April 23, 2015

William Hill profits tumble £20m in new taxes

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UK-listed bookmaker William Hill reported Q1 revenue up but profits way down as punter-friendly sporting results and new taxes did a number on Hills’ numbers.

In a trading update released Thursday, Hills reported group revenue up 1% but operating profit down 19%. In addition to what Hills called its “largest ever loss-making week” – a £14m football shellacking in Week 3 – Hills booked £20m in additional costs thanks to the new 15% online point-of-consumption tax (POCT) and the March 1 implementation of the new 25% Machine Games Duty.

The POCT pushed William Hill Online’s cost of sales to 22%, up from 9% in Q1 2014, resulting in a 38% decline in online profits. Online sportsbook revenue (excluding Australia) rose 11% and betting handle rose 16%. Online gaming revenue was up 8% while mobile gaming revenue rose 48%. Breaking down the gaming chart, casino revenue was up 10% and bingo up 8% but poker continued its long slide toward irrelevance, falling 32% year-on-year.

William Hill Australia profits were down 39% thanks to higher marketing costs associated with its rebranding operation as well as the “reshaping of the client base following the increases in race field fees in July 2014.” Betting handle was down 22% but gross win margins rose 1.5 points, limiting the overall revenue decline to 8%.

Australian operating costs fell 4% on synergies derived from the Tomwaterhouse.com integration. Hills says it successfully completed the migration of Sportingbet’s clients to Williamhill.com.au and over 95% of Sportingbet’s VIP clients have placed a wager with the new site since it launched.

William Hill US enjoyed a 30% boost in wagering but gross win was flat as the Super Bowl headed a list of unfavorable sports results.

Retail profits were flat despite a 2% fall in revenue. OTC wagering was down 4% while machine gaming revenue rose 1%. Hills says it’s on track to complete the rollout of its new Eclipse gaming machines in Q2. Hills also launched its new ‘£50 journey’ project, which hopes to provide greater scrutiny of customer staking at higher levels on fixed-odds betting terminals.

Hills shares were down 3% to 361.2p on Thursday. Despite the profit carnage, Hills CEO James Henderson claimed his firm was “well positioned to benefit as the UK online market evolves.” Henderson said Hills was making good progress on Project Trafalgar, its in-house development of a responsive design front-end.

Hills also announced it had secured new football advertising contracts with BT Sport and Sky TV. When the new season debuts in August, Hills will have the right to air the first promos during BT Sport’s half-time break. The Sky deal also covers sports other than football. Hills offered no specifics on the cost of each deal although Henderson said the company “probably paid a little bit more to get those two packages but it was what we wanted.”

April 21, 2015

Playtech hire 600 global staff in Omni-channel push

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Playtech is adding a further 300 employees to its 4,000 strong global workforce in the next eight months as it prepares to undertake several large-scale omni-channel projects in the UK and emerging markets.

Playtech’s global headcount has grown by more than 600, or more than 20%, between January 2014 to March 2015 as a direct result of the company’s success and investment in Playtech ONE, the gaming industry’s leading omni-channel technology offering.

Playtech is currently concentrating its resources on several significant, soon-to-be-announced, global government and non-government omni-channel contracts. This has meant that a large number of developers, operational, product, IT and customer support staff specialists are required to ensure their successful delivery.

Sports betting will see the largest investment as part of the Playtech ONE strategic roadmap and is Playtech’s fastest growing product vertical. Ahead of a number of deals, and in order to strengthen support for existing sports-driven contracts, Playtech Sports has been reorganised with all omni-channel sports capabilities and technology efforts merged into, and operated as, one division. This gives customers one complete sports betting technology offering with full customer visibility across one system, all channels and all devices.

Playtech Sports will also be bolstered by a number of strategic bolt-on acquisitions with discussions currently ongoing, while in retail the team are in the latter stages of delivering a cutting-edge in-shop, EPOS management and registration system.

A large section of the current Licensed Betting Office (LBO) market uses legacy systems, however Playtech’s in-shop, cashier and SSBT retail management technology will enable it to deliver any, and every, element of a true omni-channel offering.

Playtech Sports offers state-of-the-art technology across all platforms and products. This includes back-end and front-end infrastructure and presentation layers, across any channel and any device. Its latest responsive and adaptive desktop and mobile solution has soft launched with Ladbrokes offering players the same view no matter on what device or screen size they play.

Coral Connect, Playtech’s pioneering omni-channel solution has been one of the industry’s biggest success stories since being rolled out a year ago across more than 1,800 nationwide shop estate, online and mobile. The operator has signed more than 200,000 new omni-channel Connect customers in 12 months.

April 16, 2015

Pinnacle Sports confirms Magnus Hedman as majority shareholder

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Touchbet ltd owner Magnus Hedman has been confirmed as the majority buyer of Pinnacle Sports, as his new enterprise looks to extend its presence within the European sports betting market.

Pinnacle Sports CEO Paris Smith revealed to industry news source EGR Magazine that Hedman had become the company’s majority shareholder. The CEO stated that the company felt no pressure to reveal its buyer, and that it had chosen to reveal Hedman at the appropriate time for its operations.

Smith has further credited Hedman with helping Pinnacle Sports’ gain it’s Malta Gaming Authority License. Pinnacle’s CEO said that she looked forward to working with Hedman who had big objectives for the operator.

Hedman who is the owner of B2B risk management supplier Touchbet, has further been identified as the majority buyer of UK spread betting firm Sporting Index for a reported £40 million from HgCapital.

The Sporting Index deal is pending approval from the Financial Conduct Authority. It is believed that Hedman beat-off competition from Betgenius and GVC Holdings for the acquisition of Sporting Index.

April 14, 2015

Dutch Minister promises movement on internet gambling regulation

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Following the resignation of Fred Teeven the former Nederland’s Secretary of State Justice in regard to allegations of misleading the parliament in a compensation claim in 2001 to a convicted drug trafficker the newly appointed replacement Klass DiJkhoff has promised to ensure that online gambling regulation and licensing will continue forward while he is in office.

Fred Teeven widely regarded as the creator of the Nederland’s online gambling bill retired following the allegations and fears amongst supporters for online gambling in the country were that it would now be stalled have be laid to rest following DiJkhoff’s announcement.

Speaking to Dutch media DiJkhoff stated that his office was committed to completing and processing the regulation of online gambling. The new secretary said that he supports all the provisions that have been put forward by his predecessor.

It is understood that some 200 online gambling operators have expressed interest in taking part in any legalised online gambling that is allowed in the country. Estimates say that over 1 million Dutch nationals play online with unregulated online gambling sites at present.

Australia to generate over $6 billion in gambling revenues

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New research has shown that Australia will generate over $6 billion a year in gambling revenues by the end of this decade. Fuelled by a growing Asian market and a VIP market moving to new locations IBISWorld the market research company say that Australia has the potential to generate $6.2 billion a year by 2021.

“IBISWorld believes the opening of these new casinos is reflective of strength in an industry being bolstered by high levels of domestic spending as well as increasing levels of foreign gambling dollars,” it said.

Australia has not had a new casino since 1996, when the Reef Hotel Casino opened in Cairns, IBISWorld senior industry analyst Spencer Little said.

However with James Packer building his $1.3 billion Barangaroo on Sydney Harbour resort and the $8.2 billion Aquis Great Barrier Reef Resort on the Gold Coast the estimates of revenues reaching $6 billion a year may not be that far from reality.

“Both groups have signalled their intention to build luxurious, resort-style casinos to attract wealthy VIP gamblers from south-east Asia,” Mr Little said.

The resorts will both be up and running by 2019 and the estimates for making the $6 billion will all depend on the success of both resorts.

Kyrgyzstan bans gambling & advertising of alcohol in new law

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Kyrgyzstan has now signed into law banning all forms of gambling including but not limited to online gambling, bookmakers and casinos, following President Almazbek Atambayev signing the decree into law this week.

The parliament voted on banning gambling back in February and now with the President signing the decree means that all forms of gambling and advertising of gambling and smoking along with alcohol is also banned immediately.

Changes and additions made to the Law “On the prohibition of gambling activities in the Kyrgyz Republic,” the Tax Code, the Criminal Code, the Civil Code, the laws “On licensing system in the Kyrgyz Republic,” “On prevention of terrorism financing and illegal legalization (laundering) of proceeds,” “On Advertising.” Said the government. “The law eliminates the basis for the creation of conditions of adverse impact on the moral and mental state of people who are fond of gambling, especially the younger generation of Kyrgyzstan. In their view advertising is designed to build and maintain an interest in alcohol and tobacco products, as well as contribute to its implementation. It is aimed at reducing the number of financial offenses, reducing the crime situation in the country, the prevention of social problems caused by gambling minors and vulnerable segments of the population. Said an official.

Safecharge & Tain sign deal

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afeCharge has announced it has sealed a partnership deal with TAIN AB, a turnkey solution provider for the e-gaming industry.

TAIN a developer of platforms and online gaming solutions since 1999, has recently opened up a number of new international markets. Thanks to SafeCharge’s network of alternative payment methods, TAIN will now give its White Label licensees access to a variety of local and alternative payment methods.

Via these methods, TAIN will be able to markedly boost its reach, optimise conversion rates, and (of course) to generate higher revenues. SafeCharge was selected to provide payment services and risk solutions because of its strength in fraud prevention, payment processing and rapid integration. On top of the payment facilities, a special fraud screening profile has been designed for TAIN according to the company’s risk management strategy. These fraud prevention rules are processed in real-time allowing TAIN’s risk team to instantly handle transactions that are flagged for Manual Review or Rejected, thus cutting the rate of chargebacks and eliminating potential fraud attacks.

“Our partnership with TAIN to improve the player’s deposit and withdrawal experience is well aligned with its strategy to continue to deliver technologies for an improved conversion funnel,” comments David Avgi, CEO, SafeCharge.

“TAIN is a key partner to collaborate with as both companies are technology driven service providers and this opportunity enables us to further extend the reach of our technologies.” Christer Fahlstedt, CEO, TAIN: “SafeCharge is our partner of choice as it provides advanced technologies and applied expertise in the eGaming market. This collaboration will both reduce the fraud risk to our licensees and boost their sales revenue by enabling them to offer fully localised payment services including the acceptance of applicable local payment methods from their players.”

Amaya Gaming name new COO & CMO

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Amaya Gaming has announced a shuffle of senior executives at The Rational Group of companies namely PokerStars & Full Tilt Poker with a new Chief Operating Officer and Chief Marketing Officer.

Israel Rosenthal will become the new chief operating officer, with Gino Appiotti taking on the role of chief marketing officer.

Both new placements have come from within the owning company of Amaya Gaming with

Rosenthal previously serving in various operations at Rational prior to his appointment to his new position, with Appiotti, who served for three years as president of Southern European for Rational.

Alex Payne the previous CMO is moving to Ebay’s European business and Ashkenazi is moving into the wider Amaya Gaming business.

April 03, 2015

Man Utd v Liverpool: The 1915 Good Friday betting scandal

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Manchester United against Liverpool is one of football's most intense rivalries but few have been as controversial as Good Friday 1915, when one of British sport's worst betting scandals took place.

Manchester United against Liverpool is a match which rarely fails to deliver some element of controversy. But the recent Steven Gerrard 38-second red card has nothing on the tie between the clubs 100 years ago.

On that day, there were "two matches going on at once" during a crucial bottom of the table clash at Old Trafford.

After an approach by a third party, some players from both sides hatched a plot to rig the game for a 2-0 home win, which eventually saw United avoid relegation.

"There was the realistic possibility of relegation for both of the sides - so it was an important match," says Graham Sharpe, a sports writer who has researched the fixture.

"It was overshadowed by the First World War, which had been raging for several months, and you could make the case that those players thought to themselves, 'when this season has finished, there may not be one to follow'."

Many footballers had already signed up to fight, while others played on.

There were rumours about the honesty of the tie, even before kick-off.

There were eyewitness accounts of the two sets of players meeting up in Manchester pubs to discuss the outcome, before bets were placed at up to 8/1.

Bookmakers were naturally suspicious if they saw "significant amounts of bets" on one particular outcome or score, Mr Sharpe says.

A crowd of up to 18,000 witnessed one of the fixture's most extraordinary passages, when United were 1-0 up and won a penalty.

Patrick O'Connell, a centre half and the side's captain, stepped up and hit it so far wide it nearly hit the corner flag, according to match reports.

Mr Sharpe explains: "From all reports, he walked back up the pitch laughing as he thought 'well it doesn't matter, we can get another goal whenever we want one'."

There are accounts of a dressing room row at half-time, with some players who were not in on the plot threatening not to come out for the second half.

And after United got a second goal, the bet was nearly ruined when Liverpool forward Fred Pagnam hit the crossbar.

"A number of his teammates gestured angrily towards him," Mr Sharpe says.

"It's almost as if there were two matches going on at once."

Suspicions were raised almost immediately after the game, with an inquiry announced shortly afterwards.

Later that year, Liverpool players Tom Fairfoul, Tom Miller, Bob Purcell and Jackie Sheldon and United's Enoch West, Sandy Turnbull and Arthur Whalley received lifetime bans.

Lawrence Cook, of Chester, and Manchester City's Fred Howard were also banned for their parts in the scam.

The Football Association said the players had "sought to undermine the whole fabric of the game and discredit its honesty and fairness."

Players were then called up to fight in the war.

When they returned, many had their bans lifted in recognition of their war efforts, while Turnbull received a posthumous pardon as he was fatally wounded at Arras in 1917.

However, Enoch 'Knocker' West, who had refused to admit his role in the plot and even sued the FA for libel, was not pardoned and remained banned from football for 30 years.

A recent campaign to clear his name has stalled because the FA said his documents were lost.

Alex Jackson, Collections Officer at the National Football Museum, thinks the player's motivations for the plot could be similar to that of the US baseball players involved in the 1919 Black Sox scandal.

He said footballer's wages had fallen after the outbreak of war and - similar to the Chicago White Sox players - financial reward was the aim.

Mr Sharpe believes it was "a combination of 'let's stick two fingers up to authority' and 'let's cover ourselves in the event of losing our livelihoods or in fact our lives".

Mr Jackson said: "It was probably the biggest scandal of the time as it involved quite a number of players and two of the biggest clubs in the league.

"It is interesting that the players were approached by a third party to arrange the scam, but they were never found out".

Mr Sharpe said the match changed the way the British betting industry operated.

"It was the first major case of its type and will have made the authorities wary of this sort of behaviour. For that reason, it will never be completely forgotten."

April 02, 2015

PokerStars confirms Beta launch of sportsbook

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PokerStars, the online gambling brand owned by Amaya Gaming, has confirmed the launch of its new sports betting platform in Beta mode.

PokerStars announced in January that its online sportsbook would launch ahead of schedule during the first quarter of this year.

The service went live on Tuesday and is currently only available in Beta mode.

A PokerStars source told the Pokernews.com website that the sportsbook would soon be available from internet browsers and mobile, as well as being fully integrated into the new PokerStars 7 client.

The beta launch is the last step before the sportsbook is officially launch in some selected markets – a move that is expected to take place within the next few months.

The launch comes after parent company Amaya Gaming posted heavy growth across its key financials for 2014.

In a statement accompanying the results, the firm said: “The corporation anticipates PokerStars will launch its beta version of its sports-betting product, available both on the web and in the PS7 client, in certain jurisdictions in the near future, with rollout to other markets across the dot-com network through the next two quarters of 2015.

“The company anticipates launching sports betting on mobile in 2015 as well.”