the PartyPoker product and brand, and completing the sale of Ongame.

In casino the company will launch a download casino for and add 28 new casino games developed by its in-house production team. The opening of the Spanish market will see launch sports betting, poker, casino as well as a brand new Spanish bingo brand, all of which will be running on the new integrated back-office platform.

The company also plans to establish a proprietary social game technology platform in 2012, as well as launching online and smartphone applications in several of its core product verticals, and an independent social game destination website.

The first social gaming product to launch will be a poker-based product followed by a casino and sportsbook application by the end of 2012, the company said. In mobile, will launch a new PartyPoker mobile app and also plans to launch HTML5 mobile versions of its key gaming sites.

“We expect to gain competitive advantage this year from additional scale and improved flexibility that will flow from the integration and migration of our main products to a single technology platform,” said co-CEOs Jim Ryan and Norbert Teufelberger, Co-CEOs. “As integration projects are completed, we are channelling more resources into driving innovation across the business and through new channels including our proprietary mobile gaming platform. We are also extending our reach into new areas of digital entertainment such as social gaming where we see significant potential.” confirmed that it will launch sports betting, poker, casino and bingo in the newly regulated Spanish market when its receives licence approval from the regulator, while the company plans to launch all products except bingo in Germany under the Schleswig-Holstein regime, should the company successful secure a licence there.

March 28, 2012

No legal basis for Spanish injunction, claims Sportingbet

Sportingbet will file an appeal against an injunction issued by a Madrid court against the company’s Spanish facing sites which comes into effect today, having received advice that there is no legal basis for the action.

Last December, Codere sought a number of injunctions against companies operating in the Spanish online betting and gaming industry, including Sportingbet. Codere claims that overseas operators have gained an unfair competitive advantage by operating in Spain without a licence, while Codere has been subject to local regulation and taxation.

Sportingbet says however that Codere’s actions are part of a campaign to “restrict the online industry prior to the granting of licences under new Spanish legislation.”

In a statement released this afternoon, Sportingbet said that it was not notified of the application against it and was given no opportunity to defend itself.

All of Codere's applications were rejected by various Spanish courts, with the exception of one made against Sportingbet in the Commercial Court in Madrid, where the court found against Sportingbet and issued an injunction against the company’s Spanish facing sites and

Sportingbet subsequently attended a hearing at the court in Madrid on February 16th at which it defended its legally compliant position. Despite this, the court granted the injunction stating that “any offering of gaming or betting activity that has not been granted a prior administrative authorisation is, indisputably, prohibited”.

“Sportingbet firmly believes that Codere's injunction application was based on erroneous information presented to the Court and is a blatant attempt to disrupt the market in the run up to the issue of licences,” said Sportingbet in a statement Tuesday.

Sportingbet is filing an appeal against Codere's claim having received advice that there is no legal basis for the action. The company says that this is supported by the decisions of other Spanish courts to reject Codere's applications for injunctions against other companies in the Spanish online gaming sector such as bwin and PokerStars.

The injunction comes into effect today, March 27th, although has already been closed down until the Spanish licensing process has been completed, while is still live at the time of going to press.

Sportingbet confirmed that it has applied for a licence under the 2011 Spanish Gambling Laws, and following regular meetings with the Spanish regulators, expects to be granted its licence on or before May 25th.

Shares in Sportingbet plc (Co. Data) (LSE:SBT) have dropped 2.56 per cent to 38.00 pence per share in London today, after the company announced earlier today that it has completed payment to the U.S Department of Justice in accordance with the terms of its non-prosecution agreement.

March 27, 2012

Sportingbet prepares for U.S return with final DoJ payment

Online gaming operator Sportingbet said Tuesday that it is reviewing various opportunities in the U.S market following the completion of its third and final payment to the United States Department of Justice in accordance with the terms of its non-prosecution agreement.

Sportingbet confirmed that it has paid $6m to the Office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, with a total sum of $33m now having been paid in accordance with the terms of the non-prosecution agreement which the company entered into on September 21st 2010.

“This final payment formally closes any risk which the company may have faced from its former activities in the US,” said Sportingbet chief executive Andrew McIver. “Given that the US market continues to show signs of regulating both by product, and by state in the near future, various opportunities exist to re-enter the US market and we are reviewing these.”

Sportingbet had previously admitted that it provided online gambling services in the United States between 1998 and 2006, and that it took steps to conceal the nature of credit card transactions.

The company said that beginning in 2001, it began using payment processing methods designed to misrepresent the nature of its customers’ gambling transactions to U.S credit card issuers that disallowed the use of their cards for internet gambling and that it also took steps to mask payments of winnings to U.S. customers.

The $33m settlement represented proceeds from the online gambling services that Sportingbet provided to U.S customers between 1998 and 2006.

Shares in Sportingbet plc (Co. Data) (LSE:SBT) have gained 1.28 per cent to 39.50 pence per share in early trading in London this morning.

March 25, 2012

Online betting exchange Betfair to launch as a bookmaker

Online betting exchange Betfair is to launch itself as a bookmaker in a move designed to prevent customers deserting to rivals such as William Hill and Ladbrokes.

Interim chief executive Stephen Morana said the company would shortly be introducing its own fixed-odds sports book, which means it will start taking bets of its own rather than just acting as a marketplace where customers offer bets to each other.

‘Our sports exchange always has been – and always will be – Betfair’s core product,’ said Morana. ‘It has revolutionised the industry and we have a loyal customer base, but we also recognise that there are certain bets at certain times that the exchange, by its nature, cannot offer.

‘Some of our customers are going to traditional bookies for a portion of their betting and we hope to address this with the introduction of an integrated risk product that will complement the exchange, not compete with it.’

Betting exchanges work by having customers offering odds to each other and accepting each other’s bets. But customers who want to get early prices on a race or bet while a match or race is under way might find it hard to find someone to take their bet.

Now Betfair will be taking on the risk itself. Betfair has yet to decide on a name for the bookmaking business.

The company will be hoping that the move changes its fortunes as it has been going through tough times. It was seen as one of the worst flotations in recent years, listing at £13 a share in October 2010, but falling steadily ever since to close at 871p on Friday.

Chief executive David Yu and chairman Ed Wray have both since left the company, which earlier this year was forced to cancel millions of pounds in bets due to a ‘technical failure’.

Some analysts are positive about Betfair’s move into bookmaking. Ivor Jones of investment bankers Numis said that while the result of putting a betting exchange and a fixed-odds sports book together was ‘uncertain’, he believed it had ‘the potential to increase profits by over 50 per cent’.

Betfair currently has four million registered users, of whom 900,000 gamble regularly. In the year to last April, it made pre-tax profits of £26.6million on turnover of £368.6million.

March 23, 2012

UK National Lottery goes mobile

UK National Lottery operator Camelot has launched a new mobile-friendly version of its website which allows players to purchase tickets for draw-based games, check results and manage their account while on the move.

Camelot said that the new mobile-optimised website is designed to be quicker and easier to use across a range of popular smartphones.

Players simply need to type into their browser to be redirected to the user-friendly version.

“Customers will be able to buy tickets, access and manage their accounts whenever they wish,” said Richard Bateson, marketing director for Camelot UK Lotteries Limited. “There’s no need to remember a new address: if your mobile is supported, we will recognise that you are on a smartphone and will re-direct you to the mobile version of the website.”

The mobile version has been developed against current accessibility guidelines, and has been audited by both the technology accessibility charity Abilitynet and new standards applied by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

“As a business, we want to keep innovating, giving players new ways to play our games through emerging channels,” continued Bateson. “This latest initiative is another step in our strategy for long-term, responsible growth, which aims to enable more people to play at times that suit them, but with each of them spending relatively little.”

March 22, 2012

Industry predicts long road to UK remote gaming tax debut

UK Chancellor George Osborne reiterated plans Wednesday to tax offshore online gaming operators, almost a year after the plan was first proposed, however most analysts agree that a UK point of consumption tax is still years away.

In his 2012 budget speech, Osborne attacked the online gambling duty regime introduced by the last government, which he said had allowed much of the industry to avoid taxation by relocating offshore.

“90 per cent of online gambling consumed by our citizens is now supplied from outside the UK and the remaining UK operations are under pressure to leave,” he said. “This is clearly not fair - and not a sensible way to support jobs in Britain.”

The Chancellor’s focus on jobs and competition was a departure from the previously stated objective of the proposed changes, namely the protection of consumers, which had been called into questioned by the industry.

March 21, 2012

UEFA urges Turks to deal with match-fixing fast

European football's ruling body UEFA has urged Turkey to deal as quickly as possible with a domestic match-fixing scandal.

Turkish football has been shaken by a scandal in which 93 people, including the president of first division giants Fenerbahce, have been charged with rigging matches in the 2010-11 season.

UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino, speaking ahead of a UEFA Congress Thursday, said Turkish football chiefs had to rule soon to determine whether players or clubs were to be sanctioned.
"The faster a decision is taken the better, not only for UEFA but for Turkey," said Infantino.

"We're speaking a lot with the Turkish federation, but we have to move quickly because it's a question of sport, we have to find out whether we should be preventing someone from participating or not.

"This decision must be taken quickly. For (national) league championships to run smoothly, questions must be answered quickly."

Infantino said such affairs were dealt with differently in Europe.

He added: "In Italy, where there is a specal law, in Germany or in Greece the length of time it takes to deal with such affairs is different.

"Here, we see that it goes on and on but we have to separate the disciplinary part of the affair from the criminal part."

Daniel Tzvetkoff dodged the 75-year sentence

Daniel Tzvetkoff, dubbed as the Queensland internet whiz who toppled America’s multibillion-dollar online poker industry is set to come out of hiding next month, according to speculation. He is set to give evidence on the April 9 New York trial of his erstwhile Las Vegas-based business partner, Chad Elie & a Utah banker, John Campos, reports the Australian newspaper The Age.

Back in 2010, he struck a deal with the US government, stating that he could help them pin and prosecute three of the world’s largest online gambling companies: PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker. By taking this path, Daniel Tzvetkoff dodged the 75-year sentence he faced. His location at the moment is still yet unknown.

Elie, 31, is charged with nine offences including conspiring to commit bank fraud & money laundering, whilst Campos, a 57-year-old executive at Utah’s SunFirst Bank who allegedly agreed to process gambling transactions, is charged with six offences.

The Age claims that Tzvetkoff, whose Queensland-based company Intabill allegedly processed more than $US1 billion worth of illegal transactions between US gamblers & internet gaming websites based offshore, has handed more than 90,000 documents, including confidential emails, over to US investigators.

This week, Elie’s lawyers complained to the judge handling the case that, on the eve of the trial, prosecutors dumped a “mountain of documents” on them, including Tzvetkoff’s emails.

“For example, although the government had previously produced emails for Daniel Tzvetkoff, one of the government’s main witnesses in this case, the material we recently received revealed that Mr Tzvetkoff had deleted his emails from the Intabill server, which had previously been made available to the defence, & that the Tzvetkoff emails that were included in prior productions were therefore ones that Mr Tzvetkoff had cherry-picked for the government,” Monday’s filing from Elie’s lawyers, Barry Berke & Dani James, stated.

“Only after we pointed this out to the government did we receive a full set of Mr Tzvetkoff’s materials, which included more than 90,000 documents & which we were able to access for the first time only yesterday.”

Tzvetkoff lived the high life in his native Australia before his arrest, with a luxury mansion & a garage filled with expensive sports cars.

This week former FBI agent Harold Copus told The Age: “He’s turned the corner, seen the light & is cooperating,” after reviewing the details of the case.

Alderney issues 100th e-gambling licence

The 100th e-gambling licence has been issued by the Alderney Gambling Control Commission.

The licence was granted to Relax Gaming Network Limited, a company developing and maintaining casino, bingo and poker software.

Robin Le Prevost, Alderney's head of e-commerce, said the century reaffirmed the island's status as "the place to be" for the online gambling industry.

He said the island remained at the forefront of e-gaming regulation.

Mr Le Prevost said: "The commission have got very high standards ... they're not going to lower that in anyway just to attract more numbers."

The Alderney Gambling Control Commission was established in 2000 to regulate the island's e-gaming industry on behalf of the States of Alderney.

It was involved in an investigation in to the high-profile site Full Tilt Poker last year.

The site was suspended from operating in June after a US investigation started and had its licence revoked in September after a hearing held by the commission.

Mr Le Prevost said the case had done no damage to the island's industry and claimed Alderney had received support from other jurisdictions for the way in which it had acted.

March 20, 2012

India is illegal betting hub: Ex-ICC chief

A former International Cricket Council chief on Tuesday accused India of fostering corruption in the sport, saying illegal betting in the country was the root cause of the problem.

Ehsan Mani, who headed the ICC between 2003 and 2006, estimated that Sunday's Asia Cup match between India and Pakistan in Dhaka attracted $500 million-worth of bets, but did not say how he had arrived at the figure.

"Unless the betting industry is brought under control in India, you can't stop match-fixing," he told the New Delhi-based Mail Today in an interview.

"There's no doubt that India, certainly Delhi and Mumbai, is the epicentre of cricket betting."

"I'm a strong advocate of legalising betting in India, and bringing it under control of regulatory authorities so that... the conduct of bookies can be monitored properly," he added.

"You'll find that the risk of corrupting players around the world will reduce significantly."

Mani urged the ICC, headed by federal Indian minister Sharad Pawar, and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), to pressure the government to legalise betting.

"It's a matter of how you control it because there's no way, I believe, that it can be stamped out in India. So, if (it) can't be stamped out, how do they control it in a way that it can stop corrupting the game."

Mani, a Pakistani chartered accountant, said India should look at the legal gambling systems in Britain and Australia.

Legal betting firms inform the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) if they encounter suspicious betting patterns, Mani said.

Mani said lucrative Twenty20 tournaments such as the Indian Premier League and the Big Bash in Australia, had emboldened illegal bookies.

"Obviously, high profile matches like the IPL and Big Bash leave a lot of scope for players to be corrupted; whether they are being corrupted or not, I can't say," he said.

"I think IPL must have added hugely to the cricket betting industry in India."

BCCI spokesman Rajiv Shukla was not available to comment on Mani's remarks.

Cricket has been under a cloud since 2000 when three former captains -- the late Hansie Cronje of South Africa, Mohammad Azharuddin of India and Salim Malik of Pakistan -- were handed life bans for their alleged dealing with bookmakers.

Three Pakistani cricketers were last year jailed in Britain after being found guilty of spot-fixing. Indian bookmakers have often being accused of underhand dealings with players.

Olympics - Bookmakers to monitor big bets on minor sports

British bookmakers will be monitoring unusually big wagers placed on minor sports during the London Olympics to help prevent fixing scandals from blighting the Games, a senior industry figure said on Tuesday.

Betting industry representatives and Games organisers held a seminar in London to discuss strategies to help ensure that illegal gambling syndicates do not corrupt athletes.

"If I see a bet of more than 50 pounds ($79.5) I'll be looking at who it is, because I'm not expecting 50 pounds on weightlifting or badminton," said Mike O'Kane, Business Director at British bookmaker Ladbrokes which chaired the meeting.

Concerns centre on back-street bookmakers based in Asia who have been linked to high-profile fixing scandals in cricket. Corruption has been cited as posing as serious a threat to the Olympics as doping.

"Where the issues are if there are any issues will be illegal betting out of Asia," O'Kane told Reuters.

"What we've got to do is make sure that that market isn't able to influence a participant and that is something the IOC (International Olympic Committee) has got to get hold of," he added.
Athletes and officials are banned from betting on events during the Games. The IOC plans to set up an information booth in the Olympic village to warn athletes of the risk of gambling.

"You've got to ask yourself the question if you're an Olympic participant are you going to risk all of the kudos of representing your country and for what financial gain." O'Kane said.

Operators would not take bets that risked undermining the IOC, he added.

"We will not offer bets that are likely to threaten the integrity of the Games so we're not going to offer, for instance, bets on how many failed drugs tests there will be or markets that clearly are likely to lead to integrity problems."

The British betting industry says that the Euro 2012 soccer tournament in June is a much bigger event for it than the Olympics.

"The average person on the street loves the Olympics, it's a great spectacle but it's not really a betting medium. It's something to enjoy on the television with the family or go to the Games," O'Kane said. ($1 = 0.6292 British pounds)

WorldSpread staff lose jobs

The group of 52 City workers were informed of their fate on Monday by administrators at KPMG, The Daily Telegraph has learnt. Staff were told that they will need to apply to the Government's Redundancy Payments Office for compensation - which can take several weeks to pay out.

A spokesman for KPMG said: "We can confirm that, unfortunately 52 staff from Worldspreads Limited have been made redundant as administrators wind down the business.

"Around 12 have been retained to help with the wind down. KPMG is helping staff made redundant, who will need to claim wages owed through the Government redundancy scheme."

WorldSpreads was put into administration late on Sunday after a £13m "black hole" was found in the accounts, putting around 15,000 clients – mostly retail customers – at risk of losing almost half their money. KPMG said clients were owed £29.7m, which should have been held in a segregated customer account, but that the group's total cash came to just £16.6m.

KPMG has said there will be no actual sale of the business, although some of its software and data centre assets could be sold.

ETX Capital is thought to be among the interested parties although experts have warned it may be hard to sell client data as spreadbetters typically gamble with more than one provider.

"It's very hard to gain market share by buying client lists full of people that already bet with you," one well placed source said.

Clients at the company have set up an action group following its collapse.
Experts fear WorldSpread's collapse will lower consumer confidence in financial services providers such as brokers and spreadbetters. Segregated customer accounts are meant to ensure that client money is not "commingled" with company money.

Simon Bevan, head of Fraud at BDO, said: " When it comes to client funds there is no room for light touch regulation. Such businesses should be subjected to onerous regulatory oversight. This approach should be taken to any area where the potential fraud victims are individual investors or customers."

JAXX revenues rise as myBet prepares for Italy launch

Germany’s JAXX said Monday that it expects to report a 19 per cent increase in revenues to €60.7m for the 2011 year following strong growth during the fourth quarter from the company’s myBet subsidiary.

In its provisional unaudited figures for the year ended December 31st, JAXX said that it expects consolidated earnings before interest and taxes to amount to €1.6m during the period, following a 19 per cent rise in revenues to €60.7m.

No other financial data was revealed, with the company expecting to publish its 2011 Annual Report on March 30th.

The company stated however that the sale of its lottery operation had been delayed by several weeks, claiming that the task of demerging the companies and assets, as well as drawing up the agreements, was taking up more time than originally envisaged.

Based on its negotiations, JAXX expects the sale of the business to as yet unnamed investors to yield proceeds of €12.5m.

JAXX confirmed that the company and its myBet subsidiary submitted applications for sports betting and casino licences in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein before the deadline of March 1st.

“Although the authorities have not yet given a precise date for the awarding of the licence, JAXX expects it to be granted in the course of April, so that business operations can then start,” the company said in a statement yesterday.

myBet has already secured a licence from Italian regulator AAMS which will allow the company to launch online sports betting, casino and poker products via in the next few weeks. The company is still awaiting official approval from Spanish regulators however, and does not expect to launch operations during the second quarter, as previously anticipated.

Channel 4 replaces BBC as exclusive UK racing broadcaster

British horseracing will continue to be broadcast on UK terrestrial television but will switch from the BBC to Channel 4 from 2013 following an exclusive domestic rights deal which includes the Grand National, the Derby and Royal Ascot.

Channel 4’s financial commitment to racing over the next four years amounts to one of its largest programming outlays and continues its 28-year association with British racing.

“We are delighted Channel 4 is to become the sole destination for British horseracing after securing such iconic events as Royal Ascot, the John Smith’s Grand National and the Investec Derby,” said Jay Hunt, Channel 4’s chief creative officer. “These will sit alongside our established coverage of The Cheltenham Festival and major Flat meetings such as Glorious Goodwood and the Ebor Festival and means we can extend our distinctive approach to all the crown jewels of the sport.”

A highly competitive domestic TV rights bidding process saw interest from a range of broadcasters, with Channel 4 winning the rights to a number of popular races which are currently televised by the BBC, which will be shown alongside the channel’s existing 80 days of racing it broadcasts.

“Our coverage this year will mark the end of a partnership covering some of the key events of British racing that extends over 50 years,” said BBC director of sport Barbara Slater. “The BBC are proud of their long heritage of broadcasting horse racing and put in as competitive a bid as possible in the current climate.”

Negotiations were headed by Racecourse Media Group (RMG), alongside The Jockey Club, Ascot Racecourse and British Champions Series Ltd as rights holders, with Martin Baker, director of commercial affairs, at the helm of the Channel 4 team.

“Channel 4 has shown a total commitment to our sport,” said Richard FitzGerald, chief executive of RMG, who headed racing’s negotiating team. “This new deal will not only deliver increased revenues for British racing, but with all of our sport’s crown jewels in its portfolio, Channel 4 offers a compelling vision to innovate the way racing is broadcast. They have also committed to use diverse programming platforms to promote our sport more widely. This is a great opportunity for racing in the long-term.

“The BBC has been a fantastic partner for British racing and helped the sport to grow its attendances and TV audience in recent times. We look forward to continuing to work together through radio, online and TV news coverage over the next four years until the next TV negotiation period.”

Jamie Aitchison, Channel 4’s Sports Editor, added: “This is an opportunity for us to work together to grow the sport, painting the full picture of both the Flat and Jumps seasons to attract new viewers whilst rewarding those loyal viewers we value so highly. Channel 4 fully understands the heritage and cultural importance of British racing, but also the sport’s thirst for a bright future, and we relish the challenge ahead.”

The new arrangement will see all 35 races in the QIPCO British Champions Series of premier Flat racing broadcast on Channel 4.

“Since its inception, we’ve aimed to showcase the very best of British Flat racing within the QIPCO British Champions Series via a single domestic terrestrial broadcaster,” said Rod Street, chief executive of British Champions Series. “We believe this new deal with Channel 4 will make the Series even easier to follow for the racing and wider sports fan. Hugely exciting times lie ahead.”

Platini wants match-fixers criminalised

UEFA president Michel Platini on Thursday called for match-fixing to be criminalised in all European countries.

"Let's not accept the autonomy of sport to be an obstacle to intervention by public authorities," Platini told a Council of Europe conference of sports ministers.

"We have to deal with a real problem of a political order, therefore we will regulate it not only with the means (available) to sports federations."

Platini urged the states participating in the conference to "declare match fixing illegal". "Judicial and police cooperation between the European countries must be able to break the power of the criminals," he insisted.

The Council of Europe called for all nations to adopt similar stances towards match-fixing.
"A harmonization of norms and adoption of penal sanctions for sporting frauds will be necessary as there are only several countries that have such codes", Anne Brasseur of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly told AFP.

Platini also noted that European teams "accumulated more than 1.6 billion euros ($ two billion) losses in 2010".

"At the same time, they (the clubs) have never gained so much money," he said, renewing his call for financial discipline in football.

Such a situation has shown a "fragility of the system that has converted some of these clubs into gigantic casinos," he said.

March 19, 2012

Bulgaria moves to block unlicensed online operators

Bulgarian news reports that the country’s lawmakers have approved an online gambling regulatory measure, & have already started to move on implementing internet blocks on unlicensed operators.

The ban will become effective after regulations are finalized by the State Gambling Commission & the approval of the Sofia Regional Court has been obtained.

The practicalities of the ban were discussed at the second reading of the bill in a discussion on the use of black lists to exclude foreign & unlicensed operators from the local market.

The new law sets licensing requirements for all online casino operators, both Bulgarian & foreign, & makes provision for requests to Internet service providers to block access to unlicensed gambling websites, despite earlier protests against this tactic by the ISPs & Internet action groups worried about the practice extending beyond internet gambling.

There are also clauses restricting gambling advertising to licensed operators.

Government advisers have estimated that the regulation of online gambling could bring another Euro 50 million of annual revenues.

Playboy Club to leave the Palms Las Vegas

The Palms in Las Vegas on Thursday said the Playboy Club there will close for undisclosed reasons.

“After a strong six-year run, the Palms Casino Resort and Playboy Enterprises will end their partnership in early June and each pursue new brand opportunities in Las Vegas nightlife. The Palms and Playboy Enterprises have shared a great relationship and wish each other future success,” the Palms said in a statement.

A spokesman was asked how many employees would be affected and what the Playboy Club space will be converted to, but he said the resort had no further details to share.

The Playboy Comedy Lounge at the Palms closed after the New Year’s holiday, raising questions about how long the Playboy Club would remain at the Palms.

The Playboy Club regularly hosted events with Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and his playmates, bringing a unique vibe to the Palms and Las Vegas. The Playboy Club is part of the N9NE Group restaurant and nightclub company that operates mainly at the Palms.

For a time the Palms had the world’s only Playboy Club, but other Playboy Clubs to open around the world recently are in Cancun, London and Macau in China.

WorldSpreads in administration, 15,000 clients face losses

WorldSpreads, an AIM-listed operator of online and phone betting services based in Dublin, was placed in administration late on Sunday after the Financial Services Authority (FSA) uncovered “accounting irregularities”.

It is believed that the company broke the golden rule that client money should not be “co-mingled” with company money.

Administrators KPMG said the clients were owed £29.7m, which should have been held in a segregated customer account, but that the group’s total cash balance – including “segregated money” – was just £16.6m. The police have been alerted over suspected criminal action.

The development follows the departure last week of chief executive Conor Foley and finance director Niall O’Kelly. Mr O’Kelly had originally tendered his resignation in February after a profits warning. At the time, the company said it “maintains a strong balance sheet with net cash of €7m [£5.8m]”.

WorldSpreads’ clients will be eligible for £50,000 compensation under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. Beyond that, they will be treated as preferential creditors ahead of WorldSpreads’ general estate. As a result, shareholders and lenders are likely to bear the bulk of the final losses.

The collapse of WorldSpreads will also pose questions for its auditors, Ernst & Young.
It will also lead to comparisons with the insolvency of the far-larger US brokerage, MF Global, which also broke the law by mingling client money with its own. KPMG is administrator to the brokerage’s UK arm, which was audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

WorldSpreads employed 66 staff, most of whom were based in London, whose jobs are now at risk. Last year, it made a €797,000 loss before tax.

The FSA said: “Clients should be aware that any shortfall in the client money accounts will impact the amount of money that can be returned.”

Rank & Gala Coral deal

Rank in late January confirmed it is in discussions with Gala Coral over the possible acquisition of Gala’s casino business. The deal would make Rank, which owns the Grosvenor Casino and Mecca Bingo chains, Britain’s biggest casino operator. However it has been now several weeks and no deal has yet been announced.

Rank’s confirmation came after the Sunday Times reported that it was in advanced discussions to acquire Gala Casinos for £250m. The deal would see Rank, which is 74% owned by Malaysian-based gambling group Guoco, merge its 35 Grosvenor Casinos chain with the 24 casinos owned by Gala.

While Rank doing the deal would expect that there could be some competition issues and it may take time to deliver synergies, the deal would make sense financially and strategically for Rank.
A break-up of Gala, has been on the cards ever since the company became embroiled in a complex debt restructuring in 2010. In December it disclosed it had net debts of £1.3bn.

Rank has long been mooted as a possible buyer of Gala casinos for quite a long time, though acquisitions were temporarily put on hold last year when it was itself controversially purchased by its biggest shareholder – Malaysia’s Guoco.

However now the dust has settled on Rank, Buying Gala’s casinos would accelerate the plans of Ian Burke, Rank’s executive chairman, to expand the gaming group’s Grosvenor chain to 45 venues by 2015.

Ian Burke is already converting many of the Grosvenor outlets to a new G Casino brand, the first of which was rolled out in Manchester in 2006, aimed at attracting a younger clientele.

Selling the casino wing would help Gala strengthen its balance sheet – but could also herald further break-up of the group, which is run by chief executive Carl Leaver, the former head of Marks & Spencer’s international arm.

So why the delay in announcing the deal has been done?

One reason certainly is the logistics of some of Gala Casinos would have to close should Rank buy them, the operator would not want to have two or even three casinos in one town. Either closure and redundancies or possibly a sell on to Genting of those properties or another buyer, could be delaying the deal.

The possibility of the competitions rule could be another and finally the asking price from Gala Coral. Although what is believed to be £250 million, is not that expensive as analysts have already indicated.

Whenever the deal is announced and certainly will be, the UK will see the emergence of the biggest casino operator, called Grosvenor Casinos.

Betfair secures naming rights deal for California racetrack

Betfair US, the Los Angeles-based subsidiary of leading online betting exchange Betfair, has entered into a five-year agreement with Hollywood Park Racing Association (HPRA), operator of the Hollywood Park Racetrack which has been renamed Betfair Hollywood Park.

The HPRA said the deal was a “groundbreaking agreement intended to transform the customer experience for racing fans at the historic venue, online and on television.”

The association claims that the renaming of its venue as Betfair Hollywood Park marks the first naming rights agreement ever for a horseracing venue in the United States.

“We realize that US racing, and California racing in particular, simply cannot continue on as it has,” said Jack Liebau, president of Hollywood Park Racing Association. “We need to look at the way we do everything in presenting our product to the public and not be afraid to embrace change, particularly if we are going to generate a younger fan base.”

Subject to Hollywood Park receiving assurances regarding its racing dates for 2013, Betfair will also make significant infrastructure investments and improvements at the Hollywood Park facility to create the Betfair Club and Betfair Lounge, which will offer customers modern surroundings and access to state-of-the-art technologies to interact with the racing product.

Betfair said that this will build on the success of its innovative Betfair Lounge at Ascot Racecourse in the UK. The company said that it will utilise its own marketing initiatives to drive younger demographics to the racing venue and monetise them, supported by traditional marketing campaigns on TVG and in the Los Angeles market.

“We are deeply committed to changing US horseracing for the better and are delighted to find a partner in Hollywood Park Racing Association willing to take the bold step of trying to change every facet of the racing experience to appeal to a broader, younger audience,” said Stephen Burn, CEO of Betfair US and TVG. “Horseracing is a wonderful sport, but it must embrace cultural change and utilize advancements in technology and presentation to survive and thrive just as other sports and entertainment industries have done.

“We hope this is the first of many examples of using the assets of technology companies, such as Betfair, to revitalise historic venues such as Betfair Hollywood Park.”

Betfair subsidiary TVG will produce the Betfair Hollywood Park simulcast signal and related TVG television programming, as well as introduce advanced graphics packages similar to those used in network broadcasts of major US sporting events to enhance the user experience and data available from the product.

“We believe that partnering with Betfair to modernise the product will benefit California racing,” continued Liebau. “Exchange wagering is another possibly transformative technological change for horseracing. However, it will only be introduced after a thorough consultation with our Horsemen and Horsewomen and, of course, its implementation is ultimately subject to the approval of the Thoroughbred Owners of California.”

The California Horse Racing Board is currently considering regulations that would make possible the implementation of exchange wagering on horseracing by California residents.

March 16, 2012

Live betting is here to stay, says Tabcorp

Live betting on sport is here to stay, and the Federal Government needs to do more to regulate it, says gambling firm Tabcorp.

Tabcorp chief executive David Attenborough said today the government was examining the issues of broadcasting odds during live events and the provision of live betting over the internet, among other matters.

Consumers can now bet on live sporting events over the phone but not over the internet.

"Despite this prohibition, a number of wagering operators have offered live online betting to their Australian customers," Mr Attenborough told an American Chamber of Commerce in Australia luncheon.

"We are not aware of any of these operators being prosecuted for breaching the Interactive Gambling Act.

"Whereas operators such as Tabcorp, who comply with the law, are disadvantaged because some competitors ignore the prohibition, without consequence."

Mr Attenborough said live betting needed to be governed by consistent national rules that provide a level playing field for all participants.

Mr Attenborough said one could not stop people from betting on sport, especially when money flowed freely around the world.

He said betting on sports was becoming "part of everyday entertainment".

"Sport is much more exciting when you bet on it," he said.

Mr Attenborough said technology was boosting the gambling sector, particularly as gambling products were made available over mobile phones.

"Customers just want to transact, through technology, as easily as possible," he said.

"And you can deliver information easily."

Mr Attenborough said Tabcorp would, at some stage, like to break into Asian markets, but they were more complex, given religious and regulatory factors.

"India is a particularly difficult one to enter. There are a number of companies that are trying to enter it," he said.

"I think it's good in some of those markets to be a follower."

March 15, 2012

Bulgaria moves to regulate online gambling

Bulgaria's parliament adopted on Thursday a new law to regulate online gambling for the first time, its press office said.

Internet gambling and online betting had not been strictly regulated in Bulgaria, opening the door to an ever growing number of scam websites.

The new law sets special licensing regimes for all online casino operators, both Bulgarian and foreign.

It also obliges Internet providers to block access to unlicensed gambling websites, which were also to be included in a special blacklist.

This controversial requirement was approved by parliament despite opposition from Internet service providers and rights groups, who said this might set a precedent for filtering other websites.
Lawmakers also banned direct advertisement of gambling games.

The new regulations will also bring another 100 million leva (50 million euros, $67 million) of annual revenues to the public budget, according to parliamentarians of the ruling right-wing GERB party.

Bodog moves to address collusion concerns

Bodog has taken steps to address concerns about the increased possibility of collusion at its anonymous poker tables by offering to provide the hand histories of all players at a table.

The company said it was introducing the feature in response to player feedback.

“Once all the noise of whining poker ‘pros’ who could no longer use software allowing access to data on how you play your game against Bodog players died down, the only credible complaint was the threat of collusion,” Bodog said in a statement Thursday.

As a result, the Bodog Poker Network now allows players to request their own hand histories, after a period of 24 hours, as well as the hole card information for all players in the same hand.

“The fact that we can now offer players this information is another advantage of our anonymous tables and something nobody else can offer,” said Jonas Odman, VP of the Bodog Poker Network. “Collusion is a natural concern for any poker room but this new additional feature puts the player in full control.”

March 14, 2012

Iowa Senate OKs bill allowing Internet poker

Iowa would be one of the first states in the nation to allow Internet poker under a bill approved Tuesday night by the Senate.

No legislators spoke against the overall bill, which passed by a bipartisan 29-20 vote.

Advocates said the bill would help give the state a cut of the estimated $30 million in Iowa gambling money now flowing overseas every year. The issue has been in play in recent legislative sessions.

“Anytime we deal with gaming issues, there are a lot of public policy considerations,” said Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls, who led the debate. “We did our homework. We worked together to come up with a solution that we believe addresses the problem.”

If the bill were to become law, Iowa casinos could launch the games, allowing people to establish accounts and deposit money to use for online wagering. Various tools would be in place to bar underage users or people outside Iowa from participating.

The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency estimated the games would bring as much as $15 million yearly to the state — $13.2 million from taxes and up to $1.8 million for educational and charitable giving required from license holders.

Efforts to use the money to help resolve an estimated $215 million annual shortfall in Iowa’s road improvement budgets failed after opponents expressed concerns that the idea had not been properly vetted through the typical legislative process.

“We have heard time and time again that this bill before us is not about the funding, it’s about protecting our consumers,” said Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Red Oak, who proposed using the money for roads. “So if it is not about the funding, why would we not direct it into an area that so desperately needs the funding?”

Groups like the Family Leader and the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition have previously voiced opposition to the proposal, saying it expands gambling.

“We look at this as a big step from having casino gambling in about 20 locations to however many households are in Iowa,” said Tom Chapman of the Iowa Catholic Conference. “We think legalizing it will expand it, and we think we’ll see more problems with families.”

Gov. Terry Branstad this week noted that he has previously indicated an openness to consider the issue.

“I want to protect the integrity of Iowans. I think that’s the most important thing. In terms of regulating and controlling gambling in this state, our top priority has been to keep it honest, clean, open, transparent and keep the criminal element out,” Branstad said.

Lawmakers in Nevada and the District of Columbia have approved Internet poker, although both are still creating rules and have not yet launched the games.

The bill now heads to the House for further consideration.

Is there a Full Tilt Poker Back Up Plan?

As with most things regarding Full Tilt Poker these days, most of what we know regarding the true fate of the company’s future is speculation, hearsay and leaked reports. While it has been confirmed that the French investment group, Groupe Bernard Tapie is willing to pay $80 million in order to acquire Full Tilt Poker, there has been some speculation recently that the online poker room may be eying a backup plan if the GBT buyout fails.

According to an iGaming report, an anonymous UK private equity firm wants to buy Full Tilt Poker’s software for “cannibalization purposes.” Unfortunately for the online poker room, and for the thousands of players who have been waiting to see their money paid back since April last year, the offer is much more modest than the amount offered by Groupe Bernard Tapie, and is said to be in the region of $35 million.

The iGaming report reads: “The deal would centre around offering in the region of $30 to $35 million for the software alone, while the FTP name, brand and all associated with it would be then wound up. The funds for the software would be deposited in a neutral account for Administrators of the company to distribute to creditors of FTP.”

In its heyday, Full Tilt Poker was raking in over $1 million a day, and its software is considered among the most innovative in the world. It seems a shame then, that the same platform which brought the industry Rush Poker and other excellent features, would be forced to sell for such a relatively small amount. On the other hand, it seems that if the plan with the French investors doesn’t come to fruition, Full Tilt Poker may simply have no other choice but to accept the offer by the unnamed British group.

March 13, 2012

Helvet Group & Merkur Casino face criminal charges

The Czech Finance Ministry’s anti-money laundering and financial crimes watchdog, the Financial Analytical Unit (FAÚ), says hundreds of millions of crowns which gambling and betting firms should have put into charitable causes was effectively embezzled. The accusations were outlined in its annual report for 2011 released last month. On Thursday, the daily Hospodářské noviny (HN) published the names of the firms against which the FAÚ has lodged criminal complaints.

HN reported that the Helvet Group “diverted” Kč 140 million ($7.5 million US), and Merkur Casino – Kč 100 million ($5.3 million US), which the firms claimed they had given to worthy causes. According to the criminal complaints lodged by the FAÚ, all that money made its way back to the companies. For the most part they allegedly operated a scam based on sending money to the accounts of registered, but inactive charities and civic organizations. The money was then withdrawn in cash.

Both of the companies refused to comment about the charges against them.

The bogus NGOs which reportedly received money from the Helvet Group include the Association for the Defense of Rights and Justice (SOPS), which according to the FAÚ received Kč 16.7 million ($893,000 US). Among other recipients of “contributions” from Merkur Casino was the inactive Association for the Support and Promotion of UNESCO World Heritage Monuments to which the casino chain operator transferred Kč 3.5 million ($187,000 US), and Tree of Life – a Czechoslovak Society about which the only information available is that its registered address is near Prague’s main airport.

Two other supposed charities, Greenway Centrum and Our Rainbow (Naše duha) are registered at the same address. The only sign of any activity from either are virtual plans for an ecological center. Together these two organizations received almost Kč 16 million (855,000 US).

The tax exemption enjoyed by Czech betting and gambling firms has finally been scrapped. Until now, instead of paying any corporate or gambling tax, lottery firms were required to donate to charities but free to choose which good causes they could sponsor. From this year they are subject to corporate tax, a new gambling tax, plus a local income tax.

Court supports Codere

Efforts by Codere to halt illegal activities of Spanish online operators have been supported by a court in Madrid. The court has already halted the operation of Sportingbet sites and and considers that “any offering of gaming or betting activity that has not been granted a prior administrative authorisation is, indisputably, prohibited.”

As reported in, the “court states that any offering and marketing of games of chance and betting carried out remotely before and after the entry into force on May 29, 2011, of a new gaming law is illegal, since they have been developed breaching current prohibitions and without the relevant licences granted in Spain.”

Codere has been strenuously tying to bring these operators to justice; the very same operators that have been flaunting themselves from tax havens, impervious to the Spanish tax authorities, without licences, without player protection, without paying taxes in Spain, without generating employment and harming those entities which operate lawfully in Spain.

The Spanish government and the EU have now opened their eyes to this, as well as breaking away from the “legal vacuum” which has been used by unlicensed operators to justify their Spanish operations. Licenses being granted is still pending before the General Directorate of Gaming Supervision

March 12, 2012

Singapore Govt to introduce third-party casino exclusions

Singapore’s Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing said in Parliament on Friday that local gamblers need more help should they fall into problems with gambling, one of those groups being low-income gamblers.

Mr Chan said: “There is a need to protect these Singaporeans and their families from the potential harm of hard gambling.”

“We are looking into targeted measures to protect the financially vulnerable and introducing “circuit breakers” for local frequent casino gamblers.

“One part of this will be extending third-party casino exclusions to more groups receiving ComCare assistance.

“For other financially vulnerable groups, we are now studying with relevant agencies whether to extend exclusion coverage to them.

“We will finalise the details within the next few months.”

Is Portugal changing its mind?

Portugal could be making a u-turn over online gambling, according to various reports. Initially, online gambling was seen as a threat and was ruled out but now looks like they’re opening their eyes to the possibility of regulating to possibly finance imminent pension needs.

At the time it was estimated that such a strategy could raise an extra Euro 250 million for government coffers. The tourism minister, Cecilia Meireles has been saying the government is now rethinking the benefits of revenue derived from the activity.

Earlier this year, the Portugal Daily Review reported that a source in the Ministry of the Economy had confirmed that the concept was being progressed, although little detail was available. The figure of Euro 250 million, collected from “gambling concessions” was still the financial target at that point.

It’s also been reported that the government has decided that it is a “reasonable goal” to start collecting gambling fees. Quoted in a local newspaper Publico, she has said that local legislators have, “unanimously approved” policies to regulate the gambling sector. She had also added that the course of action regarding this latest move requires “some secrecy” which tells those interested in the news that there are some hurdles to overcome yet. Bwin had previously lost its cause to sponsor the Portuguese Football League.

Who’s money laundering in Macau?!

There has been speculation and rumours in the Asian press that unnamed suites in top hotels had been allegedly “decked out to look like genuine gambling halls with security staff, dealers and other customers.” The report, in the South China Morning Post alleges that punters drinks were spiked and bogus chips were handed out.

The hotel in question hasn’t been named and is again, only speculated within the report. The Asia Sentinel blogged: “The story, which the paper has not followed up, clearly suggested that the company, despite its legions of security staff and cameras, either had no control over what was going on there, or had knowingly subcontracted rooms to a mainland group which was given carte blanche to make its own arrangements within the hotel as well as freedom to bring in clients from the mainland. Although these side rooms, often operated by triads, have been a fixture of Macau’s gaming scene for decades, they had been thought to have been prohibited by the multinational gaming companies.”

According to the report, the gang that organized the heist had crossed the border at least 19 times in the previous two years before 16 people were arrested in a raid on a luxury hotel and charged with fraud and drug trafficking.

The report goes into speculating which hotel this could be, the Asia Sentinel thinks it could be: “the Venetian Macau, the largest hotel/casino complex in Macau, which is owned by Las Vegas Sands, the US-based empire of gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson.”

March 11, 2012

Cricket under siege from corrupt bookmakers and a Bollywood star

The International Cricket Council has begun an inquiry into a network of corrupt bookmakers claiming to be able to fix the results of international fixtures and English county games.

The move follows an investigation into match fixing by The Sunday Times, including allegations that bookmakers on the Indian subcontinent have targeted international players, including several in England, using a Bollywood actress.

Officials were alerted by four players who reported her suspicious approaches to them. The investigation shows the sophistication and scale of the corruption and reveals that, despite the recent jailing of three Pakistan international players and an English county bowler for cheating, that cricketing authorities are under siege.

By infiltrating the network of bookmakers and secretly filming meetings, The Sunday Times established that:

Tens of thousands of pounds are on offer to fix matches, typically pound stg. 44,000 ($65,000) to batsmen for slow scoring; pound stg. 50,000 for bowlers who concede runs; and as much as pound stg. 750,000 to players or officials who can guarantee the outcome of a match.

Match fixers boast of recruiting players who come from England, New Zealand, West Indies, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh to throw part, or all, of international fixtures, including last year's World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan.

The bookies are increasingly turning their attention to English county games because "nobody monitors them".

Corruption has grown to the point where, according to Indian law enforcement officials, it has become endemic.

The revelation that English county cricket is being targeted will add to concerns raised by the recent jailing of the Essex cricketer Mervyn Westfield. The 23-year-old was given a four-month prison term last month after admitting he had received pound stg. 6000 to concede at least 12 runs in his first over in a 2009 game against Durham.

Undercover reporters working for The Sunday Times captured Vicky Seth, an influential Delhi bookmaker, boasting that he could fix big international events such as Test matches, Twenty20s, and games in both the Indian Premier League and Bangladesh Premier League, adding that "English county cricket is a good new market. They are low-profile matches and nobody monitors them. That's why good money can be made without any hassle if we can get players to play for us".

Another bookie, known as Monubhai, claimed he worked with players from most cricketing nations to fix games, and had recently been offered a chance to sign up New Zealanders.

An ICC spokesman said: "We will launch an inquiry into these serious allegations. Betting on cricket in the legal and illegal markets continues to grow rapidly . . . the threat of corrupters seeking to influence the game has not gone away."

March 06, 2012

Betfair launches new web tool as price war heats up

Betfair has launched a new web tool which enables customers to view its own prices and place bets on the company’s betting exchange while they are browsing the websites of its competitors.

Betfair Everywhere is a Google Chrome extension which uses keyword technology to overlay Betfair’s odds on the websites of its competition. The add-on will also allow customers to view Betfair odds and place bets while they are browsing other selected sports content websites.

“Betfair Everywhere is a cheeky, innovative, and powerful tool which we can now call upon to further reinforce our value proposition,” said Betfair’s group operations director, Ian Chuter. “We’re constantly looking at ways to make it easier for our customers to recognise the value we offer and then act upon it.

“The Everywhere tool is a simple yet ingenious use of technology that highlights our willingness to think differently when it comes to keeping one step ahead of the competition.”

Betfair Everywhere was conceptualised by a group of Betfair engineers during an internal ‘Fed-Ex Day’ held at the company’s tech centre in Cluj, Romania, in which participants had 24 hours to come up with new, innovative ideas and solutions for Betfair and its customers.

“Price comparison websites are now commonplace, as are “best priced guaranteed” claims made by competitors on their own marketing collateral,” said Chuter. “What we’ve not really seen before is the idea of one competitor using technology to provide customers with the option to view their prices while browsing the site of another. That is, until now.

“What we’re doing with Betfair Everywhere is bringing our unrivalled value message to customers at their alternative point of consumption and at the same time making it easier than ever for them to act on the information we’re giving them.”

The launch of the tool is the latest step in Betfair’s new marketing campaign, Don’t Settle for Less, which is running across the UK and Europe via multiple marketing channels including TV and online.

Vietnam to legalize sports gambling soon

Vietnam is the latest Asian nation to consider loosening its attitude to gambling, with the Finance Ministry saying Monday that it plans to legalize sports betting.

The move, inspired in part by Singapore’s success in reinventing itself as a casino hub in recent years, follows discussions about easing restrictions on gambling in other major markets such as Japan, and underscores the speed with which the gambling world’s center of gravity has shifted toward Asia.

Hanoi’s finance ministry said in a statement that legalizing and regulating betting on soccer matches and sports events would help limit the social damage caused by underground gambling syndicates. While Vietnam has only a handful of casinos—which only foreign passport holders can enter—informal gambling on the results of European soccer matches is widespread. Many Vietnamese also regularly cross the border to Cambodia to gamble at casinos there, a practice that Vietnam’s Communist leaders have long viewed with suspicion.

The recent success of the gambling industry in Singapore, though, appears to be changing perceptions. Las Vegas Sands Corp.’s Marina Bay Sands and Genting Group’s Resorts World Sentosa opened there in 2010 after the government bid out licenses to operate in the wealthy city-state, following years of hesitation about the possible social impact of casinos. Since then, the casinos have been a large financial success, drawing large numbers of tourists, without triggering widespread crime or other problems.

Vietnam’s Finance Minister Vuong Dinh Hue visited the island city-state at the weekend to study how sports betting works there. The finance ministry said Mr. Hue met with executives from the Tote Board and Singapore Pools, government-run operators of sports betting in Singapore, and also visited a horse-racing track. Singapore’s success in creating family-oriented resorts has also piqued the interest of investors and governments hoping to replicate that model in other parts of Southeast Asia.

It is unclear whether this apparently more tolerant approach to sports betting signals a broader shift among the country’s top leadership in Vietnam to open its market to more casinos and other forms of gambling. It is also unclear if private companies, including foreign investors, would be allowed into the sports betting market, or if the business would be dominated by the Vietnamese government. Government officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

U.S. casino operators, though, view Asia as an important new growth market at a time when their American operations are still lagging from the effects of the 2008 financial crisis. PricewaterhouseCoopers expects Asian markets to contribute 43% of the global casino market by 2015, up from 29% in 2010.

Vietnam could be one of several new gambling hubs thanks to its large population of around 90 million people and its growing appeal among foreign tourists. Las Vegas Sands Corp. chief executive Sheldon Adelson has said he is trying to encourage Vietnamese authorities to allow the company to build integrated casino and convention resorts in the country.

Duncan eyeing sportsbooks?

A private members bill seeking to legalize single-game sports betting in Canada passed its third reading in the House of Commons on Friday.

Currently, wagering on a single sports game is prohibited in Canada under the Criminal Code. It is also prohibited across most of North America, only allowed in the state of Nevada.

Bill C-290, introduced by MP Joe Comartin (Windsor-Tecumseh), will now be sent to the Senate for consideration and approval. Upon approval, the legislation must receive Royal Assent before coming into force.

"We are very encouraged by the progress made to date, as well as the strong support that the bill has received from all the major parties," said CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association Bill Rutsey in a news release. "We look forward to working with the Senate as it evaluates the bill, in order to reinforce how important it is to provide Canadians with a legal and regulated product for wagering on individual sporting events."

If the legislation is passed, provinces will then be free to decide whether or not, and in what format, they want to offer single-game sports betting. Currently, in Ontario Pro-Line sports wagering exists where wagers must be made on a minimum of three games at the same time.

Single-game sports betting is expected to benefit casinos -- and possibly racetracks -- that would be allowed to open their own Las Vegas-style sports books, particularly the ones located near the U.S. border attracting American customers.

“I have written to the federal government a number of times to push for changes to single-sport wagering in Ontario. Ontarians who like gaming like single-sport wagering,” Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, the MPP in the same Windsor - Tecumseh riding of Comartin, was quoted as saying in a Toronto Star article. “Today’s vote in Ottawa is a step toward modernizing gaming in Ontario and will help OLG’s casinos remain competitive.”

March 05, 2012

Playtech expands in Mexico

Playtech plc has signed up Grupo Caliente, Mexico’s largest land-based gaming operator, as an online gambling software client.

Caliente currently operates over 90 land-based venues, including modern casinos & bingo halls, together with VLTs, sports betting, live greyhound racing & simulcast horse racing across Mexico, Central & South America.

The agreement with Playtech marks a significant venture into online gaming for Caliente. It covers Playtech’s online casino product, including table & slot games, as well as Playtech’s range of branded games. The offering will be supported by Playtech’s Information Management Solution (IMS) technology platform, providing Caliente with the means to maximise its player experience & returns.

The online offering will operate under Mexican gaming regulations, making Playtech’s products available to players in Mexico & parts of Latin America. Under the terms of the agreement, Playtech & Caliente plan to extend Caliente’s online offering to additional Latin American countries as opportunities arise.

Mor Weizer, CEO of Playtech, said: “We are delighted to have secured this agreement with one of Latin America’s largest & most respected gaming operators with whom, over time, we expect to develop a valuable relationship.

“Our work with Caliente is in line with Playtech’s strategy of entering new regulated markets & diversifies the company’s geographic footprint beyond its European & Asian marketplaces.”

Eduardo Hernández, chief executive officer of Caliente commented: “Our agreement with Playtech will provide a solid, state of the art casino platform that, combined with our current offering, will deliver the best online gaming experience to our customers. With our combined expertise & commitment to excellence, we will be able to fully expand into Latin American regulated markets.”

Former Interpol director Ralf Mutschke named as FIFA's director of security

FIFA has been quick to fill the gap to be left in May when Chris Eaton, their director of security, leaves after becoming arguably the game's most high-profile figure in the battle against global match fixing.

Eaton is joining the Qatar-based International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS) and will be replaced at FIFA by highly-qualified German law enforcement official Ralf Mutschke (pictured).

The 52-year-old is currently senior manager at the German Federal Criminal Police Office and a former Interpol director and takes up his new role on June 1.

FIFA general secretary Jérôme Valcke said the division will be beefed up under Mutschke's supervision.

"We have decided to strengthen the former security department, making it into a full division in order to continue to tackle all issues related to football security and the protection of the integrity of the game," said Valcke.

"This is another major step in our determination to ensure a clean and safe sport and to underline our commitment to the fight against match fixing in football."

Mutschke set out his priority as "the integrity of FIFA competitions...match fixing, betting fraud and corruption".

He has 33 years of experience and used to work under Helmut Spahn – the ICSS's executive director who managed to prize Eaton away.

Mutschke said he took on the position because the integrity of sport was "hugely at risk".

"The values of fair play, respect, discipline and honesty are under threat," he told

"I think I can make a good contribution.

"I spent ten years on the beat fighting drug dealing and organised criminality, and I've now been working in police management for around 20 years, developing crime-fighting strategies and organising day-to-day police work.

"We'll need to cooperate closely with security authorities at a domestic and international level, which is where my experience will help."

Zynga & Wynn partnership?

The CEO of social games developer Zynga gave online gambling a lift on Wednesday, telling the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom conference that online gambling was a ‘natural fit’ for his company’s products..

“I think it’s a good natural fit. I think, philosophically, the part people haven’t noticed yet, real money gaming is the perfect fit with virtual goods & social games,” Marcus Pincus commented, informing his audience that online gambling could bring in an additional billion dollars for his company, & that recent changes in the federal approach to anti online gambling laws, along with Facebook policy changes, could lay the foundations for golden opportunity.

Pincus boasted that Zynga Poker was the largest online poker game on the planet with more than 30 million players, & reiterated that Zynga will soon release other casino-related games like bingo, strengthening its already impressive positioning.

The innovative chief executive also hinted at more casino-related developments, telling the audience that his developers may not be confined solely to traditional gambling games:

“We’re interested, but you should expect to see us do a lot more than what you’ve seen in offshore casinos,” he said. “The amount of innovation you’re going to see around gambling as an entertainment mechanic is going to be mind blowing.”

Pincus also indicated that he was considering possibly partnering with a traditional casino company before the end of this year.

Pincus said his San Francisco-based company sees a great deal of opportunity “to start to bring this gambling element into more than just casino games.”

The Dow Jones newswire reports that Zynga’s CEO suggested the company may partner with traditional casino firms such as Wynn Resorts Ltd.

“We’re definitely talking to all of the players that you would suspect,” Pincus said, adding, “We have incredible respect & admiration for brands & groups like the Wynn… I would expect that you’ll see a lot of these players kind of figure out their go-to-market partnerships for sure before the end of this year.”

Online gambling ring busted in Jakarta

The Jakarta Police revealed over the weekend that they had arrested six suspects on Wednesday last week for managing an online gambling website with a daily turnover of between Rp 300 million (US$33,000) and Rp 400 million.

“All six were arrested during a raid at a house in Pasar Minggu’s Jati Padang subdistrict in South Jakarta on Feb. 29,” police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto told reporters on Saturday.

Police confiscated seven PCs, nine modems, four online-banking PIN tokens, three calculators, and a cell phone during the raid. They also withdrew Rp 300 million from two bank accounts belonging to the website’s owner.

The six suspects were identified as LAS, 24; RC, 23; OPP, 21; EK, 21; ST, 22; and NN, 18. “Each of the six has his or her distinct jobs in managing the website. They earn between Rp 1 million and Rp 2.5 million every month,” Rikwanto said.

Police questioning has revealed that LAS was the one who checked the money deposited by members and transferred money prizes to winning members. RC and OPP managed the user IDs and passwords; EK updated data on deposited money; ST managed customer services through Yahoo! Messenger and Google Talk, and NN erased data of members who lost their bets.

Even though gambling is officially illegal in Indonesia, underground gambling practices both online and offline are rampant in many cities in the country.

Rikwanto said the six suspects had been running the illegal business for around two years and the website currently had some 22,000 members.

The head of the general crimes detective unit, chief Sr. Comr. Toni Harmanto, said the membership was widespread, across Indonesia and abroad.

The website — which has now been deactivated — was advertised on the Google website via Google Ads as well as on the advertising website, police said. The online betting service was also advertised on Facebook and on, a hugely popular internet forum in Indonesia.

Visitors were encouraged by the ads to register and deposit at least Rp 200,000 at Members would then receive a user ID, a password and a personal stash of Rp 1,000 coins with which to gamble at international online betting sites.

Website owner and ringleader RH, 51, is still at large.

“Our officers are trying to hunt him down as we speak,” Rikwanto said, adding that the police believe that might be connected to other similar sites.