May 30, 2008

England star owes bookies £1,000,000

One of England’s most popular footballers owes a staggering £1million in unpaid gambling debts.

The talented star earns around £100,000 a week playing for a major Premier League club, and has represented his country in international matches at home and abroad.

At least one English bookie is pressing him to pay up, but he is not responding.

The experienced player has been gambling ferociously on football and racehorses. It is known that he has splashed out on crucial games in both the Premier League and the Champions League. Bookies are also chasing a talented European midfielder who plays for another top Premier League club, who is refusing to pay about £100,000 lost on horses and football.

Both names have been leaked to the Daily Express, together with a firm proviso that neither player is identified until bookies are given one more chance to retrieve their debts.

Most of the hefty wagers have been channelled through international commission agencies, and at least one is more than £30,000 out of pocket.

A spokesman for this large European operation, which accepts bets from bookmakers and high-rolling punters, said last night: “I know of betting issues regarding the two footballers you’ve just mentioned, but we have a strict policy of not discussing anything that involves a client.

“All I’m prepared to say is that I’m aware of one bookmaker who has taken big bets from both these players. One of them owes a lot of money – around £1m. Maybe a bookmaker will end up taking him to Tattersalls Committee, who settle horse-racing betting disputes of this nature.

“I’d be disappointed to see it going that far, as he’s such a big name in football, and it could cause him no end of problems.

“The other player owes in the region of £100,000, but he’s also proving difficult to pin down.

“We are the middle-men. If a punter owes money, then it’s up to the bookmaker who accepted the bets in the first place to chase for it.”

William Hill responds to ASA ban; questions National Lottery

William Hill has responded to a decision by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to ban one of its television advertisements by saying it was “disappointed” by the judgement, and has asked for parity with the UK National Lottery, adding that the minimum age for the purchase of lottery tickets and products should be raised to 18.

A statement from the company said: “We are disappointed by the ASA’s ruling, which was based upon just three complaints from an audience of several million viewers. We take our role in encouraging socially responsible gambling very seriously and the William Hill Bingo advert was designed to be humorous and light-hearted, emphasising the fun aspects of playing bingo.”

The ASA ruling judged that the woman’s impatience to get her husband out of the house to play bingo showed signs of addiction. William Hill disagreed and said the woman’s behaviour was not an indication of “problem gambling” and was aimed at poking fun at an everyday domestic situation.

William Hill’s statement added: “Whilst we accept the ASA’s ruling and have taken on board its observations, we remain confused by a situation, where this advert is deemed in breach of advertising codes, whilst Camelot can run the National Lottery, exploiting a situation whereby 16-year-olds are allowed to buy scratch cards and sales are increasing through the marketing of themed products for feature films such as Indiana Jones, which appeal directly to minors.”

In terms of the National Lottery comparison, the statement added: “If the government is serious about social responsibility, is it not time to raise the minimum age for sales of lottery products to 18 and bring Camelot in line with general compliance by including it under the Gambling Commission?”

The ASA deemed that the advert depicted addictive behaviour, with gambling taking preference over family life, and implied that the woman in the advertisement was “desperate to play online bingo and needed her husband to leave the house immediately to enable her to” do so.

The advert shows a woman moving a clock hand forward so her husband leaves the house, leaving her free to play bingo online. The number of complaints about the advertisement totalled seven. In its adjudication, the ASA said: “Three viewers objected that the ad was harmful because they believed it depicted someone who was addicted to gambling and was attempting to hide that from their family.”

May 29, 2008

Sportingbet employees arrested in Turkey

A “number of detentions” have been reported by Sportingbet in relation to its Turkish business Superbahis.

In a release put out this morning, the company said: “In particular, the board is aware that individuals related to Maslin Properties Limited, the group’s ex-marketing partner in the region, along with a number of their associates have been detained.”

Sportingbet added that the detainees include two UK-based Sportingbet employees, who have been on holiday in the country, and are Turkish nationals. Chief executive Andy McIver has recently said that Turkey was still an important market for the company, though it presented some “payments processing issues”.

Sportingbet said that there has been “no formal clarification” of the arrests.

The company’s share price has dipped 1.5p to 37.5p.

May 28, 2008

Online bingo: Number's up for William Hill ad featuring 'desperate' mum

The advertising regulator has banned a TV campaign by William Hill for breaking betting advertising rules by featuring a woman who was "desperate" to gamble and was hiding it from her family.

The William Hill ad promoting the company's online bingo opened with a man and a woman in a kitchen at breakfast time.

The woman hurries the man to work by winding the clock forward to make him think he is late for work.

"I get mine the minute he's out the door," the woman says. She then runs upstairs and logs on to William Hill bingo.

A voiceover states: "William Hill bingo ... a massive online community. When will you get your William Hill bingo thrill?"

The woman continues to play online bingo and move the hands of the clock back saying: "Doesn't time fly?"

The ad was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority on the grounds that it portrayed and condoned gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible and could lead to financial, social or emotional harm.

The ASA received seven complaints, with some viewers objecting that the ad was harmful because it "depicted someone who was addicted to gambling and was attempting to hide that from their family by deception".

William Hill said that the ad was a "humorous" look at the "everyday scenario of a woman wanting to get on with her day once her husband had left the house, punctuated by taking a break to play bingo".

The company said the woman's behaviour was "light-hearted and did not portray, condone or encourage socially irresponsible behaviour or behaviour that could lead to financial, social or emotional harm".

However, the ASA said the clock-changing and comment: "I get mine the minute he has left" implied that the woman was "desperate to play bingo and was either unable to wait any longer or wanted to keep that secret from her husband".

The fact that the woman was rushing to play online bingo while still in her pyjamas, and moving the clock back to give her more time to play, "implied that she had to play urgently, rather than during a break in her day".

May 27, 2008

Pacific Poker Revamps Software With New Graphics

Pacific Poker, the online poker room of gaming giant, today announced a software upgrade which allows players to view their playing environment in 3-D.

The company has released the upgrade and the software now gives players the option to hide/verify all-in action. It also features three table views: classic view, avatar view, and a 3D round table with avatars. Also available are first person view options, and clear view, which is a 3D table minus the avatars and with a clear background.

Matt Robinson, marketing director for said, “Our new software is the next step in Pacific Poker's evolution. It is inspired by the way our players like to play the game and we made it our priority to provide them with a gaming platform that would upgrade their poker experience.”

May 23, 2008

Full Tilt Poker Breaks More Records To Expand Heads-Up Tournament

The online poker world was rocked by Full Tilt’s announcement of a $25,000 buy-in heads-up tournament – the largest online poker tournament in history.

Anyone is eligible to enter the tournament, but the excitement generated by the prospect has been so great that dozens of pros have expressed interest in the event and Full Tilt have responded by doubling the number of seats.

Previously the tournament was restricted to 64 entrants but now the site have doubled that to 128 seats – however if these fail to be filled any excess players over the 64 cutoff will be refunded their buy-in and be ineligible to play. There will be no “byes” in this tournament.

Full Tilt’s ‘$25k HU’ follows their successful FTOPS tournament series – last week over $5,000,000 was awarded in prize pools in two events; the $500 Main Event and the elite $1,000 buy-in tournament.

Unibet And Expekt Launch SuperScore

Scandinavian-focused online gaming companies Unibet and Expekt have announced the joint launch of their new sportsbetting game, SuperScore, which has been designed in response to similar games offered by several European gaming monopolies.

Developed by Malta's Monnet Enterprises Limited, a firm owned jointly by Unibet and Expekt, SuperScore is to be marketed as an alternative to other sportsbetting games such as Sweden's Bomben. The game involves players correctly predicting the results of between two and four soccer or ice hockey matches and will feature games from Scandinavian leagues as well as the English, Spanish and Italian football leagues alongside next month's Euro 2008 competition.

According to Svein Jonassen, Chief Executive Officer for Monnet Enterprises, the game will be made available to other private operators in order to offer even larger prize pools when compared to the national monopolies that may only offer the game in one country.

“The world record in highest odds on a sporting event is on this betting form, the odds were two million times the money,” said Jonassen.

“In SuperScore, the winning odds are anticipated to be as high as 250,000 or sometimes even higher.”

“We see a great potential in SuperScore,” said Petter Nylander, Chief Executive Officer for Unibet.

“It has high winnings with small stakes on the biggest matches. It will be especially interesting as a betting form during Euro 2008 this summer.”

Morrisons Re-Branding

Edinburgh-based bookmakers Morrisons has announced that it will be re-branding its land-based operations under the ScotBet name along with inaugurating an online offering.

According to The Scotsman newspaper, Morrisons has been a major player in the Scottish bookmaking industry for 47 years but has decided to change its name in order to differentiate itself from the supermarket chain and building firm of the same name.

Kenneth Waugh, Managing Director for the bookmakers stated that the popularity of slot machines and online gambling had reduced in-shop horserace betting to only 30 percent of its total shop income. He said that the firm’s decision to enter the online gaming market was determined by the fact that many of its customers would bet in its shops during the week but then go home and bet online.

Waugh stated that the company had expanded its network of betting shops over the past year by 20 to bring its total number to 74 and expected ScotBet’s online offering to gain approximately 1,000 active customers by the end of the year.

The newspaper reported that the bookmaker was continuing its strategy of buying up independent Scottish bookmakers and was also interested in several of the UK Government's Tote outlets.

Sweden stalls as Svenska Spel sell-off discussed

Petter Nylander, chief executive of Unibet, has described the news of a partial privatisation of the Swedish gaming monopoly Svenska Spel as a strategy by the Swedish government to make sure it is not asked to appear in front the European Court of Justice.

Sweden is currently subject to reasoned opinions from the European Commission and Nylander said the pressure from the European authorities was starting to show.

“The legal advice to the Swedish Ministry of Finance is that the country is very close to breaking EU rules on the provision of cross-border services and is getting closer to being asked to appear in front of the European Court of Justice. The first investigation into gambling was cancelled and the latest gaming inquiry is due to submit its findings in mid-December,” Nylander said.

Reports in the Swedish media appeared yesterday suggesting that games that are considered less likely to lead to gambling addiction might be sold off. However, Nylander said the inquiry commission had still not defined what those games were. “They originally included lottery games and are now looking at including sports betting and poker (as being low risk), which Svenska Spel has been very successful at recently. Overall though, they have not truly defined what they consider to be harmful or not,” he said.

Nylander added that market forces were dictating the pace of change in the European online gaming space, which when added to the regulatory pressure brought on by the European Commission, was forcing protectionist countries such as Sweden to adopt a range of measures that were ill-conceived.

The Swedish Minister for Finance Anders Borg recently commented that the question to consider was whether Svenska Spel should continue to operate less harmful games or if other operators should be allowed to offer them to players.

The news follows a report published in early May by the Swedish Moderate Party’s Culture Committee that said the Svenska Spel monopoly should be abolished. A licensing system for online operators would raise enough revenue to make up for any loss of income brought on by the end of the monopoly, the report said.

May 20, 2008

Bwin marketing spend to rise for Euro08 but overall spend to be checked

First quarter figures for Vienna-based operator Bwin published last week showed the firm’s gross gaming revenues up 21.3% to €104.6m, compared with €86.2m over the same period last year. Sports betting gross revenues were up a record 27.4% to €60.6m, compared with €47.6m in 2007, while margins came in at 8.7%.

Net gaming revenues were up 17.5% to €92m, compared with €78.2m in 2007 and excluded Bwin’s Turkish operations, which ceased trading in March last year. EBITDA was €25.8m, compared with €24.6m in 2007 and pre-tax profits for the period were €13m, compared with €11m last year.

Betting turnover for the firm rose 12.3% on fourth quarter 2007 to €698m and 38.4% on the same period last year. Gross revenues from Bwin’s casino sector were virtually static at €16.4m, compared with €16.1m in 2007, while its games division brought in €4.8m, compared with €3.1m last year.

Marketing expenses were up 15% on the same period in 2007 to €28.4m, but were down 14.2% on the previous quarter figure of €33m. The forthcoming European football championships in Austria and Switzerland might lead to an increase in the level of marketing spend, the company said, but the remainder of the year would see the same spending levels as the first quarter.

May 15, 2008

Reshuffle at Party as Ryan brought in as CEO and O'Malia promoted to MD

PartyGaming has taken less time than perhaps anticipated in appointing a successor to current chief executive Mitch Garber, who will officially leave the company tomorrow.

Jim Ryan, who has been named as chief executive will start his new role after a handover of responsibilities. Ryan's experience includes roles as chief executive of white label solutions provider St Minver, at Excapsa, and at Cryptologic as chief financial officer.

Garber's resignation was announced in March, as was his intention to return to Canada. At the time it was speculated that it could take up to a year for a new chief executive to be put in place. PartyGaming said that Garber would remain "part of the handover process" until the end of July. Current chief games officer John O'Malia, who has been promoted to the newly created role of managing director will step in during the handover period.

O'Malia's new responsibilities will include the daily management of the group, and he will have a seat on the board.

In addition to these changes, current non-executive chairman Michael Jackson is to step down within the coming months. His role has not been filled. Jackson said: "The board is delighted to have appointed Jim Ryan after a rigorous search and selection process that considered a broad range of candidates."

He added: "Jim's experience, coupled with John O'Malia's proven success in managing PartyGaming's profitability enhancements over the past year, will be a powerful combination in driving the company forward and continuing to enhance the value and appeal of PartyGaming's brands and gaming products."

Ryan said: "I am hugely excited by the scale of the opportunity and with the support of PartyGaming' s board and management team, I am confident we have an exciting and prosperous future."

Senior independent director Rod Perry said that Jackson's stewardship in dealing with complex regulatory issues was "evidenced" by the company's successes. He said that Jackson's "experience and drive" has been "invaluable."

May 09, 2008

ITV fined record £5.7m for phone-in scandal

UK media regulator Ofcom has fined ITV a record £5.7m for last year’s premium rate phone-in competition scandal. The fine is nearly three times the record amount of £2m previously handed to GMTV, and was issued in connection with gaming transgressions that occurred during shows such as Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, Soap Star Super Star and Gameshow Marathon.

Ofcom found that the show producers had committed numerous transgressions of TV regulations and broadcasting codes such as “selecting competition finalists before the telephone lines were announced as closed, staggering the selection of competition finalists which meant that viewers entering the competition did not have a fair and equal chance of winning” and “selecting finalists on the basis of their suitability to be on television and where they lived - contrary to the broadcaster’s own terms and conditions, which explicitly stated that entrants would be chosen randomly”.

Philip Graf, chairman of Ofcom’s Content Sanctions Committee, said: “ITV programme makers totally disregarded their own published terms and conditions and Ofcom Codes. Further there was a completely inadequate compliance system in place. The result was that millions of paying entrants were misled into believing they could fairly interact with some of ITV’s most popular programmes.”

Ed Richards, chief executive of Ofcom, said: “This was a thorough set of investigations which uncovered institutionalised failure within ITV that enabled the broadcaster to make money from misconduct on mass audience programmes. The industry can be in no doubt how seriously Ofcom takes the issue of audience trust. Our new licence conditions requiring broadcasters, who operate in this area, to conduct third party audits will ensure that consumers are protected”.

Ofcom added that ITV was unable to provide it with sufficient data in relation to its regional programming, where premuim rate services were used. The regulator considered Wthat this lack of information appears to indicate an absence of robust systems in place in the operation of PRS in regional programming”.

May 07, 2008

Paramount-themed slots on PartyCasino

PartyGaming has launched the first set of its Paramount-themed slots, after licensing the rights from Paramount Studios. The slots were launched on PartyCasino on Friday and include the films Saturday Night Fever and Mission Impossible. Party said it would be announcing a similar deal with another studio before the middle of the financial year, which will include more themed slots

May 02, 2008

Manchester United stars facing FA probe after betting on own matches

Manchester United have been plunged into a match gambling row following allegations Sir Alex Ferguson has bet on football games involving his own players.

It is alleged the club's manager placed bets with at least three of its French international players on the outcome of the Scotland vs France game and the reverse fixture in the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign at the end of last year.

The Football Association does not allow any player, coach or official to gamble on matches they are involved in.

Although Ferguson himself has not broken any rules, as he was not involved in the Scotland/France matches, two French stars - Patrice Evra and Louis Saha - could face action.

It is also claimed Ferguson placed bets with French player Mikael Silvestre - but he did not play any role in either of the games.

Saha came on as a sub in the 62nd minute during the Scotland v France game on Saturday, 6 October, 2006, at Hamden Park, Glasgow.

Evra was in the squad but not did not make it on to the substitute bench.

Scotland won the game 1-0 thanks to a Gary Caldwell goal in the 67th minute.

In the second game on 12 September, 2007, at the Parc des Princess, Paris, Evra was on the substitute bench but was not brought on so did not play.

Saha was in squad but did not make it on to the team sheet that day.

The FA confirmed it will launch an investigation into the United betting allegations, which appeared in an article about Man United's Scottish international player Darren Fletcher in this week's Zoo magazine.

They are also alerting Fifa and Uefa to the matter.

An FA spokesman said: "We will take action against any participants in our leagues found to be in breach of our regulations, if it is proved they bet on a match that they were involved in or could potentially influence.

"In general terms, no one in the Premiership can make bets on games they are involved in, in any way."

He added: "The comments in question seem to suggest that several Manchester United players made bets with Sir Alex Ferguson on an international match they were playing in, contravening those rules.

"We will be fully investigating the quotes made by Darren Fletcher but this matter may also be highlighted to FIFA, as the games in question were international matches, and Uefa as the tournament organisers.

"It's something we are going to have to look very closely at but we can only take action against players who break the rules of the matches and competitions under our jurisdiction."

In an interview in Zoo magazine, United star Fletcher said: "He [Ferguson] was happy when Scotland beat France. He won a bit of money because he was making bets with all the French lads - Patrice Evra, Louis Saha and Mikael Silvestre.

"They were looking at him like he was a bit crazy, so they took any bet.

"But he had the last laugh 'cos we managed to beat them twice!"

Ferguson and the United squad were celebrating today after winning their crucial European Champions League semi-final second leg against Barcelona at Old Trafford.

The win means it will be the first ever all English Champions League final.