April 27, 2017

Joey Barton banned for 18 months by FA and says it effectively ends his career

The tumultuous career of Joey Barton looks finally to have come to an end after the controversial footballer was banned from the game for 18 months on betting charges.

Barton, who is registered as a player with Burnley in the Premier League, accepted Football Association charges that accused him of having placed 1,260 bets on football matches between 2006 and 2013. This figure included at least five matches in which he was a player. Professional footballers are banned from making any bets on their own sport.

Despite having admitted to the offences Barton, 34, plans to appeal against the length of his suspension and claims that there was nothing “untoward or suspicious” about his behaviour.

In a lengthy statement posted on his website Barton said: “The decision effectively forces me into an early retirement from playing football. To be clear from the outset here this is not match fixing and at no point in any of this is my integrity in question.

Analysis Joey Barton: a man whose football talent rarely took centre stage
Banned for 18 months for gambling, the 34-year-old’s playing career looks all but over – yet he was never a stranger to controversy and discord
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“Having consulted with my friends and lawyers, I have decided I will be appealing against the length of the ban. I hope that I shall be afforded a fair hearing by an independent appeal panel. If I am, we are confident that the sanction will be reduced to a fair one that both reflects the offences as well as the mitigating factors and the fact that there was nothing untoward or suspicious about the bets I made.”

Barton returned to the Premier League only in January after five years’ absence. His career has taken in spells at six clubs including Manchester City and Glasgow Rangers and he also earned a solitary cap for England during the reign of Steve McClaren. But the Merseyside-born midfielder will be remembered as much for his misdemeanours as for his performances. In December 2004 he was fined six weeks’ wages for stubbing a lit cigar in the eye of a young team-mate during Manchester City’s Christmas party. In May 2007 he was suspended by the same club after a training-ground altercation which later led to assault charges for which he received a four-month suspended jail sentence. Later that year he was arrested in Liverpool city centre after a late-night incident and was charged with common assault and affray, and in May 2008 was jailed for six months. In May 2012 Barton was banned for 12 matches for violent conduct when playing for Queens Park Rangers.

“Throughout my career I am someone who has made mistakes and owned up to those mistakes and tried to learn from them,” Barton said in his statement. “I intend to do that here. I accept that this is one more mess I got into because of my own behaviour. This episode has brought home to me that, just as I had to face up to the need to get help to deal with alcohol abuse, and with anger, so now I need to get help for my issues with gambling, and I will do so.

“As for the scale of my football betting, since 2004, on a Betfair account held in my own name, registered at my home address and verified by my own passport, with full transparency, I have placed over 15,000 bets across a whole range of sports. Just over 1,200 were placed on football and subject to the charges against me. The average bet was just over £150, many were for only a few pounds.

“Raised at the hearing was that between 2004 and 2011 I placed a handful of bets on my own team to lose matches. I accept of course that this is against the rules, for the obvious reason that a player with an additional financial stake in the game might seek to change the course of it for his own personal gain. However I’d like to offer some context.

“First, in every game I have played, I have given everything. I’m confident that anyone who has ever seen me play, or played with or against me, will confirm that to be the case. I am more aware than anyone that I have character issues that I struggle with, and my addictive personality is one of them, but I am a devoted and dedicated professional who has always given my all on the pitch.”

Barton’s ban comes at a time when football has never been more closely intertwined with the gambling industry. Eleven of the 20 current Premier League sides wear the logos of betting companies on their shirts, while the Football League itself is sponsored by a gambling company. The growth in online or ‘remote’ gambling has meant that not just every match but most of the elements within them can now be gambled upon. Recent estimates at the amount of gambling losses accrued in the UK put the total at around £300 per person per year.

Marc Etches, who is the chief executive of GambleAware, the industry-funded body dedicated to the reduction of gambling harm, said of Barton’s statement: “Admitting you have a gambling problem is an essential first step towards fixing it. We welcome Joey’s statement and hope his openness will be seen as an example others feel they can follow. You don’t need to be a professional footballer to find help for what is a recognised mental health condition.”

Thirty ‘most pertinent bets’

At the end of his lengthy statement, Barton listed the 30 “most pertinent bets as determined by the FA”, laid while he was playing for Manchester City, Newcastle United and Queens Park Rangers:

Manchester City v Fulham (28 April 2006) Laid George Samaras not to score first goal £5 (Bet won – £10)*

Manchester City v Fulham (28 April 2006) Backed Joey Barton to score first goal £3 (Bet lost)*

Manchester City v Fulham (28 April 2006) Backed Manchester City to win £600 (Bet lost)*

Newcastle v Tottenham (24 September 2008) Newcastle to win £25 (Bet lost)

Newcastle v Sunderland (1 February 2009) Newcastle to win £5 (Bet lost)

Newcastle v Sunderland (1 February 2009) Newcastle to win 2-1 £2 (Bet lost)

Hull v Newcastle (14 March 2009) Newcastle to win £5 (Bet lost)

Hull v Newcastle (14 March 2009) Newcastle to win (as part of a bet involving other matches) £5 (Bet lost)

Forest v Newcastle (17 October 2009) Newcastle to win £22 (Bet lost)

Newcastle v Derby (28 December 2009) Newcastle to win (as part of a bet involving other matches) £50 (Bet lost)

Stevenage v Newcastle (8 January 2011) Newcastle to win £497.50 (Bet lost)*

Stevenage v Newcastle (8 January 2011) Newcastle to lead at HT and FT £250 (Bet lost)*

QPR v Rochdale (23 August 2011) QPR to win £25 (Bet lost)

QPR v Leeds United (1 March 2014) QPR to win as part of multiple bet £25 (Bet lost)

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QPR v Leeds United (1 March 2014) QPR to win £250 (Bet lost) West Ham v Manchester City (15 April 2006) West Ham to win (Bet won – returns £53.60)

Newcastle v PSV (6 August 2008) Draw at HT and PSV lead at FT £30 (Bet lost)

Newcastle v PSV (6 August 2008) PSV to lead at HT and FT £5.65 (Bet lost)

Newcastle v PSV (6 August 2008) PSV to lead at HT and FT £24.35 (Bet lost)

Newcastle v PSV (6 August 2008) PSV to win £40 (Bet lost)

Newcastle v PSV (6 August 2008) PSV to win 1-0 £10 (Bet lost)

Newcastle v PSV (6 August 2008) PSV to win 2-0 £10 (Bet lost)

Newcastle v PSV (6 August 2008) PSV to win 3-0 £10 (Bet lost)

Newcastle v PSV (6 August 2008) PSV to win £81.67 (Bet lost)

Newcastle v PSV (6 August 2008) PSV to win £158.33 (Bet lost)

Manchester United v Newcastle (17 August 2008) Man Utd to win £300 (Bet lost)

Chelsea v Newcastle (22 November 2008) Chelsea to win £48 (Bet lost)

Newcastle v Chelsea (28 November 2010) Chelsea to win £500 (Bet lost)

Newcastle v Chelsea (28 November 2010) Chelsea to win (as part of multiple bet which includes singles and doubles) £350 (Bet lost on Newcastle but other part of bet paid as a win – returns £435)

Newcastle Reserves v Arsenal Reserves (9 March 2011) Arsenal to win £100 (Bet lost)

* Denotes matches in which Barton played.

April 25, 2017

Malta plans national betting exchange for operators to hedge

Malta’s gambling regulators are planning big changes to maintain the country’s role as a desirable hub for online gambling operators, including a national sports betting exchange to allow operators to hedge their bets.

Last Thursday, Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) chairman Joseph Cuschieri delivered a speech to attendees at a conference organized by Malta’s financial affairs parliamentary committee at which he revealed the MGA’s plans to leverage Malta’s remote gaming advantage.

Cuschieri started by underscoring the importance of Malta’s gaming industry to the overall economy. Gaming contributed €56.3m in direct taxes to the government’s 2016 budget, while gaming-related activity brought the total contribution to around €120m. Around 3k Maltese nationals currently earn their livelihood via the local gaming industry.

But Cuschieri warned that the MGA needed to be proactive “to avert the threats and reap opportunities at a global level.” The MGA has therefore developed a strategy to “future proof” the industry based around three main tenets.

The first of these tenets is a more focused approach to developing B2B activities, which tend to be less vulnerable to financial crime, regulatory and other external risks. The second tenet is enhanced efficiency of regulatory processes, including removing unneeded bureaucracy, while the third tenet involves ensuring the necessary flexibility to adapt to technological development and market demands.

On that last point, Cuschieri said the MGA was studying new game types such as eSports skins gambling, as well as virtual reality products. The MGA is also setting up “a national betting exchange so that we can create a structure where bets can be hedged.”

This exchange would reportedly not be restricted to MGA-licensed operators, but a variety of other matters such as commission rates remain very large question marks and there’s no timeline for implementation of this plan.

Cuschieri also said that the MGA is conducting “in-depth studies of the role which crypto-currencies can play within the Maltese regulatory regime.” The MGA hopes to unveil its plan to introduce “virtual currencies in a gaming context” later this year.

As recently as last August, Cuschieri was saying the MGA had received “very few requests” from online licensees regarding Bitcoin use but the MGA was nonetheless looking to develop a “national approach” to the use of crypto-currencies.

On that note, Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced last week that his cabinet had approved the first draft of a national strategy to promote the blockchain technology that underpins Bitcoin. Muscat said the strategy was “not just about Bitcoin,” as he wanted to see blockchain technology employed in Malta’s lands and national health registries.

Muscat said he recognized that other European regulators may be wary of the new technology “but the fact is that it’s coming. We must be on the frontline in embracing this crucial innovation … We must be the ones that others copy.”

April 24, 2017

Bookmaker Bet365 admits mistake in wrangle over £54,000 account

The leading internet bookmaker Bet365, which has been refusing to allow one of its customers to withdraw a £54,000 balance for the last 12 months, admitted on Friday that it had acted in error when it warned the punter involved that it could levy a 5% “administration fee” on the account every 28 days until “the balance reaches zero”, under the firm’s policy on so-called “dormant” accounts.

The customer involved in the case was also informed by email that she could avoid a charge of about £2,700 on or around 14 May by logging into the account and withdrawing the balance – a course of action which Bet365 still refuses to allow.

The dispute between Bet365 and the customer dates back to April last year, when her account and the £54,000 balance were frozen by the bookmaker after a series of successful bets on horse racing. The customer was also informed that in future she would be restricted to a maximum bet of £1.

She then requested a transfer of her balance back to her debit card, without success. Several months later, following a series of requests for the transfer of the £54,000 balance, she lodged a complaint with the Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS), which has been considering the case since November and is expected to deliver a ruling within a month.

Exactly a year after the account was frozen, it triggered Bet365’s procedures for dormant accounts, and the customer received an automatically generated email with the subject line “Your Account Balance”. This informed her that in accordance with the company’s terms and conditions, an “ongoing administration fee” of 5% would now be levied on the balance every 28 days. The email added: “To avoid this fee simply log back into your account and withdraw your full balance.”

When contacted for comment, Bet365 said in a statement issued by its legal department that the company “strongly refutes the customer’s allegations and considers them unfounded”, adding that it will abide by the decision of IBAS in the case when it issues its ruling.

Bet365 also sent an email to the customer involved on Friday, in which a member of the company’s customer services team confirmed that its email regarding possible charges on the account had been “submitted in error”. The email added that “while we are still awaiting for you to sign and return the letter which we have submitted to you, your account will not be subject to any form of administration fee”.

The “letter” referred to in the email is understood to be a request for the customer to agree to new terms and conditions on the account, which the customer is refusing to sign while her £54,000, including winnings from bets placed and accepted under earlier terms, remains frozen.

IBAS’s long-delayed ruling on the case will be awaited with considerable interest, not just by the parties directly concerned but also by the gambling industry as a whole. It is unusual for IBAS to agree to adjudicate in a case where there is no substantial dispute about the placing of the bets involved or the results of the races concerned. Should IBAS find in favour of the punter, it would be seen as a landmark decision by campaigners for increased protection for customers from potentially unfair terms and conditions imposed by gambling operators.

Bet365’s “error” in activating its dormant account procedures also highlights a practice that is commonplace across the industry. Individual companies are allowed to impose such rules as they see fit when accounts become dormant, and the administration fees charged on dormant accounts, and the amount of time that an account must be unused before it is declared dormant, vary widely from one bookmaker to another.

“The fee on this balance would have been about £2,700 for the first month,” Paul Fairhead, who campaigns on issues related to fairness for punters via the Twitter account @BoycottBetFred, said on Friday. “Bet365 have acknowledged an error in this case but it would be almost impossible to justify taking that kind of figure from someone’s account and there surely has to be a maximum fee.

“This is an error as the account is subject to an IBAS investigation, but in the case of someone who is deceased, for example, contact details for that customer may not extend to next of kin and the executors of wills and so on. Presumably a gambling firm then has licence to retain that money after a number of months.”

April 20, 2017

Australia mulls “siren to siren” sports betting TV ad ban

Australian betting operators are potentially facing a “siren to siren” ban on advertising during televised live sporting matches, according to local media reports.

On Wednesday, The Australian reported that Communications Minister Mitch Fifield would present a proposal to cabinet on Tuesday that would prohibit television networks from airing betting ads at any time during a live sports contest. Cabinet is expected to approve the proposal.

A similar prohibition was part of a group of gambling initiatives proposed by Independent Sen. Nick Xenophon but these were rejected by a Senate committee last month on the grounds that the federal government had things under control.

Australian free-to-air broadcasters will reportedly be offered reductions in license fees to help offset the expected loss of advertising revenue, but it’s unknown whether subscription TV services will be offered similar incentives to win their support.

Australia’s sporting codes may prove a harder sell. ABC reported that key execs from the Australian Football League and the National Rugby League met with Fifield last week to argue that further advertising restrictions would drastically reduce the value of their media rights deals with betting operators. Cricket Australia is reportedly also lobbying against further curbs.

Malcolm Speed, exec director of the Coalition of Major Professional Participation Sports, told The Australian that media rights were “the sports’ greatest asset.” Speed noted that broadcasters had previously agreed to ban the promotion of live odds during sports broadcasts and further restrictions “will inevitably result in lowering investment in community and participation programs, and grassroots development.”

An unidentified source at a major sports body pointed out that Fifield’s proposed ban “also has the potential to rob sports of product fees,” i.e. the commissions paid by Australian betting operators for taking wagers on individual sports. This source said Fifield’s plan “will result in no reduction in gambling, but a reduction in taxation to state and federal governments.”

Responsible Wagering Australia (RWA), a trade body representing many of the country’s betting operators, has supported a reduction in betting advertising on television, apparently believing that it’s better to support moderate curbs in the hope of avoiding more punitive measures. It’s unclear whether the RWA will support Fifield’s blanket live sports ban.

April 10, 2017

Now hiring: Paddy Power seeks Trump expert

Calling all gambling and American politics enthusiasts, Irish bookmaker Paddy Power may have the right job just for you. CNN reported that Paddy Power is looking for a head of Trump betting to handle the rise of wagers related to the U.S. President.

Now hiring: Paddy Power seeks Trump expertPaddy Power listed the job in its online Careers section in March but recently began placing ads in the classified sections of two popular British newspapers to drum up interest. According to the advertisement, successful applicant will work in Dublin, the capital city of Ireland.

“We want to make American politics great again. Because, let’s face it, there’s no chance Trump will,” the supposed Paddy Power advertisement read. “With more than 100 special bets online, the successful candidate will monitor and manage existing Trump markets while devising new specials to launch.”

The chosen applicant will “also need to build a wall around the hub to ensure foreign bets don’t get in.” The job is full time — three months for now, with a possible extension.

Lee Price, a spokesman for Paddy Power, pointed out that the interest in Trump-related bets is about 50 times what it was when Barack Obama moved into the White House.

But with players showing much interest on Trump, Lee said that they want the applicant to come up with creative bets.
Paddy Power launched several Trump specials, including betting on the fate of Obamacare under the President Trump, or whether Trump will paint the White House gold. There’s also a Trump special asking players to bet on whether American state will try to secede.

“The job is to be an expert in all things Trump,” Price said. “In the spirit of Donald Trump‘s presidency, we’re saying no experience required.”

When asked if there are any takers for the role, Price pointed out that they received hundreds of applications but not really serious about taking the job. Hopefully, Prince said that they’ll be able to start the job interview by the end of this week.

“If demand continues, so will the role,” Price said. “We’re sure Trump will keep us busy.”

March 30, 2017

Weather and betting

Weather – arguably the most under-played sports betting market impacter there is. Why? The answer is simple; until TV cameras show what’s going on, it’s more often ignored as being a factor too many and too unpredictable to be worth acute consideration.

Sports data analysts spend countless thousands of hours crunching the numbers on all kinds of stats – players, form, venues, referees/umpires, crowds etc. etc. and that’s fair enough and can and does more often than not provide for the most likely betting market scenarios. Call it sorting the wheat from the chaff. But that one missing ingredient is weather, yes even that sedate type of weather that doesn’t seem to be a factor, yet it is because it simply means it’s all about the sport rather than heat, cold, rain, snow, wind, humidity etc.

In simple terms, weather impact is ‘out of zone’ when it comes to traders, data analysts and indeed bettors themselves. I ask you, how can Asian football feeds to bookmakers contain everything but weather, when for example a wet football/soccer match lifts the goal scored ratio by an average 0.6 per match, not to mention the +penalty and +cards? Yes we have crunched the weather numbers

I’m not necessarily blaming anyone, 20 years ago there were few if any meaningful intricate stats to be had barring the vary basic stuff. Seriously, weather impact across the sports has yet to come of age and it’s there for the taking.

Very recently I posted on here about the last day at a test match between NZ and SA in Dunedin being a washout, yet even as the soggy pictures came on TV the draw price was still above 1.5 and earlier it had been around 1.9. An amazing interest rate for anyone that might have wanted it!

British Weather Services have crunched the numbers across all sports – and yes the most complex sporting weather impacts are those within football/soccer and the least within cricket, which is why weather is seen as far more vital to cricket markets than it is to football/soccer, yet for the same reason the betting value is to be found across football/soccer. But in truth there are edges, advantages and the downright obvious to be had across all forms of weather impacted sports.

March 17, 2017

DSWV appeal to see change in German betting regulation

The German Betting Association (DSWV) has made an appeal to the government regarding the terms of the latest Gambling Treaty Amendment. This forms a part of the lengthy and ongoing battle to reform and better regulate sports betting in Germany.

The amendment to the State Treaty provides the introduction of a quality approval system for sports betting providers. This followed the 2012 move which introduced a licensing procedure for up to 20 sports betting companies; this was immediately criticised by a number of people in and around the industry and it ultimately failed.

DSWV president Mathias Dahms commented: “The minimally invasive revision of the treaty is a small step in the right direction, but it falls short. The restrictive regulations for sports betting operators derive from an outdated monopoly system and have not been capable of creating an attractive and legal range of games.

“If a number of consumers continue to make use of black market products, then neither addiction nor youth and consumer protection can be ensured.”
In short, Dahms is stating that the regulation needs to reflect the social realities that take place in sports betting, and that limiting it to a reduced amount of operators is dangerous. It’s far safer for everyone involved to properly regulate it and not to limit the market in such a drastic fashion, as this leaves a space for and encourages shady and illegal operators.

Dahms continued: “We are only at the beginning of a much-needed reform process. The present regulations are out of date in many areas. The test orders decided by the Prime Minister concerning the development of the regulation certainly help, but require the involvement of the companies concerned. ”

There needs to be an open dialogue going forward, and the DSWV wishes to play a central role in the evaluation process. Dahms noted: “The experience of our members in other European countries shows that successful regulation exists only where providers and authorities cooperate confidently and work together for the environment. We are available at any time for this type of co-operation.”

March 02, 2017

Swiss Government move to block International online gambling sites

The Swiss government pushed through a vote this week demanding that ISP should block International Online Gambling Operators from offering their services to nationals within the country.

But the vote did not go without controversy as opposing government MP’s said that the move was “something dictatorships do.”

Much of the pressure on the government came from land based casino operators in the country claiming their business was being eroded by online gambling sites and that their annual tax payments would be declining. International Online Gambling Operators currently pay no tax from their profits.

ISP are also against the move as they say it is proven woefully incapable of keeping local gamblers from exploring their online options in the country.

February 24, 2017

Fortuna Entertainment to pay up to €135m for Hattrick Sports

Central and Eastern European sports betting and lottery operator Fortuna Entertainment Group has bolstered its regional presence while also expanding its geographical reach through the acquisition of Hattrick Sports.

On Thursday, Fortuna announced that it had reached a deal to acquire 100% of Hattrick Sports Group Ltd., Ireland. Terms of the sale weren’t disclosed but Czech media reported that the deal involved an €85m upfront payment with a maximum possible top-up of €50m if the Hattrick brands meet certain performance benchmarks.

Fortuna cautioned that the sale remains subject to regulatory approval and the companies will continue to operate as separate entities until this approval has been granted.

Hattrick’s holdings include Casa Pariurilor, the leading betting operator in Romania. Hattrick’s brands also include Prva Sportska Kladionica (PSK), the second largest operator in Croatia, and Hattrick is also a joint venture partner in Spanish online and retail betting operator Luckia.

Fortuna CEO Per Widerström said it was his company’s intention to retain both the Fortuna and Casa Pariurilor brands in Romania as well as both PSK and Hattrick in Croatia. Widerström said the acquisition reflected Fortuna’s long-term strategy of becoming the “No. 1 licensed multichannel betting and gaming operator in Central and Eastern Europe.”

Hattrick CEO Carsten Sundberg said combining his company with Fortuna had “a compelling logic and aligns strategically very well,” adding geographical reach and market diversity to Fortuna’s existing operations in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland.

Fortuna will release its preliminary results for its 2016 performance on March 9, with the annual report to follow on April 20. In its Q3 report last November, the company reported double-digit gains in betting turnover but profits fell due to steep new Czech taxes. The company has projected that its FY16 earnings will come in between 10% to 15% lower than 2015’s figures.

February 22, 2017

The bookies who corrupted the most romantic game of the season

Richard Baerlein, the racing correspondent of The Observer, thought Shergar the best horse he had ever seen. And Baerlein was a man to support his judgment.

He backed Shergar for the 1981 Derby at 33-1 and all prices down to even money. When Walter Swinburn steered the stallion home, 10 lengths clear and easing up, Baerlein made enough from his winnings to buy a house in Sussex. He called it Shergar, too.

Being a generous individual, Baerlein shared his insight and conviction with his readers. Tipping Shergar emphatically in one of his previews, he used a phrase that has gone down in racing legend. ‘Now is the time to bet like men,’ Baerlein wrote. Back then, you still could. Try having a man-sized bet now. No bookmaker will take it.

A friend tried to put £10 on Lincoln for the FA Cup. The big firm she went to would only permit a stake of 75p. And that’s a small, mad bet, on a real outsider.

Imagine being a serious punter. Nobody is interested. Kids — that is what they want these days. Students, teenagers, all trying to nick £400 from a two-quid stake and a 10-team accumulator. It’s close to impossible, that’s why they lay it.

If you want to put five grand on something, you won’t get on. They might let you have a 10th of it, if you’re lucky. Rupert Murdoch hasn’t got into the betting game to take on those who know their Cue Card from their Thistlecrack. But if you think the fat goalie might eat a pie, in play — Rupe’s your man.

Stuff the Baerleins of this world, with their knowledge and boldness. Fun bets. That’s where it’s at. Beyonce’s kid to be called Brexit, 300-1. Gary Lineker to wear polka dot pants on Match of the Day, 15-1. Danny Dyer to be the next Doctor Who, 12-1. And Sutton’s big fat goalie to eat a pie while the match is going on. You could have had a bang on that at 8-1.

By the sounds of it, quite a few did: because Sun Bets reported paying out a five-figure sum. So that’s minimum £10,000, maximum £99,999. Quite a wedge, considering it was a punt with no chance of coming in, if everything was above board.


Has Wayne Shaw, Sutton’s reserve goalkeeper, ever consumed a pie during a match before? If so, there is no evidence of it. He may be over 20 stone, he may not be playing, but he’s not a complete oaf.

Nobody’s so hungry that they cannot wait until the final whistle. So it was a stunt. A deal to promote a fledgling betting company — Joseph Kagarlitski started as Joe Coral in 1926, William Hill in 1934, Sun Bets launched in August 2016 — who were also sponsoring Sutton’s shirts and had branding throughout the ground.

If they had to pay out another few grand for the publicity, what the hell? Everyone knows who Sun Bets are now. They’re the bookmakers who corrupted the most romantic football match of the year.

For there are only two explanations. Sun Bets were in on it and were happy to suffer a little damage for the promotion — or Shaw has spied an opportunity and got his friends in on the act. For there is no way a market worth five figures is created otherwise.

How many people do you think will wager that Beyonce gives birth to little Brexit? It’s a headline. It’s five easy quid from some inebriated pillock. It isn’t a 10 grand, minimum market.

Let’s say every bet on Shaw’s pie consumption was worth £5. And let’s go with the minimum payout: £10,000. That means 250 people thought a player engaged in the match of his life would eat a pie while it was ongoing. At £2 per stake that would need 625 gullible punters; at £1, there would be 1,250. People aren’t idiots.

And here’s another strange thing. Sun Bets were very keen to promote their 8-1 pie-eating bet and subsequent pay-out — The Sun newspaper, not so much.

Sun Bets tweeted the promotion, then the picture evidence at 82 minutes, then the news that Shaw had ‘COST US A BELLY FULL’. Yet in the print edition yesterday morning, there was only the image of Shaw scoffing with no mention of the financial bonus to Sun Bets customers.

This could be because, by then, there was a backlash. Shaw’s manager, Paul Doswell, was less than impressed with a stunt that had made Sutton look like a pub team, which they did not deserve; and there was already a rumbling of Football Association action, which could impact on the club, as much as the player.

This is unfortunate. Sutton United were tremendous — swamped by media and sudden interest, but accommodating, friendly and as well organised as any club of their size could hope to be.

Sutton the team were magnificent, giving Arsenal a proper game and losing to them by less than Hull, Nottingham Forest, Chelsea, Ludogorets, Sunderland, West Ham, Basle, Swansea and Southampton have this season.

They merited more than to be depicted as pie-eating amateurs — or in hock to a bunch of start-up online bookmakers.

Think it’s a laugh? Think it was only a bit of fun? Then we could argue the same of spot-fixing, although the company that links Sun Bets to the News of the World didn’t feel that way when Pakistan were accused of it.

Spot-fixing follows the same principle as touchline pie scarfing because the protagonist, or those in the know, can place a bet and have control over the outcome.

Bookmakers stopped offering a price for the first throw-in, because they suspected players and managers had cottoned on. There was money to be made from kicking the ball into touch in the first 10 seconds.

And there was money to be made at Sutton, too. That is why the Gambling Commission are now investigating, as well as the FA.

‘Integrity in sport is not a joke and we must establish exactly what happened,’ said enforcement and intelligence director Richard Watson.

‘We’ll be looking into any irregularity in the betting market and establishing whether the operator has met its licence requirement to conduct its business with integrity.’

So that’s Sun Bets in the dock; the FA, one presumes, will deal with Shaw, whose foolishness has already cost him his job at Sutton.

Forget how small time this looks. Where does it end, that is the crux of the matter? There was inducement for the Sutton goalkeeper to act in an unprofessional way.

And this he did, with 11 minutes of the game to go, having planned for it at half-time. His argument is that Sutton had used all their substitutes and could no longer call on him. So what? Protocol remains.

The substitutes don’t depart for the dressing room, the bookies or the pie shop when the last replacement goes on.

In a competition still celebrating non-League Lincoln’s arrival in the quarter-final, why do we consider the behaviour of Sutton’s players irrelevant?

When Lincoln visit the Emirates, will there be fun bets that day, too? And at what point do they stop being fun and start influencing the game?

English football has never done enough to keep the gambling industry at arm’s length.

The warning was there 10 years ago yesterday, when Craig Bellamy scored for Liverpool in Barcelona and celebrated with a golf swing — a nod to his infamous training-camp bust-up with John Arne Riise. William Hill, offering 100-1 on Bellamy doing exactly that, took a £50,000 hit.

Again it seemed a very big market for a fun wager. Yet the FA have done nothing to prevent a repeat. Indeed, they have strengthened their ties to gambling.

If the FA think Shaw has harmed their Cup tournament, how does that sit with William Hill as their official gambling partner?

Why were there no rules to prevent Sun Bets, or any bookmaker, hijacking their event? Why was its integrity not protected?

How can the FA sit in judgement on Shaw, then turn the other way and take the cash? And when did betting like men become just another pie-eating competition?

The FA made a record profit last year, allowing it to invest £125million in the grassroots game. The future is equally bright, with two deals worth £170m due to start in 2018.

Why the FA accepts £30m of government money is a mystery, particularly when it comes at such a price. Why doesn’t chief executive Martin Glenn return the public cheque, and then he can tell politicians trying to hold football to ransom to get lost?

(The same applies in wheelchair rugby, by the way. No, the RFU does not govern the sport, but even so, a body with an annual turnover of £407.1m could surely make up the government funding shortfall of £750,000, simply as a noble gesture?)

Alexei Smertin has the easiest job in football. He has been charged with investigating something that does not exist.

The former Chelsea midfielder is the Russian federation’s new anti-racism and discrimination inspector. Yet in 2015 he told the BBC there was no racism in Russia.

This conflicted with the findings of campaign group Football Against Racism in Europe who recorded 92 incidents of discriminatory displays and chants by Russian fans in and around stadiums during the 2014-15 season.

Celebrating his new job, Smertin said: ‘I will put every effort into keeping racism and discrimination out of the story of football in my country.’

So will he be addressing racism, or merely stories about racism? Russia has been practising shooting the messenger for a long time now. Just say no.

There is a simple reason why Donald Trump’s Turnberry course has not been named in the latest round of future Open venues — in the current climate the organisers do not want the event to become a target for unrest and protests, as it would if the R&A were seen as high-profile business partners of the President.

It isn’t a political decision, but a pragmatic one. ‘Smart!’ as Trump won’t be tweeting any time soon.




February 10, 2017

YouTube star fined $114,000 for running FIFA video game gambling site used by kids as young as 12

A prominent YouTuber and his business partner have been fined a total of £265,000 ($331,220) for running an illegal gambling website linked to hit video game FIFA that was used by children.

Craig Douglas, who goes by the name of NepentheZ on YouTube and has over 1.4 million subscribers on his channel, and his partner Dylan Rigby, ran a service to let users gamble with virtual currency that could be bought for real cash.

Douglas was ordered to pay £91,000 ($114,000) while Rigby got a £174,000 fine. Both men are from the U.K. and admitted to being directors of Game Gold Tradings Limited, a company which operated and advertised FutGalaxy.com – an unlicensed gambling website. The prosecution was brought by the U.K. Gambling Commission with the case decided on Monday.

The website allowed players to transfer virtual currency out of the FIFA 17 video game and use it to bet on real soccer matches and other games. Any winnings could then be transferred back into the game. In the FIFA games, which are made by EA Sports, there is no way to trade or sell coins that you buy. So black market sites have appeared online to facilitate this.

There is no official link between FIFA or EA Sports and the illegal website run by Douglas and Rigby. There are no accusations aimed at Electronic Arts or the makers of the video game.

District Judge McGarva described the offense as "very grave", and concluded that children had been gambling on the website but said it was impossible to know how many. He had been shown footage of a 12-year old boy gambling on the website, describing this as "horrific".

"This was one of the most serious cases that has been investigated and prosecuted by the Commission. Its gravity is reflected in the significant financial penalties imposed by the judge," Sarah Harrison, CEO of the Gambling Commission, said in a press release on Tuesday.

"The defendants knew that the site was used by children and that their conduct was illegal but they turned a blind eye in order to achieve substantial profits."

In a series of tweets following the court case, Douglas said he owed "a huge apology" to his family and supporters.

Despite the case, Douglas continued to upload new videos to his YouTube page about FIFA, including one in which he issued an apology. Douglas said he pleaded guilty to two charges, but pleaded not guilty to others.

"I (pleaded) not guilty to the remaining charges including the charge of inviting children to gamble and they were accepted by the prosecution and were accepted by the courts. Trust me when I tell you as a lesson has been learnt, a very valuable lesson," Douglas said.

"I made a huge mistake. I did some things wrong. I was very naïve … And very arrogant."

January 25, 2017

Romanian Roulette (3)

Rich or poor?

Natasha Dow Schull, a cultural anthropologist at New York University and author of the book Addiction by Design, said the gambling industry in general had invested great effort creating the “myth” that most people can “gamble for fun and it doesn’t hurt us at all, almost like we have some kind of physical immunity to it. And then there is this group that has problems.”

Studies in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, however, suggest people with gambling problems account for at least 40-50 per cent of the industry’s revenues, raising obvious questions over its interest in helping them stop.

According to a 2012 survey commissioned by gambling operators and published online in Romanian, the average Romanian slot machine user had a monthly net income of 290 euros. The average net salary in Romania that year was 342 euros.

Rizeanu, however, described the typical Romanian gambler as wealthy.

“Gambling halls and casinos are mostly visited by people with a lot of money, who can gamble large amounts,” she said. “Companies don’t need taxi drivers who spend all their money and then the wife comes crying.”

According to an inquiry by the Australian government in 2010, the risk of becoming addicted increases with the proximity of gambling venues.

The experts at Responsible Gaming, however, also disputed this. “In our case it’s different,” said Parvulescu. “If he [a Romanian] wants to go, he’ll go. If he doesn’t want to go, he won’t.”

Asked which experts it consulted on the issue of gambling addiction, the ONJN said it cooperated with Responsible Gaming.But still, it did not consider addiction to be a pressing issue.

“If you know there is such a problem, you should tell me the numbers. We, as an institution, have no competence or any statistics that could inform us about such a number,” Odeta Nestor, the head of the ONJN, told BIRN at her Bucharest office, where a copy of a local gambling industry magazine featured a picture of her on its cover.

Before joining the office when it was founded in 2013, Nestor, 40, worked as financial director at a number of casinos in Romania.

“The media is all over (gambling-related) suicides,” she said, “but just think how many people commit suicide because of love or bank loans.”

Romania is not alone in Europe in handing responsibility for anti-addiction programmes to the gambling operators. But critics warn that the danger is greater in Romania’s case, where regulation is loose and the state has failed to consult or recruit independent, expert voices not beholden to the operators.

Hriscu of the Aliat addiction NGO said: “The level of regulation is very low. From the lack of regulation, the ones who always win are the dealers.”

Cristian Pascu, a founding member of the Romanian Gaming Association of Organisers and Producers, conceded “there is a little conflict of interest here.”

Nevertheless, he said: “The education can come from us because we know the industry’s secrets. Educate the consumer to understand the fun element, that you come here to spend time and not as a source of money. Gamble responsibly. But it’s not in the nature of the Romanian gambler.”

Slot machines, he said, make gamblers “a little masochistic. Pleasure, pain, pleasure, pain, the alternation of defeat and victory that leads to the secretion of dopamine, serotonin.”

Free food, drinks

The situation is Romania is replicated to a degree across Eastern Europe, where the major Western gambling operators saw a new growth market with the collapse of communism in the early 1990s. Regulation has been playing catch-up ever since.

In Romania, just a few months separated the execution of Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, and the opening of the first big gambling hall in Bucharest’s Gara de Nord railway station, operated by a subsidiary of Austrian gambling giant Novomatic in partnership with the Romanian football club Rapid.

It featured 80 wood-encased slot machines.

“Hordes of people would wait in line outside the gambling hall, pushing the doors so I would open them faster,” said Pascu, who started there as an engineer and rose to become co-owner. “That’s how much they lusted after poker after the revolution.”

It was in the mid-1990s that Dan began gambling, as a 20-year old student with little money. He says he went to casinos with friends for the free food and drinks they offered to lure customers.

“Giving drinks and food for free was apparently a loss for casinos, but in reality it was an investment in future generations of addicts,” said Dan. During Eastern Europe’s cutthroat transition to capitalism in the 1990s, “casinos were there to sell hope,” he said.

The ONJN now estimates that Romania has 70,000 slot machines.

Experts say their addictive potential comes from the speed with which winnings are paid out.

Such machines were banned in Norway in 2007, where gambling is state-run.

“The number of calls to the helpline dropped to below 50 per cent of the traffic before the removal,” Rune Timberlid, Senior Adviser of The Norwegian Gaming Authority, told BIRN.

“Casinos were there to sell hope”

–gambling addict Dan on the growth of gambling in post-Ceausescu Romania.
Finland, where, like Norway, gambling is also nationalised, channels much of the revenues back into social causes, including treatment for addicts.

Though effectively bankrolled by the industry, as in Romania, Finnish anti-addiction officials are fierce in their role as advocates for addicts.

Mari Pajula, head of Peluuri, the Finnish equivalent of Responsible Gaming, said her organisation tried to maintain a healthy distance from the gambling industry itself.

“We criticise how the gaming companies market their products. We criticise the distribution policy, the fact that there are slot machines in every store,” Pajula told BIRN in Helsinki, speaking in English.

“This is good about the Finnish system - even though Peluuri is financed by the industry we can criticise.”

Corinne Bjorkenheim, who manages the Gambling Clinic in Helsinki, an umbrella programme for addiction treatment, said: “Ideally there should be a clear cut between the industry and the treatment programmes.”

Romanian Roulette (2)

Between 2004 and 2013, the number of slot machines in Romania quadrupled to 62,000, according to figures from the European Gaming and Amusement Federation.

In 2014, the state reaped 147 million euros from the issuing of gambling licences and permits, says the National Office for Gambling, ONJN, the state body that oversees the gambling industry. Some 87 per cent of that came from operators of the rapid-fire slot machines that the poor and addicted favour. The state’s earnings rose to 266 million euros in 2015.

Some experts warn the figures speak to a growing addiction in the European Union’s second poorest nation, and to a paucity of regulation mirrored across the Balkans, where cash-strapped states see gambling as a harmless but valuable source of income.

A 2016 survey commissioned by two major gambling organisations in Romania – Romslot and Romanian Bookmakers – estimated the number of what the industry calls ‘problem gamblers’ at roughly 98,000 people, in a population of just under 20 million.

Hriscu, however, said the number of addicts was almost certainly in the hundreds of thousands, while Sorin Constantinescu, the head of the Casino Association in Romania, told BIRN: “Gambling addiction has grown worse in the last few years. We as organisers have seen more and more addicts than before.”

Constantinescu said gambling operators had recognised the need “to make people aware that they should consider gambling a way to have fun, not a way to ruin your family”.

“It’s normal that we want to make money, but we don’t want to make money at any cost or to destroy people,” he said. “Gambling is mathematics. The money returns to us in the end but we try to use methods that are okay, that are as fair as possible to the people and not to push them into addiction.”

But critics are not convinced.

The law approved in May 2015 calls for the creation of a ‘public interest foundation’, on the board of which would sit Romania’s main gambling associations and which would be in charge of programmes designed to prevent and treat gambling addiction.

It also foresees a fund, run by the ONJN, for the prevention of addiction. Each gambling company would have to contribute 1,000 euros per year, rising to 5,000 euros for online operators and the National Lottery, in an industry that some experts estimate has revenues of one billion euros per year.

To date, neither the foundation nor the fund exists.

If they are created, both the ONJN and at least one major operator have indicated they will draw on the experience of the industry’s own anti-addiction programme called Responsible Gaming, the only such programme in the country, run by two psychologists – Leliana Parvulescu and Steliana Rizeanu.

Parvulescu’s ‘human behaviour’ consultancy, Zivac, lists among its clients the gambling company Game World, owned by Bucharest-based Game City SRL, and the gambling association Romanian Bookmakers.

Parvulescu told BIRN that her consultancy work for Game World, focused on “communication and personal development”, ended before she joined Responsible Gaming in 2012 and that her involvement with Romanian Bookmakers is restricted to her anti-addiction counselling.

She said she saw no issue of conflict of interest.

“The industry wants in its gambling halls as many players as possible who have fun. We, the psychologists of the Responsible Gaming programme, have the same interest, namely to have as many gamblers as possible who have fun, just like in cinemas or theatres.”

Like Parvulescu, 57-year-old Rizeanu also had a stake in the industry whose addicts she is now tasked with treating.

According to the Romanian Trade Registry, Rizeanu and her husband, Radu, opened a company in 1994 called Rino Trading, registered as dealing in gambling and betting. Its address was the same as the psychology clinic Aquamarin that Rizeanu runs and where the industry’s Responsible Gaming programme directs addicts.

Rizeanu told BIRN that Rino Trading ceased activities in 2009, the year before she was hired to head Responsible Gaming. The company is still listed in the Romanian Trade Registry, but appears to be dormant.

Rizeanu, too, insisted there was no conflict of interest.

“First of all because the Responsible Gaming programme is sponsored by the industry operators. Why? Because they don’t need addicted gamblers. An addict is first of all a person who doesn’t have money, a gambler who creates problems in the gambling venue, for the staff and also for customers, like a drunk in a luxury restaurant.”

Romslot, an association of gambling operators and major stakeholder in Responsible Gaming, said it was unaware Rizeanu had previously run a gambling company but said it should not be considered an issue “as long as she does her job within the programme”.

“Honestly we haven’t searched for this in the background of Steliana Rizeanu,” Romslot executive director Violeta Radoi told BIRN. “We’ve looked at her professional experience. She is a trainer of trainers. She is a university professor, she has written books.”

Romanian Roulette (1)

Hunched under an umbrella, Dan steps through the drizzle of a cold Bucharest afternoon in April.

He is on the cusp of turning 40 and has a few grey hairs to prove it.

Otherwise, Dan’s lean body bears no trace of an addiction that began 20 years earlier. His eyes behind thin-rimmed glasses are not bloodshot; his arms are not punctured or bruised by needles.

He heads for a gambling hall in a non-descript district of the capital not far from where he works, convinced he has lost almost everything.

“People believe that all humans are fit to survive,” said Dan, a pseudonym to protect his identity. “But nature is not like that.”

Gambling venues have become ubiquitous across Romania since the first big betting hall opened its doors in Bucharest’s central train station in the spring of 1990, just months after Nicolae Ceausescu’s communist rule ended in popular revolt and a Christmas Day firing squad.

Trying to get a grip on their proliferation, the Romanian parliament in May 2015 approved a law on gambling that included, among other things, measures designed to tackle the scourge of addiction.

But an investigation for the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence casts doubt on the readiness of the Romanian authorities and the gambling industry to confront the issue.

The law hands responsibility for tackling addiction to the very gambling operators that profit from it, while the psychologists hired by the industry to help the likes of Dan have had business interests in gambling. To date, no progress has been made in implementing the anti-addiction measures.

“Public health has been subordinated to the interests of private companies,” said Eugen Hriscu, a psychiatrist and founder of the non-governmental organisation Aliat that deals with various forms of addiction.

“Addicts don’t really exist for the Romanian state,” he said. “Right now we have chaos, in which the only winners are the dealers.”

Legal confusion

Nestor, of Romania’s ONJN, said the delay in creating the anti-addiction foundation and fund was due to confusion over the relationship between the two.

Doru Gheorghiu, the executive director of Romanian Bookmakers, one of the associations that finances Responsible Gaming, also said the law did not clearly define how the foundation would be set up.

Even then, Gheorghiu said, “What I can guarantee you is that in 90 per cent of the cases, the person doesn’t face a concrete gambling addiction. The person has other problems.”

BIRN emailed the Romanian Ministry of Health, the National Institute for Public Health and the National Centre for Mental Health and Fight Against Drugs to ask whether they had been consulted on how to proceed in the fight against gambling addiction.

All three said they had not been consulted, nor did they have any programmes for the prevention or treatment of gambling addiction.

Hriscu of the Aliat NGO said the state’s inaction was dangerous.

“I’ve talked to young people in small Romanian towns and these gambling venues have become their meeting places, the community centres,” he said.

It was still drizzling when Dan stepped inside the gambling hall, taking a seat in front of the electronic roulette. No dealer; no betting chips; only a screen in front of him.

Dan had relapsed and was no longer living with his wife and child. He had moved back in with his parents and was gambling at night, just like in his youth. He discovered a new generation of addicts, young men who work in supermarkets or drive taxis by day and gamble away their earnings by night.

In June, he shared a video on his Facebook profile of the Swiss long-distance runner Gabriela Andersen-Schiess, her legs buckling as she staggered and swayed to the finish line of the marathon at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, a symbol of human endurance.

“This is the life of an addict,” he told BIRN. “The ones who manage to survive, they do it with great suffering,” he said. “At every step, every second, there is pain and suffering.”

January 20, 2017

How Lottoland is making millions by cornering a new gambling market

One Tuesday around this time last year, businessman Luke Brill was riding the bus on his way to work with his earphones in, half-listening to Triple J, when he heard something that made him pay attention.

The station’s breakfast presenters were talking about the upcoming US Powerball jackpot — a multi-billion dollar lottery draw that was set to break records and become the biggest cash giveaway of all time.

What they didn’t mention, and what no one knew at the time, was that the draw would also lead to the launch of a massive business which in 12 months’ time would be on the way to revolutionising the gambling industry in Australia while raking in more than a million dollars a week.
That business is Lottoland, and Mr Brill is its managing director.

You’ve probably heard of the online lottery betting company by now — its branding is everywhere. The Gibraltar-owned business’s Australian arm has taken out advertising space across television networks in prime-time periods and secured significant sponsorship deals with major sporting events.
But a year ago, no one had heard of its gambling model, and for good reason — it didn’t exist.

Lottoland had been operating in Europe and the UK for three years but the timing of its launch in Australia was a bit of an accident.

“We got the licence to operate on Christmas Eve the year before and had planned on launching around February, but when I heard that this was going to be the largest jackpot in history, we spent the day rushing through things to get ready to launch, rushed out a press release and it just caught fire,” Mr Brill told news.com.au.

“We had no clients to begin with on the Tuesday. Zero. The Powerball draw was on the Thursday and by then we had 250,000 [clients]. It was the best possible start but it took us all by surprise and we weren’t really ready. We spent the rest of January playing catch-up and working out what our strategy was. It would usually happen the other way around.”

The brand didn’t invest in advertising at the time and it didn’t need to. More than a dozen TV and radio spots were devoted to explaining what Lottoland was all about — and there was a lot of explaining to do.

The business was unusual in the gaming and gambling industry operating in Australia at the time, and it still is. It involves betting on lottery outcomes rather than entering the lottery itself.

Players bet on the results of the biggest lotteries around the world, and now local draws too, and using an insurance-based model Lottoland is able to match the prize money offered in those jackpots.

So taking the US Powerball example, Australians weren’t able to buy a ticket for the $2.3 billion jackpot, but through Lottoland they could pay $10.50 to bet that the numbers they would have selected, had they been able to enter, would be picked. Just like buying multiple tickets, players could enter as many times as they liked, and the prize on offer was the same as that of the actual Powerball draw.

The Powerball jackpot sold itself, but without resulting in any major wins for Aussie entrants, it wasn’t great for Lottoland’s customer retention.

“That first 250,000 were almost like Melbourne Cup punters — most of them you’ll never see again” Mr Brill said.

“The initial push for us was ‘play the Powerball’, but that was just one hit, there wasn’t a great understanding of what our product was other than a way to get in on that one jackpot, so after that our advertising and marketing was about trying to educate our customers.”

Lottoland’s entry wasn’t welcomed by competitors who took legal action ahead of its launch which was settled out of court.

Gambling experts have also criticised it saying making lotteries more frequent increases users’ chances of developing a gambling problem.

Senator Nick Xenophon was among its most vocal critics. The anti-gambling politician blamed laws in the Northern Territory, where the company is registered, for allowing it to operate for profit unlike most other lotteries which are run by governments to pay for public services.

“Lottoland has turned into a legal no man’s land and we need to close the loophole,” he told news.com.au at the time of its launch.

“It’s also causing a haemorrhaging of local territories including state-owned ones. We will miss out on money for hospitals and schools because it will bleed government revenue.”

Lottoland says it’s trying to appease some of those critics by “looking for a charity to support”, but the main focus is building its customer-base.

Lottoland is now trying to get across the message that it’s not just US Powerball. It offers betting on other major international jackpots, and regular, local lottery draws as well.

But the main point of difference with existing lottery providers in Australia, as well as its offering of bigger prizes — “why play for a million dollars when you could play for a billion?” — is the online element.

“You can play on your mobile, there’s no real reason to go down to the newsagent. We know a lot of people don’t want to do that. Particularly young people — they don’t do that,” Mr Brill explained.

“People used to go to the bookies, to the TAB to have a bet, now they play on their Sportsbet or Ladbrokes app. The message we’re getting out is why are people going to the newsagent to buy their lottery ticket every week when they can play with us.”

Mr Brill says Lottoland is offering innovation in an area that has been stagnant.

“We are grabbing that younger audience,” Mr Brill said. He added that its customer bases skews towards women.

The company has signed up around 400,000 Australian users and by Mr Brill’s estimate has taken about one per cent share of Australia’s $2 billion lotteries market.

Though the company wouldn’t release its overall revenue for the year, Mr Brill said it was making “in excess of a million a week”.

Lottoland has paid out about $6 million in prizemoney to Australians since its launch, but is yet to declare a major win for one of its players and prove that it has the capacity to play it out.

“That would be the real prize for us,” Mr Brill said.

“We’re hoping for a big winner. Once we’ve paid out, say, $100 million, all those questions about is it legit, are people going to get paid out, they’re all answered.”

January 19, 2017

Pachinko operator ‘ripe fit’ for casino investors eyeing Japan

Now that Japan is a step closer to legalizing casinos, foreign investors may have already started forming links with their local counterparts in order to jointly bid for a Japanese casino license.

And one firm that is well-positioned for such kind of strategic investment is pachinko hall operator Dynam Japan Holdings Co Ltd., according to brokerage Union Gaming Securities Asia Ltd.

Pachinko operator ‘ripe fit’ for casino investors eyeing Japan: analystUnion Gaming Securities Asia analyst Grant Govertsen said the pachinko hall operator is “has significant unrealized value as it is ripe for strategic investment on the part of an international IR operator.”

“The company is well positioned for M&A opportunities as one of the largest and well-capitalized operators,” Govertsen said in a note. “[It also] has option value as a front-runner to win a small-scale regional IR license in Japan.”

Because its pachinko parlors are located in areas “that will not be in close proximity” to an integrated resort, Union Gaming believes Dynam will be “largely insulated from any negative impacts” of the IR development in the country. Only 6 percent of Dynam’s parlors are located in the prefectures that are being considered as potential candidates to host Japan’s first integrated resorts—namely Tokyo and Osaka. In comparison, Dynam’s rivals—Maruhan and GAIA—have 24 percent and 56 percent, respectively, of their parlors located in the same prefectures.

“Dynam has one of the largest data sets of gaming-related customers and customer behavior based on its nearly 50 years of operations and market-leading position in terms of number of parlors operated. Given our belief that Japan integrated resort revenues will be driven primarily by locals it would make sense for a potential integrated resort developer to make a strategic investment in Dynam,” Govertsen said.

Dynam disclosed in 2015 its plans to enter the “resort development business” in Japan. At the time, the company said it was looking at a land in Shimonoseki, the largest city of Yamaguchi prefecture, as its target site for development. Union Gaming forecast Dynam to be a frontrunner for a regional IR license, especially if such license is available in the Yamaguchi prefecture, where the company has “very strong ties.”

“We also note that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is also a native of Yamaguchi, which could give the prefecture an advantage as it relates to becoming an IR host community,” the brokerage stated. “A native Japanese company that already has exposure to and knowledge of the gaming industry should have a distinct advantage in any regional small-scale IR RFP process.”

January 18, 2017

Why football bets are far more profitable to bookmakers than gambling machines

When the government completes its review of the gambling sector in the coming weeks, a clampdown on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) looks to be on the cards. Dubbed the “crack cocaine of gambling” for allowing punters to bet stakes of up to £100 in games like roulette and poker, even former UK culture secretary Tessa Jowell has joined the chorus demanding curbs – despite overseeing their expansion in the 2000s.

With proposals to reduce maximum stakes to £2 and restrict the number of terminals, the industry is on tenterhooks. One of its defences is that FOBTs have a gross margin of between 2% and 3%, meaning between 97% and 98% of stakes end up being returned to punters in winnings. Which sounds reasonable until you reflect that the high maximum stakes and the speed at which people can bet means they can still run up large debts in a short space of time.

Nonetheless, FOBTs are serving as something of a lightning rod for other types of gambling that are also unfair to punters but poorly understood. I’m referring to bets where people bet not just on the outcome but on other aspects such as the scoreline, who scores first and combinations of outcomes. Supposing it were an Arsenal vs Burnley game, the bookmaker might be offering say 50-1 on Arsenal’s Alexis Sánchez to score first, any Burnley player to score second and Arsenal to win 4-1.

All these betting offers have exploded in recent years. You’ll see them all over the windows of high street bookmakers. It may not be quite as easy as with FOBTs to place lots of bets quickly, but online betting certainly makes it quick and there’s no maximum stake. There’s also no defence of a low gross margin. Do the maths and you find it can be as much as ten times higher.

How it works

Suppose in an upcoming international football match between England and Germany, a bookmaker offered odds of 3-1 on Germany to win. That bookmaker is implying that if the game were played four times, Germany would win once. The probability of Germany winning is 1/(3+1), or 0.25, or 25%. In theory the bookmaker is also implying a 0.75 (or 75%) chance of Germany either drawing or losing, since the probabilities of the various possible outcomes has to add up to 1.

I say “in theory” because the above imagines a situation where a benevolent bookmaker told you what they really thought was probable. In reality, bookmakers build in a profit margin by quoting odds that imply a sum of probabilities greater than 1. In other words, they say every outcome will happen slightly more than is possible – hence offering lower potential wins than they “should”. This allows them to make a risk-free profit from their customers’ wagers that is the same no matter which event actually happens. The higher the sum of probabilities, the higher a bookmaker’s profit margin.

For example one bookmaker offered odds on the Germany vs Argentina 2014 World Cup final that gave Germany a 0.44 probability of winning in 90 minutes, Argentina an 0.29 probability of winning and a 0.31 probability of a draw. These add up to 1.04, implying a gross profit margin of 0.04/(1+0.04) = 3.8% (see here for an explanation of how this maths works).

When I studied bookmakers’ odds across that tournament, I found the profit margins on different bets varied remarkably. The size of the profit margin was related to the number of possible outcomes in a given bet. Bets on which a team would win a match had the lowest profit margins – 4.5% on average. (Note this means even these plain vanilla bets have a higher profit margin than FOBTs.)

When it comes to betting on the scoreline of a game, Netherlands to win 2-0, say, there are many more possibilities than for the match outcome. The average gross margin on these bets was 21.9%. As for bets on which player would score the first goal, these have even more permutations – there are 20 outfield players, after all, or no one might score. The average margin on these bets was 32.3%. Meanwhile, aggregated bets that combine different outcomes like first scorer and who wins can also have much higher profit margins than bets on a single match’s outcome.

No surprise that when I looked at the bookmakers’ advertising, both on TV and in their shop windows, I found it almost entirely dominated by scoreline, first goalscorer and aggregated bets. These trends have continued; in work I will be publishing soon, I find that Premier League TV gambling advertising in January and February of last year was similarly geared toward bets with high bookmaker profit margins.

When Saturday comes RIP

There are also endless opportunities to get in on this action. Football betting was a low frequency affair when the majority of matches were on Saturday afternoons. Now high-profile matches take place almost every night of the week. To make it easier still, “in play” betting lets punters place bets during a match, with the option to “cash out” for a sure money amount before the result. Combine this with the high profit margins and modern football betting has become a high-risk gamble for the average customer.

There is therefore a strong argument that the UK government should do something about these bets as part of its reforms of betting. Gambling losses are running at record highs – £286 per adult per year in the UK and up by a third between 2010 and 2015. Your chance of beating the bookies really depends on whether you can restrict yourself to bets with a low average profit margin.

Capping the maximum margin is one option for the government – though FOBTs are proof you need to do more than that. The govermnment could also aim to educate and disclose, similar to what is done with alcohol. Or it could restrict or ban this type of advertising or even these types of bets altogether. At any rate, it is time for a debate. “The house always wins” is an old saying in gambling. These days, bookmakers are increasingly taking it to extremes.

January 13, 2017

Technical glitch leaves Singapore Pools punters frustrated

A technical glitch has paralyze the operations of state-owned lottery Singapore Pools, leaving frustrated local football punters at a loss on how to place their bets and collect their winnings for three days.

Daily newspaper Today reported that Singapore Pools staff from all 88 branches and four LiveWire betting venues in Singapore shooed away disappointed football bettors who wanted to place their bets on Sunday. They were informed that a technical glitch hit Singapore Pools’ sports betting services.

Technical glitch leaves Singapore Pools punters frustratedThe technical glitch also affected the disbursements of winnings. On the other hand, operations of Singapore Pools’ other betting services such as 4D, Toto and horseracing were unaffected.

According to a statement issued by Singapore Pools, the technical glitch was resolved last Tuesday. The company, however, failed to address the suspension of its betting services on Sunday. It also did not disclose the betting revenue losses it incurred due to the incident.

“The temporary service disruption was caused by a glitch that occurred during a routine system maintenance, and it has been fixed,” a company spokesman told the news agency in an email reply. “The service has resumed since 9am, Jan 10, 2017. Customers who have any enquiries can contact our Customer Service Line: 6786 6688.”

Singapore pools is the first operator to offer online betting services since Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) declared that the firm and Singapore Turf Club race betting monopoly had been “found suitable” for exemption from the Remote Gambling Act (RGA) that was enacted in February 2015.

Singapore Pool, however, is still banned from offering casino-style games online such as poker and blackjack. The government also prohibits Singapore Pool from allowing persons under 21 to place their bets and it require all bettors to undergo identity verification at a physical outlet.

This is the first time Singapore Pools has experienced a glitch that suspended its sports betting services. Upset punters — many of whom missed out on dozens of football offerings on Sunday — hope it is the last.