December 14, 2007

Laughs at Party

There have been few laughs at PartyGaming since it retrenched last year after US hostility against online gambling, but John Davy's appointment to the board raises a smile. He is the founder of Jongleurs comedy clubs and the nominated representative of Ruth Parasol and Russell DeLeon , the PartyGaming founders and 28.4 per cent shareholders. Anurag Dikshit - the tech brains of the outfit and a 27 per cent shareholder - has nominated Emilio Gomez , a former senior partner of Baker Tilly in Gibraltar, where Party is licensed. Also joining the board are Lord Moonie , former junior defence minister, and Stephen Box , former finance director of National Grid and independent director at Michael Page.

Party goes to Hollywood

PartyGaming has announced its latest alliance, this time an exclusive licensing agreement with Paramount Pictures to develop a range of online slots based on four of the studio’s back catalogue.

The announcement came on the same day that Party issued a pre-close trading statement which said its financial performance was in line with expectations.

The company has also announced changes to the board which has seen founders Anurag Dikshit, Russell DeLeon and Ruth Parasol have placements appointed to represent their interests.

The new film-themed slot games will be available next year and will be based around Top Gun, The Godfather, Saturday Night Fever and Mission Impossible. They mark a first for the online gaming industry.

Party has had a busy few months, announcing deals with ITV, RTL in Germany and Sporting Index.

Mitch Garber, chief executive, said: “Popular brands are a differentiating factor in online gaming and this alliance will enhance and distinguish the quality of PartyCasino’s offer.”

Off the back of the trading statement, analysts at Dresdner Kleinwort have suggested the company should be on a greater P/E ratio that 16 times. The note forecasts 77% year-on-year growth for the fourth quarter and revenue growth expectations for 2008 of 28%.

Regarding the changes to the board, Dikshit, DeLeon and Parasol have placed two non-executive directors as board representatives - John Davy, Emilio Gomez.

Stephen Box and Lord Moonie have also been recruited. Parasol and DeLeon are 28.4% shareholders, and have nominated the founder of Jongleurs comedy club Davy, while Dikshit, who owns 27% of the company, nominated former senior partner of Baker Tilly in Gibraltar, Emilio Gomez. Life peer Lord Moonie is a former under secretary of state at the ministry of defence, and was MP for Kirkaldy between 1987 and 2005.

December 13, 2007

Sportingbet Releases Third Quarter Results

Leading online sports betting and gaming group Sportingbet has released its results for the third quarter of the year and announced that its operating profit has risen by 110 percent.

Sportingbet was forced to sell or close its entire US operation following the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in October of last year and stated that these latest results exclude this business.

Financial highlights include the rise in operating profit to $8.5 million from last year’s $4.1 million and the company reported that 13.8 percent of this increase was down to gaming, up from 2006’s 6.2 percent.

It announced cash on the balance sheet of $52 million, down from last year’s $106 million, and a statutory group losses of $3.4 million, which was considerably down on 2006’s $490.3 million.

'I am delighted with the group's strong performance in the first quarter, which has given us a very solid start to the financial year,” said Andrew McIver, Chief Executive for Sportingbet.

“With much of the restructuring now behind us, our focus can now be on better recruitment and retention of customers, on being a first class retailer of gaming services and on offering a true Internet-based experience. The second quarter has started well with good margins and volumes across the group. With the platform for growth in place, the board looks to the future with confidence.'

888 signs white-label deal with Kamay to provide online poker and casino products in European market

Online gaming and betting operator 888 has entered into a white-label partnership with Kamay Holdings to provide online poker and casino products focusing on the “growing markets in Europe”.

888 said Kamay is led by a team of “industry veterans, with a track record of customer recruitment and traffic generation”. Gigi Levy, chief executive at 888 said: "As part of our vision and action to gain dominant market share in growing markets, we are implementing our white-labelling strategy, which enables us to achieve quick growth in parallel to 888's robust organic growth in those markets. The agreement is a further progression of 888’s diversified, multi-channel strategy to grow our customer reach and appeal globally."

The deal announced today is the latest white-label partnership from 888 after it announced deals with Rileyspoker in the UK and Tower Torneos in Latin America. 888 has also recently entered into a white-label deal with Rank subsidiary Blue Square that will see it 888 with a sports-betting website.

Monopolies accused of using sports-betting corruption fears to ‘prop up failing case’

Allegations from the European State Lotteries and Toto Association (ESLTA) that “uncontrolled expansion” of online sports-betting opportunities has “facilitated attempts to rig matches” have been strongly rejected by the Remote Gambling Association (RGA).

The complaints follow the news last week that European football's governing body UEFA is investigating claims that 26 recent Champions League, UEFA Cup and World Cup qualifiers may have been affected by betting-related corruption.

The ESLTA is reported to have complained about a “growing number of actual and attempted manipulations of sporting competitions through betting”.

But Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the RGA, accused the ESLTA of taking advantage of UEFA’s action "to prop up its failing case to maintain control of sports-betting services by state monopolies.”

Hawkswood pointed out that regulated private betting operators were “regulated to the same standard as state monopolies, if not better”. He added that it was the betting companies themselves that would be the victims of any match-fixing.

“Furthermore, all out members will collaborate to the extent of the law with the competent authorities on any case of alleged match-fixing. The integrity of sports is of fundamental importance to all betting operators because they provide our core products. Wherever possible we are committed to working with sporting authorities to address any problems which arise and that will continue to be the case.”

December 11, 2007

Sportingbet looks to organic expansion in Europe

Sportingbet’s European sports-betting businesses have “huge potential for organic growth”, according to David Hobday, the company’s chief operating officer.

Hobday was speaking after Sportingbet released first quarter figures which showed operating profit before exceptionals rising 110% to £4.2m from £2m in 2006. The company also showed a pre-exceptionals pre-tax profit of £1.5m compared to £1.1m last year.

However, net gaming revenue for the group fell slightly to £30.4m from £32.5m after a fall in poker rake. The company attributed the fall to the migration of its poker player base to the Boss platform following the closure of its standalone Paradise poker platform. But Hobday emphasised that the poker business has stabilised following the migration and said the business had seen a pick-up in November with average daily rake being 17% up on the previous month. The casino offering saw the number of bets placed rise 12%, although at a lower average bet size (£4.60 compared with £5.57 in the same period last year. The company said this represented a “substantial change in product mix”.

In terms of regulatory developments, Hobday said the company remained in talks with eh US Department of Justice regarding a possible settlement related to the company’s previous activities in the US. He added that the situation in Europe remained “uncomfortable” but relatively stable.

Sportingbet’s key European markets include Turkey, Spain, Italy and Greece – all represented at next year’s football European Championships - and Hobday said the competition represented a “good opportunity, but the challenge is to differentiate”.

With regard to European sports-betting, Sportingbet has seen amounts wagered rise to £170m from £148m with net gaming revenue rising to £15m from £13m. The number of sports bets over the period rose 16%, a rise which Hobday attributed to improvements in the company’s product offering, particularly in terms of in-running.

“The products have developed so that the customer is now encouraged to stay with us for longer and bet more,” he said.

The company also highlighted good trading at Sportingbet’s Australian operation, despite the intervention of equine influenza in two states effectively shutting down horse-racing in those territories over the period. Overall customer numbers in Australia rose by 31% to 15,164. However, net gaming revenue fell slightly to £3.5m from £3.9m due to slippage at the high-rollers telephone business.

Looking ahead, the company said trading in the second quarter had “started well” and that amounts wagered in sports-betting was 17% up year-on-year.

December 05, 2007

Bodog ‘not subject to Nevada law’ rules Las Vegas magistrate

A federal magistrate in Las Vegas has ruled that Bodog is not subject to Nevada law and that founder Calvin Ayre is not required to appear before the court and thus cannot be found guilty of contempt of court.

In a ruling issued on 28 November, the magistrate denied a motion of contempt on the part of ‘patent troll’ 1st Technology, the company that won a ruling in Washington state which meant Bodog ‘lost’ its domain name.

Ayre said: “This has been an interesting case, and as it progresses, there seems to be plenty of compelling facts emerging. With the recent ruling in favour of the defence, I’m happy that it was also clarified by the judge that I am, by law, not personally in contempt of any order from the Nevada court.”

In Washington state, Bodog is in the process of “seeking clarity” on the law of domain-name ownership rights and whether they are property which can be subject to seizure.

Betbull looking forward to Spanish ventures

European betting and leisure group Betbull has released its results for the third quarter and nine-month period to the end of September. Highlights include a 56% reduction of Betbull losses to €0.8m during the period, compared with €1.8m in 2006. Net gaming revenue for the nine-month period fell 9% to €9.8m, compared to €10.8m last year, while EBITDA shot up 200% to €0.6m for the period, compared with a loss of €0.6m during the same period in 2006.

Betbull has continued to reduce operating expenses during the quarter, producing savings of €1.5m to bring the costs down to €10.8m, compared with €12.3m in 2006.

The company announced the creation of a joint-venture company with Bwin in October to offer retail betting in the Spanish province of Madrid. The licensing process has been initiated and the new company will operate under the Bwin brand.

Simon Bold, executive director of Betbull, said: “The forthcoming year will see the fruition of many months of planning and fine tuning of our betting products and systems for the Spanish market. We are confident we have the knowledge, product, resources and now brand awareness to become a major retail presence in the province of Madrid and eventually across Spain as further liberalization of the gaming market unfolds.”

December 03, 2007

Unibet acquires Maria Invest bingo business for £54m

Unibet has agreed to acquire the bingo business of Maria Invest for SEK705m (£54m) as it looks to broaden its offering in the Nordic region.

Unibet hopes to finance the acquisition with either bank debt or through money raised in the bond market. Only last we4ek the company announced it had appointed Swedish financial firm Ohman Fondkommission to advise on possible sources of capital of up to €100m.

The deal will see Unibet acquire several domain names including and The company said the acquisition offered significant growth potential in the key female demographic.

In the first nine months of the year, Maria Invest had a total income of SEK77m and hit an operating profit of SEK26m. Total income in the third quarter of this year stood at SEK30m compared to SEK6.5m in the same period last year. As of the end of the third quarter, Maria Invest had 176,361 registered customers and 11,659 active over the past three months.

Unibet said it hoped the acqusition would be completed before the end of the year.