September 29, 2014

New Jersey Lawmakers Propose Sports Betting Fee For Leagues

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Two New Jersey lawmakers are proposing a fee on sports betting that would go to the professional sports leagues. Atlantic County State Sen. Jim Whelan and Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo released a letter addressed to NBA commissioner Adam Silver thanking him for his comments that sports betting is inevitable.

In the letter, the two state lawmakers proposed a solution to the issue that legalized sports betting may jeopardize the “integrity of the game,” one of the main sports betting concerns expressed by the NCAA and professional leagues. “While we strongly support the legalization of sports betting in New Jersey and the economic benefits it will bring to Atlantic City, we are cognizant that sports leagues like the NBA need the necessary resources to protect the integrity and fairness of games,” the letter dated September 15 states.

The proposal includes a 0.25% fee on the amount wagered, known as the handle, at New Jersey sportsbooks. These funds would go towards creating a “Game Integrity Department” at league offices, according to the letter. Said department will be tasked with investigating suspicious betting patterns and opponents involved in those contests.

The problem may come with enforcing the regulation. How exactly would the State of New Jersey be able to enforce these proposed fees? Sportsbook operators would have to work on the honor system with sports leagues due to the unusual situation of the repeal of the law prohibiting sports gambling without the concurrent implementation of any broad-based state regulations or licensing. It may be a game of catch-up for some time.

It also may not be the only fee paid on New Jersey sports handles. The Internal Revenue Service has a sports betting excise tax of 0.25% on “any wager authorized under the law of the state in which accepted.” The tax may actually be 2% of all sports wagers in New Jersey as state law does not expressly permit the activity.

A New Jersey sports betting court battle created this scenario.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie issued a directive that allows New Jersey racetracks and Atlantic City casinos to offer sports betting. Monmouth Park was the first to announce its launch date. The ambitious racetrack hoped to have sports betting live by September 14. Track officials announced that the goal is now to open by the last weekend in October.

This change of direction is due to a review of Gov. Christie’s order. The legality of this opinion, supported by New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman, is being considered by a federal judge. A ruling on the case is expected on or around October 17. No other racetracks have announced plans to offer sports betting and Atlantic City casinos have also largely remained silent as to their intentions.

New Jersey lost a federal court battle with five sports leagues and the U.S. Department of Justice when lower courts ruled in favor of the NCAA and professional sports leagues that fought vigorously to uphold federal law that placed a restriction on states allowing sports gambling within their borders (with the exception of a few states grandfathered in for specific types of sports betting in place when the original ban was implemented). The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

New Jersey hopes to have found a loophole to begin offering sports betting despite the state losing in court. “This is not the first time Gov. Christie has expanded gambling in New Jersey to help the struggling industry,” said James Peterson at Legal NJ Online Casino.”In 2013 he also signed a bill into law that regulated online poker and casino games in the state.”

The NCAA and professional sports league plaintiffs asserted, in prior litigation, that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act prohibits New Jersey from legalizing sports betting. New Jersey argued that the law is unconstitutional on its face.

One point made by the sports leagues was that nothing was stopping New Jersey from repealing its sports betting laws. According to New Jersey Attorney General Hoffman, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. That is the path New Jersey is attempting to take with its most recent push to implement a sport wagering scheme within the state.

This move was contrary to Gov. Christie’s actions in August. He vetoed a bill that was essentially the same as his most recent order on the subject. The bill was sponsored by State Senator Ray Lesniak and passed the Senate 38-1. The Assembly approved it 63-6 with two abstentions. The votes made the bill appear to be veto-proof, but not with Gov. Christie making the final decision on whether the bill became law.

Gov. Christie did not like taking this backdoor approach. “Ignoring federal law, rather than working to reform federal standards, is counter to our democratic traditions and inconsistent with the Constitutional values I have sworn to defend and protect,” he wrote in a veto message at the time.

However, it could be easily argued that Gov. Christie’s new action allowing sports betting at racetracks and Atlantic City casinos does just that.

Monmouth Park appears to be the only venue at the moment that is preparing to roll out sports betting. The Meadowlands Racetrack is on the record as not being interested at this stage. The Meadowlands Racetrack’s neighbor is MetLife MET +0.18% Stadium, home to the NFL’s New York Giants and New York Jets.

New Jersey casinos have more on the line than the sanctity and health of the state’s racetracks. If sports betting is spread to resorts within the state and the sports betting scheme is later found to be contrary to federal law it could create problems with gaming commissions in other jurisdictions where they are licensed or hope to be in the future.

There may not be any reason for Atlantic City casinos to take the risk of implementing sports betting systems until the legal status of Gov. Christie’s order is offered additional clarity. Nevada sportsbooks brought in $202.8 million in 2013. That was just 1.8% of Nevada’s entire gaming revenue in 2013. If New Jersey were to match that win total, it would count for about 7% of Atlantic City’s gaming revenue.

The biggest takeaway is that the New Jersey sports betting battle is far from over. The state is determined to have its way, even if that means not taxing sportsbook earnings. However, the implementation of such a fee appears to be gaining significance in the legal and political battle that never seems to end.

CJEU confirms differentiated tax regime for Danish online gambling

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The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has issued a ruling that confirms the differentiated Danish tax regime for online gambling in the country.

Applicants had challenged a decision by the European Commission to approve the Danish taxation model for online and offline gambling, which sets out two different taxation levels for the alternate types of gambling.

The Danish level of tax for online gaming was established after taking into account the need to channel consumers in the country towards regulated services.

However, the Court ruled that land-based applicants are not individually impacted by the tax regime.

The Court also confirmed that Member States are able to continue setting a tax level for online gambling that considers the competitive global internet market to ensure consumers are channelled to regulated services.

Maarten Haijer, secretary general of the European Gaming & Betting Association, said: “We welcome today’s decision of the Court confirming that the Commission correctly argued that online gambling requires a tax level that takes into account the competitiveness of the global online .com offer.

“With the unregulated offer just one click away on the internet, consumers will only play within the regulated environment if that offer is sufficiently attractive in terms of price and consumer experience.

“There are plenty examples of Member States where the regulated offer fails to attract consumers due to product restrictions and tax levels, resulting in those consumers being pushed outside the European regulatory umbrella, often to unregulated Asian offerings.”

Haijer added: “Having a restrictive market defeats the purpose of any regulation, namely ensuring proper consumer protection.

“An appropriate tax level is one of the key elements in creating an attractive and safe playing environment, albeit not the only one.

“It is important to emphasise that EGBA does not consider a differentiated tax regime as an objective in itself.

“But it is imperative that the tax level for online gambling is set at a level that allows for a competitive regulated market compared to the unlicensed offer from outside of the EU.”

Mybet continues restructuring with Italian sale

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Online gaming and betting provider mybet Holding has taken another step in its restructuring process after completing the sale of its mybet Italia business.

Mybet sold its interest in the operation by way of a management buyout to the company’s managing director Gianluca Torricelli.

The sale comes after mybet last month offloaded its stakes in Spanish companies Digital Distribution Management (DDM) and Digital Distribution Management Iberica (DDMI).

Sven Ivo Brinck, who was appointed as the sole member of the firm’s management board in late 2013, announced earlier this year that mybet would be realigned.

In a statement about the Italian sale, mybet said: “The move is in line with mybet's current goal of increasing profitability by focusing clearly on core markets.

“By successfully continuing with the restructuring measures, the management Board presses ahead with the systematic repositioning of the mybet Group as previously announced.

Japan may finally cash in on the elderly’s love of gambling

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Japan is reforming its gambling industry, with plans to introduce a new law this autumn that will legalize casinos as a way to boost economic growth and tourism before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. One of the biggest potential beneficiaries? Pachinko, the pinball-slot machine hybrid played across the country.

One in seven Japanese adults play pachinko and its revenues last year were put at 19 trillion yen ($175 billion), according to The Economist. But pachinko players are mainly, as the magazine puts it, “chain-smoking geezers.”
The number of regular players is falling and they are getting older. This is part of a broader trend; Japan has the world’s oldest population, with a quarter of its people over 65, which means that in order for the country’s economy to grow, it needs to find ways to get more from what it already has.

As pachinko was previously classified as a game, it hasn’t been taxed. Players win small metal balls, which can be exchanged for token prizes at the parlor—or cash at a separate location, a contrivance that led to pachinko being used for money-laundering by the yakuza. As casinos are legalized, pachinko is likely to come under similar rules, and may finally contribute to the public purse. Given the sums involved, it would mean billions of dollars worth of taxes for the government.

The biggest pachinko operator, Dynam, operates almost 400 parlors. The proceeds from a 2012 listing in Hong Kong is funding plans to open 1,000 more—these will be air-conditioned and smoke-free in a bid to attract younger customers. The company is also in talks to build a casino in Japan once the law passes.

Analysts told Reuters that Japan could become the third-biggest gambling market in the world, with annual revenues of more than $40 billion. And doesn’t even count the massive pachinko market.

September 26, 2014

General Court of the EU upholds the Danish tax regime for online gambling

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The General Court of the EU issued a ruling at first instance in the Danish State aid case (and upheld the European Commission’s decision, confirming that the Danish regime instituting a lower tax for online gambling is compliant with EU state-aid rules.

In doing so, the Court found that the applicants did not demonstrate that they were directly and individually affected by the tax measure. As a result, Member States can adopt a differentiated tax regime for online gambling with the view to designing an attractive market that is able to compete in the international online gambling market.

It is worth noting that the judgment implicitly accepts the arguments put forward by the Danish government about the need to channel Danish consumers towards the regulated online gambling market. The Court limited itself to deciding whether the applicants, who are land-based gambling operators, were directly and individually affected by the Commission’s decision. In both cases, the Court reached the same conclusion:
“The applicant is therefore not individually concerned by the contested decision.”

This means that the implementation of an internationally competitive tax regime that is critical in safeguarding the public policy objectives pursued by the Danish Gambling Act 2012 is now clearly in compliance with EU law.

Clive Hawkswood, CEO of the RGA, stated that: “it is very encouraging to see that the EU judicial body upholds the Commission’s decision which recognises that tax regimes for online gambling cannot be considered in isolation and have to be viewed within the context of international competition. Although this decision relates solely to tax, we believe that a similar rationale should apply across the board to all aspects of online gambling regulations and that this can be done without undermining very legitimate public policy objectives, such as safeguarding consumers and keeping gambling crime-free. This ruling will undoubtedly help us make the case for workable and competitive licensing regimes as more and more EU Member States open and regulate their online gambling markets.”

Coral finalizes deal with UK celebrity blog ahead of royal baby betting frenzy

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The frenzy surrounding the Dutchess of Cambridge’s pregnancy and birth to Prince George taught online betting sites a valuable lesson: prepare early.

Coral finalizes deal with UK celebrity blog ahead of royal baby betting frenzyNow that the Dutchess is again pregnant to her second child with the Duke of Cambridge, online betting firm Coral gears up for another round of royal baby betting hysteria by teaming up with British celebrity and novelty betting TV blog, FlashBitch.

FlashBitch is known mostly for her off-the-cuff, sarcastic and oftentimes controversial commentaries on British reality television and related betting. The blog has also gained a reputation for being on top of the landscape of British reality television, turning her into an expert of sorts when it comes to betting on novelty-props related to entertainment.

“Coral make a perfect partner in this respect given their position in the UK high street and enthusiasm to explore new ideas,” Media Skunk Works CEO Paul Reilly said.

The deal with Coral not only makes the online betting site the official betting partner of FlashBitch but it also opens the doors for both parties to new opportunities on making the most of the growing popularity of entertainment and prop-betting markets like the “royal baby”or at in this case, “royal baby 2”.

“Novelty betting has become increasingly popular over the years, thanks to the likes of the X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing, Britain’s Got Talent and so on,” Coral PR Manager Nicola Geady said in a statement.

“However, it’s no longer just talent contests that is attracting money. Last July, royal baby betting exceeded all expectations, with punters betting on the name, hair color and gender of the future monarch. Now that the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant again, we’re expecting a frenzy of similar heights, with turnover expected to reach a million pounds across the betting industry,” Geady added.

As part of the deal, FlashBitch’s expanded content coverage of entertainment, which will be integrated into Coral’s novelty-bet market, including latest odds and exclusive enhanced offers.

September 19, 2014

Scotland vote demonstrates the prediction power of betting markets

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The Scottish referendum result marks the fifth time in a row that the Betfair Exchange has correctly predicted a significant political outcome as the NO vote confirmed what the Exchange had been pointing to for several months. Betfair had consistently called the NO vote as around an 80% chance to win, with the YES campaign around a 20%, despite opinion polls suggesting the race was neck and neck in the run up to the vote.

Betfair’s Exchange has a formidable record of calling political results correctly, indeed betting markets are usually more accurate than polls, but earlier in the week the Betfair Sportsbook paid out early on NO to show its confidence that the referendum would be no exception.

The final week saw the NO vote continue to come in to odds as short as 1.28 (2/9), and by yesterday morning it was down to 1.2 (1/5). The YES vote had conversely drifted out as far as 6.0 (5/1) in early morning trading, the equivalent of a 17% chance to win.

This remained the case into the final evening; even as political pundits continued to call a very close result, the Exchange’s main market was pointing to a clear win for the NO campaign. This was backed up by the YouGov poll at around 10:30 which sent YES odds out to around 15.0 (14/1) and the first declaration in Clackmanshire which sent it to 50.0, with NO at the minimum odds of 1.01, the equivalent of a near-certainty.

A Betfair Spokesperson said: “Referendums are rare but we were hopeful that the Exchange would prove as accurate as it has been at several recent elections. In the end, the money spoke tellingly again, the significant support was all behind NO in the run up to the event and that, rather than opinion polls, is usually a certain indicator.”

The referendum has altered the political landscape of the 307 year old union and questions will surely now be asked about the impact it will have on senior party leaders and future election prospects. The UK General Election Market on the Exchange has already gained momentum amidst the drama of Scotland’s decision with Labour and another No Overall Majority outcome leading the way.

September 17, 2014

Bwin France migrates to PartyPoker network

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Bwin.fr’s poker network merges with the partypoker France network signifying the potential end of the Ongame network in the regulated French market.

Bwin France Migrates to Partypoker NetworkIt’s on.

After months of talk, Bwin.party is finally shifting the bwin.FR brand to the partypoker France network after months of expectation.

Pokerfuse scribe, Nick Jones, reportedly picked up the news on the companies official Facebook page, and believes that the move will see the two players pools merge onto the partypoker software.

“That’s great news,” said Parisian poker player and businessman Jeremy Nock, “The partypoker software is better and smoother than the previous Bwin software.”

Bwin have remained on the Ongame network since selling it to Amaya Gaming back in 2012 and their departure now leaves tumbleweed rolling down the halls of the cyber space that cost the Canadian outfit over €15 million just two years ago.

Partypoker France is currently the third largest network in the regulated French market, with Winamax and PokerStars leading the way. The merger is a positive step in bwin.party’s attempt to gain traction on the leading two, in a market that has been increasingly difficult to squeeze a profit out of.

“Online sites in France have been reducing their guaranteed online tournaments because of a reduced numbers of players. It seems the regulated markets kill the action due to increased taxation. The dream of winning a huge score is diminishing. The max you can win in France, during an online tourney, is around €25K,” said Nock.

The move comes after bwin.party digital entertainment delivered a crushing H1 report that showed revenues down 7.5%, earnings down 23% and an operating loss of €100.4 million.

The news from that report was the European focus would be on the bwin brand with partypoker and the World Poker Tour dominating their thoughts in the US market.

This weekend saw the servers crash during partypoker’s inaugural Garden State Super Series (GSSS) online poker series, in New Jersey, resulting in the companies Director of Poker, Jeffrey Haas, publishing an apology to the players stating they “had been humbled by this experience and appreciate the inconvenience and lack of confidence experienced by our players, and are so sorry.”

Safecharge granted European E-Money License

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Online payment provider SafeCharge specialists advanced payment technologies, today announces that its wholly owned operating subsidiary, SafeCharge Limited, has been authorised as an Electronic Money Institution (EMI).

The authorisation will allow SafeCharge Limited to issue electronic money in accordance with the European Union E-money directive and as authorised by the Central Bank of Cyprus.

This will enable SafeCharge to continue expanding its services portfolio to its existing client base; increase services in the “Business to Consumer” (B2C) space; and progress plans for card issuance and associated services.

David Avgi, Chief Executive of SafeCharge commented:

“Obtaining the EMI license fulfils one of our central objectives, as outlined in our strategy. The EMI license places SafeCharge in a key position to capitalise on the expansion of e-wallets, mobile wallets and prepaid card issuance globally.”

Betclic signs sponsorship deal with Fiorentina

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Italian Serie A outfit ACF Fiorentina has come to an agreement with sports betting and gaming company Betclic to become one of the team’s main sponsors. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed but the partnership does give Betclic its own space in Fiorentina’s kits on top of stadium branding at the team’s home, Stadio Artemio Franchi. The deal also includes joint social and digital media initiatives between the two sides.

“We are proud to be a partner of a team rich in history and success like Fiorentina”, Betclic Director General Francesco Postiglione said in a statement. “We are equally certain that, thanks to the support of all the team and its fans, we will be able to establish a new model of sponsorship, which insists on the involvement of more and more fan interaction.”

Betclic is the latest company to hit up a sponsorship deal with Fiorentina, joining kit supplier Joma, Sky Italia and its main partner Save the Children.