August 16, 2019

Betting firms’ deals with trainers and jockeys treble

The number of trainers and jockeys signing up to links with betting firms has trebled in three years. A British Horseracing Authority register lists the names of 19 trainers and 24 jockeys as having commercial arrangements with bookmakers. The authority said on Thursday that in 2016 the register had six trainers and eight jockeys.

Some of the links on the list are with long-established bookies, such as Frankie Dettori’s arrangement with Ladbrokes, Paul Nicholls’s with Betfair or Colin Tizzard’s stable with Coral, but most involve newer firms striving to build market share in the lucrative British and Irish betting markets. Flat rider Josephine Gordon writes a blog for Unibet, for instance, while the Gloucestershire trainer Fergal O’Brien is on the register alongside 32Red, the online casino that brokered a deal to bring Wayne Rooney to Derby County.

A well-known sports professional writing for a betting site, or helping to promote it, raises its profile and attracts punters. Riding racehorses, and training them, can be a very precarious career – so maximising earnings when possible is an understandable pursuit.

However, links to bookmakers, although perfectly legal, could adversely affect public perception of racing. Bookie sponsorship is forever widening its scope – William Hill sponsor ITV Racing, while several of that channel’s presenters write blogs for, or are ambassadors for, various other firms. An ITV Racing spokesperson said: “Promotional work that any of our pundits undertake for betting companies is separate to their work for us and cannot be promoted through ITV.”

Photographs of a winning jockey after a Grand National, Derby or other big race – with a highly visible brand name or logo on silks and breeches – is invaluable publicity for bookies. And while not exactly resembling Lewis Hamilton on an F1 podium, more trainers are starting to sport promotional logos.

Before entering an arrangement with a betting company, all trainers and jockeys must notify the BHA of the details, under rules governing “payment for non-riding or non-training services”.

There is no suggestion of bookmakers acting improperly. The kind of control mechanism they have introduced includes one from Betfair that obliges staff who “ghostwrite” blogs for racing people to sign agreements not to act on information they receive until it is in the public domain.

Asked for a response to the increase in the register, the BHA stated: “Guidelines are provided to trainers and riders as and when they enter into an arrangement with a betting organisation.

“We monitor the arrangements on an ongoing basis, as well as public perception. Services to betting organisations include blog posts, social media work, company functions, photo-shoots, video content, yard visits and a commitment to wear branded clothing.”

The authority’s guidelines display concern to prevent any suspicion of insider dealing. Trainers are advised: “For ‘high-profile’ horses, those running in graded races, feature handicaps or any races where there is a known ante-post betting market, the appropriateness of market-sensitive information should be strongly considered before it is first made available to the public through media hosted by a betting operator. Such information, could include, but is not limited to: jockey bookings, changes to publicly stated running plans, equine injuries and fatalities.

“If in doubt, it is highly likely the most appropriate means of communicating the information to the public is either through the media (PA, Racing Post etc.) or through the trainer’s own channels (e.g. website or social media).”

August 15, 2019

Austrian prosecutors target Freedom Party's Strache in probe

Austrian prosecutors raided addresses linked to the nationalist Freedom Party's former Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache and the head of gambling company Novomatic on suspicions of graft and corruption.

The probe centers on the appointment of Freedom Party's Peter Sidlo to the management board of Casinos Austria, a lottery and casino operator in which the Austrian government and Novomatic own stakes, a Casinos Austria spokesman said, confirming a report in Austrian newspaper Der Standard. Casinos Austria isn't a target of the probe, he said.

Investigators are looking into whether Strache, former junior Finance Minister Hubert Fuchs, and others pledged to change laws in return for Novomatic backing the appointment at Casinos Austria, Der Standard said.

A spokesman for the white-collar prosecutors' office in Vienna confirmed that raids took place Monday in relation to a graft investigation. The prosecutors suspect six individuals and one gambling company, he said. He declined to elaborate, citing the confidentiality of the investigation.

Novomatic Chief Executive Officer Harald Neumann and owner Johann Graf are among those being probed, Der Standard said. A spokesman for Novomatic declined to comment.

Strache said on his Facebook page the allegations were unfounded and were a political attack. Sidlo didn't immediately return an email seeking comment. He was also appointed to the Austrian central bank's supervisory board by the Freedom Party last year. The Freedom Party said the probe didn't involve its current leadership.

Strache resigned as vice chancellor and Freedom Party Chairman in May, following the release of a video in which he was shown promising state contracts for cash to a woman claiming to be a Russian oligarch's niece and plotting the takeover of Austria's largest newspaper. He also mentioned Novomatic as a donor in the video, a claim Novomatic has denied.

Conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who had governed in a coalition with the Freedom Party, was toppled a few days later, and Austria will now have an election Sept. 29.

August 14, 2019

CBS Sports Reconsidering Network Policy That Prohibits Gambling Info in NFL Broadcasts

Building off the network’s Super Bowl LIII broadcast in February, CBS Sports will expand the use of augmented reality and deploy more high-speed cameras for its NFL coverage this fall.

What remains to be seen is whether CBS will revamp its policy on sports betting. The NFL announced a broad betting data partnership with Sportradar on Monday, and 18 states either already have legal sports betting or have passed legislation that is awaiting enactment. CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said in the prelude to last season’s Super Bowl that “our policy is we don’t discuss gambling information.” On Tuesday, he signaled a softening of that hard line.

“We’re still talking about it,” McManus says. “We have not formulated our plan yet, but it’s under discussion and we’ll have a plan, obviously, by opening day.”

CBS debuted some on-field AR graphics at the Super Bowl, but executive producer Harold Bryant says new implementations will be within the domain of the studio. “We still want to explore that space and that technology to see how it can enhance our coverage,” he says. “The best place for us to learn about it, to demo it, and then to apply it is in the studio.”

Bryant says there’s no specific plan to use AR for X’s & O’s analysis or other graphical elements. It’s an open invitation for his team to suggest use cases. “The door is open to anything our artists and our producers and designers can come up with,” he says. “Even our announcers—if there’s something they want to do, we’re going to figure it out. We’re going to grow with the technology and use it as much as we can as the season goes along.”

While CBS Sports has no plans for a dedicated 4K Ultra HD broadcast during the regular season, Bryant says the network has still not decided on a postseason plan. Most regular-season games will have more high-speed cameras incorporated into the feed in order to enhance replays. “Adding the super slo-mo is what fans want to see,” Bryant says. “It’s to help tell the story—slow it down, see those fabulous catches, those moves out in the field, crossing the goal line.”

NBC had originally been slated to broadcast Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7, 2021 with CBS taking Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 6, 2022, but in March, the networks agreed to a swap. NBC was motivated to have the Super Bowl in the same season as the 2022 Winter Olympics; CBS was content not to compete against Olympics coverage that month.

The trade broke the typical three-year cycle of Super Bowl broadcasts (with Fox Sports also in the rotation) and reduced the downtime between games for CBS, which has already begun preliminary preparations for Super Bowl LV in 18 months. “We’ve already had our first in-house planning meeting, and we’re going to meet with the NFL, the organizing committee and survey the stadium this fall,” Bryant says.

That was the same timeline CBS Sports followed prior to the most recent Super Bowl, with Bryant making an open call to tech companies to experiment with innovations well in advance of kickoff. He made as many as 10 site visits to Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium to scout locations and plan logistics.

The 2021 Super Bowl will be played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. CBS has produced a Super Bowl there before—but it was Super Bowl XXXV way back on Jan. 28, 2001.

August 13, 2019

Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs sponsor 1XBet suspends UK operations over probe

1XBet, a partner of English top-flight soccer clubs Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, has suspended its UK operations following a Sunday Times investigation into improper conduct.

The Russian gambling firm has blocked access to its site in the UK, but is still actively promoting itself on social media, including relationships with its Premier League partners.

The Sunday Times investigation into the firm’s global operations found that 1XBet was promoting a casino featuring topless croupiers, taking bets on children’s sports, advertising on illegal websites and cockfighting live streams emblazoned with the three club’s logos. In response to the findings, the Gambling Commission confirmed it had launched an investigation.

Some of the clubs’ top players, including Roberto Firmino, Willian and Olivier Giroud, have all fronted campaigns for the Russian company, which is now based in Cyprus.

The three Premier League clubs, who finished second, third and fourth last season, all have close ties to the 1XBet.

Last August, Tottenham revealed 1XBet as their official betting partner for Africa. The firm’s licence has since been suspended in Kenya – a country with an endemic problem with gambling addiction – over betting industry-wide tax issues.

Meanwhile, Chelsea and Liverpool only penned deals with 1XBet in July. Additionally, Spanish soccer champions Barcelona, ranked as the world’s fourth most valuable sports team, have a global betting partnership with the company until June 2024.

In response, 1XBet blamed its overseas marketing partners for its promotions and advertising on piracy websites.

The company told the Sunday Times: “If any of these third-party networks or partners are found to advertise the 1XBet brand on prohibited sites or sites which break the law, 1XBet shall investigate immediately.”

Betting tech company FSB Technology said players deposits would be protected on the suspended website and told the Sunday Times that it had always complied with UK regulations, adding it would renew its licensing agreement with 1XBet.

Tottenham told the UK weekly that 1XBet had assured them that it provides a safe environment to protect people from “irresponsible gambling and addiction”.

Liverpool confirmed to the Sunday Times that there were restrictions on their partnership deals to ensure all marketing content was appropriate.

Chelsea did not respond to a request for comment from the newspaper.

August 06, 2019

Videoslots makes loss limit requirement mandatory

Videoslots.com has further strengthened its position on responsible gambling by making it a mandatory requirement for customers in the United Kingdom to set a loss limit budget before they can bet.

The casino operator rolled out its mandatory policy in the UK in order to help protect its players and ensure gambling remains fun, becoming the first operator in the industry to do so.

Videoslots currently boasts more than 3,500 games, with engaging and exciting offers from some of the industry’s best suppliers including NetEnt, Playtech, Evolution Gaming and hundreds of others.

Alexander Stevendahl, Chief Executive Officer at Videoslots, said: “Responsible gambling is our number one priority and this requirement adds an extra level of safety for Videoslots players.

“We believe gambling should be a fun and engaging form of entertainment and we hope our initiative will help keep it that way. Hopefully other operators will join us in our stance.”

July 31, 2019

Ladbrokes Coral fined £5.9 million

The company that own Ladbrokes Coral has been issued a fine of £5.9 million for failing to protect vulnerable customers and for failing in its anti-money laundering duty.

The Gambling Commission stated that over a three-year period, Ladbrokes Coral failed to put in place effective safeguards that would “prevent customers suffering gambling harm”.

As part of its verdict, it citied one customer who had lost £98,000 and had asked Coral to stop sending further promotional communication. This customer had 460 attempted deposits declined but were still able to lose this sum of money two and a half years later.

Another customer spent over £1.5million over three years, accessing their account 10 times a day and losing £64,000 in a four-week period. Yet despite this, nothing was done to prevent them from accessing the site.

The Commission stated that Coral “did not ask the customer to evidence their source of funds and could not provide evidence of any social responsibility interactions being carried out”.

However, the firm failed to carry out “social responsibility interactions”.

The problems are said to have occurred between November 2014 and October 2017, after GVC Holdings had bought Ladbrokes Coral.

As a result, they will now pay £4.8 million and divest £1.1million “gained from customers as a result of failings”.

Richard Watson, executive director of the Gambling Commission, said: “These were systemic failings at a large operator which resulted in consumers being harmed and stolen money flowing though the business and this is unacceptable.”

July 18, 2019

Kenyan Govt orders deportation of 17 foreign betting firm directors

It will be a long trip back home for 17 foreign directors of betting firms whose licences were not renewed after the government pushed its crackdown on the gambling industry a notch higher by ordering their deportation.

On Tuesday night, the Immigration department began flying home some of the foreign nationals whom sources told the Nation were detained in the hours after Interior CS Fred Matiang’i signed the order shortly after 2pm.

The decision was reached after the National Security Advisory Committee (NSAC), with the blessings of President Uhuru Kenyatta, decided there would be no backing down on the war against rogue betting companies.

This is after what has been a week of high octane open warfare fought in the courts, in public through tough statements and advertisements punctuated by back-room lobbying and arm-twisting failed to bring the State and betting companies to the negotiating table.

According to sources, among those deported on Tuesday were directors from Bulgaria, Italy, Russia and Poland.

The deportation orders said that those sent back home were in Kenya illegally since the licences of the companies they were running were cancelled.

The orders also said that whatever they were doing was in contravention of their work permits.

The Interior ministry refused to disclose the names of those deported citing security concerns.

“This is still an ongoing operation so we won’t disclose their names for now because those being deported have to be arrested first,” Interior spokesperson Wangui Muchiri told the Nation.

On Tuesday morning, banks started to freeze the accounts which are thought to hold billions of shillings following an order by CBK on Monday night.

And that’s not all. In what was a very fluid day SportPesa, Betin and Betpawa moved to court seeking to reverse an earlier decision by the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) to block their paybill numbers and short codes.

In separate suits, the firms asked High Court judge Weldon Korir to hold BCLB bosses for contempt for putting their businesses at risk of being arrested for operating without a licence.

They also faulted the BCLB for blocking the paybills despite the pending legal battle in court.

However, justice Korir declined to heed to their pleas on wanting BCLB bosses punished over the issues they were protesting about.

Instead, he ordered that the betting board together with telcos Safaricom and Airtel be allowed time to respond to the case first before any punishment is imposed on them.

July 11, 2019

Liverpool joins Barca and Spurs on 1XBet sponsor roster

Following up on their 1XBet has announced a five-year sponsorship deal with FC Barcelona, 1XBet has unveiled a new multi-year partnership with Liverpool. No value or term for the Liverpool deal has been released.

1XBET will become the Official Global Betting Partner of Liverpool and will receive stadium branding at Anfield and on Liverpool’s digital platforms, as well as access to first-team players and club legends for promotions.

Billy Hogan, managing director and chief commercial officer, Liverpool, said: “We are delighted to welcome 1XBET to Liverpool FC as our newest partner. I know that their games and special offers will appeal to our fans around the world and we look forward to seeing these as we go into the new 2019/2020 season.”

1XBET has multiple markets in pre-match and live betting odds, alongside online games including live casino tables and virtual slot machines. Creating specific markets and odds for Liverpool fans will be a key part of the activation of the sponsorship.

Alex Sommers, 1XBET spokesman, said: “We’re incredibly excited to be partnering with the club to meet our goal of bringing fans closer to the sporting action through our innovative products and supercharged betting experience. We’re very proud of the relationship we have with Liverpool Football Club and we’re keen to work closely with fans around the world to bring them exciting entertainment opportunities and unique offers in the upcoming season.”

July 09, 2019

SAZKA confirms OPAP takeover intent

Czech gambling conglomerate SAZKA Group has clarified its intentions to secure ‘full control’ of Athens-listed OPAP SA, Greece’s largest lottery and sports betting operator.

On Monday, the Athens Securities Exchange temporarily suspended OPAP’s listing, announcing that the gambling group anticipated a ‘major imminent corporate event’.

This morning, Reuters disclosed that SAZKA governance had submitted a formal Athens Exchange filing detailing its intentions to acquire OPAP outright.

At present SAZKA maintains a 33% holding in OPAP, which is secured through its Emma Delta subsidiary and co-owned with Greek shipping tycoon Georgios Melissanidis.

The Czech conglomerate, which operates one of European gambling’s biggest investment portfolios, secured its original holding in OPAP during 2013, as the Greek government was forced to privatise a number of state-owned enterprises, required under the terms of Greece’s IMF bailout.

In its filing, SAZKA governance has propositioned an opening ‘€9.12 per share’ offer to OPAP investors, significantly below the speculated ‘40% premium of €14-per-share’ offer reported on Monday by Greek business news sources.

Having restructured its ownership, SAZKA is controlled by Czech billionaire Karel Komarek Jr KKCG fund which is reported to aggressively expanding its holdings in established European gambling enterprises.

Having received SAZKA confirmation offer, The Athens Exchange will resume trading on OPAP shares today.

May 17, 2019

Local doctor denied massive payout on Kentucky Derby bets

Friedlander stopped at the Tamarack Junction and made several bets on the race, including an exacta bet, where you need to pick the top two horses, and a trifecta bet, where you pick the top three.

Before the race’s lengthy review, he thought he had lost all his bets, but when the decision was overturned and Country House was announced as the winner – he realized he had won the exacta and trifecta bets.

The trifecta bet combo of horses he picked was so unlikely, it paid 11,500 – 1. Given that he had $40 on it, that would pay him about $460,000. Combine that with the roughly $150,000 on the exacta bet, and Friedlander was set to win over $600,000.

“They looked at it and told me they have betting caps on these types of bets,” he explained.

That is because that book is not a pari-mutuel sports book, meaning they are liable for making their own payouts, without sharing revenue from other William Hill locations, so it’s that fine print that cost Friedlander his massive score – as they cap some of their bets.

“They told me that I won $35,000, which is amazing, but it’s a far cry from $600,000 I thought I had won.”

William Hill declined our request for an interview, but did release a statement:

"Because of the requirements of the gaming regulations, there are significant costs involved to offer pari-mutuel wagering in Nevada. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make economic sense to offer pari-mutuel wagering at all of our 115 Nevada locations.

"William Hill has 17 pari-mutuel locations in Nevada. At a number of additional William Hill locations, we offer booked wagering on the five major race days (Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes, and Friday/Saturday of Breeders’ Cup) as a convenience to our customers in a manner consistent with the gaming regulations.

"At the locations where we book these select races, we pay official track prices, subject to certain caps that are prominently displayed. Those caps, which limit exacta payout odds to 150/1 and trifecta payout odds to 500/1, generally are consistent or greater to those that have been historically offered by our competitors that book. The capping of booked race payouts has been industry standard for decades and allows race books to book without taking on unlimited liability, which no one would want to do.

"Tamarack Junction, a small casino in Reno, is one of the locations where we have booked the Kentucky Derby for many years. We congratulate our customer at the Tamarack Junction for his winning exacta and trifecta bets.

"The customer has the right to appeal to the Nevada Gaming Control Board but we are confident that we have fully complied with the relevant gaming regulations and had prominent signage alerting customers to the payoff caps."

Friedlander did not yet cash his tickets for the $35,000. He says he’s going to fight the case with Gaming Control Board.

“It's up to the Gaming Control Board. Essentially it's gonna come down to are their signs conspicuous enough or not,” he explained.

According to longtime bookmaker Chris Andrews, he may have a better shot with the control board than you might expect.

“Most people think that gaming sides with the casino, that’s not the case,” said Andrews. “They usually side with the customer.”

Friedlander says he is told he will get a decision in 45 days.

“William Hill is trying to position themselves as America’s sportsbook,” Friedlander stated in closing. “I just hope when other novices go in and try to make bets, they don’t run into this type of problem.”