December 07, 2016

Rodrigo Duterte Gaming tycoon Jack Lam flees Philippines, has casinos shut down amid sabotage and bribery allegations

One of Asia’s most influential gaming industry figures has been forced to flee the Philippines after becoming a prime target of President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on drugs and gambling.

Head of state Duterte ordered Jack Lam Yin-lok – chairman of Hong Kong stock exchange-listed Jimei International Entertainment Group Limited – be arrested if he attempts to enter the Philippines, where he faces allegations of economic sabotage and high level bribery.

The dramatic and unusual presidential order – understood to have been issued after Lam left the Philippines on November 29 for an unknown destination – followed the arrest of more than 1,300 Chinese nationals at his Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino in Clark, the former United States air force base.

Those arrested are accused of working illegally for an online gaming operation run by the Macau-based Hong Kong resident Lam. Philippines gaming regulators have since closed Lam’s Clark operation and the Fort Ilocandia Casino, which is also operated by the Jimei Group.

Information from gaming insiders that Lam had travelled to Macau on leaving the Philippines could not be immediately confirmed by the South China Morning Post.

Trading in Jimei shares was halted on Monday. In a statement released on Tuesday, the company said: “The board of directors of the company has noted recent press articles relating to alleged bribery and economic sabotage by a director and the controlling shareholder of the company and the issue of order of arrest.

“The articles relate to alleged involvement by Dr Lam Yin Lok, an executive director and controlling shareholder of the company in economic sabotage in the Philippines and bribery.

“The company clarifies that the gaming operations cited do not form part of the group’s business. The board confirms that the incident mentioned in the articles relate to Dr. Lam and is his own personal matter and in no way materially affects or involves the company and its subsidiaries, nor is it expected to affect the normal business operation of the group nor any other current or future plans.”

The company added that as far as it was aware, Lam had not been held by the Philippine authorities.

Duterte ordered Lam’s arrest on December 3 amid contested allegations that he tried to bribe Philippines Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and the head of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, Andrea Domingo, to release the more than 1,300 Chinese nationals arrested November 24.

According to local media reports in the Philippines, Lam left the country on November 29.

The casino was temporarily closed “pending the investigation of the Department of Justice (DOJ) of illegal or unlicensed online gaming operations and employment of aliens without proper permits, which is a violation of the anti-illegal gambling, labor and immigration laws”.

Requests for comment from Lam, Jimei and Lam’s lawyer in the Philippines, Raymond Fortun have not yet been responded to.

Jack Lam is one of the largest VIP junket operators in Asia and Jimei is key to the fortunes of two of the city’s most important gaming companies, Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Macau. The players he has brought to Macau are some of the biggest “whales” in the business.

In addition to junket services, Jimei operates two casino cruise ships – the M.V. Jimei, out of Hong Kong, and Xiang Xue Lan, with routes between China and South Korea. The company opened its first casino in Macau in early 2009, in the Mandarin Oriental hotel.

Lam is also a member of the Guangdong Provincial Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.


December 02, 2016

Tedi Sagi sells 10% stake in Playtech

Tedi Sagi the founder of Playtech has decided to sell 10% of his stake in the company reducing it down to 23.6%, in a filing to the London Stock Exchange (LSE), Playtech announced the news that the billionaire is selling a third of his shares in the technology giant.

On completion of the sale it is estimated Sagi will receive £294 million for his 10% sale on the company that is currently valued at £2.94 billion. In the announcement Playtech said that following the sale Sagi and his investment vehicle he uses for the shares, Brickington Trading Limited will not sell any further shares for at least another 180 days.

The understanding for the sale is for Sagi to invest in other non-related sectors, the self made billionaire has diversified over the years and holds some 34 properties in Camden London with 465,000 square feet of space along with owning the famous Camden Market.

December 01, 2016

Cyprus to review OPAP lottery deal and start to ban online gambling sites

The Cyprus government now well into gambling following the decision to license the first casino resort earlier this year have now followed this by readying itself for the commencement of online sports betting with the National Betting Authority (EAS) preparing to block some 2,500 online gambling sites offering services to local players.

At this week’s House finance committee’s meeting the EAS said they were in the process of blocking those sites that were not operating in the guidelines of the 2012 governments legislation towards online poker, online casinos and sports betting, which are all currently banned.

In October this year the EAS started accepting license applications from online operators towards offering online sports betting and wanted to clear the operators who were not currently in the process and offering online gambling to Cypriots.

Also at the meeting the committee discussed the current agreement with Greek lottery firm OPAP which MPs said was costing them €1 million a month in lost tax revenues. OPAP and the Cypriot government signed an agreement in 2003 with OPAP paying €10 million a year in taxes to offer lottery services to players. That agreement seems to be coming to an end and the government is currently preparing new legislation that will offer the lottery service to a a lottery operator who will have to pay 24% tax on gross profits for a specific period of time and under specific conditions.

November 18, 2016

Trump election could lead to online gaming ban in the US

With the controversial election of the United States 45th President, Donald J. Trump, questions have been raised about what will be the impact of this result on the local online gaming market. Observers anticipate that a Presidential administration led by Trump could potentially mean a nation-wide ban for online gaming.

Among the many sectors watching closely to what Trump as President of the US could mean for their business, is gaming, an industry in which the Republican leader has a long background. Despite there have been no official mention about this subject under his leadership, some professionals predict that online gaming in the US could be again under attack by opposition.

Gaming experts base their arguments on the fact that Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas Sands CEO and a traditional opponent to online gaming in the US, would have donated US$25 million to support Trump’s campaign. In this sense, it is thought that in return Trump may have given Adelson assurances the topic would be addressed during his administration.

Rumours indicate that two of the most recent cabinet members considered for Trump have been Senator Tom Cotton and his former adversary, Senator Ted Cruz.

Cotton, reportedly to serve as US Defense Secretary, is a co-signer of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), the anti-online gaming legislation who introduced a similar bill in September. RAWA is the favoured legislation of Adelson, who maintains that his crusade to eliminate online gambling is a moral mission. Cruz, who is also being considered for a top position isn’t a supporter of online gaming either.

After the election results between Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton were finalised, Geoff Freeman, AGA President & CEO, commented that the “American Gaming Association (AGA) turns its attention to proactively engaging with the new Administration and incoming members of Congress.”

Currenty, only three states legally offer online gaming in the US, Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada, while legalization of it attempts this year in Pennsylvania and California.

November 11, 2016

The History of UK and Gambling

Gambling, in its many forms, is as quintessentially British as roast beef and Yorkshire pudding or forming an orderly queue. In fact, of all the world’s countries, it could be argued that we’ve done more than any other to develop and popularise it as a pastime.

Although types of gambling go back to almost beyond history, it wasn’t until the 17th century that it first began to be enjoyed in an organised way.

Although there is evidence that the very first lottery may have been run in 1566, it wasn’t until 1694 that the first officially recognised one was introduced. It was run by the state and, just like the National Lottery today, its aim was to raise money for the country. But, unlike today’s lottery, it was more like a premium bond than a chance to win millions. Each ticket cost £10 and paid back 10% interest. The lottery aspect came from the fact that “lucky” tickets selected at random would pay a far higher interest rate.

It was also at around this time that organised horse racing started to take shape. In the earliest days of race meetings, however, there were no official bookmakers. Spectators simply placed bets with each other and set their own odds. Very quickly the sport expanded – at its peak there were over 120 courses throughout the UK and eventually, in 1751, the Jockey Club was established to try to bring some order, with Tattersalls being launched in 1789 to do the same for betting. It seems hard to believe it today, but it wasn’t until 1960 that betting was finally permitted away from the race course.

While gaming was going on in the great outdoors, the establishments that would evolve into being recognisable casinos were first being introduced as well. One of the first was White’s – today an exclusive London club – a coffee and gaming house which opened in 1652; soon there were a number throughout the city. With the increase in tourism in the 18th and 19th centuries, Bath became the country’s second biggest centre for gaming, and the rich frequently headed there for a social season away from the capital.

Moving ahead in time, it was possibly the 1960s when London really affirmed itself as the UK’s casino capital with legendary clubs like Aspinall’s attracting everyone from the aristocracy to the decade’s top celebrities. Then, in 1968, the Gaming Act opened the doors for many more casinos to be established up and down the country.

However, it’s in the last few years that a real revolution in UK gaming has taken place with the emergence of online casino operators such as 888casino that are leading the way in the online gambling industry. These have made it easy to play everything from slots to poker from the comfort of your own home using a PC, tablet or even phone. The fact that, according to the Gambling Commission, online gaming generated £3.6 billion in revenue between 2014 and 2015 speaks for itself.

It’s also attracted a whole new range of players, particularly in younger age brackets who appreciate the ease and convenience of play. Women, who are not traditional casino-goers, are also an increasingly important target audience for the online casino operators.

So no-one could deny that gambling in the UK has come a very long way since it first started to gain popularity. And with the new lease of life that online gaming has provided, it seems like there’s also an exciting future ahead of it.

November 10, 2016

Sky Betting & Gaming Expands to Italy

Online gambling operator, Sky Betting and Gaming, have put rumors of expansion to rest by making their products available in Italy. The company is based in the UK and mainly offers sports betting. After several rounds of testing, the app, SkyBet.it, has gone live. It will offer betting options in football, basketball and tennis. Players can choose which markets to play in and more options are set to be added soon.

The company’s expansion in Italy comes as no surprise as they had previously bought out Sky Italia in 2014. In the coming weeks, expansion is supposed to grow to new heights as their online casino, Casino.SkyBet.it, is also set to open. The company gained motivation to finally expand after their latest product, Super 6, was a big success in the UK and Italy.

Super 6 allows players to place bets on the scores of 6 specific football matches. The current jackpot for the game stands at £250,000 in the UK. The success of the game has been key to converting punters into real-money betters.

Sky Betting is expected to target Germany next, as they bought out Sky Deutschland, in 2014. Once the expansion in Italy is set in stone and deemed as a success, Sky Betting and Gaming are expected to move to Germany. Super 6 has already been launched in the country at 6erpack.sky.de and has a jackpot of €100,000. Punters that can correctly guess scores of all 6 chosen matches from the Bundesliga, can win the jackpot.

Sky Deutschland currently has 4.5 million subscribers and Jochen Weiner, the managing director, was hired specifically to make an impact on the local German market. According to him, the current market is “healthy” and the large number of subscribers should help them gain momentum.

Sky Betting and Gaming have recorded a 51% increase in revenue compared to the previous fiscal year. Revenue is up to £373.6 million, for the period ended in June 2016. Sports betting, casino games and poker are the companies main offerings.

November 09, 2016

Paddy Power to Lose $3.33M from US Elections Wager

The Irish bookmaker is reportedly looking at a €3 million (US$ 3.33 million) loss after American voters elected businessman Donald Trump as the next president of the United States.


Paddy Power to Lose $3.33M from US Elections WagerThis is the second time that Paddy Power Betfair found itself in the wrong side of political wagering since the UK voted to leave the European Union by a margin of 52-48 on June 23.

Paddy Power spokesman FĂ©ilim Mac An Iomaire told The Independent that the surprising twist in the US elections was reminiscent of what it saw in the “Brexit.”

“You could say it’s deja vu again,” said Mac An Iomaire. “Much like Brexit, it looked to be following the odds early on before a dramatic turnaround.”

Throughout the election campaign, the Irish bookmaker had predicted Clinton winning the Nov. 8 presidential polls. Paddy Power even made headlines last month by paying out about $1 million to customers who had bet on Clinton, saying the odds were so firmly in her favor that they wanted to get out of the bet.

But this all changed when the polling precincts opened on Tuesday. Paddy Power had Trump chance of victory at 83.3pc and Clinton’s at 22.2 percent.

“Paddy Power … will be on the receiving end of its worst political result in history if Trump does manage to upset the odds,” it said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the US presidential elections are set to eclipse the wagers made during the Brexit referendum, the Royal baby and all previous elections. CNN reported that the UK gambling industry is looking at more than £150 million ($186 million) to be wagered on the outcome of the 2016 U.S. elections.

So far, oddsmakers said they are looking at more than £130 million ($161 million) to be wagered by British punters. Should money bets surpasses £150 million, then the 2016 US presidential elections is poised to become the biggest non-sport betting event in British history.

October 19, 2016

Tampere selected to host Finland’s second casino

RAY, the Finnish Slot Machine Association, has selected the Central Deck and Arena project in the southern city of Tampere as the location for the second casino in Finland. The €550m project announced earlier this year is being developed by local property developer SRV and will include diverse restaurant, accommodation and entertainment services.

Tampere Arena“This is great news for SRV, and we are delighted that RAY selected our multifunctional arena as the location for their new game and event centre,” remarked Timo Nieminen, SRV Executive Vice President. “We will be proud to continue promoting this unique project, which – if realised – means that Tampere will have a completely new district.”

Several locations were considered for the Scandinavian country’s second casino license but RAY indicated that the combination of tourists and locals in Tampere as well as good transport connections would draw enough customers to make the facility profitable. SRV was selected in February 2016 to develop the project with plans for it to connect the eastern and western parts of Tampere. Negotiations have been ongoing during the year on the financing of the project and investor cooperation.

In addition to the casino, which will be the nation’s second in addition to Casino Helsinki, plans for the new 1.29 million sq ft development also include the largest sports and event arena in Finland. The complex would form a new hybrid block, combining a multifunctional arena, offices and apartments.

The first phase includes covering the southern railway yard with a deck, on which the event arena, two tower buildings and a training hall will be built. The second phase includes the building of a northern deck and three tower buildings. The entire site will include a total of 120,000 sqm and over a 1,000 apartments. The aim is to begin construction work of the southern deck and the event arena in spring 2017. According to the estimated schedule, the first phase will be completed in the summer of 2020, and the whole area in 2023.

October 18, 2016

William Hill scraps Amaya merger talks after shareholder dissent

Bookmaker William Hill has scrapped plans for a multibillion-pound merger with Canadian online poker giant Amaya just days after its largest shareholder openly opposed the deal.

The London-based betting firm said it would consider alternative plans that have the potential to grow sales, fleshing out its four priorities: "online, technology, efficiencies and international". The company will also restart share buybacks, which it suspended in July.

Last week, Parvus Asset Management — an activist investor with a history of blocking large takeovers — waded into the discussions, accusing William Hill of pursuing a tie-up that had “limited strategic logic” and would “destroy shareholder value”. Parvus has a 14.3pc stake in the company.

“After canvassing views from a number of William Hill’s major shareholders, the board has decided that it will not pursue discussions with Amaya," the bookmaker said today. “Accordingly, the board has informed Amaya that it is withdrawing from discussions and wishes Amaya well for the future.”

William Hill was in talks with Amaya, the parent company of the PokerStars online casino, even before it received a £3bn takeover bid from a consortium of Rank Group and 888 Holdings, which it subsequently rejected in August.

The company — which is currently seeking a new chief executive after ousting James Henderson for failing to revive its struggling online business — said performance had continued to be positive in the second half of the year.

William Hill expects operating profit for 2016 to be at the top end of the previously guided range of £260m to £280m.

Ladbrokes Coral’s ‘disappointing’ shops sale

Ladbrokes Coral was busy celebrating on Monday overcoming the “last significant hurdle” to its merger agreement. But the news that the company could only fetch £55.5m for the combined parcel of 359 shops it has offloaded to Betfred and Stan James will likely send shudders throughout the sector.

The shops sale was mandated by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the summer which said between 350 and 400 outlets needed to be sold in order to satisfy local competition issues from the merging of the two estates.

The disposal will see Betfred pick up 322 shops for a total of £55m while Stan James will pick up the rump of 37 shops for £0.5m. It leaves the Ladbrokes Coral combination with a total of 3,626, the largest estate in the UK, pushing William Hill into second place with 2,330 and with Betfred now rising to 1,688.

The shops in question generated an EBITDA contribution of £28.5m which translates to a multiple of around 2.2 times and analysts were quick to brand the price-tag as disappointing. Richard Stuber at Numis said he had previously pencilled in proceeds of circa £108m, based partly on speculation in the press that Boylesports would be willing to pay around £100m for the parcel.

Indeed, Gala Coral chief executive Carl leaver hinted that other bidders might have been willing to pay more for the shops but Ladbrokes Coral had opted for certainty in order to get the deal over the line and move towards final CMA clearance.

But as Paul Leyland, founder at gambling consultancy Regulus Partners, said the low multiple still reflects the long-term earnings decline at the high-street bookmakers and the potential impact of the Triennial Review of gaming machine stakes and prizes which is likely to be officially announced by the government within weeks.

The news of the divestment sent the analysts back to the drawing board with their valuations for high-street bookmakers. Simon French at Cenkos said the “very disappointing valuation” achieved or these shops “must raise significant questions over the appropriate medium-term multiple with which to value both the enlarged Ladbrokes Coral retail estate and that within William Hill”.

Stuber at Numis said the “risk to future retail cash flows has clearly increased over last few months”.

Although he said he appreciated the forced nature of the sale and cautioned that it couldn’t give a read-across the entire estate, he said it would be prudent to cut its valuation of the combined group’s high-street business from nearly six times EBITDA to a multiple of four times.

The news that it was Betfred and Stan James that had won the race for these divested shops will no doubt be a disappointment to many, including the failed bidders and other interested parties such as the British Horseracing Authority which had lobbied the CMA to ensure true competition by allowing for a new competitor to enter the high street.

As Leyland from Regulus said: “The divestment to two established UK high-street operators will no doubt satisfy the CMA requirement that the acquirers must be qualified. However, it also means that the merger will not create a challenger brand, nor is it likely to drive material change within the (increasingly stale) offer available to British licensed betting office customers, in our view.”