October 11, 2017

Why hurricane-ravaged Barbuda desperately wants to resolve a dispute over U.S. online gambling

As the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda struggles to rebuild after Hurricane Irma, the tiny islands are demanding that the United States settle a long simmering trade dispute that could provide them with millions of dollars for recovery.

The conflict revolves around the U.S. government’s campaign to prevent Americans from gambling at online sites based in Antigua and Barbuda.

Antigua and Barbuda claims that the resulting trade dispute has cost the twin-island nation some $200 million — about four-fifths the estimated cost of reconstruction after Irma.

The conflict dates to the 1990s, when online gambling soared in popularity.

According to the industry website GamingZion, Antigua was the first country to license online casino sites in 1994. At its height, Antigua’s gaming industry employed 4,000 people, including call center employees, marketers and IT professionals, and generated around $3.4 billion annually in revenues, Antiguan officials said.

But concern over the practice, along with pressure from the domestic casino industry, prompted U.S. authorities to crack down, using an obscure law outlawing the use of telephone or wire communications to make bets. Then, in 2006, the U.S. passed regulations cracking down on internet gambling.

Today the industry in Antigua and Barbuda provides jobs for only 300 to 400 people, according to Prime Minister Gaston Browne.

“So the loss is real,” he said.

Antiguan officials said their economy needed an injection of cash now more than ever.

Hurricane Irma ravaged Barbuda, decimating most properties and knocking out water, electricity and telecommunications. All of the island’s 1,800 people were evacuated to Antigua. Most have still not been able to return.

Antiguan authorities estimate rebuilding Barbuda will cost about $250 million.

According to Ronald Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda's ambassador to the United States, the U.S. has offered to pay Antigua less than $2 million to settle the trade dispute — a sum that was unacceptable, he said.

“The U.S. by its own policy has actually destroyed a thriving industry in Antigua and Barbuda,” said Browne.

The Caribbean nation has been trying to recoup its losses from the United States since 2003. When the U.S. turned down a request for compensation, Antigua and Barbuda asked the World Trade Organization to arbitrate the matter.

In 2004, a WTO arbitration panel found that the U.S. had violated its trade commitments and Antigua and Barbuda had been wrongly deprived of trade revenue. Over the years, the U.S. has appealed the decision and lost.

The WTO ordered the U.S. to pay Antigua and Barbuda for its trade losses at $21 million a year. To date, the cumulative sum is in excess of $200 million, Sanders said.

The U.S. has refused to pay that sum.

The Trump administration inherited the issue. In a statement to the WTO Dispute Settlement Body in Geneva last month, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said it remained “committed to resolving this matter.”

In filings published by the WTO, past U.S. administrations presented various arguments as to why they opposed remote gambling. These include the risk of money laundering, fraud, organized crime, underage gambling and the threat of expanding the number of addicted gamblers.

In a recent interview in the Antiguan capital, St. John’s, Browne criticized the U.S. for claiming the moral high ground.

“As far as I’m concerned they have no moral authority whatsoever,” Browne said. “There’s more gambling in the United States than any other country on the planet. Whether or not it takes place on the internet or in a casino or in a house, it’s gambling. So we do not buy into this nonsensical argument of morality.”

In its filings to the WTO, the U.S. underscored that gambling in America was “confined to particular locations and operates under the most rigorous regulatory constraints.”

Todd Tucker, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, a Washington-based think tank, said the U.S. had “a good legal case for disregarding the WTO decision.”

“The U.S., under both Democratic and Republican administrations, has argued that the [WTO] appellate body lacks the legitimacy or mandate to refashion what countries and their legislatures agreed to,” Tucker said. “And a lot of anti-gambling activists and religious groups agree with them in this case.”

The Antiguan economy is around $1.5 billion, far smaller than that of a mid-sized American city.

Browne said that “$200 million means nothing” to the United States.His government is willing to accept less, he added. “All we’re saying is that we want something substantive to compensate for the damages over the years.”

Patrick Basham, founding director of the Democracy Institute, a politically independent public policy research organization based in Washington and London, has followed the dispute closely over the years and described it as “a David versus Goliath story.”

“We have a situation with the WTO where the U.S basically founded the club and encouraged all these other countries to join, drafted the rules and everybody signed up,” said Basham, who last month published a report on the matter called “Do As I Say, Not As I Do.” “However, the U.S. seems inclined … to only play by the rules when the rules suit the U.S.”

The WTO authorized Antigua to use other means to recover what it is owed, including breaking U.S. copyright laws. The Caribbean nation could allow the downloading of U.S.-made computer software and Hollywood movies and keep the profits.

In a statement to the WTO in Geneva last month, Sanders, the ambassador, said his government had refrained from taking such action because “we have too high regard for the U.S. owners of intellectual property, who have contributed much to the enjoyment and advancement of the world.”

Browne, the prime minister, said he was concerned that the U.S. might retaliate against his nation using underhanded methods.

“They have sinister ways,” Browne said. “They may say, for example, that there is the Zika virus in Antigua and Barbuda, so don’t travel [there]. We understand those risks, that’s why we haven’t pursued those remedies.”

Tucker, of the Roosevelt Institute, said simply allowing internet gaming and writing a check to Antigua was not necessarily the solution. Citing Antiguan authorities, he said those likely to benefit were financiers in the gambling industry who would claim 75% of whatever settlement is reached.

“Direct aid to the people of Antigua is a much better humanitarian solution,” Tucker said.

Browne was adamant that his country would continue to fight for what it is owed.

“What we’re saying at the end of the day is that you can’t operate on the basis that might is right and trample on the rights of a small state,” he said. “There must be some equity in the system. We love the U.S. We don’t wish harm to the U.S. But don’t treat us with this type of contempt and neglect.”

October 03, 2017

Las Vegas gunman was high-stakes gambler who stayed at casino hotels for months at a time

He liked to bet big, wagering tens of thousands of dollars in a sitting. He owned homes in four states but preferred staying in casino hotels, sometimes for weeks at a time, as he worked the gambling machines.

He grew up the son of a convicted bank robber who was constantly running from the law. But in his own life, Stephen Paddock, 64, had kept his nose clean until Sunday night, when he suddenly unleashed a firestorm of bullets from his casino hotel room, killing at least 59 people and injuring more than 500 more on the Las Vegas Strip.

"If you told me an asteroid fell into Earth, it would mean the same to me. There's absolutely no sense, no reason he did this," his brother Eric Paddock said in an interview outside his home in Orlando, Florida. "He's just a guy who played video poker and took cruises and ate burritos at Taco Bell. There's no political affiliation that we know of. There's no religious affiliation that we know of."

After the shooting, officers found Stephen Paddock dead with 17 guns on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, where he had arrived Thursday.

Police believe Paddock acted alone in executing the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Eric Paddock said he knew of five guns his brother kept in his safe but was shocked that a rapid-fire weapon was used in Sunday's shooting.

He said Stephen Paddock didn't hunt and barely shot his guns, once taking Eric's children on a skeet-shooting trip paid for by the casinos.

In the final years of his life, Stephen Paddock was living out his retirement in quiet obscurity. He liked country music, relatives said, and went to concerts like the Route 91 Harvest festival where he killed so many Sunday night.

He was worth more than $2 million, relatives said. Before retiring, he made a small fortune from real estate deals and a business that he and Eric Paddock sold off. He traveled a lot and had millions of free airline miles.

At various points of his life, Stephen Paddock worked for defense contractor Lockheed Martin and as an accountant and property manager. As a retiree, he had no children and plenty of money to play with. So he took up gambling.

"It's like a job for him. It's a job where you make money," said Eric Paddock, adding that his brother could lose $1 million and still have enough to live on. "He was at the hotel for four months one time. It was like a second home."

He recalled one time when the entire family took over the top floor of the Atlantis at the casino's expense.

His brother was very particular about the games he played. "It had to be the right machine with double points, and there has to be a contest going on. He won a car one time," Eric Paddock said.

"He's known. He's a top player. He's the small end of the big fish."

Over the past two decades, Stephen Paddock had bought and sold properties in several states, including California, Nevada, Florida and Texas, where for a time, neighbors said, he lived with his mother. Public records show Paddock at one point owned two planes and was a licensed pilot. He also had a fishing license from Alaska.

He told neighbors he was a professional gambler and a prospector, and he appeared to favor buying homes in retirement communities. At one point, he and his longtime girlfriend, Marilou Danley, were living in at least three retirement communities, property records show. Neighbors said the couple seemed almost itinerant, leaving the properties empty for long stretches as Paddock visited his casinos.

Donald Judy, who was his next-door neighbor in Florida until two years ago, said the inside of Paddock's home "looked like a college freshman lived there." There was no art on the walls and no car in the driveway. Just a dining chair, a bed and two recliners. Paddock was constantly on the move, carrying a suitcase and driving a rental car whenever he stayed at the community near Cocoa Beach.

"It looked like he'd be ready to move at a moment's notice," Judy said.

Judy said he never flashed his wealth, often wearing khaki cotton pants, with a polo or other collared shirt, and never driving anything nicer than a standard rental car.

A little while after living there, Paddock left Judy a key and asked him to keep an eye on the rarely used house and to borrow any tools he might want. Judy said there were no drugs or parties, nothing unusual except for Paddock's gambling.

"They did seem to always stay up till midnight and sleep in till noon," Judy said. "They always seemed to stay on Vegas time."

Then, as quickly as he had appeared, Paddock put up a for-sale sign, Judy said. "He never said much about it, just said they were moving back to Vegas."

Police in Texas and towns Paddock lived in in Nevada said they could find no records of run-ins with the law involving him.

California records show that Paddock married a woman named Peggy Okamoto in 1985. They divorced in 1990 citing "irreconcilable differences." In recent years, Danley had become his girlfriend, relatives said.

Authorities said Danley was out of the country at the time of the shooting and was located in Tokyo. She is not considered a suspect.

At one point, Danley worked as a high-limit hostess for Club Paradise, a rewards program in the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno, Nevada, according to her LinkedIn profile. In a statement, Atlantis officials said she has not worked for the casino for several years.

Diane McKay lived next door to Paddock and Danley at their Reno home until July, when McKay moved away. Danley wasn't forthcoming about her life, and Paddock was unfriendly, McKay recalled. She only saw him in the mornings, when he went to the clubhouse to work out.

"He was weird. Kept to himself," said McKay, 79. "It was like living next to nothing. . . . You can at least be grumpy, something. He was just nothing, quiet."

The couple kept their blinds closed, but sometimes Paddock would open the garage door, revealing an enormous safe the size of a refrigerator.

Paddock's father, Benjamin Hoskins Paddock, was on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list, described on a 1969 wanted poster as "psychopathic'' with suicidal tendencies.

He escaped from prison that year and, according to news accounts, was not captured until 1978, when he was nabbed while running a bingo parlor in Oregon.

Stephen Paddock was the oldest of four boys. Eric, eight years his junior, was the youngest, with two in between: Bruce and Patrick.

Their father died a few years ago, but Eric Paddock grew up thinking their father was already dead. He found out otherwise when Patrick went to the Air Force Academy and was told his father was a decorated veteran and still alive.

"We didn't grow up under his influence," Eric Paddock said. "I was born on the run in Tucson. My dad was about to be arrested for robbing banks."

FBI agents interviewed relatives Monday, including Stephen Paddock's mother, who is in her 90s and spoke with him two weeks ago, Eric Paddock said. Five days after Hurricane Irma hit Orlando, Stephen Paddock texted his brother to see whether relatives had been affected.

Eric Paddock said he did not know of any mental illness, alcohol or drug problems in his brother's life. He said he had no clue whether Stephen had gambling debts or was financially troubled.

By Monday night, after an entire day dealing with FBI investigators and reporters camped outside his house, Eric Paddock said he and other relatives were still struggling to process the atrocity carried out by his brother.

"When we talked about a month ago, I can't believe he was planning this," he said, squeezing his eyes closed. "But he must have. It takes time."

What he knows about his brother doesn't fit with Sunday's massacre of innocents.

"Something broke in his head is the only thing possible. Did he have a stroke?" he said. "I'm hoping they cut open his brain and find something. There's a data point missing."

September 26, 2017

Dubai investor accuses ex-Amaya CEO David Baazov of fraud

Former Amaya Gaming CEO David Baazov is being sued by a Dubai investor who claims Baazov fraudulently used the investor’s name to build support for an Amaya takeover bid.

On Friday, La Presse reported that KBC Aldini Capital president Kalani Lal had filed a lawsuit in Dubai in January accusing Baazov and his longtime financial services partner Canaccord Genuity of fraudulently using Lal’s name and signature to boost Baazov’s late-2016 bid to acquire Amaya.

Last November, Amaya announced that Baazov, who had parted ways with the company several months earlier to defend himself against criminal charges of insider trading, had made a C$24 per share offer to buy a controlling stake in Amaya and take the company private.

To support his bid, Baazov filed papers with the US Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) stating that he’d lined up $3.65b in financial commitments from four investment firms, including the Dubai-based KBC Aldini Capital.

However, within a week of Amaya’s announcement, Lal informed CalvinAyre.com that “neither KBC Aldini nor any of its related entities are involved in this transaction.” The following day, Baazov retracted his claim regarding KBC Aldini’s involvement, and Baazov’s proposed Amaya acquisition quickly fell apart.

Knowledge of the KBC Aldini lawsuit came via Quebec securities regulator Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), which brought the insider trading charges against Baazov and two other Amaya-connected individuals in March 2016.

Last December, an AMF investigator contacted KBC’s Lal, who repeated his claim to have never heard of Baazov or Amaya prior to the SEC filings. Lal apparently asked Cannacord to provide him with a copy of the letter allegedly sent by KBC pledging its financial support, but Lal never received a copy.

The AMF report indicates that “KBC’s clientele is predominantly Muslim, meaning that KBC will never invest in a gaming business, otherwise it will lose all its customers.” Lal reportedly received many calls from KBC clients who’d heard about the alleged Amaya connection, and this had caused Lal “a lot of worries.”

Earlier this week, La Presse reported that the AMF’s raids on individuals connected with their Baazov investigation had uncovered a document in which Baazov allegedly agreed to hold the majority of his Amaya shares on behalf of his brother Ofer aka ‘Josh’ Baazov and Ofer’s longtime online gambling business partner Craig Levett. The AMF also claims to have email communications in which Ofer is referred to as Amaya’s real owner.

Baazov’s criminal trial is expected to get underway in November, but if this week is any barometer, we can expect a steady drip of damning information to leak out of the AMF offices in the weeks to follow.

Amaya, the parent company of online gambling giant PokerStars, rebranded as The Stars Group earlier this year, in what was widely viewed as a means of distancing the company from the increasingly negative media narrative surrounding its former CEO.

Labour Plan to Levy Tax on Gambling to Fund Treatment of Addicts

The United Kingdom has witnessed a significant rise in the number of problem gamblers in the recent times. According to a report published by the Gambling Commission, more than 2 million people in the UK are addicted to problem gambling or are at a risk of developing an addiction. The report reckons that the number of ‘above-16’ problem gamblers has increased by a third in the last three years, indicating that nearly 430,000 people are victims of this serious addiction.

This certainly suggests that the government isn’t doing enough to tackle the issue. The pace of change has been slow, and the government needs to be more proactive in addressing the issues. The risk of men becoming problem gambler is 7.5 times more than women. In the light of such rising gambling addiction, the government has finally taken a significant step to address the problem of problem gambling.

U.K. Labour plan’s tax

U.K.’s opposition Labour Party has now decided to impose a compulsory tax on gambling companies for the treatment of gambling addicts. Gambling companies are failing to favor a system that calls for 0.1 percent of profits as voluntary contributions. This amount should be utilized in helping people who bet in an uncontrollable manner. The deputy leader of the party, Tom Watson, will tell delegates about this levy at its annual conference on Tuesday in Brighton, southern England.

Mr. Watson believes that “gambling addiction is an illness” and it’s time to take the issue seriously. The party’s review will also look into the ability of NHS to provide the required mental health services to problem gamblers who have become prey to this addiction. The Gambling Commission’s report defined gambling addiction as “gambling to a degree that compromises, disrupts or damages family, personal or recreational pursuits”.

The Association of British Bookmakers expressed that it supports an approach that is based on evidence, thus facilitating the idea of Mr. Watson. Labour also says that the extra sum will be required to boost the capacity and infrastructure of hospitals. Moreover, the NHS also requires funds to hire extra staff outside the agency and extend social care to patients.

The party has vowed to increase spending on the NHS by hiking income tax by 5% for people who earn the highest. A winter bailout is also proposed to be funded through this. Gambling companies target low-income people or those who have quit gambling because it proves profitable for them. The new tax proposes to stop this abuse of power and trust.

September 25, 2017

How to fix match-fixing

In 267 AD Nicantinous and Demetrius, two teenage wrestlers, had reached the final bout in a prestigious competition in Egypt. Their fathers struck a deal. For the price of a donkey, Demetrius would “fall three times and yield”. The signed contract is the earliest surviving record of a sporting competition being stitched up for financial gain.

Today, match-fixing is a vast global enterprise. The pickings are rich. Around $2trn is wagered on sport each year, mostly with online bookmakers who enable punters to evade national anti-gambling laws. Around one game in 100 is thought to be manipulated across a range of sports.

Modern fixing is a more subtle affair than that of Nicantinous and Demetrius. It often involves manipulating the odds in live betting while a match is under way. Arranging for a cricketer to score poorly, say, or a footballer to be sent off at a certain point, or a tennis player to lose a particular game, allows bettors to predict how odds will move and lock in a profit much as insider traders beat the stockmarket. Athletes troubled by conscience can always tell themselves that a few wild swipes of a bat or a run of double faults are victimless crimes.

If punters willing to place illegal bets were the only victims, fixing might not matter so much. But they are not. Much of the profits go to violent gangsters. Among those defrauded are corrupt athletes’ innocent team-mates, legal bettors and ordinary fans, who pay to see a real contest, not a sham.

Sports administrators cannot be relied on to lead a clean-up. Some are themselves suspected of corruption—witness allegations of bribery in the choices of hosts for the football World Cup and Olympic games. And many seem to fear that revealing the scale of match-fixing would provoke a crisis of confidence. Little time or money is devoted to educating athletes about fixers’ methods, or to monitoring wagers to spot the suspicious betting patterns. Some of the cases that have come to light were uncovered by police investigating racketeering, not sports officials going after fixers. The governing body for tennis, dogged by suspicions of match-fixing, does not employ enough officials to have one at every professional event.

As more games are televised, more is bet on minor competitions, where players earn less and are therefore easier to corrupt. And as new sports gain popularity, the fixers will move in. They are already active in competitive video-gaming. Women’s cricket and football are likely to become targets, too.

Say it ain’t so
To squeeze the fixers, governments need to do two things. The first is to legalise gambling, which is banned in many countries. Fixers need deep, liquid betting markets to profit from their crooked bets. If honest punters turn to legal bookmakers, fixers will follow, and authorities will find it easier to spot them at their work. The second is to pass laws against match-fixing which recognise that the evidence may consist of statistical analysis. Many countries have no match-fixing laws at all. When one corrupt player is caught and banned, the moneymen simply move on to the next.

Billions of people follow sport for the pleasure of seeing skilled athletes strive for victory and to share in the thrill of a fair competition. If the fixers are allowed to run the show, it will cease to be worth watching.

September 15, 2017

Innovation and technology hub announced by Ladbrokes Coral

Ladbrokes Coral have announced plans to unite its sports and technology teams to bring customers an continually improved betting experience.

Named LC2 and located at Here East, which formerly housed the London 2012 Olympic media team, on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, 140 staff of both brands are charged with delivering a range of products such as CRM, ePOS and digital sportsbook platforms.

Graham Calder, Ladbrokes Coral CIO said: “With the creation of LC2 our goal is to deliver excellence for our customers by leveraging the best digital technology, to hire the best digital talent to build the best digital future.

“With our passion for sports, we can’t help but be inspired by the great sporting legacy that comes with being a part of the Olympic Park.”

Gavin Poole, CEO of Here East, added:, “As Here East continues to draw in innovators from more and more sectors, Ladbrokes Coral’s new digital product development centre fits well within the campus.

“Their newly joined up sport-technology team builds on Here East’s reputation as a centre of innovation for established companies and start-ups to collaborate, test new ideas, prototype new products and learn from each other’s expertise.”

August 31, 2017

Japan to limit online gambling

The Japanese government to limit the current online betting of racing events to help stem the concerns over gambling addiction, with the introduction of integrated resorts in the country for the first time which will happen sometime shortly after 2020 concerns over a rise in gambling addiction has risen.

At present gambling is allowed on horse, powerboat, bicycle and motorcycle racing and one of the measures will be to remove ATM machines from venues where betting is allowed to stop impulsive gambling.

“It is essential to carry out measures to prevent people from falling into unfortunate situations due to (gambling) addiction,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.

Other measures to limit gambling addiction will be discussed following the report by the government which will be released later next month.

888 to pay almost £8m for 'failing vulnerable customers' and addicts

Online gambling firm 888 has been ordered to pay of over £7.8m for not helping vulnerable customers to limit the damage of their gambling addictions.

The Gambling Commission on Thursday said that, due to a technical failure in 888’s systems, over 7,000 customers who had chosen to self-exclude from their casino, poker or sports betting platform were still granted access their accounts on 888’s bingo platform.

Self-exclusion is a facility offered by gambling sites for people who have decided that they wish to stop gambling – in some cases because they fear they have become addicted – for at least six months and wish to be supported in their decision to quit.

The commission said that in 888’s case, the issue went undetected for “a prolonged period of time” which meant that customers were able to deposit a cumulative total of £3.5m into their accounts, and then continue to gamble, for over 13 months.

888 did have a self-exclusion procedures in place, but their system was “not robust enough and failed to protect potentially vulnerable customers”, the commission said.

“Safeguarding consumers is not optional. This penalty package of just under £8m reflects the seriousness of 888’s failings to protect vulnerable customers,” said Sarah Harrison, chief executive of the commission.

In addition to the overarching charges, the commission also said that 888 had failed to recognise “visible signs of problem gambling behaviour displayed by an individual customer, which was so significant that it resulted in criminal activity”.

In that particular case, the customer staked over £1.3m, including £55,000 stolen from an employer.

Over more than a year, the customer placed a significant number of bets and gambled, on average, three to four hours a day.

“The lack of interaction with the customer, given the frequency, duration and sums of money involved in the gambling, raised serious concerns about 888’s safeguarding of customers at-risk of gambling harm,” the commission said.

"The 888 sanction package will ensure those affected don’t lose out, that the operator pays the price for its failings via a sum that will go to tackling gambling-related harm, and that independent assurance will be given to see that lessons are learnt,” Ms Harrison said.

The £7.8m sum includes repayment of the £3.5m of deposits made by those customer who had chosen to self-excluded and it also includes compensation of £62,000 to the employer from whom money was stolen in that one particular case.

The commission said that a further £4.25m would be paid to a socially responsible cause with the idea that it helps finance measures to clamp down on gambling-related harm.

For “future assurance”, the commission said that it had also ordered an independent audit of 888’s processes relating to customer protection.

888, in a statement, said that it fully cooperated with the commission throughout this process.

It said that it “regrets the historic failings highlighted by the review and accepts the conclusion of the review”.

It also listed a number of changes and improvements that have been put in place to prevent similar occurrences in future.

“The review process has pushed 888 to enhance its responsible gambling technology and policies and leaves it well placed to continue to succeed in an environment where it will engage with customers in a way that those customers and regulators will demand going forward,” the company said.

Sports advertising could it be cut?

Could advertising on television especially around sporting events be curbed by the UK government? With the recent announcement from the UK Gambling Commission that as many as 2 million people were either problem gamblers or a risk of addiction and then the front page newspaper coverage of the dangers of gambling it could spell the end of current advertising during live sporting events that manage to air before the 9pm watershed time that normally gambling adverts are not allowed.

A storm is gathering. “We would be mad not to take notice of that growing background noise of concern,” says Clive Hawkswood, the chief executive of the Remote Gambling Association.

Soon there will be a review of sports betting advertising by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and many feel some new restrictions could come into force to please those campaigners that want a total ban on all gambling advertising.

There is already a president for banning all gambling adverts during sporting events, in Australia the Prime Minister said the government would move to ban all gambling advertising on television before 9pm.

Those opposed to gambling advertising say that it has got out of hand, too many adverts now during the breaks are gambling focused and with the gambling industry spending £1.4 billion on advertising since 2012 it is hard to disagree. Also opponents point to football clubs now having gambling firms as their shirt sponsors, in total 9 of the premier league teams have gambling companies as their lead shirt sponsor.

The popularity of sports in the UK and predominately football is a huge draw for a gambling company to have their brand recognised by the mass market, but is it time that gambling firms hold back a little before the government take measures against sports advertising?

August 18, 2017

Japan start public hearings on Integrated Resorts

Japan has started month long open public hearings on the future of casino resorts in the country with comments accepted on how the government will shape how casinos with operate in the country.

Following the hearings the debate will move to lawmakers on what will be allowed and what will not, given that half of the nation is still opposed to the opening of casino resorts the coming month will be very interesting on how they will be restricted.

Some of the topics that will be covered in the hearings are the limit on casino space in resorts, tax rates on operators, a potential ban on ATM’s in casino resorts to limit impulsive gambling and a limit on the amount of visits local residents can make to a casino.

International operators who are eyeing the Japanese gaming market are concerned that their growth could be limited if the government make too many restrictions towards gaming.

During the hearings casino operators are also allowed to make observations and comments on the process which is held in Tokyo.

Many involved in the gaming industry application process to build integrated resorts fear the potential $25 billion a year revenues in Japan could be dramatically lower if too many restrictions are imposed.

Playtech BGT Sports momentum continues with BoyleSports extension

Playtech BGT Sports has agreed a deal to extend distribution of its self-service betting terminals (SSBTs) with BoyleSports.

As part of the agreement, another 325 of the terminals will be deployed within the Irish operator’s 225-strong estate, doubling the number to over 1,000 in the last 12 months.

Individual shop SSBT density will increase once the additional terminals have been installed, with many of the operator’s best performing shops hosting in excess of five SSBTs as they look to build upon their operating objective to offer their customers an all-encompassing service through a variety of modern mediums.

Dr. Armin Sageder, CEO of Playtech BGT Sports, said: “Our partnership with BoyleSports has been very successful since our initial deployment, and our second extension to the deal this year proves the strength of the product for the Irish customer base.

“Many shops will host more than four terminals, which illustrates that customers are seeing the tangible benefits of the machines, which have been shown to greatly add incremental revenue and increased margins, without the threat of cannibalisation to the over-the-counter product.”

Jenna Boyle, Head of Retail at BoyleSports, said: “Customer feedback for the increased offering provided by PBS’ SSBTs has required us to greatly increase the number of them across our estate to keep up with demand.

They have helped us generate record-breaking SSBT football betting turnover, and the significant incremental revenue each one generates has led to us making the decision to further increase the average density in our shop in order to further enhance our market leading retail offering.”

This agreement comes just four months after a similar deal extension, which saw PBS provide an additional 200 terminals to BoyleSports.

August 17, 2017

The National Lottery found out the hard way how moronic consumers can be

You would think marketers would have worked it out by now. But many appear still to live in a perfect rose-tinted bubble in which communications are seen as a clarion call, brands are something that people want to fall in love with, and consumers are positive, upbeat citizens of the world who can’t wait to get inspired by purpose and consumption and buying stuff.

That’s how things probably look in most marketers’ Powerpoint presentations. But a dose of market orientation would change everything. You remember market orientation? It’s the core concept of marketing and can be neatly summarised with the mantra: ‘You are not the consumer’.

I prefer to take it further with clients and point out that they are, quite literally, the least qualified people on the planet to see their product or service the way that their consumers do. If you make the product you can’t see it from the customer perspective. Similarly, if you work in an agency your view of campaigns and brands and customers is total bollocks. You work from the comfortable part of the spear – the pointy end is totally different.


Campaigns are not clarion calls that unite a nation and change attitudes. They are little nudges that play on existing attitudes and interests and just do enough to turn the dial in our favour. Sure, we have our case studies where a single ad changed the world: Wonderbra, Guinness, Marmite and so on. But for these epic moments of impact there are thousands of channel-changing, page-turning, screen-swiping failures.

What’s more, these ads – the ones that interrupt the morning music or absorbing late night movie or interesting news feed – are despised. People hate advertising. They tolerate it but, offered a red button, would exterminate it tomorrow.

Brands aren’t loved by anyone either, other than the marketers who manage them. Most of these marketers live a virtual reality existence of brand love and corporate purpose. These marketers have forgotten that the fact they spend their lives working on a brand does not make up for the brief seconds of time it takes up in the consumer’s life.

Most brands are totally ignored. A few have a tiny dollop of salience, which proves enough to win market share. Still fewer have genuine meaning for customers. But this vision of consumers establishing relationships and love for brands is over-wrought marketing horseshit – the wet dreams of marketers that never actually hang out in the supermarket aisle, or listen in to call centre staff, or stand in the rain while consumers trundle past their hot new visual merchandising in that shiny big window that no-one notices.

Consumers are not consumers – only marketers think of them that way. They are people; people who view consumption, for the most part, as a mundane and necessary part of a much more interesting existence.

They don’t think that toilet paper is innovative. They don’t think their toothpaste says something about their personality. They don’t give a fuck about the brand purpose of the lightbulb they try, swearingly, to screw into the socket of their bathroom ceiling. And despite all the bright, aspirational, stock-art faces that populate marketing Powerpoint slides with the title ‘target consumer’, most of them are cynical and unpleasant. Many are total dickheads.

Now don’t take any of this to be negative. It’s realistic. And don’t assume that means campaigns and brands cannot work on consumers. Of course they can. But marketing enjoys a much harder task and less likely success rate than most would have you believe. A lot of it depends on not taking a rose-tinted view of everything, but using market orientation to understand the real situation.

Of course, that rarely happens. Instead we continue to ride our pink unicorns through the candy-coated world of marketing, building ridiculous campaigns that push for unrealistic brand goals from target consumers who do not actually exist outside of Powerpoint decks projected on a screen above a Starbucks somewhere off Charlotte Street.

Take, for example, the wonderful new work of The National Lottery and British Athletics at the London World Championships. In an attempt to “unite athletes and fans as one” the new “digitally led” campaign created an official hashtag for the British Athletics team: #Represent.

If you live in marketing land then the whole idea provides an inspirational, beautiful vision of athletics bringing together a nation and uniting people of all interests and orientations. You probably think the ad will work. You believe it will connect people to British athletics. You can see consumers being inspired by the #Represent campaign.

That’s why you also create a social media campaign in which these suddenly excited consumers can share their inspiration with others and demonstrate just how much they have united with British Athletics, as The National Lottery did. What could be better than a digital tool that allows people to select their favourite athlete, the one they connect with most, and add a personal message of inspiration and support on a board held by the sportsperson in question? And then, best of all, they can share it with other equally engaged fans and unite with them too. All in one massive, positive, entirely unrealistic vision conjured up by marketers who don’t get it.

What you get instead is a sudden reality shot from the real, cynical and entirely moronic world of the consumer. They don’t care about athletics. Or uniting with athletes. They really only care about having a laugh and being a dickhead.

And so the #Represent campaign became, for a few brief hours, before it was swiftly yanked from the public consciousness, a window into the gap between how marketing sees the world and how it really is. Rarely does the juxtaposition present itself so clearly.

Collected at the top are some of the (less offensive) messages that the #Represent campaign generated. I will not comment on them. Feel free to feel shock, anger, humour, disgust or any other emotion. But also feel the distinct separation of marketing and reality.

The messages are not pleasant but I encourage you to navigate them and take a long, hard whiff of market reality. Use them as strategic smelling salts the next time someone puts up an image of a smiling clip-art consumer, or talks about engagement or brand love or any of the other horseshit that pervades our industry.

Everything else might be wrong about the #Represent campaign, but the word itself is perfect.

How gambling has replaced beer on Premier League shirts this season

The season began with Emirates Airlines against Thai duty free giant King Power. Saturday’s games included the clash of the Malta-based bookmakers, ManBetX against Ope Sports, and another all-gambling clash when Kenya’s SportPesa take on England’s very own Bet365.

Premier League shirt sponsorship has changed beyond recognition since the days when Queens Park Rangers promoted Classic FM and Blackburn Rovers McEwan’s Lager. Just as the league itself has modernised, globalised, a magnet to foreign interest and foreign money, the shirt sponsorship market has followed.

This season will see just four UK-based brands on Premier League shirts, the lowest number in history. And, not unconnected to that, it will see nine bookmakers as shirt sponsors, one down from last season’s record of 10.

Looking at the changes in shirt sponsorship over time shows how clearly the market has changed. When the Premier League started, in 1992-93, the biggest sectors for shirt sponsorship were consumer electronics, with six deals, and beer, with four, according for research for The Independent by Ken Berard. Electronics and beer remained a steady presence through the 1990s before dwindling in the 2000s. Last season there was just one beer sponsor, Chang Beer on Everton’s shirts. They have now been replaced too, and this year, for the first time in Premier League history, there will be none.

The story of the second half of the Premier League era has been the story of gambling replacing alcohol as the sector that dominates its shirts. When BetFair first appeared on Fulham’s shirts in 2002-03 it felt quirky but now it is utterly commonplace.

Alcohol was synonymous with the first decade of the Premier League, which had Carling as its title sponsor from 1993 to 2001. But while beer partnerships are still part of the fabric of English football, those brands do not take quite the same direct approach as they used to. “The market reflects a changing dynamic among alcohol brands,” explained Tim Crow, CEO of leading sports marketing firm Synergy, “as beer brands have moved away from shirt sponsorship.”

The Portman Group is made of Britain’s leading alcohol producers and three years ago they brought out a new sponsorship code advising brands to be responsible in their sponsorship of sports, in part because they do not want to be seen to be marketing to children. Of course all Premier League teams have their own alcohol partners, but those brands have now stepped back from shirt sponsorship itself.

Into that space, gambling firms have moved. It is easy enough to see why it is an attractive move for them. With global viewing figures higher than ever, a shirt sponsorship is a fairly cheap way to reach millions of people all over the world. “The Premier League is a global advertising platform because of its reach,” Crow explains. “As a global advertising campaign for a brand, shirt sponsorship can be a cost-effective media buy.”

The big six clubs are so famous now that their shirt sponsorship deals are appropriately expensive. Chevrolet pay an estimated £53million to sponsor Manchester United’s shirts, Yokohama Tyres pay £40m each year to Chelsea. But while the top clubs charge a premium, for the smaller 14 it is a buyers’ market. Their shirts will cost in the mid-single figures of millions for each year. Not a big price to pay to be seen all over the world.

Online gambling is becoming bigger and bigger business, as anyone who watches football on television knows. In 2014 football revenues exceeded those for horse racing for online bookmakers in the UK and the gap has continued to grow since.

While only Bet365, who sponsor Stoke City and BetWay, who sponsor West Ham United, target the UK betting market, there has been a recent rise in investment from foreign bookmakers. They are far less interested in the UK markets, and more in the global audience the Premier League provides. That is why Sport Pesa, ManBetX, Fun88, LeTou, M88, Dafabet and Ope Sports – brands not especially well-known in the UK – are now seen on our televisions every weekend, during the segments of football that break up the adverts for British bookmakers.

While there is some criticism from the marketing industry that shirt sponsorship is a very “blunt instrument” ill-suited to reaching a targeted audience, there is little doubt that the sponsors themselves are happy with their investment. A source close to one such deal said that the sponsor found it to be “incredibly effective”, not just through the shirts on the players themselves, but the LED exposure around the pitch and even fans wearing the shirt all over the world.

But there is also a concern that, not for the first time, English football has sold out to the highest bidder. There are times when a Premier League match, whether live or on television, can look like an advertising channel for the gambling industry.

In June this year the Football Association ended its sponsorship deal with Ladbrokes, deciding that it was not appropriate for a governing body to have a gambling partner, in the light of the Joey Barton ban. In doing so the FA gave up an estimated £12m. That moment could yet mark a change in English football’s relationship with gambling money. Or, as the tide of cash comes in, and the clubs keep saying yes, it may not.

August 12, 2017

England Bans Betting in Soccer, but Not for ‘The Lizard’

They call Tony Bloom “The Lizard” in poker circles. But the Lizard is more than just a gambler.

For the first time in more than three decades, the soccer club Mr. Bloom owns, Brighton & Hove Albion, has been elevated to the Premier League. That means one of the best-known leagues in soccer now counts one of the most prominent soccer gamblers among its owners.

Star Lizard Consulting, which was set up by Mr. Bloom’s associates to provide support for his betting syndicate, operates like a quantitative hedge fund. About 200 employees — traders, software engineers and analysts — focus on helping Mr. Bloom’s syndicate make data-driven bets on soccer and other sports. He did well enough to purchase a controlling stake in Brighton for nearly $130 million in 2009, back when the struggling club was in League One, two notches below the Premier League.

Betting is ostensibly banned by the Football Association, the governing body of soccer in England, which recently banished a Premier League player for 18 months for gambling.

But the association told The New York Times it also has a set of unpublished rules for Mr. Bloom and other owners involved in betting.

Louisa Fyans, an F.A. spokeswoman, said in an email that when the association updated its rules in 2014, it took into account that some owners had significant gambling interests.

“These clubs would be materially impaired by the F.A.’s position on betting,” she said, so the association created “provisions whereby those individuals could continue to have both an interest in football clubs and in betting companies/entities but subject to very stringent rules and reporting obligations.”

The association declined to share those provisions. The Premier League did not respond to requests for comment.

In the United States, a man like Mr. Bloom, a hybrid of high-rolling gambler and sports team owner, is unheard-of, and would run afoul of the typical sports league bylaws. The appetite for mixing sports and gambling waned nearly a century ago, after eight baseball players were accused of trying to fix the World Series. Even allowing a major sports team, the Oakland Raiders, to move to Las Vegas represents a cultural shift in America.

But the blending of gambling and sport is accepted practice in Britain, where winnings aren’t taxed. Mr. Bloom’s ascension has caused barely a ripple, even though his soccer gambling and poker playing career has been well chronicled.

Part of the reason is that Mr. Bloom is not alone. Dozens of clubs are sponsored by betting firms. The family that owns a betting platform called Bet365 also owns the Stoke City football club, which plays in the Premier League. Matthew Benham, who runs a similar operation to Star Lizard called Smartodds, owns the Brentford football club, which plays in a league between League One and the Premier League.

Both Mr. Bloom and Mr. Benham are known for bringing a data-driven approach to their pursuits.

“Tony is a hugely mathematical and analytical type of person, so clearly he looks at numbers as a means of gaining confidence in decision-making,” said Paul Barber, Brighton’s chief executive, adding that his team had its own data and scouts apart from Star Lizard.

While his team’s players “are aware that Tony is a professional gambler,” they are more interested in his poker skills, Mr. Barber said, adding, “Some of them like to play cards.”

Chris Bonett, an integrity officer at U.E.F.A., European soccer’s governing body, described Mr. Bloom as an ally.

“I know there is an ethical argument, should betting companies be in sports, but we are in a free market,” he said.

Star Lizard and other organizations have provided information to the European governing body for years to help it detect fixed matches, and have formal agreements in place to do so.

“I think they are on our side, because a fixed match defrauds the betting company first and foremost,” Mr. Bonett said. “With Star Lizard, we have a relationship that has been going on quite some time.”

In a statement, Star Lizard said, “Tony’s betting is beyond reproach in terms of integrity,” adding that their knowledge “of how the betting markets should play out before and during the match are incredibly valuable to the anti-match-fixing work carried out by numerous football authorities.”

A representative of Star Lizard also said that Mr. Bloom did not bet on Brighton.

Sam Tomlinson, a partner at the London office of PricewaterhouseCoopers, said the firm had audited Star Lizard “to confirm their compliance with the applicable F.A. regulation” and filed those audits with the association. “That’s probably as much as I can say.”

Mr. Bloom, 47, grew up with the team. His late grandfather Harry Bloom served as its vice chairman in the 1970s.

“He also had a big love of gambling and betting,” Mr. Bloom said last year, at the opening of a stadium restaurant he named in his grandfather’s honor, adding, “Through the blood it came into me, and I was fortunate enough to be successful at that.”

Mr. Bloom, who is known as the lizard “because ice-cold blood allegedly flows through his veins,” as one article about him put it, has thrown himself into the club, even drinking with merrily chanting fans on a train after a match.

His gambling business is far less visible. Star Lizard operates like a hedge fund, but is not based in a stately Mayfair townhouse. Instead, Star Lizard can be found in the Camden Locks, in a bohemian neighborhood known for drug raids, food hawkers, throngs of tourists and a devotion to Amy Winehouse.

Mr. Bloom’s name doesn’t even appear in Star Lizard’s business filings. It does show up on an affiliated company, Blue Lizard Consulting, which he gave a nearly $30 million interest-free loan last year, records show.

Inside Star Lizard’s headquarters, there is a cafeteria that provides three meals a day, a gym, pool tables, a dart board and a library. There are traders and analysts, but the real focus is on data. A recent posting by the company’s recruitment manager suggests how much Star Lizard outguns normal bettors: “We are currently expanding and need a number of software developers and support staff with skills in C# / F# / Java / Python / Full Stack Development / DevOps,” it read.

A more recent entry is Stratagem, a London-based firm that operates a sports hedge fund.

“We take in lots of data,” said Charles McGarraugh, Stratagem’s chief executive and an ex-Goldman Sachs trader, from the prices on various betting lines to data from games underway to “less structured data from sports journalism or social media.”

“It’s like a firehose, and at the other end what you want to get out is a one or a zero for a buy or a sell.”

Much of the action for such bettors comes as odds shift even after a game has begun.

Mr. Bloom speaks very little about his betting strategy. His soccer team is another matter. While he said he now had to “make some tough decisions” in his ownership role, watching the games is “the same as when I was watching 40 years ago.”

“In those 90 minutes,” he said, “I just love it like any other fan.”

August 02, 2017

Bulgaria’s National Lottery picks Kambi for ‘High Expectations’ 7777.bg sportsbook

Nordic Nasdaq-listed industry sports betting platform provider Kambi Group Plc has confirmed that it has entered a services agreement with Bulgarian licensed gaming group National Lottery AD.

The agreement will see Kambi become lead betting platform and technology provisions supplier for National Lottery AD’s digital gaming brand 7777.bg, which is considered Bulgaria’s most popular lottery and gaming destination.

Last year, 7777.bg added a sports betting product to its portfolio, however, in order to meet growth objectives, National Lottery AD had decided to upgrade to Kambi’s sports betting provisions.

Licensed by the Bulgaria’s State Commission on Gambling, 7777.bg has an established customer base in excess of 2 million registered players.

Kristian Nylén, CEO of Kambi, commented on the partnership: “We are delighted to be partnering with the National Lottery AD in Bulgaria. We share the same vision, which is to supply the best sports betting to 7777.bg’s customers; one that is engaging, entertaining and safe”.

Nylén further notes National Lottery AD’s high ambitions for 7777.bg’s sports betting product, which aims to quickly become the lead online destination for Bulgarian betting consumers

“The 7777.bg brand is at the very heart of gaming in Bulgaria and is widely respected and popular across the numerous verticals in which it operates. We are very excited by 7777.bg’s growth plans to gain the number one position in all its verticals in Bulgaria. With the power of the Kambi Sportsbook and 7777.bg’s impressive customer base, together we will build a sustainable market leading proposition.” Nylén added

“The signing of the National Lottery AD fits well with Kambi’s strategy of targeting Tier 1 operators and market leaders in regulated markets, which can bring us and our operators increased market share and strong revenue growth.”

The deal represents Kambi’s second major client win in as many months. In June, the company announced a partnership with Colombia’s Corredor Empresarial S.A., Latin America’s largest private ‘games of chance’ network. Kambi will provide its scalable sportsbook solution to the operator’s new BetPlay brand.

Looking forward to the start of the partnership Milen Ganev, Marketing Director of National Lottery AD commented: “We are known to work with only the highest quality providers and Kambi is just that. We do this clearly and purely to serve our end customers and to give them the ultimate experiences they deserve. Together, we believe this partnership will support our mission to become the country’s leading provider in sports betting experiences.”

July 27, 2017

How much does Philippines’ Online Gambling Contribute Towards PAGCOR’s Revenues?

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) is a government-owned agency established in Metro Manila, Philippines, for the operation of floating casinos and slot clubs in major cities across the country. The agency also supervises and regulates private casinos, bingo parlors, and e-gaming cafes in the region. PAGCOR, as a corporation, is registered under the Office of the President of the Philippines.

Ever since it was established, PAGCOR has been establishing gaming pools and conducting casino games across the country. PAGCOR is expecting an amount of P6 billion as tax revenue from online gaming parlors. Moreover, the corporation is considering a move to limit the number of operators to 50 owing to a probable oversupply of players in the market. This also shows that online gaming has immense potential, with gamblers operating right from their home.

The casino operators and gaming regulators in the Philippines reported a one-quarter increase in profits in the beginning of 2017. But figures released by PAGCR reveal its revenue from online gambling increasing by 8.4 percent every year to P28.3 billion in the half year ending June 30. However, PAGCOR’s profit rose by 24.9 percent to P3 billion. PAGCOR’s contribution to the government treasury amounted to P13.4 billion.

The year-over-year increase in revenue was slower in the second quarter due to the temporary shutdown of gaming operations after the gun attack at the Resorts World Manila in June. However, the agency is now considering a complete transition to a regulatory role. But the casinos reported a revenue of P5.2 billion and slot machines a revenue of P6.1 billion. Income from electronic bingo was P4.4 billion but its licensed private casinos added a revenue of less than P9.5 billion.

The Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) reported income of less than P1.1 billion in the first quarter. PAGCOR hopes that the POGO program would generate an income of $120 million eventually. The tax rate on revenues from RNG games remains pegged at 2% but operators would have to pay a sum of $150K as Monthly Minimum Guarantee Fee (MGF).

The POGO program was initiated as a part of the government’s efforts to foist tighter supervision over operations, which were overlooked by authorities in the Philippines’ special economic zones. PAGCOR would also be deploying monitoring teams to ensure that POGO licensees comply with regulatory requirements.

Aspiring Cop Caught Stealing $125,000 Worth of Chips in the CCTV of Melbourne’s Crown Casino

A man by the name Gunawan Akay had been recently caught by a CCTV camera, stealing over $125,000 in casino chips from the Crown Casino in Melbourne. Following trials in the local court, Akay was sentenced to community correction.

The 38-year-old guy was slapped with a sentence of two years for robbing the casino off $125,000 worth of gaming chips in December last year. Akay later pleaded guilty in the court of law for attempting to grab 25 chips of $5000 each while playing in the Maple Room, an exclusive gambling room featured at the Crown Casino.

The CCTV footage revealed that while the casino employee was busy dealing the hand, Akay dexterity reached out to a pile of casino chips and grabbed a handful before escaping from the room and trying to flee in a taxi.

Claire Quin, the County Judge, stated that Akay had been struggling with a grave financial crisis that might have been the motivation behind carrying out this unsophisticated crime. While sentencing Akay to the two-year community correction order, the judge announced that the former had grabbed the gambling chips from a table in the Maple Room and rushed out of the casino in a bid to flee.

Sources reveal that a terribly guilty Akay lost nearly all of his gambling chips in his attempt to run away and eventually tossed the remaining three chips into the Yarra River in a state of excessive panic. A member of the Gold Signature Crown Rewards, Akay was a regular at the Crown Casino and had been playing with his partner’s cash for over six hours when he planned the doomed attempt at stealing the gambling chips.

In a series of events that led him to commit the amateur crime, Akay had recently witnessed a bank foreclosure on a majority of his properties and was trying to make some money in order to ensure that he and his girlfriend did not have to leave their home due to eviction.

Following the completion of the trial proceedings, Judge Quin remarked that Akay had been terribly contrite and had acknowledged his accountability for the crime, showing that he might have great prospects at early rehabilitation. As per the order, Akay will have to perform supervised work for a total of 150 hours during his correctional stay.

El Gordo

IIn the early 2000s, Costis Mitsotakis of Greece met a Spanish girl named Sandra del Pozo. They fell in love, and not long after, bought a small RV, left Greece and headed to Spain. Their destination — Sodeto, a town in the northeast corner of the country, where Sandra’s grandmother lived.

Sodeto is one of about 300 little farming villages that the dictator Francisco Franco built in Spain in the 1950s, in an effort to bring people and agriculture to isolated places. All the towns built during this time look similar, and Sodeto is no exception — there’s a church in the center of town and one bar, which is also the one restaurant, which is also the one place to hang out. The houses are the color of sand, and each has a red-tiled roof. About 200 people live in the town.

Sodeto is not the kind of place that makes news. But all that changed in 2011 when almost everyone in this little village won a piece of the biggest lottery jackpot in Spain. By chance, Costis Mitsotakis had found himself in the luckiest town in the world.

In the United States, as far we know, an entire town has never won the lottery. Sometimes large groups do win together, but more often than not, lotteries jackpots in the U.S. are divided by just a few people.

In Spain, they do the lottery differently. First of all, it’s a country-wide obsession — about 75% of Spaniards buy a ticket. There’s more than one lottery in Spain, but the one that Spaniards are the most passionate about is “La Lotería de Navidad” (“The Christmas Lottery”). This lottery has taken place every year since 1812.

For better or worse, lotteries have long been considered by governments as useful ways to raise funds for public programs. But lotteries were, and still are, thought to be regressive taxes on the poor. Karl Marx called them a sinister instrument of the state, designed to dupe the poor into believing there was an easy way out of poverty. The church found lottery play to be blasphemous and superstitious. In 1826 the British outright banned the lottery for nearly a hundred years.

And in 1862, Spain responded to the criticisms as well: by re-designing their national lottery so that it wouldn’t take as much money from the poor. The government thought if the they set the price of tickets high, only rich people would buy them. But that’s not what happened. People began “syndicate” playing, or playing in groups. The lottery became more popular than ever.

In the Christmas Lottery, any number from 00000 to 99,999 can win. It’s very expensive to own an entire number, so organizations will buy a share of a number and then sell off even smaller shares to individuals — five euro shares, two euro shares, etc. Thousands of people may own small fractions of the same number. The smaller the share you have, the less you get of the total jackpot if your number should win.

Making it expensive to own a number outright has turned the lottery into a huge social event. Local organizations sell tickets at a markup for fundraisers. Most Spaniards end up with a stack of tickets — all different tiny shares of different numbers that they’ve been talked into buying.

The numbers go on sale in the summer for the drawing on December 22nd. It is held in Madrid, in the same theater and the same way every year. There’s a stage, holding two giant golden orbs, containing balls with the numbers and prize amounts. After the balls drop, two children sing the numbers and prize amounts in a kind of Gregorian chant. The whole event lasts for hours.

Everyone waits for the biggest prize of the day – “El Gordo” ( the fat one). The “El Gordo” prize is often worth close to a billion dollars. As soon as the El Gordo-winning number is announced, reporters scramble to find out in what part of Spain it was sold.

And on December 22, 2011, it was the people of Sodeto, Spain who held the winning number.

The winning tickets had been sold all over Sodeto by The Housewives Association — a group of women who host parties and activities in town. The association sold tickets, door to door, for six euros. Five euros for the lottery ticket, one euro for their fundraising.

Maria-Carmen Lambea from the Association had chosen the winning number. When she heard that they had won El Gordo, she started calling friends. No one could believe it. Soon everyone was gathered on the plaza. Each six euro ticket the house-wives had sold was worth 100,000 euros.

Ana, the bartender had won, Paco, the farmer, and his wife Marisol won. Rosa, the mayor of the town had won. It seemed that every single resident of the small town of Sodeto had won a piece of El Gordo. The people of Sodeto were not the only ones to win on the number 58,268 in 2011. A few thousand other people also had small shares of the number — mostly scattered around in towns nearby. The total jackpot that year for EL Gordo was about 750 million euros, but it was divided by thousands of people. In Sodeto – the people who bought more tickets got more money, and everyone got at least 100,000 euros.

Everyone, except one. Costis Miksotaksis. Somehow the housewives had missed him when they went knocking on doors.



Six years later, Costis still lives in Sodeto. He and Sandra have parted ways, but remain friends. When we asked if he felt any regret or jealousy, he laughs. “No, nothing,” he says — because Costis feels he got something that day too. He’s a filmmaker and he’s been documenting how the town has responded to this sudden wealth. He believes the town has become a little more insular since the win — more focused on the nuclear family and less on the community as a whole.

But Maria-Carmen doesn’t believe the town has changed that much. Sodeto is a town of farmers, and some of them installed new irrigation systems, or bought new tractors. Some people added modest additions to their homes, but nothing extravagant. It’s been a wonderful thing for everyone in this little working-class town, says Maria-Carmen, to live without the worry of debt.

And that’s the thing about this syndicate style lottery: unlike the Powerball Jackpot in the United States, which heaps hundreds of millions on one or two winners, the money from the Christmas Lottery gets divvied up among thousands of people.

The people who win El Gordo don’t generally win enough to buy mansions and yachts. They win enough to pay off their debts and buy a Honda civic. The lottery brings wealth to a whole geographic area, and distributes it relatively evenly, at least among those lucky enough to have a ticket.

Economists have long struggled to figure out why people play the lottery. It’s not a rational investment The odds of winning the big jackpots are terrible — worse than any other form of gambling. But in Spain, it’s pretty obvious why people play this lottery. It’s the social thing to do. You buy because you don’t want to be that one guy who doesn’t win. You don’t want to be Costis. The lottery organizers actually exploit this fear in their advertising each year.

The Housewives Association, now officially called the “Women’s Association,” continues to choose a number each year for the Christmas Lottery.

The women used to knock on doors for months to sell the tickets, but now the people come to them, and tickets sell out in a few days. “They were lucky once and they could be again,” people say, and no one wants to be left out.

July 26, 2017

UKGC launches new tool for customer complaints

The UK Gambling Commission announced the release of Resolver, a tool which will enable consumers to file gambling-related complaints.



From 1 August, gambling consumers will be able to use Resolver, the online support tool, to make complaints related to gambling.

Resolver is a free, independent tool for consumers. It provides information about the issue the consumer wants to complain about, and support to help the consumer write emails and letters of complaint.

Resolver is not an intermediary, and doesn’t act on the consumer’s behalf – but it does help the consumer to make their complaint in a structured way, and to make informed choices about what actions to take.

This can help businesses to deal with complaints more efficiently when they receive them, and manages customer expectations about their complaint issue.

Resolver also helps the consumer to store all the complaint information in one place, and acts as an email service. This means the consumer’s complaint will be sent from a Resolver email address, rather than the customer’s usual email address. We expect operators to accept complaints customers send via a Resolver email address just as they would from other email services.

July 25, 2017

Czech legislators to add new gaming regulations

National legislators held a session yesterday discuss gaming regulations, according to Prague Monitor. After the meeting, new amendments could be added to federal laws in order to control potential public corruption through gaming operations. Earlier this year, the Congress approved a gaming law, which was previously modified by a lobbying organisation.

“During the legislative process, the gambling bill underwent several changes as a direct consequence of the gambling lobby’s intervention, which led to particular interests being put above public interests,” revealed a public analysis issued by the office of Human Rights Ministry.

Czech Republic Cabinet met yesterday in order to review the analysis and discuss further regulations for gaming activities. According to the document, the industry could represent a risk of corruption in public administration, as “favouritism, non-standard lobbying, economic and media pressure” could influence government officials, as reported by the local news outlet.

The Ministry’s document also reveals connections between gaming companies and national former and current authorities. The main example is the SYNOT gaming company owned by Senator Ivo Valenta, which employs former Finance Ministry officials. Czech Republic has been allegedly experiencing “Revolving Doors,” a phenomenon where gaming businessmen achieve governmental positions and after their periods, they return to their previous businesses.

July 18, 2017

Uncertainty reigns in ‘Game of Thrones’ markets

With series seven of Game of Thrones rapidly approaching, William Hill’s market for who will end series eight as the ruler of the kingdom took a sudden and unexpected spike.

Cersei Lannister came in from 14/1 to become the overnight favourite at just 5/2. However, despite a mass influx of overnight bets, Cersei has drifted back out in the market and Daenerys Targaryen now appears to be destined for supremacy.

Nonetheless, tragedy has played a prominent role thus far in Game of Thrones and season seven doesn’t look like being subdued, it is just 6/4 that one or more of Cersei, Daenerys, Jon Snow or Tyrion lannister reach their demise in series seven.

“If our punters are to be believed, Cersei is going to have a very prominent role in these last two series of Game of Thrones,” said William Hill spokesman Joe Crilly.

Fortuna hurdles Romanian acquisitions legal debacle

There’s no more legal impediment that will bar investors of the Eastern European betting and lottery operator Fortuna Entertainment Group from voting on its proposed acquisition of four Romanian gambling companies after a Dutch appellate court dismissed a petition against the firm’s move.

SeeNews reported that the Amsterdam Court of Appeals threw out the petition for injunction that Franklin Templeton investment funds as it seeks to stop the purchase of Bet Active Concept, Bet Zone, Public Slots and Slot Arena.

Per Widerström, CEO of Fortuna, lauded the court’s Monday decision, saying the company may now move forward with their plans to boost the company’s Romanian market presence. The company has scheduled an extraordinary meeting of shareholders planned on August 1 to vote on the acquisition plans.

“This acquisition, together with previously acquired Casa Pariurilor (as part of Hattrick Sport Group), means that Romania will become our biggest market and that Fortuna Entertainment Group will become the number one regulated sports betting and gaming operator in the Romanian market,” Per Widerström, CEO of Fortuna, said, according to the news report.

In March, the Czech Republic-based Fortuna announced it was in the process of negotiating the acquisition of Romanian companies Bet Active Concept SRL, Bet Zone SRL, Public Slots SRL and Slot Arena SRL from Fortbet Holdings Ltd for €47 million (US$54 million).

Fortbet is the majority shareholder of Fortuna and the subsidiary of Penta Investment Group.

The purchase, however, was delayed after the Amsterdam Court of Appeals granted the petition filed by a group of shareholders advised by Templeton to stop the sale in April.

During the same month, Fortuna announced a €135m deal to acquire Hattrick Sports, which controls Romania’s leading betting brand Casa Pariurilor. That deal alone made Fortuna the number one retail betting operator in Romania, while also expanding its operations into Croatia.

Fortuna, which was established in 1990, posted a 12.2 percent revenue increase in the first quarter of 2017, thanks in part to its online betting operations. In the three months ending March 31, 2017, Fortuna said that its revenue grew to €42.7 million.

July 12, 2017

Partypoker owner GVC in the mood for more deals

The lack of a major sporting tournament this year has failed to knock the owner of online gambling brands Sportingbet and Bwin, as the acquisition-hungry firm said it would not rule out another deal.

GVC, which was catapulted into the FTSE 250 on the back of its most recent deal to buy Bwin, feels it is now in a position to seek out another rival in spite of completing two major deals in three years.

“The organic opportunity is significant, whilst we are also well positioned to pursue further acquisition opportunities should they arise,” chief executive Kenny Alexander said.

He added the amount the company spends on marketing would return to more normal levels at the end of the year meaning he was confident about the group’s potential performance.

The business freed up some cash earlier this year after refinancing a short-term loan from Cerberus Business Finance it had used to fund the Bwin acquisition. It agreed a €320m (£280m) lending deal with investment bank Nomura, comprising €250m to pay Cerberus the remainder it owed them, and a €70m credit facility.

In the six months to June 30, GVC saw net gaming revenue - the amounts staked minus winnings - rise 10pc to €484.8m. This was higher than the 7pc growth rate of the comparable year in spite of that period benefiting from the first few weeks of the 2016 European football championships.

While sports betting was down in terms of the amount of wagers being made by customers, its gaming brands more than took up the slack, with a 17pc rise in net gaming revenue to hit €1m per day.

The rise in customers within its gaming division has been helped by the Bwin acquisition, which completed in February last year, as Partypoker and other casino brands enticed players. The firm bought Sportingbet in March 2013.

July 07, 2017

This startup is building AI to bet on soccer games

Listen to Andreas Koukorinis, founder of UK sports betting company Stratagem, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that football games are some of the most predictable events on Earth. “They’re short duration, repeatable, with fixed rules, so if you observe 100,000 games, there are patterns there you can take out.”

The mission of Koukorinis’ company is simple: find these patterns and make money off them. Stratagem does this either by selling the data it collects to professional gamblers and bookmakers, or by keeping it and making its own wagers.To fund these wagers, the firm is raising money for a £25 million ($32 million) sports betting fund that it’s positioning as an investment alternative to traditional hedge funds. In other words, Stratagem hopes rich people will give Stratagem their money. The company will gamble with it using its proprietary data, and, if all goes to plan, everyone ends up just that little bit richer.

It’s a familiar story, but Stratagem is adding a little something extra to sweeten the pot: artificial intelligence.

At the moment, the company uses teams of human analysts spread out around the globe to report back on the various sporting leagues it bets on. This information is combined with detailed data about the odds available from various bookmakers to give Stratagem an edge over the average punter. But, in the future, it wants computers to do the analysis for it.It already uses machine learning to analyze some of its data (working out the best time to place a bet, for example), but it’s also developing AI tools that can analyze sporting events in real time, drawing out data that will help predict which team will win.

Stratagem is using deep neural networks to achieve this task — the same technology that’s enchanted Silicon Valley’s biggest firms. It’s a good fit, since this is a tool that’s well-suited for analyzing vast pots of data. As Koukorinis points out, when analyzing sports, there’s a hell of a lot data to learn from. The company’s software is currently absorbing thousands of hours of sporting fixtures to teach it patterns of failure and success, and the end goal is to create an AI that can watch a range of a half-dozen different sporting events simultaneously on live TV, extracting insights as it does.

At the moment, though, Stratagem is starting small. It’s focusing on just a few sports (football, basketball, and tennis) and a few metrics (like goal chances in football). At the company’s London offices, home to around 30 employees including ex-bankers and programmers, we’re shown the fledgling neural nets for football games in action. On-screen, the output is similar to what you might see from the live feed of a self-driving car. But instead of the computer highlighting stop signs and pedestrians as it scans the road ahead, it’s drawing a box around Zlatan Ibrahimović as he charges at the goal, dragging defenders in his wake.

Stratagem’s AI makes its calculations watching a standard, broadcast feed of the match. (Pro: it’s readily accessible. Con: it has to learn not to analyze the replays.) It tracks the ball and the players, identifying which team they’re on based on the color of their kits. The lines of the pitch are also highlighted, and all this data is transformed into a 2D map of the whole game. From this viewpoint, the software studies matches like an armchair general: it identifies what it thinks are goal-scoring chances, or the moments where the configuration of players looks right for someone to take a shot and score.

“Football is such a low-scoring game that you need to focus on these sorts of metrics to make predictions,” says Koukorinis. “If there’s a short on target from 30 yards with 11 people in front of the striker and that ends in a goal, yes, it looks spectacular on TV, but it’s not exciting for us. Because if you repeat it 100 times the outcomes won’t be the same. But if you have Lionel Messi running down the pitch and he’s one-on-one with the goalie, the conversion rate on that is 80 percent. We look at what created that situation. We try to take the randomness out, and look at how good the teams are at what they’re trying to do, which is generate goal-scoring opportunities.”

Whether or not counting goal-scoring opportunities is the best way to rank teams is difficult to say. Stratagem says it’s a metric that’s popular with professional gamblers, but they — and the company — weigh it with a lot of other factors before deciding how to bet. Stratagem also notes that the opportunities identified by its AI don’t consistently line up with those spotted by humans. Right now, the computer gets it correct about 50 percent of the time. Despite this, the company say its current betting models (which it develops for football, but also basketball and tennis) are right more than enough times for it to make a steady return, though they won’t share precise figures.

At the moment, Stratagem generates most of its data about goal-scoring opportunities and other metrics the old-fashioned way: using a team of 65 human analysts who write detailed match reports. The company’s AI would automate some of this process and speed it up significantly. (Each match report takes about three hours to write.) Some forms of data-gathering would still rely on humans, however.

A key task for the company’s agents is finding out a team’s starting lineup before it’s formally announced. (This is a major driver of pre-game betting odds, says Koukorinis, and knowing in advance helps you beat the market.) Acquiring this sort of information isn’t easy. It means finding sources at a club, building up a relationship, and knowing the right people to call on match day. Chatbots just aren’t up to the job yet.

Machine vision, though, is really just one element of Stratagem’s AI business plan. It already applies machine learning to more mundane facets of betting — like working out the best time to place a bet in any particular market. In this regard, what the company is doing is no different from many other hedge funds, which for decades have been using machine learning to come up with new ways to trade. Most funds blend human analysis with computer expertise, but at least one is run completely by decisions generated by artificial intelligence.

However, simply adding more computers to the mix isn’t always a recipe for success. There’s data showing that if you want to make the most out of your money, it’s better to just invest in the top-performing stocks of the S&P 500, rather than sign up for an AI hedge fund. That’s not the best sign that Stratagem’s sports-betting fund will offer good returns, especially when such funds are already controversial.

In 2012, a sports-betting fund set up by UK firm Centaur Holdings, collapsed just two years after it launched. It lost $2.5 million after promising investors returns of 15 to 20 percent. To critics, operations like this are just borrowing the trappings of traditional funds to make gambling look more like investing.

David Stevenson, director of finance research company AltFi, commented there’s nothing essentially wrong with these funds, but they need to be thought of as their own category. “I don’t particularly doubt it’s great fun [to invest in one] if you like sports and a bit of betting,” said Stevenson. “But don’t qualify it with the term ‘investment,’ because investment, by its nature, has to be something you can predict over the long run.”

Stevenson also notes that AI hedge funds that are successful — those that “torture the math within an inch of its life” to eek out small but predictable profits — tend not to seek outside investment at all. They prefer keeping the money to themselves. “I treat most things that combine the acronym ‘AI’ and the word ‘investing’ with an enormous dessert spoon of salt,” he said.

Whether or not Stratagem’s AI can deliver insights that make sporting events as predictable as the tides remains to be seen, but the company’s investment in artificial intelligence does have other uses. For starters, it can attract investors and customers looking for an edge in the world of gambling. It can also automate work that’s currently done by the company’s human employees and make it cheaper. As with other businesses that are using AI, it’s these smaller gains that might prove to be most reliable. After all, small, reliable gains make for a good investment.

June 28, 2017

Ladbrokes could face inquiry after betting addicts' details found in bin bag

Ladbrokes could face an investigation from the gambling regulator over an incident in which confidential information about betting addicts, including photos, names and addresses, was found in a bin bag on the street.

The Gambling Commission said it was looking into the bookmaker’s compliance with data protection laws after a passer-by found the sensitive documents outside a branch of Ladbrokes in Glasgow.

The data included personal details of customers who signed up for the betting industry’s multi-operator self-exclusion scheme (Moses), which allows problem gamblers to ban themselves from placing bets voluntarily.


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Bookmakers carry information about customers who have signed up to the Moses system to help shop staff identify customers who should not be allowed to bet.

The information includes their names, addresses, photographs and information about why they have chosen to exclude themselves but does not include bank account numbers or detailed information about their betting history.

The Gambling Commission said it was looking into why such sensitive data was not disposed of in a way that ensured customer’s personal information was protected.

“Customers trust that their personal data will be collected carefully and then protected properly,” said the Gambling Commission executive director, Tim Miller.

“We expect gambling operators to adhere to all data protection laws or regulations, which are enforced by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

“In an instance where personal data has been breached, we would expect operators to do whatever they can to mitigate any harm caused.”

Ladbrokes usually collects such data from its stores and disposes of it securely through a company-wide procedure.

A statement on the Moses website reads: “Your personal details are kept confidential and only shared with the participating bookmakers their group companies’ and the central team administrators.”

Ladbrokes did not say how the information ended up in a bin bag on the street. But a spokesperson said: “We are taking this extremely seriously and [are] undertaking a full investigation.”

Ladbrokes is understood to have written to all of its shops reminding them of the need to dispose of sensitive information in the right way.

It has also begun an internal investigation to be sure that its procedures are as watertight as possible, according to the Scottish Sun.

Marc Etches, chief executive of leading charity GambleAware, said: “We really hope this situation does not put anyone off using self-exclusion, as research we published in March found that 83% of those who have used it found the scheme to be effective, although we would always recommend professional treatment alongside such measures.

“Self-exclusion is often a last resort for those already suffering from a gambling addiction and it’s important we identify those who are at risk as early as possible and prevent problems developing.”

Individual bookmakers have their own self-exclusion scheme but also use the industry-wide scheme Moses, managed by a responsible-gambling body called the Senet Group, founded by four major bookmakers in 2014.

Gamblers can voluntarily self-exclude for a year, a binding decision that cannot be reversed during the period.

At the end of the year, the self-exclusion will remain in place automatically for six months, unless the customer requests otherwise.

Amaya investors approve ‘The Stars Group’ name change

Following this month’s Annual General Meeting, Amaya Inc shareholders have approved the corporate name change of the company to ‘The Stars Group’.

The name change proposition was put forward by Amaya governance last May following the firm’s Q1 2017 trading update. Following a shareholder vote, Amaya governance details that The Stars Group name change has gained outright stakeholder backing.

The The company will now move to implement a full corporate rebrand, with its new name and logo. Amaya leadership expects to unveil its new corporate identity by August of this year coinciding with the relocation to a new head office in Toronto Canada.

Further to the name change approval, company shareholders also voted to approve continuance under the Business Corporations Act (Ontario), with Amaya to become an Ontario corporation.

The online gambling group, detailed that it had proposed a name change to investors in order to better represent its corporate assets and future vision within the global gambling sector.

Following a busy Q2 2017 period in which Amaya has undertaken an executive team overhaul led by Chief Executive Rafi Ashkenazi. The company has confirmed the leadership appointments of Brian Kyle as new Financial Officer and the appointment of Dr Jerry Bowskill as new Chief Technology Officer.

June 27, 2017

William Hill shutting its online operations in Israel, laying off more than 200

Оnline gaming giant William Hill plc will be shutting its operation in Israel. More than 200 of the company’s approximately 250 Tel Aviv based employees will be laid off, and the company’s offices at the Azrieli Towers will be vacated.

A small number of William Hill Israel key employees will be offered relocation to head office in the UK or elsewhere in Europe.

Sources at the company were quoted as saying that representatives of William Hill had begun meeting individually with Tel Aviv based employees, explaining the company’s decision to consolidate the online portion of its business, which is what the Israel operation dealt mostly with.

Israel is a major center in the online gaming world as well as in areas such as online marketing and software development which are essential to the industry. However the strong Shekel, combined with rising real estate prices and low unemployment levels, has made Israel a much more expensive place in which to do business. Israeli technology companies have also been actively outsourcing to lower cost locations such as India and Eastern Europe.

William Hill began operating in Israel in 2008, when it created William Hill Online as a joint venture with Teddy Sagi’s Playtech PLC. Playtech transferred assets and technology into William Hill Online, including a large number of Israel-based employees, in return for a 30% interest in the venture. William Hill bought out Playtech’s holding in the JV in 2013 for £424 million.

June 23, 2017

Football Association ends links with all betting firms after review

The Football Association will no longer have a betting partner after terminating a contract with Ladbrokes worth around £4m a year following a string of high-profile gambling controversies in the sport.

The decision follows a three-month review by the governing body into how appropriate such a deal was when the FA is noticeably becoming stricter in enforcing its ban on those connected with the game gambling on football.


It also comes after Joey Barton, serving an 18-month ban for gambling offences, accused the FA of hypocrisy over the deal. It had three years of a four-year contract to run. The chief executive, Martin Glenn, said: “We would like to thank Ladbrokes for both being a valued partner over the last year and for their professionalism and understanding about our change of policy around gambling.”

The EFL said the FA decision had no bearing on its own partnership with Sky Bet, which is in its fifth year. A spokesman said: “The EFL is of the firm belief that there is no conflict in having a commercial relationship with the gaming industry, as it is the FA who have the ultimate responsibility of enforcing any breach of the existing betting rules that all those who participate in our competitions have to adhere to.”

The FA chairman, Greg Clarke, has led the move to put space between the governing body and bookmakers, although he insisted the review was not linked to the Barton case. The player, who was banned in April having placed 1,260 bets on matches between 2006 and 2013, claimed this amounted to “hush money” and that it might prevent the ruling body from discovering match-fixing.

He told The Sunday Times last week: “What are the FA going to do, march into Ladbrokes and say: ‘Show us everyone who’s had a bet on this game?’ Ladbrokes are going to say: ‘Eff off, we pay you £10m a year [sic], keep your mouth shut.’ Do the FA not understand that’s hush money? Because if they don’t do it to Ladbrokes, they can’t do it to Betfair, Paddy Power, William Hill.

“They’ve given me such a harsh sentence because they want to maintain to the world, to the people who buy TV rights, that this is a very high-integrity game here. People who work for betting companies have told me that’s the key issue. The FA have no actual interest in [tackling] betting. And they can’t solve the problem, especially when they’ve got Ladbrokes as a partner. Because the players are going: ‘I’m not doing anything wrong.’”

The EFL said it would not be reconsidering its title sponsorship with SkyBet in light of the FA’s decision, arguing there was no conflict of interest.

“The EFL (as a competition organiser) is of the firm belief that there is no conflict in having a commercial relationship with the gaming industry, as it is the FA who have the ultimate responsibility of enforcing any breach of the existing betting rules that all those who participate in our competitions have to adhere to,” said a spokesman.

June 07, 2017

Pagcor to limit Philippine online gaming licenses to 50

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) said this week it is planning to initially trim the number of online gaming operators in the country to a maximum of 50. This measure is to prevent an oversupply of players in the industry.

Philippines flagJose Tria Jr., assistant vice president of Pagcor’s Offshore Gaming Licensing Department, said the regulator is eyeing to impose a moratorium to limit the number of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO) until it is sure that the increase in players is not overtaking the demand. “We need to evaluate first if the industry is already oversaturated,” Tria told in an interview.

However, the Pagcor official clarified that such moratorium could be lifted anytime. “It depends on the evaluation. The saturation of the market can be seen in the audit system. If the income of each operator goes down from the previously reported, this means there are too much operators,” Tria added.

Tria said an oversaturation means that additional operators do not bring in additional income to the industry. “They are just dividing between themselves [the income] instead of increasing it. That means it’s already saturated,” he said.

Pagcor has so far issued 42 licenses to offshore operators to date. Pending applications, meanwhile, have gone down to 12 from the initial list of 44, Tria said. “After we released the list, we wrote a letter to the pending applicants. A lot of them did not pursue their application.”

Should the moratorium be imposed, only eight new operators stand to get their license application approved.

May 16, 2017

Japanese tennis player banned for life over match-fixing charge

Japanese tennis player Junn Mitsuhashi has been banned for life for match-fixing and gambling offences.

The 25-year-old, who reached a career high of 295 in the world in 2009, has also been fined $50,000 (£39,000/€45,000) by the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU).

He has been found guilty of making corrupt approaches to other players, betting on tennis matches and refusing to cooperate with the TIU investigation.

In November 2015, he asked Joshua Chetty, a player he had previously coached, to approach another player during an International Tennis Federation (ITF) Futures F1 tournament in Stellenbosch in South Africa.

The player was offered $2,000 (£1,500/€1,800) to under-perform in a singles match and $600 (£465/€543) for a doubles match, the TIU said.

South Africa's Chetty was himself banned for life in September.

Mitsuhashi then made an approach to another player in December 2015, according to the TIU.

This took place at an ITF Futures F4 tournament in Lagos in Nigeria, with the player asked to fix certain aspects of a match.

The Japanese player, who was ranked 1,997 in the world at the end of 2015, was also found to have bet on 76 tennis matches.

"In spite of repeated requests to engage with the TIU, the player refused to respond or co-operate with enquiries into the allegations against him," a TIU statement said.

"Failing to cooperate is an offence in its own right."

Mitsuhashi will not be allowed to play in any tournaments organised by the governing bodies of the sport or even attend the venues.

His case was considered by independent anti-corruption hearing officer Ian Mill QC, who imposed the lifetime ban and fine.

Tennis has faced significant match-fixing problems, particularly at levels where prize money is low.

It was the sport involved in 45 per cent of reported cases of suspicious betting during the first quarter of 2017, according to the European Sport Security Association.

In March, ITF President David Haggerty announced plans for tours with a limit of 750 male and 750 female players.

It is thought that around 14,000 are currently competing among the full-time ranks, with nearly half of these failing to win any prize money.

This, it is thought, can cause some players to be tempted by corruption.