October 31, 2007

In Brief

All Bets Are Off For NFL’s London Debut

In a move that further highlights the National Football League’s vehement and influential opposition to gambling, organisers of Sunday evening’s game between the Miami Dolphins and the New York Giants consented to the NFL’s request that all Betfred’s betting facilities inside Wembley Stadium were closed for the event.

Ruling Party Votes To End Swedish Gambling Monopoly

Moderate Party members voted at their congress last weekend in favour of a proposal to liberalise the country’s gambling market but the Swedish Government still advocates taking a more cautious approach towards regulation.

October 30, 2007

Clement 'asked to throw a match'

Former top 10 tennis player Arnaud Clement said today that he had been offered money to throw a match.

"It happened to me but I will not tell you where or how," Clement, the 2001 Australian Open runner up, said after his first-round defeat by Mikhail Youzhny at the BNP Paribas Masters Paris.

"I didn't hesitate for a second, I said no.

"It may be different for a guy who's not that high up in the rankings and who has financial problems.

"It's very serious.

"I can't imagine that a top 10 player could accept that, but it's hard to imagine as well that guys go to tournaments to make such offers.

"I haven't heard many players say it happened to them."

Clement, who is now ranked No.53 in the world, believes he is unlikely to be approached again, but he believes that authorities have to hit hard to stamp out corruption.

"They should throw (the perpetrators) off the circuit," he said.

"It's a really preoccupying situation.

"It can happen to eveyone to get fed up with (playing) a match. But I've already seen matches where players have thrown good points away."

The threat of possible match-fixing was being taken very seriously at the Paris tournament, French Tennis Federation (FFT) president Christian Bimes said earlier today.

"We consider this a serious problem," Bimes said.

"It is a dreadful disease which is a threat for tennis worldwide.

"We have to act straight away and be as severe with this as we are with doping."

Bimes said that information on the volume of betting involved in the game was being collected through the professional players association (ATP) and the European lotteries network.

The French national betting operator, Francais des Jeux, will monitor betting activity during the Paris Masters tournament.

FDJ will monitor the betting patterns on four national lottery companies from Sweden, Denmark, Slovenia and Switzerland, and it will inform FFT should irregular betting patterns be discovered.

The move follows irregular betting on a match in which world No.4 Nikolay Davydenko lost to unheralded Martin Vassallo Arguello at Sopot in August, despite Davydenko taking the first set.

Davydenko, who strenuously denies any wrong-doing, came under the spotlight again early last week when he was fined $US2000 for not trying hard enough during his shock defeat to Croatian qualifier Marin Cilic at St Petersburg.

Bimes said all matches were being recorded at the Masters, where Davydenko is the defending champion, and information would be provided to police when match and betting analyses indicate suspect performances.

"(Police) are the only ones who can undertake certain types of investigation," he said.

The measures will be evaluated at the end of the Paris Masters before being implemented at the French Open at Roland-Garros next year.

"We aren't naive enough to think that we are going to fix this problem by waving a magic wand," FFT director Jean-Francois Vilotte said.

"But in any case, we want it clearly understood that betting on (Paris Masters) matches on banned sites is from now on a risky activity."

The ATP is also cracking down on possible match-fixing, with president Etienne De Villiers vowing the possibility of a life ban for any person found guilty of involvement in match-fixing.


32Red sells Bet Direct to Stan James

32Red has sold its Bet Direct sportsbook to Stan James for £5.75m, as revealed by eGaming Review at the end of September.

The news came with the publicaiton of the firm’s results for the first half of the year which showed total revenues increasing of 47.2% to £9.2m. However, casino revenues were almost static and poker revenues fell nearly 4% over the period.

32Red bought Bet Direct in June 2006 from Sportech for £12.5m. The company said it will use proceeds from the sale to increase the profile of its casino, poker and sportsbetting products and expansion into new territories. Bookmakers Stan James and Boylesports were reportedly in the running to buy Bet Direct, but Boylesports chief executive Daniel O’Mahoney counted his company out of the race late last week.

In its statement, 32Red said that further to a strategic review of both brands and a review of the potential business development opportunities for the company, it had accepted the offer of £5.75m for the intellectual property and “certain assets” of the Betdirect business. Chief executive Ed Ware said: “The sale of the Bet Direct brand allows us to channel our marketing and management focus on the core 32Red brand.”

Ware added that mobile gaming services and an integrated bingo offering will be added to the product range in the final quarter of this year.

32Red reported casino revenues of £4.6m for the six month period to the end of June, a 1.7% increase on the same period in 2006, and a drop in poker revenues of 3.8% over the six month period in 2007, compared to revenues of £0.6m in 2006.

The number of active customers grew to 75,911, compared with 44,539 in 2006.

Chief executive Ed Ware said: “Whilst the recent UK legislative changes effective from 1 September 2007 allow greater access to the UK market, we have identified a number of new territories into which we intend to market the 32Red brand.”


UIGEA rules ‘burdensome’

The proposed rules for enforcement of the UIGEA have been labelled as “burdensome” and “unprecedented in scope” in a legislative and public policy advisory document released by law firm Alston and Bird.

In a detailed analysis of payments methods and the impact of the draft regulations on each, the paper says: “The proposed regulation may also raise concerns about regulatory burden due to the impact of implementation costs on US-based participants in the payments system that are not applicable to similarly situated foreign firms.”

The UIGEA’s coverage of all forms of cards, including debit cards, stored-value cards and pre-paid cards as well as credit cards without any exemption for gift cards is also highlighted. As is the likelihood that foreign bank accounts provide an effective and non-legislated route for payments to be processed for US gamblers.

Responding to the paper, spokesman for Washington-based lobbying group the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative, Jeffrey Sandman said that the challenge US financial service firms face is that enforcement of UIGEA will be very difficult. He said: “The proposed rules create an unprecedented and unwieldly regulatory burden on the US financial services sector…companies are being left to interpret ambiguous state and federal gambling laws which do not clearly differentiate between legal and illegal internet gambling activities and transactions.”

Alston and Bird, in the concluding part of the document state that the proposed regulation does not mention the fact that many foreign banks are located in jurisdictions where internet gambling is a legal activity, and thus there is no prohibition of the foreign bank accepting transactions involving internet gambling operations of what might be considered a restricted transaction in the US.

It says: “additionally, the proposed regulation does not address the attempt to impose US law on those foreign banks by including contract language that requires the foreign banks to not accept transactions that are unlawful in the US.”

October 26, 2007

Garber upbeat as Party goes for full on offering

Mitch Garber, PartyGaming chief executive, praised the operational changes the company had driven since the company’s US exit and the fact that the group had addressed its structural weaknesses, as it revealed rising revenues in its third-quarter key performance indicators yesterday.

“In the space of a year, we have gone from being an English-only operator to providing our products in 12 different languages and three currencies,” Garber said. “Our casino has performed particularly strongly and the product has improved dramatically through our acquisitions of Empire Online and Intercontinental Online.”

One of the landmark dates for Party will be 1 January 2008, when Germany publishes its State Lottery Treaty outlining the regulation of gambling services. Germany is Party’s second biggest market after the UK representing around 19% of revenues. Garber said: “The momentum is clearly going the way EU law says it should be going. It is hard to imagine Germany discriminating against EU-licensed operators and the European Commission has shown it is willing to take action against governments that do. Therefore we are looking at Germany in that European context and it would be very surprising if they took an aggressive position. If that happened you would see us oppose it more aggressively than you have seen us oppose any similar positions from governments, where frankly there has been less of a financial incentive to take the lead in opposition.”

Garber said Party had no current plans for further acquisitions and could not foresee further partnerships such as the one Party has with UK broadcaster ITV. The group did not have “that many weaknesses left” in it, as it has acquired or developed the main product lines it needed to be a fully diversified online gaming operator. “We have a lot of work and growth ahead of us now that we are established as a multi-lingual, multi-currency operator with our own casino and bingo software and our own sportsbook. Growth in the non-poker areas of the business is now a key focus for everyone at PartyGaming.”

A new UK advertising campaign for Party’s sportsbook will be launched in the near future. However, Garber said there were many other markets Party was targeting and the UK was already the most competitive betting market in the world. Party would not be spending “a disproportionate amount of its marketing budget on the UK”, he added.With regards to its dealings with the US Department of Justice, Garber said Party was aware it would probably have to pay a fine but they were talking “months and not years” in terms of coming to an agreement with the US authorities.

The poker liquidity issues Party suffered after the US exit had been addressed throughout the first and second quarters of the year during which time marketing and affiliate-related distribution costs had risen significantly. They had now been brought into line to between 43% and 45% of the company’s revenues and the company was now focusing on attracting back the high rollers it lost after the US internet gaming ban.

Party revealed a 24% annual increase in group revenue to US$116m (£56m), compared with US$93.3m in 2006, and a 5% rise on the previous quarter. Poker revenue fell 3% to US$74.8m, compared with US$76.9m in 2006, but was up 3% on the second quarter. Casino revenues were up 158% to US$36.7m, compared with US$14.2m in 2006. Sports-betting income rose 91% to US$4.2m, compared with US$2.2m last year and 100% up on the previous quarter.


Boylesports: 'We will not be buying Bet Direct'

Boylesports has counted itself out of the running to acquire 32Red’s sports-betting operation Bet Direct, according to the chief executive.

Speaking on the publication of his company results for the year, boss Daniel O’Mahoney said: “We will not be buying Bet Direct”.

The news leaves Stan James as the leading contender to snap up the online bookmaker which has been up for sale for over a month.

O’Mahoney said his company would concentrate on re-investing in his own business. “We are delighted,” he said. “These results put us in an excellent position.”

In the year to the end of June, Boylesports saw turnover increase 25% to E629m while operating profit rose to E15.6m from E12m the year previously. Boylesports operates an online and telephone betting operation along with a retail operation in its native Ireland.

The company said that a “string of favourable results” had a positive impact on profit, in particular at the Cheltenham and Aintree horse-racing festivals.

O’Mahoney hailed the company sponsorships at English premier League club Sunderland and at Cheltenham as having helped boost the company profile in its target market of the UK.

“We get good exposure from them both,” he said. The UK now accounts for over 50% of Boylesports’ UK client base.

“The UK is obviously very competitive, and you need a quality product,” he added. “But even a small percentage of the UK market can still be significant.”


October 25, 2007

Poker stars push Congress to ease Internet gambling strictures

About 100 members from the nonprofit Poker Players Alliance -- including poker stars Howard Lederer, Annie Duke, Chad Brown and Vanessa Rousso -- were in Washington this week to raise the stakes and push legislative proposals that would ease federal restrictions on Internet poker.

At issue is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 that bars the transfer of funds between financial institutions and Internet gambling sites, with the exception of "fantasy" sports, Internet lotteries and horse racing. Poker players want in on the action under an exception for their sport.

Two bills in the House seek to provide that.

One, proposed by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., would essentially revamp last year's measure. The other, called the Skill Game Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., would establish poker, bridge, mah-jong, chess and backgammon as games of skill. It would grant those games the same exemption that existing law gives online horse racing, fantasy sports and Internet lotteries.

"I think poker is a sport. It's people having a good time. It's a skill game," said 24-year-old Rousso, who stunned the poker world last year by placing seventh at the World Poker Tour Championship in Las Vegas.

"I studied game theory at Duke University (as an undergrad) and specialized in it. There is a uniquely mathematical optimal move to every single decision that you make in a game of poker. It's much more akin to chess. The only thing it has in common with the other more traditional forms of gambling is the fact that it is housed in a casino," she said.

Rousso ended 2006 as the top earning female in the U.S. circuit and has banked $1.6 million in her two years of professional play. A full-time law student at the University of Miami, Rousso said Internet gambling opportunities are important, especially for women, which is why she was in Washington Wednesday lobbying for change.

"Being a woman, playing on the Internet was a great way for me to become comfortable playing the game before having to sit down with a bunch of older guys in the intimidating atmosphere of a real casino. I play about 10 hours a week online and as a professional player, it allows me to constantly hone my game and improve," she said.

Expanding gambling while curbing problems
At the heart of Frank's bill is regulation that would allow U.S. companies to accept bets and wagers online from reputable agencies, while combating concerns about underage players and gambling addiction. This would entail using advanced technology capable of age verification, geo-location and identification of problem gamblers.
Supporters of the law in 2006 said it would help lower levels of gambling addiction. Many represented constituents opposed to gambling itself.

The Family Research Council, which backed the effort to restrict Internet gambling, cited research that said "accessibility of gambling leads to increased gambling addiction and the resulting social ills associated with gambling activities."
The key argument among the poker players supporting Frank's legislation is that the 2006 law infringes on civil liberties by authorizing government to rule on what Americans should or should not do in the privacy of their homes, said John Pappas, executive director for the poker alliance.

"Poker players are being inconvenienced," said poker pro Lederer at a public policy forum on the future of Internet poker Wednesday. "We have to respect the privacy of Americans at home."

Also driving the lobbying effort is the lack of consumer safety in the 2006 internet gambling law, said Radley Balko, senior editor of Reason magazine and a participant on the poker policy panel. Americans are forced to shift to black and gray markets, where there are issues of accountability in the event of fraudulent activities, he said.

Trade and protectionism
The Internet gambling law led to a World Trade Organization ruling in favor of the Caribbean nation of Antigua, which charged the U.S. with violating its treaty obligations by not granting full market access to online gambling companies based in the island nation. Antigua filed a claim for $3.4 billion in trade sanctions against the U.S.

"Basically, the bottom line is protectionism," said Gary Shaw, founder of St. Minver Ltd., a pan-European, multicurrency gaming operator based in Gibraltar, a British outpost on the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula.

"They can't stop players from playing," he explained. "The (new) legislation will emerge and will grant a few licenses to big incumbent organizations." It will be the big casino groups with political clout that will be the ones getting the licenses, he added.

His company offers integrated gaming solutions for European companies and relies on technology for reliable banking and fraud-protection services, he said. He argued that technology is available that effectively safeguards poker-playing consumers.
Reason senior editor Balko echoed Shaw's comments about the role of government. "We will see the government picking winners and losers when it starts handing out these contracts," said Balko. "I would rather see an open market. It's not ideal, but it's still better than what we have now."


Party’s revenues continue to rise

PartyGaming’s third quarter key performance indicators have highlighted a 24% annual increase in group revenue to US$116m (£56m), compared with US$93.3m in 2006, and a 5% rise on the previous quarter.

Poker revenue fell 3% to US$74.8m, compared with US$76.9m in 2006, but was up 3% on the second quarter. Much of the group’s revenue was generated by a strong performance from its casino, up 158% to US$36.7m, compared with US$14.2m in 2006. Sports-betting income rose 91% to US$4.2m, compared with US$2.2m last year and in the previous quarter.

Party said its quarterly poker results reflected “a full period benefit to the operational changes introduced during the second quarter of 2007 that helped to deliver a 10% increase in yield per active player day versus the previous quarter to US$13.2”.

The company said much of the performance had been driven primarily by strong growth in its casino and was achieved despite a 14% drop in yield per active player day from US$20.3 in 2006 to US$17.4 in 2007, following the loss of many of Party’s high-spending customers after the passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and Party’s related exit from the US.

Third quarter new player sign-ups were down 14% on 2006 to 129,7000, reflecting the quieter summer months, however Party said this followed a particularly strong first half to the year, with the number of new player sign-ups up 44% on the equivalent nine month period last year.

The company said fourth quarter trading had increased 9% on the previous quarter to US$1.6m and active players per day averaged 65,000, generating average daily revenues of US$938,000 and casino daily revenues of US$569,000.

Analysts from Deutsche Bank said the strength of current trading and the continued development pipeline “give us increased confidence that our 2008 estimate forecasts should be achievable”.


October 24, 2007

Online’s Parent Posts Good Results

Swedish betting and gaming operator Redbet Holdings has announced that its recent acquisitions have begun to produce fruit as has recorded a 416 per cent increase in turnover to $2.8 million.

The Stockholm-based parent company of the Redbet.com sports betting exchange said that turnover for the nine-month period up to the end of September showed a similarly buoyant performance, rising 316 percent to $5.95 million with the company’s net profits standing at $309,000.

The firm’s management said that the recent $2.27 million acquisition of Pullman Gaming alongside the purchase of Latvia’s Teletoto for $2.13 million had started producing results. Redbet acquired Mike Bennet's Pullman along with its Gold Club Casino and Total Poker assets in April and has also recently launched its NextPoker product on three different online networks, Ongame, B2B and IPN.


October 23, 2007

Call for more EU ‘urgency’ following Nylander arrest

The European Commission should act with “more urgency” over the violation proceedings brought by the EU’s Competition Commission against the French, following the detention of Petter Nylander under an arrest warrant issued by the French authorities, says a Swedish MEP.

Christofer Fjellner, a representative from the Swedish Conservatives at the European Parliament, said he hoped to meet with competition commissioner Charlie McCreevy later this week.

He said of the French moves: “The French were given two months to respond (to the Commission’s findings against them). Now it seems the French are going to use the two months to violate fundamental human rights. It makes the matter even more urgent.”

Nylander was detained last night by Dutch customs officials when boarding a plane to London (see earlier Unibet story). Unibet have said this morning that they hope Nylander will be released today. Mark Davies, managing director at Betfair, said there was “no question” that the EU would be aware of events. “They will be asking why has this happened?”

Fjellner noted the French authorities had detained Nylander using a European arrest warrant, “meant for use with organised crime and terrorism”. He accused the French of using the warrant as a “political tool in an effort to prolong the (French gaming) monopoly.” He added: “This is intimidation.”

One industry insider said the arrest of Nylander should act as a “wake-up call for (Charlie) McCreevy”. They added: “It’s about time the French realised this is the 21st Century and not the 19th. It’s ludicrous.”

Clouding the issue is a judgment secured in a Dutch court a fortnight ago on the part of Dutch monopoly operator De Lotto against Unibet. Unibet was reported at the time as saying it had no knowledge of the ruling.

In an interview with eGaming Review in July this year, Nylander said the fight against the monopoly operators across Europe – including the French – was like “having hand grenades under out pillow”. “We are in a war... We all know how it will end. In 10 years maybe it will break down... Efforts to stop us have not worked.

Nylander also commented on the last time the French authorities made a move against online gaming operators when they arrested Bwin’s Manfred Bodner and Norbert Teufelberger. Said Nylander in July: “I was surprised by the brutality... The French psyche is very proud. You need to take it easy there.”


Unibet chief arrested

Peter Nylander, chief executive at Unibet, has been detained while boarding a flight in Holland under an arrest warrant issued by the French authorities.

In a statement, Unibet has said the arrest pertained to proceedings filed in 2006 by the French gaming monopolies Francaise des Jeux (FDJ) and the PMU. The charges relate to breaches of laws dating back to 1836 and 1891.

The company said it is “outraged by France’s total disregard of European Community law aiming to protect a domestic commercial gambling monopoly, which is being challenged by the European Commission”.

The company added that though it was aware of the possibility of action being taken it was still "surprised” by the move.

“In March 2007, the European Court of Justice ruled in the Placanica case, confirming that betting services are covered by the EU Treaty. The court also confirmed that criminal proceedings brought against legitimate operators based in other EU member states are in contradiction with the EU Treaty.

The company adds that on 27 June, the EU Commission issued a reasoned opinion against France, in relation with the infringement proceedings concerning France's restrictions on sports betting. Furthermore, on 10 July, the highest jurisdiction in France (Cour de cassation) overturned a decision that banned a Maltese company from offering online betting on horse races in France. Finally, the French government has stated its will to open a discussion with the European Commission towards a regulated opening of the French online gaming market.

Unibet’s chief financial officer and deputy chief executive Ragnar Hellenius has been appointed by the board of Unibet as acting chief executive until Nylander is released. He commented: “This situation is clearly unacceptable and extraordinary in ours and in any industry. It is our view that this use of the possibility for cross-border legal actions is a clear abuse of their true aim, and in all aspects, disproportionate. Unibet is licensed in the UK, Malta and Italy for gambling, listed on the OMX Nordic Stock Exchange and a company complying with European law. This is clearly a breach of the EU Treaty and the fundamental principles of the European Union.

Hellenius concluded: “We are upset of this unlawful act and harassment against our company and a citizen of Europe and we will take every action possible to bring this matter to justice. This criminalisation of a specific individual is a tactic that we have seen French authorities using before and something we will not tolerate. We take for granted that Petter Nylander will be released immediately.”


October 22, 2007

NBA disciplines 6 referees for gambling offences

The National Basketball Association has punished six referees for minor gambling offences, according to a report in the New York Daily News.

Citing sources, the newspaper reported Sunday that the six unnamed officials were punished for infractions such as visiting casinos, and that their cases are not related to the Tim Donaghy betting scandal.

"Nobody's getting suspended. They were reprimanded and punished, but nobody lost their job," a source was quoted as saying.

In September, Donaghy forfeited $30,000 US in restitution to the government under his plea deal, according to court records.

The veteran referee pleaded guilty in a Brooklyn, N.Y., court to felony charges for taking cash payoffs from gamblers and betting on games he officiated. He was released on $250,000 bond and is set to be sentenced Nov. 9.

Court papers say Donaghy, 40, started placing bets on NBA games in 2003. He then gave gamblers inside information, including tips on which crews would officiate games and how the various officials and players interacted.

He faces a maximum of 25 years in prison for conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting betting information through interstate commerce. He also must pay a $500,000 fine in addition to the restitution already paid.

October 19, 2007

Sportingbet Announces Annual Profit Loss

Online gambling company Sportingbet PLC reported an annual loss on Wednesday but said its other operations were doing well and it expected to grow in Europe.

Sportingbet was forced to quit the US after lawmakers effectively made its business illegal and has stated a loss of $637.5 million for the past financial year after posting a profit of $141 million the year before.

It announced that revenue fell 36 percent to $2.69 billion from $4.19 billion after it lost over 75 percent of its business when US legislators outlawed credit card-based online gambling in October of last year.

The Alderney-licensed company stated that was pleased with results from its continuing operations with turnover from remaining operations up 23.3 percent at to $2.2 billion compared with $1.81 billion for the same period last year.

'Given the enormity of the change and restructuring that has taken place at Sportingbet, I am pleased to report a strong increase in gross win in the continuing business and especially pleased with the growth in our core European sports betting business of 48 percent,' said Andrew McIver, Chief Executive for Sportingbet.

Sportingbet, like many of its rivals, pulled out of the US and sold its operations cheaply after the White House outlawed the industry. It sold its American operations, comprising a US-facing sportsbetting and casino business and a poker operation to Antigua-based Jazette Enterprises Ltd in October, and offloaded $13.2 million of debt. Its operations now consist of a European sports, casino and poker business, an Australian sports business and the non-US Paradise Poker business.


ITV faces £70m phone scandal fine

The results of the investigation carried out by accountants Deloitte into the premium-rate phone-line scandal at ITV could lead to fines of up to £70m (US$140m) for the UK broadcaster and possible criminal investigations if regulator Ofcom decides to pass the case on to Scotland Yard.

Only parts of the Deloitte report were made public by ITV yesterday but the headline figures will make uneasy reading for the interactive TV sector. Viewers spent £8m on phone calls to ITV competitions they thought they were influencing. The full cost of the scandal could rise to £18m.

ITV chief executive Michael Grade said no senior ITV executives would lose their jobs over the scandal because running the investigation on the basis of finding someone to sack “would not have produced a full and frank” picture. When questioned about possible criminal charges of fraud for those involved in the deception, Grade insisted that their motives were not to increase revenues but to produce better television shows. He then pledged a ‘zero tolerance’ policy on any future transgression and praised his company for its openness in the matter.

The investigation found serious “editorial issues” going as far back as 2005 with flagship ITV shows such as Saturday Night Takeaway, X-Factor and Soapstar Superstar. Some of the charges include the producers manufacturing the results of viewer phone-ins by disregarding voter requests and picking songs they thought would be more suitable for contestants to sing or picking winners of cash competitions only if they lived within an hour of where the production team happened to be.


888 launches Italian sportsbook

Casino and poker operator 888 has launched its first dedicated licensed sportsbook offering in Italy, according to a statement to the London Stock Exchange this morning.

The Italian website (888.it) has been launched in conjunction with Italian market specialist Cogetech, and is 888’s first foray into the market since it gained a license in October last year from the Italian regulator.

The website is restricted to sports-betting (though not horse-racing for the time being) and skill games, though further products may be added should the Italian regulator allow it.

Gigi Levy, chief executive at 888, said: “This is a milestone in the progression of 888’s diversified, multi-channel strategy to grow our customer reach and appeal globally.”

Levy added that the Italian sports-betting market is “growing strongly”.

It is believed that 888 will be entering into a white-label deal with Blue Square in the coming months as it endeavours to further its reach in the sports-betting market elsewhere in Europe. Levy is on record as saying the company should be moving towards a full-service offering for its customers.


Absolute engulfed in cheating scandal

Allegations of a cheating scandal have engulfed Absolute Poker after it emerged that the Kahnawake Gaming Commission has asked testing and certification company Gaming Associates to carry out an audit of Absolute’s activities for the period in question.

A spokesperson at Gaming Associates would not comment further on the matter only to confirm that it would be auditing Absolute Poker.

Whispers of a possible cheating scam had been circulating on poker messageboards for the past couple of weeks. Footage is available on YouTube of the alleged scam (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FczbS7FiWSM).

Players on Absolute Poker had voiced suspicions of one particular player on the site whose unpredictable style of play had allegedly enabled him to win large amounts.

More importantly, according to some posters on the forums, the player seemed to know what his opposing players’ hole cards are and never made a wrong move.

Rumours of a ‘super-user account’ that has the ability to view opponents’ hole cards began to appear on poker blogs and forums. According to the threads, when Absolute customers requested their hand histories to analyse the patterns of play, they were in fact sent highly sensitive information containing the email and IP addresses of the people playing and observing the games in question. The players then claim to have traced one player’s IP address back to an Absolute Poker domain. Rumours persist that the player is connected is some way with the management of the firm though there has been no confirmation of this.

Absolute Poker has denied any wrongdoing so far but has agreed to cooperate in any investigation about the matter.


October 17, 2007

Affiliates Say Intertops.com has the Fastest Paying Affiliate Program

October 16, 2007 (St. John’s, Antigua) – 'The First' online betting site is the first to pay its affiliates according to a report in the October issue of CAP Magazine. The world’s leading publication for gambling affiliates has listed Intertops.com as the fastest paying casino affiliate program. The magazine, published by CasinoAffiliatePrograms.com, reports that a webmaster poll showed 'getting paid quickly and reliably' is affiliates' number one criteria for judging affiliate programs. The same story reported that Intertops paid their affiliates faster than nineteen other programs mentioned.

'This recognition from CAP Magazine shows that 'Trust the First' isn’t just a slogan, but something we really mean,' said Michl Posch of Intertops.com.

Back in 1996, Intertops was the first sportsbook ever to offer online betting. It wasn’t long before they offered online casino games and online poker as well. The Intertops affiliate partner program has been renowned in the industry since 1999 and established its reputation for quick payment from the beginning. The program pays lifetime commission for all products that are offered by Intertops.com: sportsbook, casino, poker and games.

'Intertops sets the bar very high,' said Posch. 'In a business where partners rarely meet, trust is a key to success. We’re happy about the outstanding reputation that Intertops has earned among affiliates.'

In January, Casino Affiliate Programs will again recognize leaders in the online gambling business when they present the 'Cappy Awards' at a glamorous awards night during January’s CAP Euro conference in London. Intertops has been nominated by affiliates in the 'Best Sportsbetting Affiliate Program' category. Webmasters can vote for Intertops at www.capawards.com.

'The nomination of Intertops for Sports Betting Affiliate Program of the Year and being named the fastest paying program in this issue of CAP Magazine comes as no surprise. These guys are great,' said Lou Fabiano, founder of Casino Affiliate Programs. 'Affiliates love cash flow and fast payments as they allow them to buy more domains, build more sites and run more ads. This means more players and more income each month! Hats off to Intertops for helping affiliates to maximize their revenues.'

The CAP Magazine article '10 Things Webmasters Want' is available here: www.lyceummedia.com/intertops/capmag-oct07.pdf

October 11, 2007

Mansion live on Ongame

Gibraltar-based operator Mansion went live on the Ongame network last night. Mansion had been expected to join a poker network for some time and with Playtech already providing it with its casino games, it was expected to join the company’s iPoker network.

Guy Gussarsky, chief executive of Mansion, said: “We chose Ongame as one of the most tried and trusted platforms online and for their superior poker software, but an equally important deal-maker has been their ability to enhance our business rather than consume it.”

With its casino and poker products now being supplied by two different providers, a source close to Mansion said the integration of all the products would require some extra work but would not bring substantial problems. Asked why it had chosen Ongame over Playtech, they said: “The intention of the company is to provide its services with the best poker and casino products and Ongame have been experts in online poker from the start while Playtech have been experts at casino games.”

Since launch, Mansion has struggled to build the liquidity needed to operate its own poker platform and has already closed down its sportsbook with rumours of its betting exchange due to close in near future.

Asked what they would do differently to attract enough players to build up liquidity levels now that they were part of a network, they said: “We will maintain our guaranteed tournament series and also offer all the network promotions. We will also continue to raise our brand awareness levels through our continued sponsorship of Tottenham Hotspur and other marketing activities.”


Bet Direct ‘could fetch £6m’

32Red’s up-for-sale Bet Direct operation could fetch £6m (US$12m), valuing the business at less than half of the price it fetched when it was sold by Sportech in May of last year, according to sources.

It is thought that Irish-based bookmaker Boylesports remains the favourite to snap up the business, though Stan James and Chronicle bookmakers (half-owned by Dermot Desmond, the Irish billionaire and owner of Betdaq) are also rumoured to be in the hunt. The deal could well go through within the next two weeks.

The Aim-listed operator confirmed a fortnight ago in a statement to the London Stock Exchange it was in talks to sell Bet Direct after eGaming Review broke the story that the loss-making sports-betting operation was on the market.

32Red bought the business from Sportech in May 2006 for £12.5m.

Boylesports gave an official no comment, as did Stan James, which was thought to be among the original bidders for Bet Direct when it was sold by Sportech.

No-one at Chronicle was available for comment.


October 10, 2007

Refunds On All Losing First Goalscorer Bets If Owen Goes Off Before First Goal

Internet based sportsbook PartyBets.com (www.PartyBets.com) is guaranteeing best odds on England to win Euro 2008 for a limited period and will refund all losing first goalscorer bets if Michael Owen is substituted before the first goal in Saturday’s game with Estonia.

Anybody logging on to the PartyBets.com platform between 10am-2pm BST on Saturday will be guaranteed to be able to take advantage of the best price on the market for the ‘Three Lions’ to win the trophy in Austria and Switzerland next summer. Users looking to take advantage of the best price would be advised to visit the site early as the side will be priced up at a tasty 9/1 when the promotion kicks off.

PartyBets.com is also offering punters a special insurance on all first goalscorer bets in the Estonia game; If Michael Owen goes off before the first goal is scored, all losing first goalscorer bets will be refunded up to a value of £20.

A PartyBets.com spokesman said, “The ‘Owen insurance’ is something that is sure to be popular with our customers. Unfortunately, there is usually only one thing as certain as a Michael Owen goal and that is that he will not last the full 90 minutes.”

PartyBets.com England v Estonia Specials

G-Owen to the finals
Can Michael Owen once again inspire England?
Owen to score and England to win 8/5

Hat-Trick Heroes
Will an English player demolish the minnows?
An England player to score a hat-trick 16/1

Robbo's Woes
Can things get any worse for Paul Robinson?
Robinson to score an own goal 33/1
Robinson to concede a penalty 8/1
Robinson to be sent-off 14/1

Who will come out on top between England's strikers?
Owen to outscore Rooney 7/4
Rooney to outscore Owen 9/4
Both players to score the same amount 6/1
Neither player to score 11/10

Victor Chandler Questioned by French Police

According to a report in the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper, the head of one of the nation’s leading bookmakers was arrested in France for allegedly taking bets on horses.

The newspaper reported that Victor Chandler, one of the first bookies to start an online business that he still runs from Gibraltar, and three other bookmakers were arrested during the Arc De Triomphe race meeting at Longchamps on Sunday for illegally taking bets.

The group, believed to include Chandler's nephew and rails representative Butch Beaton-Brown, were caught in a raid on the corporate facility for British race-goers run by Horse Racing Abroad, a group that takes around 1,300 fans to the Paris venue every year.

The Daily Mail stated that Chandler was questioned by French police from their racecourse gambling unit and told not to leave the country before a further interview the next day, supposedly prompting the multi-millionaire to stay overnight at a suite in the five-star George V Hotel just off the Champs-Elysees in the French capital.

Ian Fry, boss of Horse Racing Abroad, was quoted in the newspaper as saying that he had seen none of the party of more than ten gendarmes that raided his pavilion at Longchamps nor had he seen Chandler at the racecourse.

However, following further questioning, Chandler was not held by French police and allowed to leave the country.

“Four people from Victor Chandler were questioned by French police on Monday in respect of various aspects regarding entertaining at Longchamps and they were subsequently released without charge,” said a spokesperson for Victor Chandler.


October 09, 2007

Online Casino to Open Sportsbook

One of the world’s largest online gaming companies, 888.com, has announced plans to offer sportsbetting as soon as later this year.

Gigi Levy, Chief Executive Officer for the Gibraltar-licensed firm, was speaking at the recent European iGaming (EiG) conference in Barcelona and hinted that sports betting could be launched in the first market in a few months and implied that the deal with the provider would be for more than just one year.

'The UK is our biggest market but we also have Seville,' said Levy. 'It's highly likely that there will be another deal by the end of the year. It'll be something that doesn't cost much but hopefully makes a lot of money.”

Having seen takeover talks with gambling group Ladbrokes come to nothing due to worries about retrospective prosecution by US authorities following the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) last year, 888.com has previously stated that it is looking to be a predator rather than prey for larger rivals.

Industry analysts have previously speculated that 888.com could purchase Rank Group’s Blue Square to offer bets on football (soccer) matches, horse racing and other sports for the first time.